Fragging: “To intentionally kill or wound (one’s superior officer, etc.), esp. with a hand grenade.”
If the nation defaults on its financial obligations, the blame belongs to the Tea Party Republicans who fragged their own leader, John Boehner. They had victory in their hands and couldn’t bring themselves to support his debt-ceiling plan, which, if not perfect, was more than anyone could have imagined just a few months ago. No new taxes, significant spending cuts, a temporary debt-ceiling solution with the possibility of more spending cuts down the line as well as action on their beloved balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
These people wouldn’t recognize a hot fudge sundae if the cherry started talking to them.
The tick-tock of the debt-ceiling debate is too long for this space, but the bottom line is that the Tea Party got too full of itself with help from certain characters whose names you’ll want to remember when things go south. They include, among others, media personalities who need no further recognition; a handful of media-created “leaders,” including Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips and Tea Party Patriots co-founders Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler (both Phillips and Martin declared bankruptcy, yet they’re advising Tea Party Republicans on debt?); a handful of outside groups that love to hurl ad hominems such as “elite” and “inside the Beltway” when talking about people like Boehner when they are, in fact, the elite (FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, Club for Growth, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Prosperity); and elected leaders such as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, head of the Republican Study Committee, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who grandstand and make political assertions and promises that are sheer fantasy.
Meanwhile, freshman House members were targeted and pressured by some of the aforementioned groups to vote against Boehner’s plan. South Carolina’s contingent was so troubled that members repaired to the chapel Thursday to pray and emerged promising to vote no. Why? Not because Jesus told them to but because they’re scared to death that DeMint will “primary” them — find someone in their own party to challenge them.
Where did they get an idea like that? Look no further than Sarah Palin’s Facebook page, where she warned freshmen about contested primaries and urged them to “remember us ‘little people’ who believed in them, donated to their campaigns, spent hours tirelessly volunteering for them, and trusted them with our votes.” Her close: “P.S. Everyone I talk to still believes in contested primaries.” While they’re at it, they also should remember that Palin came to the Tea Party long after the invitations went out. The woman knows where to hitch a wagon.
Unfortunately for the country, which is poised to lose its place as the world’s most-trusted treasury and suffer economic repercussions we can ill afford, the stakes in this political game are too high to be in the hands of Tea Partyers who mistakenly think they have a mandate. Their sweep in the 2010 election was the exclusive result of anti-Obama sentiment and the sense that the president, in creating a health-care plan instead of focusing on jobs, had overplayed his hand. Invariably, as political pendulums swing, the victors become the very thing they sought to defeat.
Who’s overplaying their hand now?
It must be said that the Tea Party has not been monolithic — and the true grass-roots shouldn’t be conflated with leaders who disastrously signed on to the so-called “Cut, Cap and Balance” pledge. What is it with Republicans and their silly pledges? Didn’t they get enough Scouting? This pledge now has them hog-tied to a promise they can’t keep — the balanced-budget amendment. As many as a third desperately want a pardon from that commitment, according to sources close to the action.
Hubris is no one’s friend, and irony is a nag. The Tea Partyers who wanted to oust Barack Obama have greatly enhanced his chances for reelection by undermining their own leader and damaging the country in the process. The debt ceiling may have been raised and the crisis averted by the time this column appears, but that event should not erase the memory of what transpired. The Tea Party was a movement that changed the conversation in Washington, but it has steeped too long and has become toxic.
It’s time to toss it out.
By: Kathleen Parker, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 29, 2011
Democrats are going to lose this one. The first stage of the emerging deal doesn’t include revenue, doesn’t include stimulus, and lets Republicans pocket a trillion dollars or more in cuts without offering anything to Democrats in return.
The second stage convenes a congressional “Supercommittee” to recommend up to $2 trillion in further cuts, and if their plan doesn’t pass Congress, there’s an enforcement mechanism that begins making automatic, across-the-board cuts to almost all categories of spending. So heads Democrats lose, tails Republicans win.
It’s difficult to see how it could have ended otherwise. Virtually no Democrats are willing to go past Aug. 2 without raising the debt ceiling. Plenty of Republicans are prepared to blow through the deadline. That’s not a dynamic that lends itself to a deal. That’s a dynamic that lends itself to a ransom.
But Democrats will have their turn. On Dec. 31, 2012, three weeks before the end of President Barack Obama’s current term in office, the Bush tax cuts expire. Income tax rates will return to their Clinton-era levels. That amounts to a $3.6 trillion tax increase over 10 years, three or four times the $800 billion to $1.2 trillion in revenue increases that Obama and Speaker John Boehner were kicking around. And all Democrats need to do to secure that deal is…nothing.
This scenario is the inverse of the current debt-ceiling debate, in which inaction will lead to an outcome — a government default — that Democrats can’t stomach and Republicans think they can. There is only one thing that could stand in the way of Democrats passing significant new revenues on the last day of 2012: the Obama administration.
Republicans — and even some Democrats — think that the Obama administration lives to collect revenue. The truth is closer to the opposite. Senior administration aides view the expiration of the Bush tax cuts as less of an opportunity than a chore. About four-fifths of the cuts go to households making less than $250,000 a year, and they don’t want to raise taxes on those folks. They don’t like the politics of the issue, either. It’s an article of faith among Democratic strategists that debates on taxes inevitably favor Republicans, allowing Democrats to be hammered from the right and undermined from the left. White House aides would rather focus on “win the future” issues like infrastructure, education and energy.
The White House’s strategy in the debt-ceiling negotiations has reflected its ambivalence, with Obama trying to extract either as much revenue as Republicans would allow or as little as Democrats would accept. Obama even offered Boehner a deal in which the Bush tax cuts would be extended right now, so Republicans wouldn’t have to fear a subsequent negotiation in which they lacked leverage. Boehner rejected that deal and, in doing, might have saved the safety net.
But the Obama administration doesn’t want to take its second chance. They argue that the economy will still be recovering in 2013, and so it’s not an ideal time for a large tax increase. True. But what happens in 2012 is not simply setting tax policy for 2013. It’s setting tax policy for decades to come.
Health costs are rising and the Baby Boomers are retiring. If taxes don’t rise, none of these commitments are sustainable. And Republicans, in normal times, are perfectly capable of blocking any and all attempts to raise taxes. For Democrats, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts presents a unique opportunity in which GOP intransigence will mean more new revenues rather than no new revenues.
The alternative has been on clear display in recent months. Republicans can’t necessarily sell the country on big cuts in federal programs, but they can make them necessary. All they need to do is hold the line aganst taxes, allow deficits will continue to mount, and then use forcing events like the debt ceiling or the budget to demand huge spending cuts. A world in which the two parties can’t agree on tax increases but can agree on spending cuts is one in which the government eventually shrinks dramatically. Republicans understand this. Do Democrats?
A year ago, I was less concerned about the Bush tax cuts. I assumed, as did many in Washington, that the Republicans’ antipathy to taxes was a negotiating stance. Eventually, we would strike a “grand bargain” that would reduce spending and raise revenue substantially. The past few months have proved me wrong.
Republicans have shown, that they will block any and all tax increases, no matter what incentives they are offered in return and no matter how dire the consequences of their refusal. Next year’s deadline offers Democrats their only chance to negotiate from a superior strategic position. Republicans will still be able to refuse to raise taxes. But if they do, it won’t matter. The only way they can succeed in keeping taxes from rising is if the Obama administration and the Democrats stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them to extend the Bush tax cuts.
By: Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, July 31, 2011
So the final deal has been announced, pending approval by the House, and one of the key new pieces of the compromise is that the Congressional committee tasked with coming up with a second round of spending cuts in exchange for the later debt ceiling hike would be forced to act by the new “trigger.” In the event that the committee deadlocks, that trigger would force an even division of non-defense and defense cuts, and since the latter is anathema to Republicans, they would not have any incentive to deliberately sabotage the committee in order to force the deep entitlements cuts they want.
The White House’s argument is that even if the deal is far short of what liberals hoped for, Republicans have effectively surrendered the amount of leverage they were expected to have over entitlements cuts. Now that the committee — which is half Republicans and Democrats — will all but certainly advance a package of cuts in exchange for the later debt ceiling hike, the argument is that Democrats can live to fight it out another day on entitlements.
The White House is also arguing that the deal sets the stage for a re-litigation of the tax cut fight, and it’s now distributing talking points to outside allies that are heavily devoted to making that case on entitlement and taxes, an argument that seems designed to quiet angst and criticism among liberals:
* Expedited Process for Balanced Deficit Reduction: Puts in place a longer term process for additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction through a committee structure that will put everything on the table, including tax and entitlement reform. To prevent either side from using procedural tricks to prevent Congress from acting, the committee’s recommendations will receive fast track authority, which means they can’t be amended or filibustered.
* Sets the Stage for a Balanced Package Including Revenues: The American people and a growing number of Republicans agree that any deficit reduction package must be balanced and included revenue.
* Even Speaker Boehner was open to a deal with $800 billion in revenues, and nearly 20 GOP senators were supportive of the Gang of 6 framework, which had more than $2 trillion in revenue.
* If the Committee does not succeed in meaningful balanced deficit reduction with revenue-raising tax reform on the most well-off by the end of 2012, the President can use his veto pen to raise nearly $1 trillion from the most well-off by vetoing any extension of the Bush high income tax cuts.
By;: Greg Sargent, Washington Post-The Plum Line, July 31, 2011
Over on the progressive side of politics, they’re nursing their wounds and drowning their sorrows as details of the deal to increase the debt ceiling emerge. They feel like they lost to a Republican party that dug in and used the debt ceiling to achieve their goal of dramatically shrinking government spending and solving the deficit problem without raising a single penny in new revenue.
So they might be surprised to know that conservatives don’t think they won, either. The right, despite apparently negotiating Obama into a corner that pits him against large parts of his base, still isn’t satisfied.
“While this deal is moving in the right direction rhetorically thanks to pressure from conservatives, it still falls well short of the standards we have consistently laid out,” wrote the Heritage Action’s Michael Needham.
The group, a sister organization to the Heritage Foundation, says the upfront cuts included in the reported deal are “insufficient” and the super committee in charge of creating the next round of deficit reduction is a bad idea as reported.
“This deal highlights how dysfunctional Washington has become and we will continue to oppose it as insufficient to the task at hand,” Needham wrote.
On TV Sunday morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he expected a large number of conservatives to share Heritage’s view.
“It’s a $3 trillion package that will allow $7 trillion to be added to the debt in the next decade,” Graham said, dismissively. “So how much celebrating are you going to do?”
Graham said he expected around half of the House GOP caucus to vote against the deal. It doesn’t have his vote yet, either.
One of the patron saints of those hardcore conservative Republicans in the House, blogger Erick Erickson, is also underwhelmed by the deal (it’s not the first time.)
Despite the fact that progressives and Democrats are publicly lamenting the reported deal as indicative of the effect of rhetoric like Erickson’s has had on Washington, Erickson sounds as if he feels as betrayed as some on the left.
“What we know about the pending deal is that the Democrats and Republicans are agreeing to a Deficit Commission,” Erickson wrote Sunday. “Despite the media spin — and the spin of some Republican sycophants — the deficit commission, which will be a super committee of the Congress, will have the power to come up with new tax revenue.”
By: Evan McMorris-Santero, Talking Points Memo, July 31, 2011
Josh Marshall made an interesting point in passing yesterday, asking whether conservative Republicans could achieve massive spending cuts through “old-fashioned majority votes.” Josh answered his own question: “Of course not.” The cuts on the table were only made possible by Republicans “threatening the health” of the United States.
I think this arguably one of the more important realizations to take away from the current political landscape. Republicans aren’t just radicalized, aren’t just pursuing an extreme agenda, and aren’t just allergic to compromise. The congressional GOP is also changing the very nature of governing in ways with no modern precedent.
Welcome to the normalization of extortion politics.
Consider, for example, the Republican decision to reject any and all nominees to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, regardless of merit, unless and until Democrats accepted changes to the agency’s structure. Traditionally, if the GOP wanted to alter the powers of the CFPB, it would write legislation, send it to committee, bring it to the floor, send it to the other chamber, etc. But that takes time and effort, and in a divided government, this “old fashioned” approach to policymaking probably wouldn’t produce the desired result.
Instead, we see the latest in a series of extortion strategies: Republicans will force Democrats to accept changes to the agency, or Republicans won’t allow the agency to function. Jonathan Cohn wrote a good piece on this a couple of weeks ago, noting the frequency with which this strategy is utilized.
Republican threats to block nominees to the consumer board are at peace with their opposition to Don Berwick, Obama’s first choice to run the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services; to Peter Diamond, whom Obama tapped to sit on the Federal Reserve Board; and most recently to John Bryson, Obama’s nominee to take over the Commerce Department. It’s nothing short of a power grab by the Republican Party — an effort to achieve, through the confirmation process, what they could not achieve through legislation. And it seems unprecedented, at least in modern times.
Republicans effectively tell the administration, over and over again, that the normal system of American governance can continue … just as soon as Democrats agree to policy changes the GOP can’t otherwise pass.
The traditional American model would tell Republicans to win an election. If that doesn’t work, Republicans should work with rivals to pass legislation that moves them closer to their goal. In 2011, the GOP has decided these old-school norms are of no value. Why bother with them when Republicans can force through policy changes by way of a series of hostage strategies? Why should the legislative branch use its powers through legislative action when extortion is more effective?
It’s offensive when it comes to nominees like CFPB nominee Richard Cordray, but using the full faith and credit of the United States to force through desired policy changes takes this dynamic to a very different level. And since it’s working, this will be repeated and establishes a new precedent.
Indeed, it’s a reminder that of all the qualities Republicans lack — wisdom, humility, shame, integrity — it’s their nonexistent appreciation for limits that’s arguably the scariest.
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, July 31, 2011