"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“It’s Really Not That Complicated”: Republicans Are At The Intersection Of Recklessness And Stupidity

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle today, explaining why he believes it’s responsible to hold the debt ceiling hostage until President Obama “puts forward a plan” that makes Republicans happy. The piece is filled with errors of fact and judgment, but there was one truly bizarre claim that stood out for me.

“The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington,” the Texas Republican wrote. “It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country.”

Just at a surface level, this is ridiculous — to prevent possible trouble in the future, Cornyn intends to cause deliberate trouble now? But even putting that aside, I’m not sure if the senator understands the nature of the controversy. Failing to raise the debt limit — that is, choosing not to pay the bills for money that’s already been spent — doesn’t just “partially shut down the government,” it pushes the nation into default and trashes the full faith and credit of the United States.

Does Cornyn, a member of the Finance and Budget committees, not understand this? Just as importantly, is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) equally confused?

“By demanding the power to raise the debt limit whenever he wants by as much as he wants, [President Obama] showed what he’s really after is assuming unprecedented power to spend taxpayer dollars without any limit,” McConnell argued on the Senate floor.

At the risk of being impolite, McConnell’s comments are plainly dumb. As a policy matter, it’s just gibberish, and the fact that the Senate Minority Leader doesn’t seem to know what the debt ceiling even is, after already having threatened default in 2011 and planning an identical scheme in 2013, raises serious questions about how policymakers can expect to resolve a problem they don’t seem to understand at a basic level.

For the record, Congress, by constitutional mandate, has the power of the purse. Unless you’re Ronald Reagan illegally selling weapons to Iran to finance a secret and illegal war in Nicaragua, the executive branch can’t spend money that hasn’t already been authorized by the legislative branch.

If the president had the authority to raise the debt ceiling on his or her own, it would not give the White House the authority to “spend taxpayer dollars without any limit,” since any administration would still be dependent on Congress for expenditures. The debt limit has nothing to do with this — spending authority would be unchanged no matter which branch had the power over raising the limit, and whether the ceiling existed or not.

It’s really not that complicated. Congress approves federal spending, the executive branch follows through accordingly. When the legislative branch spends more than it takes in, the executive branch has to borrow the difference.

In the 1930s, Congress came up with the debt ceiling, mandating the White House to get permission to borrow the money that Congress has already spent. If McConnell, Cornyn, and their hostage-taking friends refuse to raise the ceiling, the administration can’t pay the nation’s bills. It’s that simple.

Either GOP lawmakers like McConnell and Cornyn haven’t yet grasped these basic details, or they’re cynically hoping the public is easily misled by bogus rhetoric. Either way, there’s little hope of a sensible public debate if Senate Republican leaders repeat nonsense about a looming national crisis.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 4, 2013

January 6, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“We’re Dealing With Idiots”: No One Leads Or Controls The GOP House’s Crazy Caucus

By now you’ve probably read one of the stories of the failed attempt by a handful of conservative members of the House GOP caucus to remove John Boehner as speaker of the House. If you haven’t, Joshua Green has a handy summary. Nine members ended up voting against Boehner, eight short of the number that would’ve forced a second ballot, and all involved in the failed ouster humiliated themselves in the most public fashion possible.

One problem was a lack of leadership. If, say, Eric Cantor had actually wanted the job, he could’ve organized the coup and succeeded. But Eric Cantor didn’t want the job. The bigger problem, then, was a lack of intelligence. The crazy caucus failed spectacularly at all aspects of the attempted conspiracy, from planning to execution. They waited until the last minute to approach potential allies, failed to count their own votes correctly, and didn’t even all figure out who they were supposed to vote for instead. Their plan was apparently to embarrass Boehner into resigning, in favor of … someone to be decided later. Candidates voted for by plotters included departing Rep. Allen West and former Comptroller David Walker, who are basically the opposites of one another.

This spectacular display of idiocy is, in microcosm, why negotiating with the House GOP is impossible. Because common negotiation tactics require dealing with an opposition that understands reality. “Leverage” only works against rational people. A large number of House Republicans aren’t just “nihilists,” willing to blow up the economy to get what they want, they’re plain morons who have impossible and horrible goals and no clue whatsoever how to reach them.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., who held an iPad listing the names of would-be anti-Boehner conspirators in full view of a journalist’s camera, is an idiot. He is not just a person whose politics I find distasteful or extremist, he is a dumber-than-average human. Paul Broun and Louie Gohmert are two of the dumbest people on Earth. In a slightly better functioning political world, these three would just do what their smarter leader told them to do. Instead, they and their colleagues have forced their leader to act as if he is as dumb as they are regarding the process of governing. Boehner’s new position is that he will not attempt to negotiate with the party that shares control of the government, which makes no sense as a strategy for achieving conservative policy goals, but makes sense if you think the best way to achieve conservative policy goals is to destroy the country until everyone agrees with you.

As we race to the coming debt ceiling fiasco, please remember that while John Boehner and Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan know that raising the debt ceiling is a thing that just has to be done, there is no indication that the Gohmerts, Huelskamps, Steve Kings and Michele Bachmanns of their caucus agree. You can’t negotiate a compromise with people who are positive they’ll get their way if they refuse to negotiate at all. You can’t avert a catastrophe if you need the assent of people who think the catastrophe is precisely what this country needs to get back on the right track.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 4, 2013



January 6, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Convenient Myth”: Republicans’ Fiscal Restraint Is Mostly In Their Heads

Thanks to an ultraconservative congressional faction, many Americans now view the Republican Party as extremist, petty and irresponsible. You need look no further than the ridiculous, drawn-out drama over the so-called fiscal cliff to see the GOP’s inability to negotiate reality.

But while its brand is badly damaged, the Republican Party has managed to keep alive its mystique as the party of fiscal restraint. Shortly before the election, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that, by a margin of 51 percent to 43 percent, Americans believed Mitt Romney would do a better job on the deficit than President Obama. That’s in keeping with years’ worth of public opinion that gives Republicans credit for fiscal conservatism.

But it’s flat-out wrong. That’s just a convenient myth that Republicans have sold the taxpayers — a clever bit of marketing that covers a multitude of sins. There is nothing in the GOP’s record over the last two decades showing it to be a party that is sincere about balancing the budget, ferreting out waste or reining in excessive government spending. Indeed, it’s a big lie.

Just look back at the presidency of George W. Bush — eight years of red ink that Republicans would like you to forget. First, Bush pushed through the tax cuts that ruined the balanced budgets Bill Clinton had enacted. Then, he proceeded to prosecute two wars and enact a huge new entitlement: the Medicare prescription drug plan. In response to concerns about spending from then-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Dick Cheney reportedly said, “You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

Here’s what Republicans and their base believe in: cutting spending for programs that benefit the poor, the darker-skinned, the sciences. They want to stop the flow of government funds to the arts. They want to fire bureaucrats who prevent businesses from harming their customers with poisons and bad products.

But the GOP doesn’t really want to end big government, nor does it really care about balancing the budget. If it did, wouldn’t its members be ready to tackle the Pentagon? As we wind down a decade of war, isn’t this an excellent time to cut back on hyper-expensive weaponry? Can’t we stop feeding the military-industrial complex?

Instead, House Republicans have done everything they can think of to protect current rates of military spending. Mitt Romney, for his part, campaigned on a promise to build more warships. Please remember that the Pentagon accounts for about 30 percent of federal spending.

Then there are those pesky retirement programs — Social Security and Medicare. House Republicans supported Paul Ryan’s plan to change Medicare to a voucher program, but they did so knowing that it would never see the light of day. If they were so proud of it, why didn’t Ryan campaign on it when he was Romney’s running mate?

Instead, the Romney-Ryan team denounced Obama for making cuts to Medicare. The party that claims the mantle of fiscal responsibility shamelessly pandered to its aging base by blaming Obama for trying to rein in one of the costliest government programs.

Democrats have their own soul-searching ahead on Social Security and Medicare, which cannot be sustained without tax increases, benefit cuts or a combination of the two. (Let me rush to say here that Social Security is a much easier fix. Just hike the payroll tax for people earning more than $114,000 a year.) Medicare costs, especially, are growing at an alarming rate as baby boomers retire.

Still, Tea Partiers — the core of support for arch-conservatives in Congress — aren’t keen on cutting Medicare, polls show. Many of them seem to believe that cutting spending means only cutting that which goes to other people, not to them. Indeed, political science research shows a sharp racial edge underlying those sentiments, with racially resentful whites likely to favor cuts to programs, such as Head Start, which they associate with the “undeserving” poor.

After winning the gavel as House Speaker again last week, John Boehner said the “American dream is in peril” because of debt and pledged to reduce it. As another budget brawl nears — a debt-ceiling fight will be upon us in a couple of months — you’ll hear Republicans frequently claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility.

There is no reason to believe them.


By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, January 5, 2013

January 6, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Opposite Of Patriotism”: Republican Resistance To Hurricane Relief Is A Stink Of Hypocrisy, And Worse

Provoked by opposition to Hurricane Sandy relief among House Republicans – and the delay in voting the first tranche of aid by Speaker John Boehner – both New Jersey governor Chris Christie and representative Peter King (R-NY) denounced the irresponsibility and cruelty of those betrayals. Even when that first bill passed, 67 Republicans voted no, in contrast with only 11 who voted no when Congress provided emergency funding for Hurricane Katrina (far more quickly, too) in 2005.

The Tea Party Republicans in Congress would offer various excuses for their hostility to Sandy relief, from budgetary constraints to far-right ideology. But those who voted no hail from states that have benefited from all kinds of federal relief over the past two decades, financed by Northeastern taxpayers who send a wildly disproportionate sum in levies to Washington every year.

Moving down the alphabet from Hurricane Andrew onward over the past two decades, it is not hard to trace tens of billions of dollars for storm relief alone that have flowed from New York and Connecticut to the South, the Gulf Coast, the Midwest and other regions over the years, with never a word of demurral over costs, “pork,” or “offsets” from other federal spending.

Then consider the many other forms of federal aid that have benefited the regions where “conservative” fiscal stringency supposedly prevails, and a disturbing habit quickly emerges: Republican members of Congress tend to support aid packages that benefit their own states or districts, while opposing help for other Americans. This doesn’t hold true for all Republicans or conservatives, of course, but it is nevertheless a detectable pattern.

The most obvious example in recent years is the rescue of the auto industry, a decision of national importance supported by both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, which nearly all Republicans rejected – except those from Michigan and auto-plant districts in several surrounding states. Those in favor included Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chair from Wisconsin, who voted for the bailout and then, while running for vice president on the GOP ticket, pretended to have opposed it. But he couldn’t bring himself to vote for Sandy relief.

The Republicans in Kansas, whose entire four-member delegation voted against Sandy relief, never voiced any opposition to the massive aid provided by the federal government in 2007 when the city of Greensburg was devastated by a Force 5 tornado – or for that matter all the other instances of disaster assistance accepted by that benighted state over the decades. Nor did the Republicans in places like Missouri or Georgia or any of the other states severely damaged by flooding in recent years suddenly stop their routine pleading for federal aid, which they duly received.

The biggest frauds are naturally to be found in Texas, one of the drought-stricken states where the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and sundry federal agencies have been spending vast sums to help farmers, ranchers, and other suffering residents. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a right-wing Texas Republican whose district includes bone-dry Lubbock, praised those federal bureaucrats just last summer for spending funds to help farmers and ranchers in his Lubbock district “mitigate damage caused by wildfires and drought.” Quoted in a local newspaper, Neugebauer said, “I hope that FEMA will quickly follow suit and declare a major disaster declaration for affected Texas counties.” But this week, Neugebauer was one of seven Texas Republicans who voted against Sandy relief, along with fellow wingnuts from drought-afflicted districts across the South and West.

All this represents something worse than cheap hypocrisy, which often crosses political and ideological lines. The behavior of these Republicans is rooted in their selfish ideology and regional chauvinism – and their rejection of a generous spirit that has united this country for more than a hundred years. It is the opposite of patriotism.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, January 5, 2013

January 6, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Disasters | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Make No Mistake”: GOP Freshmen Even More Tea Party Than 2010

The Republican freshmen sworn into Congress this week might be even more tea party than the Tea Party Class of 2010.

The tea party influence on last year’s primaries wasn’t as big a story as it was two years prior, as the label lost its luster and the rallies stopped. But the anti-establishment fervor of that movement lives on in the crop of 35 Republicans joining the House.

And in fact, it may even be ratcheted up.

Case in point: The vote Friday to approve a $9.7 billion aide package for victims of Hurricane Sandy, which some Republicans have criticized for not being accompanied by spending cuts.

In the end, 67 House Republicans voted against it. Of those 67, 19 came from the freshman class, compared to 22 who came from the Class of 2010.

Pretty close, huh? Well, when you consider that the 2012 class (35 Republicans) is less than half the size of the 2010 class (84 Republicans), things begin to come into focus.

In fact, while just more than one-quarter of 2010ers voted against the Sandy aid bill, more than half of 2012ers voted no. And while freshmen make up less than 15 percent of the GOP caucus, they comprised nearly 30 percent of the no votes.

(Also worth noting: four freshmen voted against John Boehner for speaker on Thursday — almost as many as the five defectors from the Class of 2010.)

Make no mistake: Even as the tea party isn’t as much of a thing any more, its ideals and anti-establishment attitude very much remain in today’s Republican Party and House GOP caucus.

And if the first votes of the 113th Congress are any indication, incoming members will continue to vote the tea party line — perhaps in even higher numbers than their tea party predecessors. Which make Boehner’s job very, very difficult going forward.


By: Aaron Blake, The Washington Post, January 4, 2013

January 6, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Politics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: