Wednesday, October 09, 2013

End the Magical Balance Fairy Shutdown Myth

Let's go straight to the video tape.

That's from This Week With George Stephanopoulos this past weekend (10/04/2013) - starting around the 3 minute mark.

The transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Mr. Speaker, he says -- and he said it publicly on many occasions, that you came to him back in July and offered to pass a clean government funding resolution, no Obamacare amendments, that was $70 billion below what the Senate wanted. They accepted it. And now, you've reneged on that offer.

BOEHNER: No, clearly there was a conversation about doing this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Several conversations.

BOEHNER: Several. But--

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you offered a clean resolution.

BOEHNER: But I and my members decided the threat of Obamacare and what was happening was so important that it was time for us to take a stand. And we took a stand.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you decide it or was it decided for you?

BOEHNER: I, working with my members, decided to do this in a unified way. George, I have 233 Republicans in the House. And you've never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country. They believe that Obamacare, all these regulations coming out of the administration, are threatening the future for our kids and our grandkids. It is time for us to stand and fight.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Mr. Speaker, this is clearly not what you want. I want to go back to several points you've made about this over the last few -- here you were right after the election with Diane Sawyer.


BOEHNER: It's pretty clear that the president was re-elected. Obamacare is the law of the land.

If we were to put Obamacare into the CR and send it over to the Senate, we were risking shutting down the government. That is not our goal.


STEPHANOPOULOS: So right there, you say that's not your goal. You don't want to put Obamacare on the CR. You did it.

BOEHNER: George, I have made it clear to my colleagues. I don't want to shut the government down. We voted to keep the government open.

Clearly, the Speaker admits that he had the opportunity to pass a budget, but refused because he and the rest of the Republicans decided to make it about defunding/delaying/destroying Obamacare. They had more than 40 attempts at repealing it, and failed on every single one, so their strategy became to tie the defund/delay/destroy to the annual appropriations cycle.

And it's time for all the media to quit playing that this is something that both sides made happen, or that the President and the Senate are responsible for this. The Speaker gave the game away and admits for all the world to see that the House GOP blew up a deal on a budget over Obamacare.

The Speaker has tied his legacy to the extremists in his party. He has become one of them by allowing them to dictate the terms of a deal that would end the shutdown. He has the power to end the shutdown by opening up the floor to a clean vote.

He refuses to do so, claiming that the votes aren't there.

If that's the case, then he has nothing to lose by letting the Democrats expend political capital in a failed effort to have a vote that wouldn't succeed. He'd gain politically by knowing that the count doesn't work in his favor, except that he, and everyone else, knows that this isn't true.

The math doesn't work in his favor. The votes are there, but the votes would undermine his ability to lead a fractured Republican caucus. So he's doing all he can to cast Democrats as the problem even though he clearly acknowledges that a deal was in hand but for the Republican insistence on destroying Obamacare as a precondition to a deal.

It's the poison pill provisions that the Republicans have offered up that have led us to this critical moment.

It's a clarifying moment - exposing the GOP extremism and extortion for what it is. It's an attempt to rewrite how government does business outside the regular legislative and electoral process.

Republicans will only agree to have these negotiations in a context where a government shutdown and the threat of default do give them that added leverage. This is an objective statement of the GOP position. Dems have offered Republicans the negotiations they want, once those conditions are lifted. Republicans have refused. Therefore, their position is that conditions which continue to threaten widespread destruction, giving them leverage, must remain for any talks to proceed.

The key tell is that Cantor and Ryan don't directly defend this position. They elide it. To be sure, both repeat the claim there have been negotiations attached to debt ceiling hikes in the past. But as Jonathan Chait explains, that isn't the same as dangling the actual threat of default and untold economic havoc as a way to extract massive one-sided concessions. Republicans cannot defend this tactic because they will not acknowledge they are actually employing it. John Boehner already allowed in March that the debt ceiling will and must be raised, because: "I'm not going to risk the full faith and credit of the federal government." But on ABC on Sunday, when Boehner was pressed on whether he'd actually allow default if Dems didn't give him what he wants, he repeatedly fudged, saying he would not allow a vote on a "clean" debt limit bill. What happens if default is the only other option? We just don't know.

Either Republicans are actually prepared to allow default and to use this frightening prospect as a weapon with which to get what they want, in which case such tactics cannot be rewarded, because they will all but ensure extensive destruction later. Or Republicans are not prepared to allow default, in which case the very notion that they have leverage here is a sham. Republicans are trying to use this ambiguity to their advantage. On the one hand, the uncertainty it creates is supposed to force Dems to give in to their demands. On the other, it is meant to obscure their actual intentions and thus shield them from politically potent charges that they are actually willing to place the country at grave risk to extract concessions they couldn't get through conventional channels.

The Democrats don't need to offer up anything other than a clean budget resolution on the terms they agreed to in July. That was already a concession on $70 billion on spending. The GOP took that offer and tossed it in favor of a political fight they cannot hope to possibly win.

The fight is already wearing down Republican polling and ratings for Congress in general. While Republicans are cheering that the President's approval ratings are at 37%, the Congress rates only 5% approval. The President doesn't face reelection and has a freer hand to use the bully pulpit to attack the Republicans for bringing about this crisis because they are trying to unite the base in opposition to health care reforms that would expand access to health insurance to millions of people.

The GOP has to engage in cognitive dissonance on a massive scale to reconcile its positions - that it wants to end the shutdown, avoid default, and recognizing the economic harms that those actions are having all while advocating for those same things and claiming that the damage is minimal. The GOP has to lie to itself and everyone else to do so, and the public is seeing through the lies.

The video clip above highlights the problems succinctly. Republicans who agree that the default will lead to widespread destruction, yet use this as leverage by refusing to deal unless the GOP demands (preconditions) are met are the worst of the worst in this ongoing saga. They're putting politics and passion over reality, economics, and national security.

Any Republican who hews to this position needs to be run out of office. And that's a list that is significant.

It includes none other than Speaker Boehner himself. He's claiming that he wouldn't let the nation default because of the harm done, and yet he's completely going along with the Tea Party wing in demanding that the Administration and Democrats accept their demands or else.

Or else what? Economic catastrophe if we don't do what the GOP says? It's extortion. And it's economic folly. The Speaker knows it, but by continuing to pander to the extortionists, he's one of them.

The GOP and the Speaker are guilty of target fixation. They've determined that destroying Obamacare is paramount, and are willing to do whatever it takes to destroy it. That might help keep the extremists in the party happy, but it is having tremendous damage to the polity and even greater damage is on the horizon if the debt ceiling is not increased.

It's all part of a larger fight by the GOP to slash and burn government spending at all levels, and it's a fight that the Tea Party relishes because they believe that they have a mandate to chop government spending, even though they are a minority within their own party. The tools that were supposed to get the parties to compromise and come to agreement have instead been used by the Tea Party to institute far harsher cuts and more destructive policies than if a compromise had been worked out.

The sequester is case in point. A refusal to work out a deal that targeted cuts and offer up even the slightest bit of tax increases or reductions in tax credits and incentives was rebuffed and refused. Instead, across the board cuts were instituted, and the GOP won the day. The Senate and the Administration are now working off the sequester figures - accepting the cuts. The GOP won that fight, and that's what's driving them here too. The GOP and Tea Party have flipped the tools and events that should force compromise into ones that bring about the very policies that they endorse - smaller government.

It's a worrying trend, and one that may lead the nation into default. With no reason or intention to compromise, the GOP will take the nation over the cliff. One can only hope that voters realize who's taking them for this dangerous ride.

The GOP.

Cross posted at LGF.

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