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“Doomed To Bloodletting”: The Republican Rabid Right Is Leading The Party To Ruin

Any credible account of the career of U.S. senator Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, must acknowledge this salient fact: He is conservative. He’s no maverick who managed to win a powerful office in a crimson state despite staking out positions that challenged the beliefs of his base.

He has opposed abortion rights, gay rights and government regulations on business. The American Conservative Union, whose ratings are considered the gold standard for grading elected officials on adherence to conservative dogma, gives him a lifetime score of 92.5 out of 100.

Still, Chambliss now finds himself under fire from right-wing extremists in the Republican Party — absolutists who believe that even a handshake with President Obama is a dangerous sign of collaboration with the enemy. So the senator will retire in 2014 rather than face a primary challenge from the right.

This is another unsettling development for the GOP, another sign of a party engaged in civil war. If Saxby Chambliss does not meet the standard for conservatism, then Republicans are doomed to bloodletting well into the foreseeable future. If a score of 92.5, which usually counts as an A, doesn’t pass muster, then the GOP is starting down the road to extinction.

The rabid right’s hostility to Chambliss grows out of his membership in the “Gang of Six,” a bipartisan group of senators who have toiled over the last couple of years to come to a compromise that would begin to eliminate federal budget deficits. Though he signed onto anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s no-tax-increase pledge when he first sought a congressional seat, he has lately begun to voice doubt about its usefulness — as any reasonable person would.

If Tea Partiers were as worried about red ink as they claim, they would throw Chambliss a parade and hail him as a hero. But they’ve begun muttering about his conservative bona fides instead.

Last year, Georgia blogger Erick Erickson, a leader of the right-wing faction, wrote: “Saxby has consistently stabbed conservatives in the back and it is time to take him out.” By the time Chambliss voted in the earliest hours of New Year’s Day to support a tax hike on Americans earning more than $400,000 a year — a deal which, by the way, cemented in place George W. Bush’s tax cuts for everyone else — he was doomed among the absolutists.

Chambliss has said publicly that he’s not running from a primary challenge, but instead leaving a Congress that he finds dysfunctional.

But he is disingenuous — “The one thing I was totally confident of was my re-election,” he told reporters last week — in suggesting that the prospect of a primary challenge didn’t factor into his plans. He might have won, but he would have been forced to defend his decision to employ negotiation and compromise with his Democratic colleagues, strategies Republican extremists despise. He would have encountered rabid challengers willing to accuse him of grotesque crimes against party dogma. And he may have been forced to renounce the statesmanlike image he has spent the last few years building.

The senator is right about this much: Politics has become ugly and ruinous, especially inside the Republican Party. He joins a list of towering conservative figures who have left office — or been run out — after encountering the lunatic ravings of the crazed ultra-right. That includes Bob Bennett of Utah and Richard Lugar of Indiana, GOP stalwarts who lost to challenges by ultraconservatives.

And who might replace Chambliss? Several Georgia Republicans are eyeing the race, including U.S. representative Paul Broun, who told a church audience last year: “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” Broun, by the way, is a physician who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Obama and other Democrats — as well as many moderate Republicans — have wondered how long it will be before the raging fever breaks on the rabid right. Well, by the time it does, the patient — the Republican Party — might be dead.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, February 2, 2013

 

 

February 2, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Speaker Boehner’s Folly Leads To Standard And Poor’s Downgrade Of US Debt

I’m no expert, but I don’t think S&P downgrading its rating of US debt will, as such, have any really big practical implications other than becoming the next political football. If you look at S&P’s definition of the AA rating, after all, it says:

“An obligation rated ‘AA’ differs from the highest-rated obligations only to a small degree. The obligor’s capacity to meet its financial commitment on the obligation is very strong.”

Scared yet? Me neither.

The issue today continues to be what it was a week ago. For years now, if you look at a projection from CBO or OMB it shows a spending curve that steadily accelerates. It accelerates because the government currently pays for health care for old people and for poor people, and because the cost of health care services has been accelerating.

Consequently, for a long time now it’s been clear that in the future either the US has to stop paying for old people’s health care, or else raise more revenue in taxes, or else reduce the growth in the price of health care services. And for a long time now it’s been unclear what combination of those strategies will be adopted. But people have generally had confidence that some combination of them would be adopted.

Once upon a time earlier in the Obama administration, I asked a senior official how he thought this would ever get resolved. A deal, everyone agreed, had to be bipartisan. But to be bipartisan, it would have to include tax increases. But Republicans wouldn’t vote for tax increases. He told me that of course that made sense, but at some point pressure from bond markets would be unbearable and Republicans would come to the table.

Broadly speaking, that’s the thing that most people generally believed would happen. What we saw with the debt ceiling was a mini-test of that theory, and the theory failed. “No new revenues” wasn’t just a GOP bargaining position, it turned out to be something they were really committed to even in the face of an imminent financial crisis. You can see why that would dent confidence in the long-term fiscal trajectory of the country.

The person who looks bad here, in my view, is John Boehner. President Obama wanted to do a “grand bargain.” The Gang of Six Senators wanted to do a “grand bargain.” And it looked for a moment like Speaker Boehner was going to be part of a grand bargain. But ultimately he decided that he didn’t want to sign a deal that would fracture his caucus, so the grand bargain talks fell apart. And yet the little bargain that did eventually pass the House ultimately couldn’t pass with Republican votes alone. So what did Boehner really achieve? If he was ultimately destined to strike a deal with the White House that needed Democratic votes to pass the House, why not go for the grand bargain? According to Boehner “When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the white House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.”

How happy is he now?

 

By: Matthew Yglesias, Think Progress, August 5, 2011

August 6, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Consumer Credit, Consumers, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

With Deal Announced, The White House Makes It’s Case

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

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Senate, Taxes, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Republican Paradox: The Party That Can’t Say Yes

For days, the White House has infuriated its Democratic allies in Congress by offering House Republicans more and more in exchange for a deal to raise the debt ceiling and prevent default. But it was never enough, and, on Friday evening, it became clear that it may never be enough. Speaker John Boehner again walked away from the “grand bargain” he had been negotiating with President Obama, leaving the country teetering on the brink of another economic collapse.

At the White House podium a few minutes later, the president radiated a righteous fury he rarely displays in public, finally placing the blame for this wholly unnecessary crisis squarely where it belongs: on Republicans who will do anything to upend his presidency and dismantle every social program they can find. “Can they say yes to anything?” he asked, noting the paradox of Republicans, who claim that financial responsibility and debt reduction are their biggest priorities, rejecting yet another deal that would have cut that debt by at least $3 trillion.

Mr. Obama, in fact, had already gone much too far in trying to make his deal palatable to House Republicans, offering to cut spending even further than the deficit plan proposed this week by the bipartisan “Gang of Six,” which includes some of the Senate’s most conservative members. The White House was willing to cut $1 trillion in domestic and defense spending and another $650 billion from Medicare, Medicaid and even Social Security.

Much of that savings would have come from raising the eligibility age for Medicare benefits and reducing the cost-of-living increases that elderly people depend on when receiving their health and pension benefits. It could have caused significant damage to some of the nation’s most vulnerable people.

The “bargain” would require that alongside these cuts, tax revenues would go up by $1.2 trillion, largely through a rewrite of the tax code to eliminate many deductions and loopholes. That’s substantially less in revenue than the $2 trillion in the “Gang of Six” plan. The problem is that while much of the cutting would start right away, most of the revenue increases would be put off, in part because a tax-code revision would take months, and in part to allow House Republicans to say they did not agree to any specific tax revenue increases.

Democratic lawmakers were rightly furious when they heard about these details this week, calling the plan wholly unbalanced. But, in the end, it was Mr. Boehner who torpedoed the talks. He said Friday evening that he and the president had come close to agreeing on $800 billion of the revenue increases (the equivalent of letting the upper-income Bush tax cuts expire as scheduled next year — not much of a heavy lift) but could not stomach another $400 billion the White House wanted to raise through ending tax loopholes and deductions.

So, on the eve of economic calamity, the Republicans killed an overly generous deal largely over a paltry $400 billion in deductions. Mr. Obama was willing to take considerable heat from his liberal critics over the deal, and the Republicans were not willing to do a thing to anger their Tea Party base. As the president forcefully said, there is no evidence that House Republicans are capable of making those tough decisions. If last-ditch talks beginning Saturday fail, they will have to take responsibility if the unimaginable — a government default — happens in 10 days and the checks stop going out.

By: The New York Times, Editorial, July 22, 2011

July 24, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Credits, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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