Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) named three Republicans to the fiscal super committee that was created by the debt ceiling deal. All three have taken the Americans for Tax Reform anti-tax pledge and support a cockamamie constitutional balanced budget amendment. “What I can pretty certainly sayto the American people, the chances of any kind of tax increase passing with this, with the appointees that John Boehner and I are going to put on there, are pretty low,” McConnell has said.
But McConnell has not always been so virulently anti-tax. In fact, in a 1990 campaign ad, McConnell said that “everyone should pay their fair share, including the rich,” prompting the Associated Press to say that he sounded like a “populist Democrat”:
“Many Republican candidates are, in fact, holding fast to the no-new-taxes position that Bush embraced and then abandoned, even as they try to portray themselves as friends of senior citizens and the disadvantaged. Others are sounding more and more like populist Democrats. ‘Unlike some folks around here, I think everyone should pay their fair share, including the rich,’ Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says in a campaign ad.” [Associated Press, 10/28/90]
“A twist of untraditional Republicanism is added to McConnell’s message when he says, ‘Unlike some folks around here, I think everyone should pay their fair share, including the rich. We need to protect seniors from Medicare cuts too,’” wrote Roll Call reporter Steve Lilienthal. “After proclaiming his independence from the President and Congressional leaders, McConnell reassures voters that he will back a ‘fair deal for the working families of Kentucky.’” ["Democrats Flood Airwaves Charging GOP Party of Rich," Roll Call, 11/5/1990]
If McConnell truly believes this, he should be appalled by current conditions. Tax rates on the richest Americans have plunged in recent years, and millionaires today pay tax rates that are 25 percent lower than they were in 1995. Meanwhile, income inequality is the worst its been since the 1920s, with the top 1 percent of Americans taking home 25 percent of the country’s total income. Just the richest 400 Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of Americans combined, and the richest 10 percent of Americans control two-thirds of the country’s net worth.
From the sounds of it, once upon a time McConnell would have found this troublesome. It’s a shame that he doesn’t any longer.
By: Pat Garafalo, Contribution by: Sarah Bufkin; Think Progress, August 10, 2011
This quote from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been making the rounds today, and with good reason. It’s interesting from a variety of angles.
After [the debt-ceiling fight] was all over, Obama seemed to speak for revolted Americans — the kind of people who always want a new Washington — when he described the government as “dysfunctional.”
But at the Capitol, behind the four doors and the three receptionists and the police guard, McConnell said he could imagine doing this again.
“I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting,” he said. “Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.”
Let’s unpack this a bit.
First, after this brutal fiasco undermined the economy and made the United States an international laughingstock, the leading Senate Republican fully expects to do this again. McConnell believes his party has “learned” the value in pursuing this, regardless of the consequences. I wonder if voters might want to consider this before the 2012 elections.
Second, it’s a little surprising to hear him concede that “most” Republicans didn’t think the hostage should be shot. If that’s true, maybe next time, Democrats shouldn’t pay the ransom?
And third, note that McConnell was quite candid in his choice of words. It’s not just Democrats talking about Republicans taking “hostages” and demanding “ransoms”; here’s the leading Senate Republican using the exact same language. In other words, Mitch McConnell admitted, out loud and on the record, that his party took the full faith and credit of the United States hostage, demanded a ransom, and they fully intend to do it again.
Given all of this, it’s rather bizarre for Republicans to complain about being equated with terrorists. As Dave Weigel noted yesterday, “If you don’t want your opponent to label you a hostage-taker, here’s an idea: Don’t take hostages.”
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, August 3, 2011
Media reports are touting the Senate’s Gang of Six and its new budget outline. But the news that explains why the nation is caught in this debt-ceiling fiasco is the gang warfare inside the Republican Party. We are witnessing the disintegration of Tea Party Republicanism.
The Tea Party’s followers have endangered the nation’s credit rating and the GOP by pushing both House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor away from their own best instincts.
Cantor worked amicably with the negotiating group organized by Vice President Joe Biden and won praise for his focus even from liberal staffers who have no use for his politics.
Yet when the Biden group seemed close to a deal, it was shot down by the Tea Party’s champions. Boehner left Cantor exposed as the frontman in the Biden talks and did little to rescue him.
Then it was Boehner’s turn on the firing line. He came near a bigger budget deal with President Obama, but the same right-wing rejectionists blew this up, too. Cantor evened the score by serving as a spokesman for Republicans opposed to any tax increase of any kind.
Think about the underlying dynamic here. The evidence suggests that both Boehner and Cantor understand the peril of the game their Republican colleagues are playing. They know we are closer than we think to having the credit rating of the United States downgraded. This may happen before Aug. 2, the date everyone is using as the deadline for action.
Unfortunately, neither of the two House leaders seems in a position to tell the obstreperous right that it is flatly and dangerously wrong when it claims that default is of little consequence. Rarely has a congressional leadership seemed so powerless.
Compare the impasse Boehner and Cantor are in with the aggressive maneuvering of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. He knows how damaging default would be and is working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to concoct a way out.
McConnell can do this because he doesn’t confront the Tea Party problem that so bedevils Boehner and Cantor. Many of the Tea Party’s Senate candidates — Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Joe Miller in Alaska — lost in 2010. Boehner and Cantor, by contrast, owe their majority in part to Tea Party supporters. McConnell has a certain freedom to govern that his House leadership colleagues do not.
And this is why Republicans are going to have to shake themselves loose from the Tea Party. Quite simply, the Tea Party’s legions are not interested in governing, at least as governing is normally understood in a democracy with separated powers. They believe that because the Republicans won one house of Congress in one election, they have a mandate to do whatever the right wing wants. A Democratic president and Senate are dismissed as irrelevant nuisances, although they were elected, too.
The Tea Party lives in an intellectual bubble where the answers to every problem lie in books by F.A. Hayek, Glenn Beck or Ayn Rand. Rand’s anti-government writings, regarded by her followers as modern-day scripture — Rand, an atheist, would have bridled at that comparison — are particularly instructive.
When the hero of Rand’s breakthrough novel, “The Fountainhead,” doesn’t get what he wants, he blows up a building. Rand’s followers see that as gallant. So perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that blowing up our government doesn’t seem to be a big deal to some of the new radical individualists in our House of Representatives.
Our country is on the edge. Our capital looks like a lunatic asylum to many of our own citizens and much of the world. We need to act now to restore certainty by extending the debt ceiling through the end of this Congress.
Boehner and Cantor don’t have time to stretch things out to appease their unappeasable members, and they should settle their issues with each other later. Nor do we have time to work through the ideas from the Gang of Six. The Gang has come forward too late with too little detail. Their suggestions should be debated seriously, not rushed through.
Republicans need to decide whether they want to be responsible conservatives or whether they will let the Tea Party destroy the House That Lincoln Built in a glorious explosion. Such pyrotechnics may look great to some people on the pages of a novel or in a movie, but they’re rather unpleasant when experienced in real life.
By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 20, 2011
Why do the Tea Party and the right adamantly oppose Mitch McConnell’s proposal to transfer control of the debt ceiling to the president as a way out of an impasse that many think is badly damaging the GOP?
The answer, paradoxically, lies in the beauty of the McConnell plan: It was crafted to allow Republicans to repeatedly vote against raising the debt ceiling without actually stopping it from being raised.
McConnell and other GOP leaders know full well the debt ceiling must be hiked. But they also know full well that this is entirely unacceptable to large swaths of the base who now see this as their number one ideological cause celebre, on a par with the now-forgotten drive to repeal Obamacare. So his plan tries to solve both these problems at once. It provides for Republicans to vote to “disapprove” of each debt ceiling hike the President pursues. But since they need a veto proof majority to block each debt limit hike, those “disapproval” votes won’t actually stop the hikes from happening — keeping the business community happy and averting economic and political disaster.
The problem for GOP leaders, however, is that the Tea Party and the right are dead serious about this stopping-the-debt-ceiling-hike thing — reality and the consequences be damned. Solid majorities of Republican voters and Tea Partyers don’t even think failure to raise it will be a problem. Symbolic votes to “disapprove” of debt ceiling hikes aren’t enough. Anything short of stopping the debt ceiling from going up is unacceptable. The McConnell plan would surrender the GOP’s ability to do this. Therefore it’s a total cave-in.
Business leaders and sane GOP leaders want the debt ceiling raised and understand that failure will be catastrophic. The Tea Party wants a hike blocked at all costs. The problem in a nutshell is that there’s no putting that ideological genie back in the bottle. One party is going to have to walk out of this situation not getting what it wants. Hint: That party’s name begins with the letter “T.”
By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post Plum Line, July 19, 2011
The House Republican strategy to link a normally routine increase in the nation’s debt limit with a crusade to slash spending has already had a high cost, threatening the nation’s credit rating and making the United States look dysfunctional and incompetent to the rest of the world.
But that’s not the most awful thing about it.
What’s even worse is that this entirely artificial, politician-created crisis has kept government from doing what taxpayers expect it to do: Solve the problems citizens care about.
The most obvious problem is unemployment. The best way, short term, to drive the deficit down is to spur growth and get Americans back to work. Has anyone noticed that Americans with jobs can provide for their families, put money into the economy — and, oh yes, pay taxes that increase revenue and thus cut the deficit?
There is no mystery about the steps government could take. Ramping up public works spending is a twofer: It creates jobs upfront and provides the nation’s businesses and workers the ways and means to boost their own productivity down the road.
Wise infrastructure spending can save energy. And when public works investments are part of metropolitan plans for smarter growth, they can also ease congestion and reduce commuter times, giving our citizens back valuable minutes or hours they waste in traffic. If you want a pro-family policy, this is it.
State and local budgets all across the country are a shambles. Teachers, police, firefighters, librarians and other public servants are being laid off. As the New York Times’ David Leonhardt pointed out recently, even as the private economy has been adding jobs, if too slowly, state and local governments have hemorrhaged about half a million jobs in two years.
President Obama knows this. “As we’ve seen that federal support for states diminish, you’ve seen the biggest job losses in the public sector,” he said in his July 11 news conference. “So my strong preference would be for us to figure out ways that we can continue to provide help across the board.”
So why not do it? “I’m operating within some political constraints here,” Obama explained, “because whatever I do has to go through the House of Representatives.”
Excuse me, Mr. President, but if you believe in this policy, why not propose it and fight for it? Leadership on jobs is your central job right now. Let the Republicans explain why they want more cops and teachers let go, or local taxes to rise.
We should also extend the payroll tax reduction instituted last year and unemployment insurance. Why so little discussion of how balky Republicans have been on this Obama tax cut proposal, or how resistant they have been to further help those out of work? They won’t raise taxes on the rich to balance the budget but are utterly bored by relief for the middle class or the jobless. Isn’t that instructive?
And while we have been parsing the Rube Goldberg complexities of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s procedural contortions to get us out of a battle we should never have gotten into, we haven’t been discussing how to reform the No Child Left Behind law.
It’s true that some good people in Congress are trying to figure out a way forward on education reform. That’s a far more important national conversation than whether Tea Party Republicans understand the elementary laws of economics. But you wouldn’t know it because those who care about the substance of governing never get into the media. You get a lot of attention — and are sometimes proclaimed a hero — if you say something really dumb about the debt ceiling.
Then there is the coming debate over a “balanced budget” amendment to the Constitution that would limit government spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product and require a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. It’s an outrageous way for members of Congress to vote to slash Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, aid to education and a slew of other things, to lock in low taxes on the rich — and never have to admit they’re doing it. It’s one of the most dishonest proposals ever to come before Congress, and I realize that’s saying something.
Every member of Congress who got us into this debt-ceiling fight should be docked six months’ pay. They wasted our time on political posturing instead of solving problems. Better yet, the voters might ponder firing them next year. This could do wonders for national productivity.
By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 17, 2011