Monday, July 25, 2011

Throw the Bums Out? Sure, but Let's be Clear about Who the Bums Are...

What's Eating John Boehner? And why is he willing
to throw a match in the economic gas tank? 
There's a tendency among people who aren't necessarily up on the details of Washington, DC politics to think that gridlock is basically the fault of no one party, and that all the bums should be thrown out.  Specifically, the debt ceiling crisis has thrown into stark contrast the different approaches of the two sides, and reveals that, yes, there are bums, and no, they shouldn't be assigned equal blame.

In one corner, we have the Democrats...led by President Obama. He's tried to address the need to extend the debt ceiling as a negotiator. His strategy is one that has been accepted in American politics over the course of many administrations, both left and right. Take Reagan, for example. According to Bruce Bartlett, a top Treasury Official under President Bush:

Can John be talked down from the ledge?
"There was a consistency to Reagan on taxes, which was basically that he cut them when he could, but raised them when he had to. He was not dogmatic on this issue, as his current day followers seem to think," said economist Bruce Bartlett, a senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House and a top Treasury official in President George H.W. Bush's administration."

Clinton was able to compromise with the Republicans when they shut down the government because the republicans led by Newt Gingrich didn't threaten to use the debt ceiling in the budget battle.  

At the core of Obama's belief is that (and Reagan's, actually) ultimately, both sides have the same goal: To ensure the stability and integrity of the US economy.

But this is where things fall apart.

Because in the other corner, we have the republicans...led by House Speaker John Boehner and his Majority leader in the House of Representatives, Eric Cantor. Unlike the Democrats, Boehner and Cantor do not believe that a negotiation involves acknowledgement of the other side's goals, a willingness to "give a little to get a little," or even that a negotiated settlement is in the best interest of the country. In fact, they believe that a negotiation, and specifically, this negotiation, is about making the president look bad/weak, so that they can defeat him and take power. How do I know this? Because regardless of his proposals, they have rejected them out of hand, even though they mirror their own right-wing agenda. Finally, in an indication that he was at his wits end, at a press conference on July 22, the president put the approaches of the two parties into stark terms:
...I've gone out of my way to say that both parties have to make compromises. I think this whole episode indicated the degree to which at least a Democratic President has been willing to make some tough compromises. So when you guys go out there and write your stories, this is not a situation where somehow this was the usual food fight between Democrats and Republicans. A lot of Democrats have stepped up in ways that were not advantageous poliically*. So we've shown ourselves willing to do the tough stuff on an issue that the Republicans ran on.
This is partially the president's own fault, because he completely miscalculated the borg-like nature of the Republicans (but that's a separate discussion). So, what are we dealing with here? Well, the bums in this case are the Republicans who are uninterested in negotiation in the traditional sense. With them, there is  no "give and take," there is only "Take. Repeat." But people conflate/equate the two sides--wrongly--as being equally at fault for the standoff. This is patently untrue. The position proposed by the right, known as "cut, cap, and balance,"is a recipe for economic disaster, the brunt of which would be borne (of course) by the most vulnerable in our struggling economy.

Obama expected that he could deal with the other side of the aisle--and even though he put forth what can only be considered a republican proposal--that was a serious miscalculation on his part, because not only did they not bite on a proposal that contained their own policies, they had no incentive to. Any actual agreement would simply help the president and, even at the expense of the welfare of the country, this is their main goal. Given this, what do they have an incentive to do? Well, with fire ant like tenacity and a lemming-like genetic drive, they're only goal is to ensure that nothing stands in the way of their "cut, cut, cut" without a single penny of revenue increases from those who clearly can afford it.

Bums Identified. Request Permission to Disarm Them...
Now that we've identified which bums should be summarily "thrown out," what can be done? Well, since Obama essentially rejected Clinton's (and others') recommendation that he invoke the 14th amendment to unilaterally increase the debt limit, at this point, the president is hoping that the legislative branch will come to some sort of accommodation. Unfortunately, the two sides appear to be in different governments on different planets.

You know this, but it brings me back to my main point: The republicans are at fault here.

To conflate both sides as being at fault is the logical equivalent of saying that someone who buys gasoline for their car and then goes to sleep is equally responsible for its destruction as the psychopath who creeps around at night and drops a match in the gas tank. 

What did he say? Depends on the day...
But the media hasn't and won't report the facts. No matter how many compromises and Republican proposals this Democrat puts together, they haven't budged. And it doesn't matter that Cantor, Boehner, and McConnell all voted to raise the debt under Bush without threats or protest. And it doesn't even matter than Cantor was first against a short-term extension, and now is for it, and attacks the president for his own position.  It's easier for the mainstream media to follow the narrative that the right wants, to wit, "both sides are at an impasse and the republicans are ignoring the president because he insists on tax increases rather than balancing the budget" than to do the simple analysis that I've done here that correctly assigns blame to the right. And in this crisis, that approach couldn't be more wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment