Saturday, July 30, 2011

House Republicans Abdicate Governing Role

With the Republicans having a majority in the House of Representatives, they have a critical constitutional role to play in the governance of this country.   What transpired this past Friday, however, shows without any question that the Republicans have abdicated their responsibility.

Friday was showdown time.  House Speaker Boehner had not been able to secure enough votes from the most conservative Republican (Tea Party) representatives in his caucus to pass his debt ceiling legislation.   At this point he had two options. 

The first was to work with House Democrats to craft a bill that could pass both the House and the Senate.  This would have required attracting at least some support (around 30 votes) from his caucus, but given the stakes and his leadership that was certainly not an unrealistic scenario. 

This would probably, however, have set the Speaker up for a leadership fight from his disgruntled Tea Party colleagues.   Given their numbers and proven willingness to flex their muscles, his leadership position would have been in serious doubt.

The second option was to cave in to this most radically conservative element in his caucus, which is what he did by adding a requirement that in order for the second stage of debt ceiling relief to be implemented, Congress would have to pass a balanced budget amendment.  Given that a 2/3 vote in favor is required for a constitutional amendment, there is no chance that such an amendment would pass even the House, let alone the Senate. 

Thus his revised bill basically told everyone, no more debt ceiling relief.  His bill would have set the country up for a very serious economic crisis.

Now some readers might ask, what’s the problem with a balanced budget amendment?   It sounds so reasonable.   The problem is that even the most fiscally responsible government cannot always have a balanced budget. 

For example, if such an amendment had been in place at the time of the 2008 economic crisis, none of the actions taken by the Bush and Obama administrations to avoid a full-fledged depression would have been possible.  Or they would have only been possible at the cost of cutting a huge amount of government spending in other areas, which would have meant either directly or indirectly cutting millions of jobs, thus countering the impact of any stimulus.  A balanced budget amendment at that time would have held the country hostage and we would have descended into an economic nightmare that would have made the current recession or recovery look like a walk through that park.

The majority party’s responsibility is to govern by passing necessary legislation.   If the party cannot do so because of the recalcitrance of its own members, then it has an obligation to act in a bipartisan manner. 

House Speaker Boehner should resign his post.  He has abdicated his responsibility and thereby jeopardized the economic stability of the country.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Arise America – Take To the Streets and Let Your Voice Be Heard!

I have not written a post for many months.   The reason being that I found I was talking about the same small set of issues over and over again because that’s where we were stuck as a nation.  Having nothing new to say, I said nothing.

But now the time has come for the current silent American majority … centrists and liberals … to be silent no more. It is time to take to the streets and peacefully protest against the actions and goals of radical Republicans.  This is a cause no less important than ending the Vietnam War was in another era.  We need to use the social networking media that worked so effectively in the Arab world to generate a massive protest movement.  The time is now!  The need is urgent!

Republicans, both in state legislatures across the country and in Congress, are trying to destroy almost everything progressive that our national and state governments have done over the course of the 20th century.  During that time, government was transformed from one that protected business interests almost exclusively to one which recognized the need to stand behind those in our society who had no voice and no power … the middle class, the working class, and the poor.

Whether it’s the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, the entitlement programs … Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security … the right of workers to organize, progressive taxation, or countless other programs, these Republicans seek to use the looming deficit to cut everything that they detest from the role of government and leave people to fend for themselves.  Well, not quite all people. Despite all their talk of the need to cut deficits, Republican support for business and the rich remains undiminished

I fully agree that the deficit needs to be cut drastically.  It is the Republicans' lack of balance in who shares the burden, the lack of fairness, that is so egregious.

The most galling example of this is Republicans’ refusal to raise taxes on the wealthy, or in the Federal case let the tax cuts expire so the rates would return to what they were before.  The canard they trot out is that it would be irresponsible to raise taxes during a time of economic crisis.  

Despite the fact that this “trickle down” theory, or what some call “voodoo economics”, has been irrefutably shown to be without any basis through our actual experience during both the Reagan and Bush II years, they continue to argue that the rich use their money in a way which will help the economy.  Yet at the same time, they have no compunction about cutting billions of dollars of federal spending and aid to the states that will both directly and indirectly result in millions more people losing their jobs and truly stall our shaky economic recovery.

It is amazing to me that, with the exception of the demonstrations in Wisconsin against the busting of state worker unions, Americans have basically been silent in the face of this relentless Republican onslaught.  Polls show clearly and consistently that the Tea Party does not speak for most Americans.  While most Americans think the deficit is a problem and needs to be cut, they are for increasing taxes on the wealthy and are against cuts that would harm our economic recovery.

They are also against any cuts that impact them directly … such as Medicare or Social Security.  To put our country back on the road to fiscal health, however, some adjustments to these benefits are most likely inescapable,.  But those most vulnerable and least able to afford such cuts need to be protected from such pain by spreading the impact of deficit reduction measures across all segments of society, with those being most able to afford it shouldering the greatest burden.

Every old-fashioned conservative, centrist, and liberal American should contact their friends, contact the organizations both secular and religious that they belong to, and create a groundswell of action that shows the Republicans that they do not have the support of the American people.  In addition to taking to the streets in protest, inundating Republican legislators with email and phone calls would be very productive.

Do not let this moment slip by.  Do not let the foundation that has made America great and strong be destroyed by the radical Republican ideological purists.  In this sense, the current batch of radical Republicans have more in common with their Islamist enemies then they would care to acknowledge.  They are as untrue to the historical underpinnings of the Republican Party as Islamist extremists are to the Koran.

Arise America!   Arise!