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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

Deficits Still Don’t Matter To Republicans

Think there will eventually be a bipartisan deal to increase the public debt limit after an extended period of Kabuki Theater posturing?  Maybe it’s time to think again.

Ezra Klein really hits the nail on the head in describing the “negotiations” as they stand today:

The negotiation that we’re having, in theory, is how to cut the deficit in order to give politicians in both parties space to increase the debt limit. But if you look closely at the positions, that’s not really the negotiation we’re having. Republicans are negotiating not over the deficit, but over tax rates and the size of government. That’s why they’ve ruled revenue “off the table” as a way to reduce the deficit, and why they are calling for laws and even constitutional amendments that cap federal spending rather than attack deficits. Democrats, meanwhile, lack a similarly clear posture: most of them are negotiating to raise the debt ceiling, but a few are trying to survive in 2012, and a few more are actually trying to reduce the deficit, and meanwhile, the Obama administration just met with the Senate Democrats to ask them to please, please, stop laying down new negotiating markers every day.If we were really just negotiating over the deficit, this would be easy. The White House, the House Republicans, the House Progressives, the House Democrats and the Senate Republicans have all released deficit-reduction plans. There’s not only apparent unanimity on the goal, but a broad menu of approaches. We’d just take elements from each and call it a day. But if the Republicans are negotiating over their antipathy to taxes and their belief that government should be much smaller, that’s a much more ideological, and much tougher to resolve, dispute. The two parties don’t agree on that goal. And if the Democrats haven’t quite decided what their negotiating position is, save to survive this fight both economically and politically, that’s not necessarily going to make things easier, either. Negotiations are hard enough when both sides agree about the basic issue under contention. They’re almost impossible when they don’t.

It’s worth underlining that “deficits” and “debt” don’t in themselves mean any more to conservatives than they did when then-Vice President Dick Cheney said “deficits don’t matter” in 2002.  Every Republican “deficit reduction” proposal is keyed to specific spending cuts–without new revenues–and increasingly, to an arbitrary limit on spending as a percentage of GDP.  Even the version of a constitutional balanced budget amendment that Sen. Jim DeMint is insisting on as part of any debt limit deal would have a spending-as-percentage-of-GDP “cap” (at 18%, as compared to about 24% currently) that would force huge spending reductions (you can guess from where since GOPers typically consider defense spending as off-limits as taxes).

Today’s Republicans are simply using deficits as an excuse to revoke as much of the New Deal/Great Society tepid-welfare-state system as they can get away with.  And it’s really just a latter stage of the old conservative Starve-the-Beast strategy for deliberately manufacturing deficits in order to cut spending.  Democrats should point this out constantly, and not let Republicans get away with claiming they are only worried about debt and fiscal responsibility.

By: Ed Kilgore, The Democratic Strategist, May 12, 2011

May 13, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democrats, Dick Cheney, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Taxes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A SUCKER’S BET: Are Republicans Really Prepared To “Gamble On Entitlement Reform”?

The effort to pass a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year will be the principal challenge for policymakers over the next few days, but while that work continues, congressional Republicans will also start a massive fight over the next budget.

We’ll have more on this later — sneak preview: the GOP wants to gut entitlements — but as the process gets underway, it’s worth pausing to appreciate the politics here. The Weekly Standard‘s Stephen Hayes has a lengthy new report, arguing that Republicans are prepared to “gamble on entitlement reform,” and the GOP thinks it can win this time.

If there is one thing that political strategists, pollsters, and elected officials of both parties have agreed on for decades, it’s that entitlement reform is a sure political loser. Social Security is the “third rail” — touch it and you die. Suggest changes to Medicaid and you don’t care about the poor. Propose modest reforms to Medicare and you’re the target of a well-funded “Mediscare” campaign that ensures your defeat.

No longer.

“People are getting it that these things are unsustainable,” says Karl Rove. “For so many people, debt is no longer abstract. It’s more concrete. I don’t know if it’s seeing Greece on TV or what. It’s still tough, but it’s not the political loser it used to be.”

Other influential Republicans go further. They believe that getting serious about entitlement reform can be politically advantageous.

“I think it can be a real winner for Republicans if we handle it the right way,” says South Carolina senator Jim DeMint.

The piece goes on to quote all kinds of Republicans, all of whom genuinely seem to believe there’s a public appetite for their entitlement agenda. GOP officials have been too scared to tackle this in earnest before, the theory goes, but bolstered by public support, this time will be different. This time, they say, Americans want entitlement cuts, and Democratic criticisms will fall on deaf ears.

Time will tell, I suppose, but all of the available evidence suggests these folks have no idea what they’re talking about, and are poised to pursue one of the most dramatic examples of political overreach we’ve seen in a very long time.

Republicans can presumably read polls as easily as I can, but let’s focus for a moment on the latest CNN poll, released late last week. Asked, for example, about Medicaid funding, a combined 75% want funding levels to stay the same or go up. For Social Security, 87% of Americans want funding levels to stay the same or go up. For Medicare, 87% want funding levels to stay the same or go up — and most want funding to increase, not stay the same.

For some reason, Hayes and his allies look at numbers like these and think Republicans will benefit from pushing entitlement cuts. No, seriously, that’s what they think. GOP leaders are not only arguing this, they’re actually counting on it as part of a larger political strategy.

Karl Rove, ostensibly the GOP’s most gifted strategist, believes Americans may be “seeing Greece on TV,” and suddenly find themselves favoring Medicare cuts.

I don’t think he’s kidding.

Hayes noted in his piece, “So have things really changed? We’ll soon find out.”

On this point, we agree.

By: Steve Bensen, Washington Monthly, April 4, 2011

April 4, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Elections, Federal Budget, GOP, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Social Security, Voters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Republican Budget Cuts Will Come Back to Bite Them

Something about the Republican dance with populism these days reminds me of one of those classic Twilight Zone episodes: Aliens come down to earth. They want to help us! (They even have a book called To Serve Man!) Wait a minute … they want to eat us! (It’s a cookbook.) From there things take a decidedly downward turn.

One suspects that Republicans may be in for a similarly demoralizing experience. Here’s why:

When NPR asked Sen. Jim DeMint this week why Republicans were pressing to reduce Social Security benefits (a subject that had long been considered off limits for politicians interested in re-election), he answered, “It is politically dangerous, but I think the mood of the country is different than it has been [at] any time in my lifetime.” The “mood” he’s talking about is the so-called “new populism,” the voter anger expressed everywhere from Tea Party rallies to voting booths in 2010.

When you think of traditional populism, it evokes images of regular people rising up against a remote, usually corporate, elite that’s run roughshod over their rights. Farmers and working people taking on runaway industrialists and robber barons. Traditionally, Democrats have been most receptive to these kinds of appeals. In response, they’ve pushed government to enact programs aimed at protecting those most vulnerable to the predations of more powerful interests.

For the new populists, government is the remote elite. Instead of unsafe working conditions or unfair lending practices, they’re protesting the ills of government spending and overreach, the wasting of taxpayer dollars. And if their efforts undo the kinds of programs that a more traditional brand of populism might embrace—those aimed at helping the less advantaged make their way—so be it. It’s populism Republican style. And Republicans look like they’re going to ride it for all its worth.

But what happens when you start cutting programs that are in and of themselves something of a check on potential populist anger? That’s one way to look at government programs: There’s a need that’s not being addressed, and rather than let it ferment, government, however clumsily, tries to fill the gap. Sometimes the proposed gap filler is ridiculous (Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s “Department of Peace” springs to mind). Other times, it becomes part of the very fabric of our country.

Take public schooling. Public schools reflect a societal judgment that children should have a chance to succeed without regards to wealth or socioeconomic background. To help get them there, we don’t give every kid a million dollars and say “have at it,” we offer them a tuition-free classroom with a curriculum designed to put them on an equal footing with everyone else when they enter the workforce. What they do from there is up to them.

It doesn’t always work out, of course. Some schools are better than others. So are some teachers. But wherever our various debates about education reform end up, public schools reflect a deeply held American value: that there are some public goods (like an educated workforce) that we, as a society, believe are worth individual (taxpayer) costs. That seems to have become lost in the current debate.

Take another look at what’s underway in Wisconsin. A centerpiece of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is a $1 billion cut in education funding. That’s a big number that may sound appealing to people worked up about government spending today, but in September when they send their kids to schools with classroom sizes twice as big as a year before, they may begin to remember why they thought it was a good idea to fund education in the first place. Presto! New populists transformed into traditional populists. Only now their target has shifted from Democrats to Republicans. And you can imagine the same phenomenon playing out across a whole host of issues, from Social Security to shared revenue.

Republicans may have momentum on their side at the moment, but there’s a long way to go in the various budget battles playing out across the country. To be sure, Democrats can overplay their hand, too, by opposing any kind of spending restraint.

But one way or the other, populism is sure to play a role in determining how it all turns out. Which strain of populism wins? For Republicans, the answer is kind of like the difference between To Serve Man (they’re helping us!) and To Serve Man (oh wait, they’re eating us). And they had better hope they’ve got it right.

By: Anson Kaye, U.S. News and World Report, March 17, 2011

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Economy, Federal Budget, Politics, Populism, Republicans, Social Security, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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