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The Tea Fragger Party: Remember Their Names

Fragging: “To intentionally kill or wound (one’s superior officer, etc.), esp. with a hand grenade.”

Take names. Remember them. The behavior of certain Republicans who call themselves Tea Party conservatives makes them the most destructive posse of misguided “patriots” we’ve seen in recent memory.

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

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Lawmakers, Lobbyists, Media, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Press, Public, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Circular Firing Squad: Boehner Bill Is Showdown Between House Republican Purists And Realists

The run-up to the vote expected Thursday on House Speaker John A. Boehner’s proposal to provide a short-term increase in the national debt limit is quickly turning into a time of clarity for the chamber’s Republicans.

If GOP leaders are unable to muster enough support to get the plan out of the House, the only measure left would be a Democratic proposal by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), and voting with Reid is not a concession many House Republicans are willing to make.

“There’s only three choices,” said Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a close Boehner ally. “One is to vote for Senator Reid’s plan. One is to default. And one choice is the Boehner bill. It should be pretty self-evident what the best choice is to someone who’s a Republican.”

Increasingly, the vote on Boehner’s proposal is shaping up not as a test of wills between moderates and conservatives, but as a face-off between political purists who scorn the bill and realists who prefer it to the alternative.

“We came here to reduce the size of government and reduce spending, and this bill, I think, begins to accomplish that goal,” said Rep. Sean P. Duffy (R-Wis.), who decided Wednesday that he will vote for the measure. “It’s by no means perfect. But it’s the best bill we have.”

At a closed-door meeting for House Republicans on Wednesday, where leaders tried to rally support for the measure, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) read from a blog post by conservative commentator Bill Kristol. “To vote against Boehner is to choose to support Barack Obama,” Kristol wrote.

But it is not an easy sale for a party that won back control of the House last year on promises to vote without regard to political consequences.

Boehner’s bill would postpone major entitlement reform and other deep cuts by passing such decisions to a new committee that would report its recommendations by year’s end. The proposal also would not require Congress to pass a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, but only that it vote on one.

Some Republicans have vowed that they will not raise the debt ceiling under any circumstances.

Others preferred a conservative bill dubbed “cut, cap and balance” that passed the House this month but was killed in the Senate. It would have required Congress to vote to send the amendment to the states for ratification.

“The credit rating agencies have been clear that no matter what happens with the debt limit, the U.S. will lose its AAA credit rating unless we produce a credible plan to reduce the debt by trillions of dollars,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), chairman of the Republican Study Committee. The group comprises more than 170 House conservatives. “Cut, cap and balance is the only plan on the table that meets this standard,” he said.

House leaders expressed cautious optimism Wednesday that they were convincing members that the plan advanced by Boehner (R-Ohio) is the best that Republicans can hope to get.

It would avert a government default, take a bite out of the deficit and require Congress to adopt $1.8 trillion in additional cuts before the debt ceiling could be raised again next year.

Freshman Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), whose district in Staten Island and Brooklyn is home to many Wall Street professionals, said he decided Wednesday that he will vote for the bill after he was convinced that its failure would hand Democrats control of the debate.

“I don’t think it’s perfect. I don’t think it’s close to perfect. I don’t think it’s in the realm of what I expected to get,” he said.

But, Grimm said, it would require deep spending reductions over the coming years. “That’s historic. And that’s a step in the right direction.”

The public infighting has served to rally some Republicans. Behind closed doors, members erupted Wednesday over an e-mail that a staff member of Jordan’s Republican Study Committee sent to outside conservative groups. It listed undecided members who could be pressured to vote against the Boehner plan.

“I think it’s offensive when a group that you’re a part of uses your bullets to shoot you,” said Rep. Bill Flores (Tex.). “So I have a problem with it.”

Those entreaties did not quiet conservatives who are urging that the plan be abandoned: On Wednesday, the head of the group Tea Party Nation accused Boehner of surrendering to Washington’s status quo and called for him to be replaced.

The House proposal was panned at a small rally held at the Capitol by the Tea Party Express and the American Grassroots Coalition. The GOP that rode tea party energy and activism is hoping that some of it members can look past that relationship.

“Some people are new here and this is part of the learning curve,” LaTourette said. “At times you have to say ‘no’ to people you represent who are yelling at you, if you’ve reached the conclusion that it’s in the best interests of the country.”

By: Rosalind Helderman and Felicia Sonmez with Contribution by David Fahrenthold, The Washington Post Politics, July 27, 2011

July 28, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government Shut Down, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Revolution, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boehner’s New Proposal Could Produce Greatest Increase In Poverty And Hardship Of Any Law In Modern U.S. History

House Speaker John Boehner’s new budget proposal would require deep cuts in the years immediately ahead in Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, the repeal of health reform’s coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans.

The plan is, thus, tantamount to a form of “class warfare.” If enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.

This may sound hyperbolic, but it is not. The mathematics are inexorable.

The Boehner plan calls for large cuts in discretionary programs of $1.2 trillion over the next ten years, and it then requires additional cuts that are large enough to produce another $1.8 trillion in savings to be enacted by the end of the year as a condition for raising the debt ceiling again at that time.

The Boehner plan contains no tax increases. The entire $1.8 trillion would come from budget cuts.

Because the first round of cuts will hit discretionary programs hard — through austere discretionary caps that Congress will struggle to meet — discretionary cuts will largely or entirely be off the table when it comes to achieving the further $1.8 trillion in budget reductions.

As a result, virtually all of that $1.8 trillion would come from entitlement programs. They would have to be cut more than $1.5 trillion in order to produce sufficient interest savings to achieve $1.8 trillion in total savings.

To secure $1.5 trillion in entitlement savings over the next ten years would require draconian policy changes. Policymakers would essentially have three choices: 1) cut Social Security and Medicare benefits heavily for current retirees, something that all budget plans from both parties (including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan) have ruled out; 2) repeal the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions while retaining its measures that cut Medicare payments and raise tax revenues, even though Republicans seek to repeal many of those measures as well; or 3) eviscerate the safety net for low-income children, parents, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. There is no other plausible way to get $1.5 trillion in entitlement cuts in the next ten years.

The evidence for this conclusion is abundant.

The “Gang of Six” plan, with its very tough and controversial entitlement cuts, contains total entitlement reductions of $640 to $760 billion over the next ten years not counting Social Security, and $755 billion to $875 billion including Social Security. (That’s before netting out $300 billion in entitlement costs that the plan includes for a permanent fix to the scheduled cuts in Medicare physician payments that Congress regularly cancels; with these costs netted out, the Gang of Six entitlement savings come to $455 to $575 billion.)

The budget deal between President Obama and Speaker Boehner that fell apart last Friday, which included cuts in Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and Medicare benefits as well as an increase in the Medicare eligibility age, contained total entitlement cuts of $650 billion (under the last Obama offer) to $700 billion (under the last Boehner offer).

The Ryan budget that the House passed in April contained no savings in Social Security over the next ten years and $279 billion in Medicare cuts.

To be sure, the House-passed Ryan budget included much larger overall entitlement cuts over the next 10 years. But that was largely because it eviscerated the safety net and repealed health reform’s coverage expansions. The Ryan plan included cuts in Medicaid and health reform of a remarkable $2.2 trillion, from severely slashing Medicaid and killing health reform’s coverage expansions. The Ryan plan also included stunning cuts of $127 billion in the SNAP program (formerly known as food stamps) and $126 billion in Pell Grants and other student financial assistance.

That House Republicans would likely seek to reach the Boehner budget’s $1.8 trillion target in substantial part by cutting programs for the poorest and most vulnerable Americans is given strong credence by the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill that the House recently approved. That bill would establish global spending caps and enforce them with across-the-board budget cuts —exempting Medicare and Social Security from the across-the-board cuts while subjecting programs for the poor to the across-the-board axe.

This would turn a quarter century of bipartisan budget legislation on its head; starting with the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law, all federal laws of the last 26 years that have set budget targets enforced by across-the-board cuts have exempted the core assistance programs for the poor from those cuts while including Medicare among programs subject to the cuts. This component of the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill strongly suggests that, especially in the face of an approaching election, House Republicans looking for entitlement cuts would heavily target means-tested programs for people of lesser means (and less political power).

In short, the Boehner plan would force policymakers to choose among cutting the incomes and health benefits of ordinary retirees, repealing the guts of health reform and leaving an estimated 34 million more Americans uninsured, and savaging the safety net for the poor. It would do so even as it shielded all tax breaks, including the many lucrative tax breaks for the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations.

President Obama has said that, while we must reduce looming deficits, we must take a balanced approach. The Boehner proposal badly fails this test of basic decency. The President should veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Congress should find a fairer, more decent way to avoid a default.

By: Robert Greenstein, President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government Shut Down, Governors, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Uninsured, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New Party Of Reagan: The Gipper Is Winning One For The Democrats

After he switched to the Republican Party in 1962, Ronald Reagan famously quipped: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.”

Now, the Republican Party is doing the same thing to him — and Democrats are happy to take Reagan back.

At Tuesday morning’s meeting of the House Democrats, caucus chairman John Larson rallied his colleagues for the day’s debt-limit debate by playing an audio recording of the 40th president.

“Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility,” Reagan says in the clip. “This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations.”

“Kind of sums things up,” Larson said, playing the same clip again at a news conference.

Nobody knows what Reagan, who died in 2004, would make of the current fight over the debt limit. But 100 years after Reagan’s birth, it’s clear that the Tea Party Republicans have little regard for the policies of the president they claim to venerate.

Tea Party Republicans call a vote to raise the debt ceiling a threat to their very existence; Reagan presided over 18 increases in the debt ceiling during his presidency.

Tea Party Republicans say they would sooner default on the national debt than raise taxes; Reagan agreed to raise taxes 11 times.

Tea Party Republicans, in “cut, cap and balance” legislation on the House floor Tuesday, voted to cut government spending permanently to 18 percent of gross domestic product; under Reagan, spending was as high as 23.5 percent and never below 21.3 percent of GDP.

That same legislation would take federal spending down to a level last seen in 1966, before Medicare was fully up and running; Reagan in 1988 signed a major expansion of Medicare.

Under the Tea Party Republicans’ spending cap, Reagan’s military buildup, often credited with winning the Cold War, would have been impossible.

No wonder Democrats on Tuesday were claiming the Republican icon as one of their own. After the caucus meeting with the Reagan clip, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) began the day’s debate by reading from a 1983 Reagan letter to Congress warning that “the full consequences of a default — or even the serious prospect of default — by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate.”

“In the year of his 100th birthday, the Great Communicator might be amazed at how far his own image has shifted from the original,” Quigley charged. “He’d see his most dedicated followers using his name as justification for saying no to honoring our debts. He’d see his legacy used to play chicken with the world’s greatest economic engine.”

Republicans have continued their ritual praise of Reagan during the debt-limit fight. Rep. Trent Franks (Ariz.) claimed that the budget caps would allow America to be “that great city on a hill that Ronald Reagan spoke of.” Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) invoked Reagan’s belief that “the closest thing to eternal life on Earth is a federal government program.”Kevin Brady (Tex.) cited Reagan’s line that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ ” Both Steve King (Iowa) and Bobby Schilling (Ill.) informed the body that they had granddaughters named Reagan.

But while Reagan nostalgia endures, a number of Republicans have begun to admit the obvious: The Gipper would no longer be welcome on the GOP team. Most recently, Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. (Calif.) called Reagan a “moderate former liberal . . . who would never be elected today in my opinion.” This spring, Mike Huckabee judged that “Ronald Reagan would have a very difficult, if not impossible time being nominated in this atmosphere,” pointing out that Reagan “raises taxes as governor, he made deals with Democrats, he compromised on things in order to move the ball down the field.”

During the debt-limit debate, a procession of Democrats — Vermont’s Peter Welch, Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, New York’s Paul Tonko, Texas’s Sheila Jackson Lee and Gene Green — claimed Reagan’s support for their position. Reagan is “revered by many Democrats,” said Welch, who praised Reagan for fighting “the absurd notion that America had an option when it came to paying our bills.”

Half a century after he left the party, the Gipper is winning one for the Democrats.

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 19, 2011

July 21, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicare, Politics, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cut Cap & Balance And The New Frontiers of Kookery

A scant few months after the Paul Ryan budget redefined the boundaries of conservative fanaticism, the Republican Party’s new “Cut, Cap, and Balance” Constitutional Amendment makes that document seem quaintly reasonable. Ezra Klein sums up the policy:

Ronald Reagan’s entire presidency would’ve been unconstitutional under CC&B. Same for George W. Bush’s. Paul Ryan’s budget wouldn’t pass muster. The only budget that might work for this policy — if you could implement it — would be the proposal produced by the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee. But that proposal was so extreme and unworkable that a majority of Republicans voted it down.

37 House Republicans and 12 Senate Republicans have pledged not to support a debt ceiling increase unless the CC&B Constitutional Amendment passes. Mitt Romney has signed this insane pledge. Ramesh Ponnuru has some gentle questions:

Representative Mick Mulvaney, a freshman Republican from South Carolina who is a leading supporter of the amendment, said in an interview that if “the president wants this debt-ceiling increase, he’s going to help us get the votes.” He argued that Obama should deliver 50 Democratic votes in the House and 20 to 30 in the Senate. “That’s a good compromise for both sides.”

Does the congressman think that 50 Republicans would vote for a constitutional amendment that contradicts everything they stand for if President Romney asked them to?

What a congressman who pledges to increase the debt limit only if a spending-limit amendment passes is really saying is that he opposes increasing the debt limit. Because there is no way that two-thirds of Congress is going to pass this amendment now, or ever.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the CC&B amendment is the casual way in which it attempts to enshrine specific spending levels and to freeze current taxes into the Constitution. I would like to see its advocates explain why it is necessary for the Constitution to require their agenda. What is keeping the public from electing officials who will enact this agenda? If people want to enact policies like this, why not just let them do it? And if they don’t, why force these policies upon them?

 

By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, July 19, 2011

July 20, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Senate, Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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