Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Republican Hostage Crisis

There's a tendency these days to ignore the posturing in Washington DC and treat it as so much background noise. Rational people can't really take seriously "death panels" and "birthers" and even Michelle Bachman. But in a terrible recession with millions out of work, what are we doing? Cutting spending, and putting more people out of work. Taxes are at their lowest rate since 1958. And massive deficit is due in substantial part to Bush-era tax cuts. Even the inventor of the "Trickle Down Theory" of tax cuts, David Stockman, now admits is false.
"(Extending the Bush tax cuts is) rank demagoguery. We should call it for what it is. If these people were all put into a room on penalty of death to come up with how much they could cut, they couldn't come up with $50 billion, when the problem is $1.3 trillion. So, to stand before the public and rub raw this anti-tax sentiment, the Republican Party, as much as it pains me to say this, should be ashamed of themselves."

We grew up in an era where the role of government was to govern, and where Congress did its job, which is to Do Stuff. And to do stuff, you need to compromise with the other guys. That was the history of Congress. But those who knew how to legislate, the giants you might say, are gone now.

The infrastructure is collapsing. The economy is perilous. And what do the Republicans do? They hold the entire country hostage for more spending cuts, particularly to destroy Medicare, by threatening not to increase the debt ceiling. Their only interest, which was nakedly admitted by Sen. Mitch McConnell, is to defeat President Obama in 2012. They don't give a damn how they do it, or at what cost. Steve Benen:
With a potential debt default by the U.S. government just two months off, and a continued standoff between the White House and GOP congressional leaders on how to move forward in boosting that limit, Republican lawmakers say publicly and privately that they believe Obama will be the one who has to cave.

To be sure, the hostage-strategy dynamic isn’t new, but it’s uncommon for Republican members of Congress to be this candid about their plan out loud. One leading GOP lawmaker acknowledged that the Republican plan is “dangerous,” but the party doesn’t care. Another conceded that the GOP is inviting a “sovereign debt crisis,” but figures Obama would get the blame, so Republicans don’t care about that, either.

The key to an effective hostage strategy is creating a credible threat. When the hostage taker has a gun to the head of hostage, those expected to pay the ransom have to genuinely believe the bad guy really will pull the trigger. Yesterday, the Republican message to the president wasn’t subtle: we really will pull the trigger and then blame you for not paying the ransom.

This, of course, makes the prospect of compromise that much more ridiculous. As far as Republicans are concerned, there’s no need to compromise — they’re the ones with the gun and the hostage. Why strike a deal? If Obama caves, they get what they want. If Obama stands firm, and the GOP deliberately destroys the economy, Republicans will blame the president and destroy his chances of re-election. As far as the GOP leadership is concerned, all they have to do is wait.

In the abstract, this is arguably one of the great political scandals of recent American history. There is no modern precedent for a political party acting like an organized crime family this shamelessly. The American public isn’t hearing much about these tactics, but I can’t help but wonder what the mainstream would think if someone were to tell them that the Republican Party intends to cause a recession, on purpose, unless Democrats drastically cut Medicare and other popular domestic programs.

This is an unprecedented crisis. It is not just an economic crisis, but very nearly a political collapse. Where are the Republicans? We need honest, sensible fiscal conservatives to come back and get rid of this zombie tea party, the modern Know-Nothings.

If something doesn't change, we're all looking at President Palin.


Fred Schwartz said...

The real question is how has the minoroity party gained a majority of the people to support there petty little plans.

IT said...

Fred, I continue to be astonished at how they succeed in making people vote against their interests!

JCF said...

See re "What's the Matter With Kansas?"

...but it's not just Kansas anymore.

Counterlight said...

I believe that we are in the middle of a slow-motion coup d'etat, not against the President, but against the very idea of democracy and equality. Our plutocracy wants to make the transition from indirect to direct rule. Since the early days of the labor movement, their most effective weapon was the exploitation of racial and cultural grievances. The "Culture Wars" are today's equivalent of the company breaking up the coal miners' strike with a busload of black scab workers (who are themselves reduced to desperation by racism and exploitation). After the race riot ends, the union is finished, and workers come crawling back begging for their jobs.