WHATEVER HAPPENED TO “COMPASSIONATE” CONSERVATISM?

Isn’t it ironic that Speaker Boehner, the very man who has been screaming for the previous two years to “restore fiscal sanity” in Washington, will end up being the individual responsible for the largest tax increase in American history? Let me be clear: Should the GOP and President fail to reach an agreement over the current fiscal cliff crisis the Speaker will have failed nearly every American in this Country.  Of course, there will be those from the “Right” who will disagree with me on this however the facts do not lie.  Case in point: Right now, a Bill sits in the United States House of Representatives, promoted by the President himself, passed by the Democratic led Senate which ensures that only those Americans earning more than $250,000 would see an increase in their taxes. For the rest of the country, the tax rate would remain the same.  Lest anyone forgets: This is exactly what the President stated he would do while campaigning for re-election, and furthermore, when polled, nearly 80% of Americans agree with the President on this issue.  In addition, the Bill extends unemployment benefits for those still reeling over this nation’s near economic collapse, as Americans are attempting to get back to work in a market where corporations have taken in near historically high record-breaking profits, as evidenced by their CEO’s receiving monumental bonuses, while neglecting to open their doors for new hires. So, what’s the problem, you might find yourself asking? Great question and I am glad you asked!

To listen to the current Tea Party hijacked GOP, the entire issue boils down to the issue of spending.  For example, when Speaker Boehner held his news conference, propped with his graph on December 13, 2012, he stated: “It’s clear the president is just not serious about cutting spending. But spending is the problem,”  emphatically adding when questioned by a reporter whether he was open to revenues being generated by taxing those earning over $250,000, “THIS is the problem, he said with a sense of vapidity while pointing to the graph!  It’s this nation’s spending” (Paraphrased).  Then adding reinforcement to his point, and blame, he continued: “The president wants to pretend spending isn’t the problem. That’s why we don’t have an agreement.” If one wonders whether this was simply the Speaker engaging in political theater, or sharing his personal or Party’s ideology, all one needs to do, is revisit the Speaker’s comments prior to the meeting between he and the President, as shared by Boehner’s spokesman, and reported by CBS News when he states: “The discussion over the “fiscal cliff” shouldn’t be about raising taxes but cutting spending and that is what’s holding up any prospects of a deal.” So, there you have it folks: To the Speaker and the current GOP, it’s all about spending! I imagine the Speaker would have us Americans forget that just last year, during the debt-ceiling crisis, our nation’s budget was cut nearly $1.6 trillion.  Of course, so proud of his negotiation skills, the Speaker then went on record when interviewed by CBS News, bragging  how he “got 98% of what he wanted,” in the deal.  Perhaps this is the very problem though: As the Speaker of the House, one should not be interested in getting nearly everything “he” wants; but to ensure the American people get exactly what they want.  Correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Speaker, your job as a representative is not to represent your tea party fanatics sitting in the House, but to exercise your powers as Speaker to ensure the legislation you are passing mirrors the very will of “We the People.”

Surely, the Speaker remembers when Ronald Reagan was swept into office and then Speaker Tip O’Neill’s not only honoring the very will of “We the People,” but leading his House to cooperate with then President Reagan, doesn’t he? Or, perhaps he chooses to forget! Perhaps Chris Matthews, host of  MSNB’S HARDBALL can remind the Speaker: “When Reagan came into office wanting to push tax cuts and changes in the budget, (Speaker of the House) Tip (O’Neill) refused to play any games. There were no filibusters, no efforts to jam things up, no obstacle course set up.” Why? Matthews provides us with insight: “Tip figured Reagan had won the election.  He had the votes.  It was his turn at bat.” But apparently, things have changed in Washington evidenced by Boehner’s provided commentary after the President won re-election, confirming this Country’s agreement with the current President’s plan, and worse, reflects the mindset of those tea party members of Boehner’s caucus when asked about the election results: “This was nothing more than a status-quo election.” Of course, what the Speaker neglects to say here, is how Republican led State legislatures, when swept into power during the 2010 mid-term election, engaged in redistricting efforts, requiring 2.5 votes for a Democratic nominee for every 1 vote required for a GOP nominee.  Furthermore, it was not only states who enjoyed a GOP comeback during the 2010 mid-term, but the United House of Representatives, as their Party gained control of the House with nearly 60 of those seats going to tea party members. Of course, at that time, I am quite sure Boehner never realized how his Party was making a deal with the proverbial “devil,” due to the recalcitrance and unwillingness of these members to compromise on “ANYTHING” supported by this President.  Even the Speaker himself has now been victimized just prior to the Christmas break, as he proposed his “Plan B” option to his caucus, only to have it shot down before even making it to the floor for a vote.  Why?

As Politico’s Jonathan Allen opines in his article titled, Revenge of the Purged,” referencing Boehner’s attempt to purge those tea party members from committee chair positions, and their subsequent reaction: “The whole episode gave Boehner the feel of a substitute teacher accountable for what happens in the classroom, but isn’t really in control of the kids.”  Conservative Columnist Jennifer Rubin agrees when she writes: “His caucus has rendered Boehner a non-player in any future fiscal negotiations because he can no longer speak for his conference.  Perhaps Boehner should quit and let the House GOP stew and watch as the country grabs pitchforks and torches to come after the tax-hikers.  This is a party acting like a minority party, or worse, like petulant teenagers.”  Whether Rubin agrees with the tea party agenda or not, is irrelevant.  What is important, is her insight to how the Tea Party members legislate; their mantra is simply “our way or the highway.”  Lest you believe me to be one-sided in my assessment, there seems to be scores of people, even from the conservative movement itself, who articulate similar sentiments including; Joe Scarborough, Thomas Mann, Norman Ornstein, David Frum, and several GOP representatives. One such example is Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH), as he states the following regarding the current Tea Party influence on the GOP: “It weakens the entire Republican Party, the Republican majority.  It’s the continuing dumbing-down of the Republican Party and we are going to be seen more and more as a bunch of extremists that can’t even get a  majority of our own people to support policies we’re setting followed.”  Congressman LaTourette; I agree wholeheartedly, but you might want to get prepared for a primary challenge by some tea party candidate just for making this statement.

But the calls and demands for fiscal responsibility persist, despite most leading economists stringently arguing against that very strategy of engaging in spending cuts, especially given our current fragile recovery. Forget the fact that the last Republican President to balance the budget was none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Ike further refused to lower taxes, and in so doing, paid down the National debt.  In addition, he spent money creating jobs by engaging in the building of the Interstate Highway System, which returned more than six dollars for every single dollar in cost, providing the nation with an excellent return on investment.  And get this folks: Ike did not lower taxes, nor did he cut spending, and he did not kill jobs, and, yet he didn’t increase the debt.  You may be wondering how Eisenhower was able to do this, and if you watched the Democratic National Convention, specifically former President Bill Clinton’s speech, the answer is quite easy; arithmetic!   One must wonder how a man such as Ike, or Reagan, or any other of the Republican heroes would fare in today’s political climate, especially taking into consideration the tea party’s no compromise style of legislation.

To deny the necessity of reducing our spending would be inane, and our President has attempted to convey the necessity for our nation to do precisely this, albeit through a “balanced approach.”  Yet, this is not enough for those in the tea party led GOP.  Their message is simple: “It’s the spending!” When Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was pulled into the debate yesterday, due to Boehner apparently losing his seat at the negotiation table, his solution is telling: cut unemployment benefits for nearly 2 million people, unless, you guessed it; he gets his spending cuts.  Never mind that this is the exact extortionist approach successfully used by the GOP in 2010 when the President wanted to extend unemployment benefits at that time, especially since it was Christmas time.  However, on that specific occasion, it was the GOP’s sole goal of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest; adding to the deficit.  So, let’s summarize the GOP position: They want to cut spending, but only on those programs benefiting the middle-class.  When it comes to spending on those things they feel important, well, go on ahead, no problem, right? Wrong! The GOP would rather balance the entire budget on the backs of the middle-class without moving one inch towards social justice in the land, something the GOP once embraced itself, but can no longer do, as a direct result of the corporate backed tea party.

It seems to me as though the Speaker has an opportunity to be a leader here.  Instead of having his House on 48 hour notice, with no sense of urgency, he can muster his troops back to the House, and mirror the bipartisan efforts we all witnessed when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, and Governor Christie worked with the President.  Or, he can continue to allow the tea party to call the shots.  Perhaps the most ironic part of this story is this: The Speaker does not even need the support or backing of the tea party members in order to pass the bare minimum proposal cited above.  And, as a result, I suspect that he would demonstrate to the entire Country that he had backbone, despite the very possibility he endangers his role as Speaker, while demonstrating to the entire country that compassionate conservatism is still alive and well in the Republican Party.  In addition, the Speaker could actually be the hero of the day for the GOP, as they currently struggle to re-brand themselves after the shellacking they took as a Party.  Make no mistake: The entire Country is watching!

 

12 comments to WHATEVER HAPPENED TO “COMPASSIONATE” CONSERVATISM?

  • John Casper

    Thanks Mark. After seeing Obama and Pelosi cave on \”chaining the CPI,\” I don\’t see much daylight between them and Boehner. House Progressive came they would not vote for it. http://boldprogressives.org/defiant-house-progressives-to-nancy-pelosi-we-will-not-vote-to-cut-social-security-benefits/
    Given their track record, I have little faith in the Progressive Caucus.

    I fully support MARGINAL tax rates on the 1% going back to where they were from 1951 – 1964, 91%. Since \’64, as we lowered their MARGINAL tax rate, nothing ever \”trickled-down.\” They simply used it to buy both parties and the media.
    I think David Dayen hit the wider issues here:

    \”….I think that we’re missing a huge element of pre-tax inequality that government policy can ameliorate. “Pity-charity” liberalism will always hit a wall with demonization as “socialism.” Actually targeting the distortions in markets that allow wealth to flow in one direction is a much smarter strategy that appeals to American self-conceptions of fairness. You can get part of the way there with a higher tax base, but you’re going to have to attack the large financial sector, the tragedy of corporate governance, the use of worker power and collective bargaining, and more. Unfortunately, we’re only looking at one side of the equation.\”

    http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/11/30/on-taxes-redistribution-and-the-need-to-focus-on-pre-tax-inequality/

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  • Cat Kin

    The classic negotiating strategy is to always be willing to walk away from the deal. Republicans have the most to lose if the tax structure pre Bush is renewed. But they will continue to walk away because they think the President won\’t. Thus we\’re going to have to wait until the last moment when the Republicans will give, because they think they must keep the Bush structured economy in tact to survive. If the president allows the economy to go over the cliff, the result will be a stronger government, with more ability to regulate the financial and healthcare industries that are sucking the life our of America for world markets.

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  • nonquixote

    Enough tags in your category list for at least five separate posts.

    Shorter diary here, Boehner, POTUS, good cop, bad cop, bad cop, good cop, both lie to increase the power of their benefactors. US citizens pay and suffer, neither party \”leadership,\” gives a shit.

    Your final summary sentence assumes that Obomba wants to regulate anything, fatal flaw there, me thinks. He desires his legacy as POTUS to be the one who broke the social safety net for good. Begin your next thesis with that fact.

    50 plus words less, progress MB. This is simply physically difficult to read in this blog format. I copy and paste to text editor and double space and change font. Kindly focus and shorten it up.

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    • John Casper

      IMHO, in addition to robust activism, Greens and Labor still need a vigorous electoral strategy. The Democratic party, especially at the local level, is imho still viable. Really appreciate Zach taking the plunge. (Sorry, I\’m a little behind on el fundo, but will try to send you $25)

      At the national level, in heavy D+ districts, primaries in mid-term years favor us, because ad rates and turnout are lower. It will take at least several cycles of midterms, however, to get through to the Dem side of the duopoly.

      There are also issue on which the far right and the left agree: ending foreign occupations, Wall Street, and legalizing marijuana. The fact that we cannot make any headway on those, confirms for me what a grip the elites have on the duopoly to which both parties belong.

      http://www.fairvote.org/

      Without a lot of very discipline non-violent Green and Labor protests, however, I see little hope for resurrecting the Democratic party. I do not think an electoral strategy, alone, is enough.

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    • NQ,

      Obama is going to gut the social safety net as his legacy? You told me yesterday to get a crackin\’ on e-activism to stop him! I\’ve had a team working on e-petitions for the last 24 hrs and now you sound like it\’s a done deal.

      Sheesh.

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      • John Casper

        Steve, thank you for your efforts.

        \”Chaining the CPI,\” is not a \”done deal,\” if House Progressives will stand against it. Right now the corporate media is aimed at the Tea Party, for resisting tax increases on the top 2%. Once we get past that, their full attention will turn against anyone in the House who does not want to \”chain the CPI.\”

        Given how many House Republicans will not want to vote with Obama (just as with Obamacare), it may only take very few House Progressives to vote against the President. Mark Pocan in Madision is in one of the safest of safe Dem seats. He should absolutely be leading the progressive fight.

        IIRC, Move-On tried to get protesters organized yesterday at the Reuss building in Milwaukee. Based on the absence of media coverage, I have to think their efforts failed. That\’s very disappointing and more encouragement to House progressives to cave.

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      • nonquixote

        To Steve C, 1:18 pm

        His real desire, yes, I believe it is so, though trying to counter it may influence others to prevent it from happening as fully as he would like. So I don\’t see a problem with my stating both ideas. Legacy wish, to be seen as the \”Great Conciliator.\”

        And to Mark, my sincerest apology, I was mistakenly reading Catkin\’s comment\’s last line when I wrote, \”Your final summary sentence assumes that Obomba wants to regulate anything, fatal flaw there, me thinks.

        As I said, too much reading for one post, though the line can be easily applied to Obomba on several issues.

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  • Gareth

    The fiscal cliff is a big lie and like every big lie, the more it\’s repeated the more it is accepted as common wisdom. The fiscal cliff is disaster capitalism at it\’s finest. First the 1% nearly destroy the financial system and then they move in for the class war kill-shot on the rest of us.

    The current level of debt isn\’t due to excessive spending on social programs. In fact, $13 trillion of it was the cost of bailing out the corrupt and fraudulent banking system in order to guarantee that the money pump to the super rich would keep working. Now the 99% of us are supposed to pay for this through austerity. Fuck that. We should raise taxes on the 1% and and tax the hell out of the .1% in order to put the money they have stolen back into the economy.

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/12/americas-deceptive-2012-fiscal-cliff.html

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  • forgotmyscreenname

    I find it very interesting that liberals spent the better part of the last decade spouting off that the Bush tax cuts benefited no one but the rich only and now suddenly that they are about to expire, those same people are saying it will be a travesty for the middle class. CARE TO EXPLAIN THAT ONE?

    I guess those Bush tax cuts benefited ALL taxpayers after all. Yet your years of dishonesty go unchallenged by anyone.

    Also Mark you are wrong in saying that “For the rest of the country, the tax rate would remain the same.” You fail to recognize that payroll taxes are reverting back to the old rates, which will mean more taxes for all the working folks. Had they known before the election that Obama wasn’t going to fight to keep their taxes from going up in that regard, might have been a different story.

       0 likes

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