“Not A Pox On Both Houses, Just The GOP’s”: Republicans Are Responsible For The Fiscal Cliff And Washington Gridlock
The public is furious at Congress. The business community is furious at Congress. The president is furious at Congress. Heck, the Congress is furious at Congress!
The “Plan B” debacle has further eroded House Speaker John Boehner’s standing in his own caucus. It hasn’t helped much out in the countryside either, telegraphing an image of inaction and disorganization.
All that seems to be left to come out of the Republicans is finger pointing and petty politics. Democrats are so mad that they aren’t far behind either.
But it is the Republicans who have been boxed in by their own extremism. We are to a point where the leadership of the congressional Republicans may be constitutionally (I don’t mean capital “C”) incapable of achieving a deal on almost anything controversial that comes before them. They are so far out of the mainstream, and they answer to their most extreme members, that it is nearly impossible for them to deliver on legislation, without jeopardizing their jobs.
Right now it is the fiscal cliff, next it will be the debt ceiling, then immigration, then climate change, then confirmation of presidential appointments and judges. And somehow Republicans still believe that paralysis will allow them to win elections. They are so caught up in the politics and strapped into their own ideological straight jackets that the word compromise does not leave their lips.
Forget that such intransigence is bad for the country. Forget that the public overwhelmingly supports President Obama’s positions. Forget that the vitriol directed at Congress is at an all time high and only climbing.
Sure, the Republicans now represent more extreme districts politically. Sure, many of them could get beat in a primary if they acted responsibly. Sure, the interest groups headed by the likes of Grover Norquist or now Jim DeMint will come down their throats. But, really, you don’t have the backbone, the spine, the courage to sign on to a compromise that helps the nation? Even when the public has shown in poll after poll that is what they want? Why did you run for Congress in the first place?
The notion of legislators taking on the tough problems and solving them is almost a relic with this crop of Republicans. They don’t see how important it is to work across the aisle and actually accomplish something. Think about it: Would Ronald Reagan tolerate this nonsense? How about George H.W. Bush? How about Dwight Eisenhower? Or Everett Dirksen? Or Howard Baker?
The time for Tea Party extremism is over. Real Republicans should recognize that.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, December 28, 2012
If President Obama is re-elected, health care coverage will expand dramatically, taxes on the wealthy will go up and Wall Street will face tougher regulation. If Mitt Romney wins instead, health coverage will shrink substantially, taxes on the wealthy will fall to levels not seen in 80 years and financial regulation will be rolled back.
Given the starkness of this difference, you might have expected to see people from both sides of the political divide urging voters to cast their ballots based on the issues. Lately, however, I’ve seen a growing number of Romney supporters making a quite different argument. Vote for Mr. Romney, they say, because if he loses, Republicans will destroy the economy.
O.K., they don’t quite put it that way. The argument is phrased in terms of “partisan gridlock,” as if both parties were equally extreme. But they aren’t. This is, in reality, all about appeasing the hard men of the Republican Party.
If you want an example of what I’m talking about, consider the remarkable — in a bad way — editorial in which The Des Moines Register endorsed Mr. Romney. The paper acknowledged that Mr. Obama’s signature economic policy, the 2009 stimulus, was the right thing to do. It also acknowledged that Mr. Obama tried hard to reach out across the partisan divide, but was rebuffed.
Yet it endorsed his opponent anyway, offering some half-hearted support for Romneynomics, but mainly asserting that Mr. Romney would be able to work with Democrats in a way that Mr. Obama has not been able to work with Republicans. Why? Well, the paper claims — as many of those making this argument do — that, in office, Mr. Romney would be far more centrist than anything he has said in the campaign would indicate. (And the notion that he has been lying all along is supposed to be a point in his favor?) But mostly it just takes it for granted that Democrats would be more reasonable.
Is this a good argument?
The starting point for many “vote for Romney or else” statements is the notion that a re-elected President Obama wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything in his second term. What this misses is the fact that he has already accomplished a great deal, in the form of health reform and financial reform — reforms that will go into effect if, and only if, he is re-elected.
But would Mr. Obama be able to negotiate a Grand Bargain on the budget? Probably not — but so what? America isn’t facing any kind of short-run fiscal crisis, except in the fevered imagination of a few Beltway insiders. If you’re worried about the long-run imbalance between spending and revenue, well, that’s an issue that will have to be resolved eventually, but not right away. Furthermore, I’d argue that any alleged Grand Bargain would be worthless as long as the G.O.P. remained as extreme as it is, because the next Republican president, following the lead of George W. Bush, would just squander the gains on tax cuts and unfunded wars.
So we shouldn’t worry about the ability of a re-elected Obama to get things done. On the other hand, it’s reasonable to worry that Republicans will do their best to make America ungovernable during a second Obama term. After all, they have been doing that ever since Mr. Obama took office.
During the first two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, Republicans offered scorched-earth opposition to anything and everything he proposed. Among other things, they engaged in an unprecedented number of filibusters, turning the Senate — for the first time — into a chamber in which nothing can pass without 60 votes.
And, when Republicans took control of the House, they became even more extreme. The 2011 debt ceiling standoff was a first in American history: An opposition party declared itself willing to undermine the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, with incalculable economic effects, unless it got its way. And the looming fight over the “fiscal cliff” is more of the same. Once again, the G.O.P. is threatening to inflict large damage on the economy unless Mr. Obama gives it something — an extension of tax cuts for the wealthy — that it lacks the votes to pass through normal constitutional processes.
Would a Democratic Senate offer equally extreme opposition to a President Romney? No, it wouldn’t. So, yes, there is a case that “partisan gridlock” would be less damaging if Mr. Romney won.
But are we ready to become a country in which “Nice country you got here. Shame if something were to happen to it” becomes a winning political argument? I hope not. By all means, vote for Mr. Romney if you think he offers the better policies. But arguing for Mr. Romney on the grounds that he could get things done veers dangerously close to accepting protection-racket politics, which have no place in American life.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, November 1, 2012
In an age of super heroes and blockbuster movies glorifying those with extraordinary powers, we are left with the Muppets. And that may be doing a disservice to the Muppets.
Only 9 percent of the American people have a positive image of Congress—slightly higher than the percentage that view Fidel Castro favorably. Now that is scary.
Are these bad people? No. Do they not have the best interests of the American people at heart? I believe most do.
Is this all about two different philosophies of government? Certainly, that is a big part of the stalemate.
Unfortunately, most Americans now believe that there is more consensus, more cooperation, and more compromise—and maybe more maturity—on a nursery school play yard than in the U.S. Congress.
We can point to growing polarization, a lack of civility, people coming to Congress in ideological straight jackets, signing ridiculous pledges, being beholden to the more extreme elements of their political party.
But I would argue that American Democracy, at least for the moment, has transitioned into a parliamentary system, without the accountability. It is nearly impossible for Members of Congress to routinely cross party lines, at least on the most important votes. The pressure is great, the ideology has become increasingly rigid, and the politics of bucking your leadership is seriously problematic.
The current gridlock on our most difficult problems can’t be resolved by dissolving the government and holding new elections. It probably won’t be resolved next November. We will be faced, no matter who wins, with equal or greater intransigence from the opposition party.
And our voters will not have a chance to vote, as in a parliamentary system, for or against the party in power or the back benchers. Because our system now allows a minority to stifle the majority so easily in the Senate, through filibusters and holds, but allows the majority to dictate what is brought to the floor and voted on in the House, we are faced with paralysis.
Never before have I seen such a strong sense of a party-lock in Congress. Our recent history is one of moderates in the two parties holding swing votes, people crossing party lines on issues, and the ability to reach compromise when the country demands it.
Now, we exhibit all the markings of a parliamentary system but cannot extricate ourselves from the tendency toward permanent gridlock. Campaigns never end and self-preservation determines many members’ votes. The old approach of “working it out” is gone, at least temporarily, and there is no mechanism, even with the so-called super committee, to bust out of the hold that the system has on Congress.
The American people, after this latest breakdown, are watching as their savings and 401k’s are tanking. They are watching the blame game. They are watching Congress do very little to create jobs and improve their economic plight. For the moment, all they can do is throw up their hands. And the anger builds.
By: Peter Fenn, Opinion Writer, U. S. News and World Report, November 21, 2011