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!