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The GOP Congress Hates (Except When It Loves) Federal Spending

“You saw the House act,” Rep. Eric Cantor snapped to a reporter last Friday. Yeah, act like a petulant 4-year-old!

The majority leader of the GOP-controlled House has long been a whiney ideological brat who stamps his tiny feet in peevish anger whenever he can’t get his way on legislation. In this particular incident, Cantor tried to pretend that the House had approved more federal aid for thousands of Americans who’ve been devastated by natural disasters this summer. However, he had sabotaged his own “act” by slipping a poison pill into it.

You see, “federal aid” is a four-letter word to right-wing ideologues like Eric, so for weeks he had stalled the emergency funding that hard-hit families desperately need. Cantor and his fellow anti-government dogmatists in the House turned a straightforward humanitarian bill into their political football, insisting that any increase in funds must first be wholly paid for by cutting spending on other public needs. His ploy has become known as the “Cantor Doctrine” — budget purity first, people’s needs last.

Actually, his this-for-that demand could’ve easily been met if Cantor had agreed to cut things America definitely does not need, such as the $4-billion-a year subsidy doled out to Big Oil. But — whoa! — in Cantorworld, oil giants are gods that shower manna from heaven on Republican campaigns, so it’s blasphemy even to think of cutting that money.

Instead, Cantor went after Big Oil’s most dreaded nemesis: companies that are making fuel-efficient and clean energy vehicles. Thus, the Cantorites decreed that there’d be no more disaster relief until the federal loan program to foster development of this green industry was slashed by $1.5 billion.

This would have been a political hat trick for the GOP extremists — striking a blow for their anti-government absolutism, doing a favor for a major campaign funder and defunding an Obama-backed program that helps him with voters.

Luckily, Cantor’s nuttiness was so extreme that a bipartisan vote by 79 senators killed his political scheme — this time.

You’d think that aid for storm victims would be beyond politics. But nothing is too far out for right-wing cultists like Cantor.

Well, you might think, at least the leaders of the tea party-infused Republican Congress are consistent in their opposition to big infusions of federal dollars into the economy, right?

Absolutely! Unless you count infusions of taxpayer funds into projects favored by corporations in their districts.

For example, a favorite target of howling Republican ridicule has been President Obama’s effort to stimulate our moribund economy by making government-backed loans to job-creating, green-energy projects. In particular, they’re presently assailing a 2009 loan guarantee of $535 million that the Obamacans awarded to the failed solar-panel maker Solyndra. This loan to a financially shaky company, they wail, is proof that green energy programs are a waste and are just about politics. GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell recently sputtered in a rage that “the White House fast-tracked a half-billion dollar loan to a politically connected energy firm.”

Fair enough — the Solyndra deal does stink. However, Mitch’s tirade would’ve had a lot more moral punch if it were not for Zap Motors. In 2009, even as the Kentucky senator was loudly deriding Obama’s original stimulus program, he was quietly making not one, but two personal appeals to Obama’s energy secretary, urging that a quarter-billion-dollar loan guarantee be awarded to Zap for a clean energy plant it wanted to build in McConnell’s state.

Never mind that Zap Motors had its own shaky financial record, it was (as McConnell now says of Solyndra) “a politically-connected energy firm.” Connected directly to him, that is. The senator’s robust support of Zap came after the corporation hired a lobbyist with close ties to Mitch, having been a frequent financial backer of the senator’s campaigns.

The moral of this Republican morality tale is that they hate government spending, except when they love it. For them, political morality is relative — decry federal largesse loudly, but when it serves your own political needs, hug it quietly … and tightly.

By: Jim Hightower, Common Dreams, Originally published by Creators.com, September 28, 2011

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Economic Recovery, Energy, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Those Bush Tax Cuts Will Work Wonders Eventually

Soon after the awful new job numbers were released, Dave Weigel had a good line, at least in a sardonic sort of way:

“Me? I’m just glad we kept the Bush tax rates so the economy could start surging.”

I had the same thought. Indeed, when thinking about who has credibility on economic projections and governmental policy, the right’s uninterrupted track record of failure remains fascinating. In 1982, conservative Republicans said Reagan’s tax increases would cause a disaster (they didn’t). In 1993, conservative Republicans said Clinton’s tax increases would invariably fail (they didn’t). In 2009, conservative Republicans said Obama’s stimulus would make the economy worse (it didn’t).

And in 2001, conservative Republicans said Bush’s tax cuts would cause a remarkable economic boom (they didn’t). In 2003, these same conservative Republicans said more Bush tax cuts would do the trick (they didn’t). In 2010, these same conservative Republicans said if we could just keep those Bush tax cuts around a little more, we’d be amazed at the economic turnaround in 2011.

Here we are. I don’t think anyone’s amazed.

The response from the right is that we should just stick with the tax cuts indefinitely, because they’re bound to work eventually. Indeed, to hear some conservatives tell is, it’s other factors that deserve the blame — Democrats have let spending get out of control (they haven’t) and allowed the debt to become a drag on the economy (it isn’t).

Ezra Klein noted the other day that the Republican approach to tax policy “is no longer based on any recognizable economic theory.” Of course not. Who needs economic models, egghead academics, and evidence when the GOP has a religious-like certainty in a policy based solely on ideology?

One wonders, though, when the political world might pause to question whether these folks have any credibility left at all.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, July 9, 2011

July 10, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Taxes | , , , , , | 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

Tea Party Puts The Screws To House Republicans Over Debt Ceiling

Tea party activists have taken some lumps lately, but they’re not going down without a fight.

With TV ads, petitions and grassroots lobbying, tea party organizers are gearing up to send an absolutist message to Capitol Hill: Don’t raise the debt ceiling under any circumstances. Tea party activists have already clashed publicly with some of the 87 GOP freshmen they helped elect last year, and they’re warning that Republicans who don’t keep their fiscal promises will pay a political price.

“We will remove as many incumbents as we can that do not do the job they were hired to do,” Darla Dawald, national director of the tea party group Patriot Action Network, said in an e-mail. “We are watching every member of Congress, their votes, position and language.”

A newly formed conservative political action committee has released an ad opposing a debt ceiling increase and disputing the $100 billion in cuts that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, touted in the recent budget agreement. The ad cites the Congressional Budget Office finding that cuts totaled less than $400 million. But its real target is President Obama and his “massive deficit spending.”

The ad was released by the new Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama PAC, a spinoff of the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, the party of the Tea party Express. The latter is about to launch its own national TV ad campaign opposing a debt ceiling increase, said Amy Kremer, who chairs Tea party Express. The PAC raised and spent $7.7 million in the 2010 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Another conservative activist group, Grassfire Nation, is gathering signatures from its 1.8 million members on a petition opposing “any increase in the legal federal debt limit,” to be delivered by hand in the coming weeks to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. A Grassfire Nation poll found that close to 80 percent of its members opposed raising the debt ceiling, even if conditions such as spending cuts or caps were attached.

“It’s no secret that the tea party movement’s unhappy,” said Kremer. “You’re seeing people on a local level really upset with their congressmen and women.” Reps. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., Tom Price, R-Ga., and David Schweikert, R-Ariz., are among the House Republicans who have fielded flak from conservative bloggers, demonstrators, or town hall hecklers upset that Congress isn’t acting faster to bring down the deficit.

“There’s a frustration that we can’t move faster,” said Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, referring to the tea party movement. “But also an understanding that their job is to say: Let’s do more, let’s do more, let’s do more.”

The debt ceiling vote will be a key test of both the tea party and of the GOP on the threshold of the 2012 election. Technically, the federal government will run out of money in mid-May, but Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has signaled that accounting adjustments may give Congress until early August to actually vote.

It’s an open question how successful the tea party will be, both in the debt ceiling fight and on the campaign trail next year. Of the GOP freshmen, who’ve played a pivotal role in the unfolding budget drama, one bloc would raise the debt ceiling on the condition of substantive budget reforms or spending cuts, sources say. Another bloc opposes a debt ceiling increase flat out. And about a third are undecided.

Tea party activists are up against expert and administration warnings that failing to raise the debt limit could send the economy and the stock market into a tailspin. The tea party’s star, moreover, may be fading.

A Capitol Hill protest in March to demand more budget cuts proved underwhelming. The movement’s national leaders, most notably former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., have drifted to the fringes of the GOP White House nominating contest. A couple of tea party PACs unveiled to much fanfare last year–Ensuring Liberty and Liberty First–have fizzled. And GOP leaders have signaled that certain tea party goals–repealing the health care law, partially privatizing Medicare–may or may not be on the table in ongoing debt limit negotiations.

It “absolutely is not true” that the movement is losing steam, countered Kremer. “You’re not seeing the great big rallies that you did before, because people are engaged on a local level doing things.”

Virginia tea party activist Jamie Radtke, who’s launched a Senate campaign for the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Jim Webb, concurred that the movement is shifting from a national to a local focus: “There is a strong desire in the tea party movement to keep the tea party local.”

Radtke predicted that activists will take the fight over the debt limit to the mat. “The GOP is on probation, because under President Bush they spent a lot of money, and added $3 trillion to the national debt,” she said, adding: “You will see that the tea party will have no problem whatsoever challenging the very freshmen they put in.”

Such warnings still make some on Capitol Hill very nervous. But as Republicans struggle between idealism and pragmatism, the GOP–and the tea party–might soon face a moment of truth.

By: Elizabeth Newlin Carney, Contributing Editor, National Journal Daily, May 9, 2011

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lobbyists, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Do You Mean We, White Man? Deficit Edition

Whenever I read pieces like David Brooks’s column this morning — pieces that attribute our budget deficits to the public’s irresponsibility and lack of realism — I find myself wondering how so much recent history went down the memory hole.

To be fair, polling on budget questions does suggest a popular demand that we repeal the laws of arithmetic — that we not raise taxes, not cut spending on any popular program, and balance the budget.

But if we look at actual policy changes, it’s hard to see that too much democracy was the problem.

Remember, we had a budget surplus in 2000. Where did it go? The two biggest policy changes responsible for the swing into deficit were the big tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the war of choice in Iraq.

And neither of these policy changes was in any sense a response to public demand. Americans weren’t clamoring for a tax cut in 2000; Bush pushed his tax cuts to please his donors and his base. And the decision to invade Iraq not only wasn’t a response to public demand, Bush and co. had to spend months selling the idea to the public.

In fact, the only budget-busting measure undertaken in recent memory that was driven by popular demand as opposed to the agenda of a small number of powerful people was Medicare Part D. And even there, the plan was needlessly expensive, not because that’s the way the public wanted it — it could easily have been simply an addition to traditional Medicare — but to please the drug lobby and the anti-government ideologues.

Now, a lot of historical rewriting has taken place — I’ve even seen pundits solemnly describe the Iraq war fever as an illustration of the madness of crowds, somehow erasing the fact that it was Bush and Rumsfeld, not the masses, who wanted the thing.

But the reality is that if you want to see irresponsibility and self-indulgence at the expense of the nation’s future, you don’t want to visit Main Street; you want to hang out in the vicinity of Pennsylvania Avenue.

By: Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Opinion Pages, May 6, 2011

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Deficits, Economy, Government, Ideologues, Iraq, Journalists, Media, Medicare, Politics, Press, Public, Taxes, Voters | , , , , | Leave a comment

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