Sunday, July 10, 2011

Waterloo Part 2

Republicans slit their own throats. Again.

I borrowed the following column from Forbes. I hope no one objects.

GOP Passes Up Generational Conservative Victory In Order To Protect The Wealthy

Jul. 10 2011 - 5:48 pm

By Rick Ungar

Oh, the irony.

After generations of conservative dogma based solidly in the belief that fundamental changes to America’s entitlement programs are essential to the economic survival and betterment of the nation, that goal is now, finally, within the reach of the true believers.

Yet, remarkably, this dramatic change in national direction is being permitted to slip right through conservative fingers by the very people whom those ensconced on the right should be counting upon to bring home this great philosophical victory.

The fulfillment of the conservative dream is not vanishing from sight because Nancy Pelosi and the forces of progressivism are prepared to defend entitlements to the death. Nor is it happening because the President of the United States has counted up the votes and decided that messing with entitlements will cost him re-election.

It is not even the result of “bleeding hearts” like me rising nobly in defense of the needy and downtrodden.

Significant entitlement reform, long the goal of the fathers of modern day conservatism, is being flushed down the drain by the very Republican Party that has long battled to bring that goal to reality.

Somewhere in Connecticut, William F. Buckley Jr. is turning over in his grave.

On Saturday, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that the ‘grand bargain’ – rumored to bring $4 trillion in debt reduction over the next ten years through a mixture of entitlement reform, defense cuts and a measure of revenue increases resulting from cleaning up the tax code to get rid of some of the corporate entitlement programs that result in lower taxes and higher subsidies – is now off the table.

Apparently, Boehner could not sell the GOP Congressional Caucus on a deal that involved anything in the way of revenue increases- not even in exchange for accomplishing reforms for which his party has fought since the days of FDR and his “New Deal”.

True conservatives should not blame Boehner for this heresy as it appears that he is no happier with the position he is being forced to take than the President is with his proposal being rejected by House Republicans who don’t grasp the whole compromise thing.

What Boehner likely understands – better than those who he is supposed to be leading – is that the GOP is permitting the fundamental change, long at the heart of the conservative cause, to vanish into thin air and that it is happening in the name of protecting corporate subsidies that are the very antitheses of a free market economy – another of the inviolate tenets of conservative policy.

Subsidies that provide government incentives to industry are as anti-free market as government subsidies and controls that conservatives argue have skewed the costs of health care in America and led to our current crisis.

According to American conservative scripture, a truly free market requires that players compete on level ground – not with the edge that comes from government handouts and special tax breaks, whether they be for the benefit of a corporation or an individual.

Thus, the GOP is rejecting the opportunity to accomplish a landmark, philosophical milestone by protecting a policy that is, in and of itself, a violation of that same conservative philosophy.

Is the irony of this enough to make even the most ardent conservative believer question what in the world is going on here?

It certainly should be.

Could the explanation for this odd behavior be that the Congressional Republican Caucus has decided to turn its back on what is supposed to be their most fundamental beliefs because their constituents are demanding that they do so?

Apparently not.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the GOP Caucus does not appear to have any interest whatsoever in listening to its base.
“Two-thirds (67 percent) approve of making more of high earners’ income subject to Social Security tax, and nearly as many approve of raising taxes on incomes of over $250,000 (66 percent), reducing military commitments overseas (65 percent) and limiting tax deductions for large corporations (62 percent),” the Pew Research Center reported last month.

“Notably,” Pew found, “Republicans are as likely as Democrats to approve of limiting corporate tax deductions.”

Still, any kind of tax increases – whether it be a greater tax bite on the wealthy or on corporations seen as “job creators” – is off the table as far as large numbers of Republican House members are concerned.
Via the Christian Science Monitor
So, the GOP rejection of the debt deal is neither based in the free market philosophy nor the fundamental belief in entitlement reform. It is also not based on meeting their obligations to their constituents.

So, what is driving their rather remarkable position?

It must be jobs and the economy.

Surely, the Republicans in Congress are convinced that removing tax subsidies to the oil industry and cleaning up the tax code to get rid of corporate welfare that is no longer of any discernable value to the nation will make what is already a very bad jobs situation even worse.

Except that it turns out that you have to search long and wide to find an economist who supports this notion.
The other argument that advocates of tax cuts for the rich make is that many small-business owners would be see their taxes go up and thus would be discouraged from hiring workers. The facts do not support this. “Only 3 percent of small-business owners are in the top bracket,” notes Roberton Williams, a senior fellow with the Tax Policy Center, which is sponsored by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. And, he adds, “They are not all what we think of as job-creating small businesses. A lot of them are hedge-fund managers and law-firm partners.” So other than perhaps a few restaurateurs on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the workforce is unlikely to be affected.
Via Newsweek
So, while Eric Cantor continues to try and sell his base on this argument, it’s pretty hard to find anyone who knows anything about economics who actually is buying the pitch.

If it’s not philosophical dogma or fulfilling their obligation to those who elected them and it’s not the economy and/or jobs, what exactly is their problem?

I don’t know about you, but I can only think of one other explanation – fealty to the wealthy corporations and wealthy individuals who keep your Republican leadership rolling in the campaign cash so they can remain in their powerful jobs.

Now, if you believe this is a good enough reason to risk the financial stability of the nation – and possibly the world – then it’s all good.

Personally, I’m a little concerned.

I fear we are witnessing one of the most perverse and dangerous games our leaders have ever embarked upon. I’m stunned by the sheer audacity of these elected officials so ready to play chicken with the financial lives of so many simply to benefit a very few.

But what really amazes are the millions of middle class Americans who continue to believe that these officials are somehow acting in their best interest.

As curious as I am to see what will ultimately come of this game, my curiosity is far more piqued by the possibility that these middle class Americans might finally understand that the Republicans they sent to Congress work for the big corporations and care little for their needs and problems.

Should that light bulb (incandescent or otherwise) finally turn on, these folks should be assured that nobody is expecting them to run into the waiting arms of the Democratic Party. They can still quietly send their Congressional representatives a message indicating that they would prefer not to be abandoned so that Exxon might keep the government checks flowing in while maintaining their standing as upright, committed conservatives.

If these folks could – just this once – grasp what is being done in their name and communicate their rejection of the behavior of their leaders, the rest of us would genuinely appreciate it.

A true conservative should be as disgusted with what the Congressional Republican Caucus is doing as the rest of us and probably a great deal more so.


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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson