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Republican obstructionists

Cornered by realities they can’t accept
Republicans are back to hostage-taking

No GOPHouse Speaker John Boehner and most Republicans in Congress know very well that cutting taxes won’t create jobs. Businesses won’t hire people to stand around waiting to take care of customers who aren’t showing up to spend their money, even if the businesses have some more money because of tax cuts.

Businesses hire more people when those new hires are needed to take care of customers and make the businesses more money, period.

Boehner and the rest of the Republicans are solely interested in politics, not in governing responsibly. What’s more, they’re in the position of being forced to acknowledge their cherished trickle-down cover story is nothing but a political meme. They really don’t want to do that.

Tax revenues from rate increases on those who can well afford to pay more would enable increased government stimulus spending without running up the deficit. Increased demand thus created would lead to more hiring and more government revenues with which to reduce the deficit — without cutting essential programs along the way.

That formula for restoring economic growth and prosperity is eminently doable. It would yield a payoff for all Americans, the wealthiest included, greatly outweighing any short-run discomfort and risk involved.

Oh wait; that was a bit of an overstatement. That formula would benefit all Americans except Republican politicians and doctrinaire radical conservatives. It’s not hard to understand why.

The relatively simple, well-established formula for economic turnaround we described would really whipsaw Republicans politically. Its success would show their trickle-down meme for the con job it’s always been while verifying that we can’t budget-cut our way to prosperity. Quite the opposite, in fact.

This is Republicans’ dilemma. It’s the sole reason they won’t take Obama’s initial deal.

What’s required of Republicans means a worst-nightmare scenario for them. Because they’re thoroughly selfish and irresponsible, solely concerned with their own political fortunes, and because they have just enough power left to stand in the way, they’re holding the whole country hostage.



Note: This post is a modified version of the comment we left yesterday to a good post at the TAO Speaks blog.


GOP leaders trot out same ‘our way or no way’
as Obama White House signals new toughness

Victory hug, election night 2012


President Obama’s decisive re-election victory Tuesday — 303 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206, plus a definite popular-vote majority — clearly indicates a mandate to continue grappling with the country’s problems on his terms.

A clear mandate to most, perhaps, but not to congressional Republicans, even though in aggregate their House and Senate candidates won fewer votes than Democrats and lost several seats.

That disconnect about what the election outcome means seems likely to pit Republicans’ same ol’, same ol’ against a president now more intent on producing results than peace and light in Washington, D.C.

No sooner had the dust cleared — no doubt with a legion of chagrined millionaire and billionaire GOP sugar daddies kicking themselves in the background — than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, started making noises about their requirements for a budget and deficit-reduction deal.

Far from changing their tune following defeat of their no-cooperation strategy to make Obama a one-term president, Beavis and Butthead’s Republican analogs chimed in with an old refrain. From McConnell’s version:


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the President’s first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control. Now it’s time for the President to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely-divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office.

To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way. That begins by proposing a way for both parties to work together in avoiding the ‘fiscal cliff’ without harming a weak and fragile economy, and when that is behind us work with us to reform the tax code and our broken entitlement system.

Translation: First, to get us to deal with him at all, Obama must drop his silly idea of raising taxes on the rich (us and our benefactors) and settle for closing a few (purposely unspecified) loopholes (of our choosing). Second, to get us to actually vote for this compromise, Obama must let us have our way with entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps and extended jobless benefits (bye-bye social safety net).

In other words, Republican congressional leaders expect Obama to adopt the unacceptable, nonsensical plan their failed presidential candidate ran on.


These same Republican leaders got by with their “our way or no way” approach the first two and a half years of Obama’s presidency, thanks to his strong desire to bridge the partisan divide. However, the more accommodating Obama was, the more recalcitrant McConnell and Boehner became. But after Republicans held raising the debt ceiling hostage in the summer of 2011, causing the first credit rating downgrade in U.S. history, Obama had enough.

So now, with re-election political capital in hand, things are different. If this AP story is an accurate indication, Obama has traded in his olive branches for a small carrot and a sharp stick.

Obama adviser David Axelrod warned Republican leaders to take lessons from Tuesday’s vote. The president won after pledging to raise taxes on American households earning more than $250,000 a year “and was re-elected in a significant way,” Axelrod told MSNBC Thursday morning.

“Hopefully people will read those results and read them as a vote for cooperation and will come to the table,” Axelrod said. “And obviously everyone’s going to have to come with an open mind to these discussions. But if the attitude is that nothing happened on Tuesday, that would be unfortunate.”

He noted that conservative Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in Indiana dismissed the value of compromise and instead said Democrats should join the GOP. “And I note that he’s not on his way to the United States Senate,” Axelrod said. Mourdock lost to Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly.

You may recall that after winning his party’s nomination last spring, Mourdock said he didn’t get into politics to compromise, that his idea of the way to get somewhere is for Democrats to come around to his way of thinking — as candid an expression of Republican politicians’ attitude over the past 35 years as we’ve ever heard.

President Obama has a large constituency of people who believe he’s doing a good job in adverse economic and political circumstances. They stood by him during trying days in his first term. They accepted, with varying degrees of discomfort, some of his decisions that were out of step with what he led them to believe in 2008. They came through for him in the 2012 election.

Through it all, Obama suffered declines in supporter enthusiasm only when he appeared too willing to give in to Republican belligerence.

The stakes going forward are monumental. Appeasement only encourages Republican bullying and yet more-outrageous demands.

Obama isn’t one to face down opponents or take it to the people to pressure Republicans into doing the right thing. His preference has always been polite, serious discussion leading to reasonable compromise.

As admirable as Obama’s instincts and preferences are, he should remember he didn’t win election and re-election by talking softly and waving a white flag.

Getting a fair, balanced budget and deficit-reduction deal that won’t throw economic recovery into reverse, lay waste to programs millions of nonwealthy Americans depend on and leave the president looking like a patsy means he must win an even tougher fight.

If Obama is fired up and ready to go all out, we’re confident he can, and will, prevail again. And again, the people will be with him.


Pundits mistake GOP kabuki theater for reality

capitol dome artPolitical commentators and the mainstream media are making much of how the payroll tax cut extension passed the Senate with a bipartisan 89-vote majority, only to be scuttled by House Republicans at the last minute.

“Wow, 89 votes — that’s huge! You can’t get that kind of bipartisan vote in the Senate for a resolution praising the flag, mom and apple pie!”

Supposedly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his merry band of naysaying filibuster monkeys were shocked — Shocked! — that their House counterparts would kill this modest measure to let millions of middle-class Americans enjoy the holidays knowing their paychecks wouldn’t suddenly shrink after Jan. 1.

There’s good reason to believe McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, planned what went down in advance, and did so for very understandable, very self-serving political reasons. We think McConnell urged most Senate Republicans to vote for the extension, and that Boehner knew he’d do that. We think Boehner told his lockstep marchers to do what they did, as McConnell knew he would.

As always with Republicans, it’s all about — and only about — winning big in 2012.

Senate Republicans and their leaders could afford to make an exception and go along with what President Obama and Democrats want, since doing so would spare those Republicans senators the wrath of millions of workers who need the $30-$100 a month boost in their paycheck.

Why wouldn’t it be the same for House Republicans? Partly because they got a big round of attaboys from voters in the 2010 elections, winning control of the House. But it’s mostly because so many of them hold very safe seats.

House Republicans enjoy so many safe seats because the South is solidly Republican and anti-Obama. But it’s also because for years Republican state legislatures have gerrymandered House district boundaries to benefit Republicans — and disadvantage Democrats.

A good example of how that can work is on display in Ohio, where Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, faces a choice of not running or having to run against a fellow Democrat. Republican state legislators redrew congressional districts in such a way that Kucinich’s district effectively disappeared.

Senators are elected statewide, so there’s no Gerrymandering involved. A highly visible, strongly unpopular vote against extending the payroll tax cuts in an election year could hurt some Republican senators’ re-election chances. Safe-seat House Republicans are less likely to get hurt. And make no mistake, Republicans want to regain control of the Senate so bad they can taste it.

Thus, we’re convinced all those Senate Republicans who voted for the payroll tax cut extension did so only because of 2012 political calculations. If the next election was two years away, they would’ve voted to obstruct or filibustered, as usual.

It seems amazing so many pundits are accepting at face value what is surely a strategy preplanned by House and Senate Republican leaders to benefit House and Senate Republicans in 2012.


Obama jobs plan deserves support, enactment

ObamaPresident Obama presented to a joint session of Congress today a reasonable set of measures that, if enacted, would spend some $447 billion to raise gross domestic product by as much as 2 percent and reduce unemployment perhaps 1 percent by late 2012.

Obama was emphatic that the cost will not simply be added to the deficit, but will be covered by reductions already on paper and in the works, and by tax increases on those most able to pay.

Perversely, such potentially helpful results amount to powerful political reasons why congressional Republicans would rather run naked through a poison ivy patch than pass the president’s American Jobs Act.

Aware of the inevitable Party of No reaction, Obama laid down a too-gentlemanly but still definite marker that should give Republicans pause about making Capitol Hill one big obstruction zone this time (emphasis ours):

Regardless of the arguments we’ve had in the past, regardless of the arguments we will have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country. And I ask — I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice: Tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now. Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option. Remind us that if we act as one nation and one people, we have it within our power to meet this challenge.

Taking it to the people, calling on citizens to tell cynical, seflish Republican pols and some Democrats in name only to stop playing political games and start serving the public ahead of campaign donors and other special interests, is exactly what Obama needs to do. He should now repeat that call from coast to coast and border to border.

Urging the public to build a fire under recalcitrant senators and representatives shouldn’t be Obama’s job alone. In the coming weeks, the president’s Cabinet secretaries, staffers and congressional Democrats should get in front of every camera and microphone they can find to help drive home the message.

At one point, Obama mentioned helping to pay for desperately needed stimulus by eliminating tax loopholes and advantages enjoyed by oil companies. As Democrats cheered, MSNBC’s camera zoomed in on Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who sat immobile, looking exactly like a teenager sulking after being told he’s grounded for a week — a good indicator of Republican enthusiam for anything that will actually create jobs and ease millions of Americans’ misery.


Leaders on both sides failing economic test

thumb downIt’s fair to say U.S. policy makers are not only too hamstrung by the perverse, selfish intransigence of Republicans and their cadre of tea party ignoramuses, but also too overhwhelmed by the magnitude of economic damage the U.S. has suffered, to cope effectively, much less solve our economic problems.

How bad is it? Pro Publica spells our situation out in a depressingly broad array of statistics, including:

At this time last year, Republicans and tea party candidates for Congress loudly condemned the Obama administration and congressional Democrats for squandering billions on a stimulus program they claimed wasn’t working. That program wasn’t working well enough in part because Republicans had fought tooth and nail to make it too small and then to subvert and counteract its effectiveness. Doing things like refusing funds for high-speed rail and other projects. (Although, many congressional Republicans were front and center to take credit in their states and districts for stimulus projects that brought in federal money and put people to work.)


Politically neutral manner of speaking
points up approach that must change

“Unfortunately what we’ve seen in Washington in the last few months has been the worst kind of partisanship, the worst kind of gridlock, and that gridlock has undermined public confidence and impeded our efforts to take the steps we need for our economy.”

—President Barack Obama, during a visit to a Michigan factory,
Aug. 11, 2011, as quoted in an Associated Press news story.

Obama’s statement describes what’s wrong with our political climate more tellingly than he either knew or intended. That’s not for what he said but for what he omitted.

“The worst kind of partisanship” in Obama’s view is that which cynically and selfishly seeks to block his every conscientious effort to improve the economy, get the nation’s 14 million unemployed back to work and reduce the massive debt racked up by eight years of outrageous Republican mismanagement and perverse policies. Every bit of that politically motivated obstruction is Republicans’ doing.

But rather than lay blame on those who’ve gone so far out of their way to earn it, Obama uses the politically neutral term “partisanship.” As if Democrats are somehow equally at fault.


Obama leadership lapse likely to leave
millions more jobless — including him

eight ball“However the disgusting banana-republic spectacle playing out in Washington, D.C., ends, it’s going to cost all Americans plenty and could very well cost President Obama a second term.

The debt ceiling/deficit reduction/”grand bargain” debacle is largely the mess it is because of Republicans’ blackmail habit – dirty politics made worse by the antics of 100 extremist House Republicans in tea party disguise – but Obama’s leadership lapse is responsible, too.

As smart and knowledgeable as he is, Obama stubbornly and foolishly mistakes his obsessive-compulsive desire to achieve a constructive working relationship with the Party of No, based on compromise, for leadership. Given the realities, given how badly it’s turned out every single time Obama has tried it, acting on his compulsion isn’t leadership; it’s just neurotic.

The president might be able to shake his compulsion if he had some deeply held Democratic and progressive convictions. Alas, like those whose free-trade deals did so much to gut our economy and leave us with anemic revenues and staggering trade deficits, Obama equates success with getting a deal – never mind about what lousy results the deal might bring most Americans.

Obama seems to be under the impression millions of Americans, political independents all, get up each morning wondering if today will be the day when Democrats and Republicans bury the hatchet, sing Kumbaya together and make peaceful compromise standard operating procedure. Thus, Obama seems to think, if he can always appear to be anxious to compromise and oh so willing to put anything and everything on the table to get a deal, all those independents will carry him on their shoulders to victory in 2012.

We think there’s more crackpot thinking going on in the nation’s capital than what the tea party extremists are doing.

The voting public is most concerned about jobs, not the deficit, not the debt ceiliing and not the debt. For reasons never satisfactorily explained, Obama nevertheless decided back in December to turn his presidency over to budget cutting and deficit reduction – moves guaranteed to retard or reverse the jobs recovery.

The fruits of those efforts, which dovetail nicely with Republicans’ efforts to subvert the jobs recovery, can be seen in a news story, Economic recovery stumbles with weak 2nd quarter.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. economic recovery faltered dramatically in the first half of the year, and that means more trouble ahead.

The latest Commerce Department figures show the nation’s economic output was gasping for breath long before the debilitating debt-ceiling debate took center stage, further dimming prospects for 14 million unemployed Americans.

The nation’s total economic output grew at an anemic annual rate of 1.3 percent from April through June, below already weak expectations. And the government sharply scaled back its estimate of first-quarter growth to a feeble 0.4 percent, the lowest figure since the recession technically ended two years ago.

“These are disastrous numbers for the economy,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at Economic Outlook Group. “We’re seeing some clear, concrete signs that the economy is teetering on the edge of recession.”

Obama’s quest for bipartisan nirvana has yielded another disastrous number, from the Gallup organization. Read about it in Obama Approval Drops to New Low of 40%.

Don’t worry, nothing bad will happen

History is replete with recurring themes, one of which is made clear in the following vignettes, all but one fictionalized but based on facts.

Czar Nicholas II

Nicholas II

Jan. 23, 1905, Czar Nicholas II of Russia writes in his diary: “There is much turmoil. Yesterday, a priest and large number of commoners came to the Winter Palace here in St. Petersburg. They wanted to present me with a petition asking for reforms. The war is going badly. The economy is struggling. I ordered the palace guard to disperse them, with orders to shoot any who resisted. I rule by divine right, not mob request, and I have the army, police and church on my side. Nothing will go wrong.”

In August, 1929, a Wall Street brokerage executive writes to his brother: “Business continues to boom and we’re making more money than ever. Everyone has the stock-buying bug these days. We have dime store clerks coming in on their lunch hour to buy stocks in companies they know nothing about; barbers come in before opening their shop, too. Many of them are borrowing money to buy more and more. The more they buy, the higher the market goes. And the higher it goes, the more people want to buy. The sky’s the limit, and our firm makes money when they borrow, buy or sell. The worries you expressed in your last letter are misplaced. Nothing bad is going to happen.”



On Nov. 5, 1940, Japanese Emperor Hirhohito writes in his diary: “Plans for a crippling attack on the American fleet are complete. I have reviewed them, and at the Imperial Conference yesterday approved carrying them out if diplomatic talks with the Americans bear no fruit. The Imperial Navy is the strongest in the world. Our army and air forces have been victorious whenever tested. Shinto resolve is invincible and God has chosen Japan to rule the East. If war comes, our victory is assured.”

Richard Nixon


Writing notes for his memoirs in early June 1972, President Richard Nixon says: “Hunt and Liddy have some guys lined up to get into DNC headquarters at the Watergate. They’re to be paid out of Committee to Re-elect the President funds. Between the information they bring back and the phone tap they’re going to set up, we should have an easier time in November. A couple of insiders told me this is too risky, but they’re just chicken. It’s a simple black-bag job. What could go wrong?”



Wednesday, July 13, 2011, at a press conference, Republican congresswoman and self-appointed Tea Party Caucus chairwoman Michelle Bachmann declares: “This is a misnomer that I believe that the president and the Treasury secretary have been trying to pass off on the American people, and it’s this: that if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion, that somehow the United States will go into default and we will lose the full faith and credit of the United States. That is simply not true. . . .I’m ‘no’ on raising the debt ceiling”

Financial industry watchdog nominee no go
unless Republicans can gut his new agency



President Obama no sooner nominated former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Monday than Republicans began snorting, baying and threatening obstruction unless they’re allowed to hobble the new agency.

Or, as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put it, “We’ll insist on serious reforms to bring accountability and transparency to the agency before we consider any nominee to run it.”

“Serious reforms” and the “structural changes” McConnell also demanded are Republicanese for making the CFPB less capable of effectively regulating financial industry predators than the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration would be.

McConnell’s remarks echoed a letter he and Rep. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., ranking member of the House Bankng Committee, sent the White House in May.

Specifically, Republicans want the CFPB subject to the appropriations process — something it avoids as an entity housed in the Federal Reserve. They also want to delegate more decision making authority away from the Bureau’s director, and give other regulators — many of which are captured by the financial industry — opportunities to block CFPB rules.

So, if the CFPB were to get in the way of, say, Goldman Sachs, its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, need only ring up the House Appropriations Committee chairman, a Republican, to have the watchdog agency’s staff working off card tables in a basement storage room somewhere.


Cantor needs short leash, lesson in manners

JugheadHad some Democratic House majority leader rudely interrupted President Eisenhower or President Ford three times during a meeting, the White House chief of staff would surely have been told that person was no longer welcome at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

You can also be sure the Democratic House speaker would’ve read his No. 2 the riot act, ordered him to apologize personally to the president, and put him on a short leash thereafter.

That was in a better time, but now we have House Majority Leader Eric “Jughead” Cantor, R-Va., acting like a snotty adolescent and Speaker John Boehner assuring everyone he and his subordinate are A-OK with each other.