Friday, February 13, 2009

Not The Party Of No?

Rep John Boehner (R-O) is the House Minority Leader, the guy who stated that the Republicans were not the Party Of No. That minority is 42% of the House, considering the number size of House Districts, that means somewhere near 42% of Americans are represented, fairly accurately by their politics since most of those remaining House Republican seats were pretty safe bets. In electoral politics if you don't reach a 47% threshold you can pretty much consider yourself to have been handed your ass in a bag. Consider that a young, somewhat inexperienced black man held an old "been around for ever" white guy to just under 47%, House Republicans are less popular. Apparently there is something not real hot about Republican politics.

The stimulus bill that House and Senate conferees agreed on contains around 32% tax cuts. The Senate bill infuriated some Democrats - this one for sure - and while the conference bill has enough problems, primarily the sops to Senate Republicans, it isn't so offensive as to create a revolt from the left and more than grumbling from the middle. To be perfectly clear, the current tax system needs to be addressed, the tax encouraged upward shift of wealth is disgraceful, but a stimulus bill isn't the place for it. The actual dollar numbers going to tax payers are nearly meaningless individually, but in the aggregate conspire to blow an even bigger hole in the federal budget.

Republicans voted in lock step, NO. They once again trotted out their philosophy that people are better judges of how to spend "their" money than the government is. 'Spend, spend, spend,' was their complaint. What the Republicans will not explain, other than just claim, is exactly how it is that the pittance any tax break supplies to the vast majority of Americans will be spent in a manner that will generate or sustain employment. Americans are still buying the small dollar purchases that would be covered under a tax break that was spent rather than being saved or paid toward debt. Government has the ability to pool money and make large purchases, an ability a taxpayer only has through the mechanism of debt, something not so easy to acquire at this point and probably not a real good idea for many.

Republican hate for taxes has over the years from Ronnie Reagan has become virtually knee jerk. Government is bad and taxes are evil. Republicans proved they can make government bad and they've shown clearly how their version of tax policy works out. Boehner's crew has made it clear that they were happy to take their vote back to their constituents and that they made the vote based on their constituents and a bad bill. This is a big bet they're making.

The Republicans have made it clear that they had no hand in the crafting of the bill, not quite true - but they're saying it, so the only upside for them is if it fails. If it succeeds they cannot claim credit for their Party ideology, though they're already starting the push for the claim that recovery would, in the future, have happened without the debt. In order to run a "heads we win, tails you lose" strategy they need to position themselves to claim that failure of the bill to perform was due to the lack of their ideology and if it succeeds to claim that everything was going to be fine, anyhow, and the government just busted the budget for no reason. Right now the latter piece is a bit touchy, voters don't think things are going to be just fine. The words are already out there, though quietly. The problem with the "told ya so" strategy is that it will only play with the base, average voter just don't want to play labrynith reasoning.

Bipartisanship is one of things that sounds really nice to say, but in practice is brutally ugly. The short end must see either over-riding national benefit, unlikely, or some political gain to be obtained. If ideology isn't to trump national interest about the only thing that would do it is warfare. Go ahead and try to come up with another issue where ideology isn't going to trump. There may be some issues where bits and pieces of the Republican Caucus can see sufficient local gain to get political cover for breaking ranks, but it will be the same game that ex-Sen Smith (R-OR) and Rep Greg Walden (R-OR2) used. Republican Party leadership didn't need their votes and allowed them to meet Oregon's political climate. A review of their votes and the margins will easily demonstrate that.

If there is an aspect of bipartisanship that could be achieved and that would be actually useful it would be in the tone of rhetoric and collegiality in Congress. It is not in the national interest to have our leaders throwing Molotov cocktails, publicly or privately. There is a problem, Boehner and Cantor are both bomb throwers, check their history of statements. It is a bit difficult to be friends with someone who in essence calls you a dirt bag and liar publicly. These are the people who will be the public face of House Republicans and they don't have a bit of a problem with bending or manufacturing facts. Barack Obama had better be careful that reaching across the aisle also means getting your hand back with all its fingers.

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