Sunlight Shining Through Cloud

Political Contortionism

Posted on: July 12, 2011

Today’s post has to do with political maneuverings that should cause outrage.  I cannot recall a single day upon which as much strategic deviance was perpetrated on the American people.  We’ll begin in Washington and end in Wisconsin.  Strap in; the ride’s going to be rough.  The politicos are counting on you bailing out.

The budget talks are not going well.  The Democrats remain adamant on the removal of tax breaks for the rich and for corporations.  Regaining these funds from those who shouldn’t get them and don’t need them would bring $1.2Trillion back into the coffers, they say.  The Republicans remain rhetorically adamant.  This amounts to a tax increase, they say.

The U.S. budget deficit is not the $2T originally set as the goal for the bi-partisan Biden Commission.  It is, in fact, $4T spread over ten years.  If agreement had somehow been achieved on a $2T package of budget cuts/tax “increases”, the debt ceiling would have been allowed to go higher to avert economic calamity.  But we would have had to return to the table again in two years — right after the 2012 general elections — to fix the rest of the problem.  Republicans believe they would own both houses of Congress then, and the prospect of slashing programs Americans want and need is not appealing.

Seeing only a stalemate on the $2T negotiations, President Obama figured that he might just as well solve the whole $4T problem.  This Democratic president out-Republican’d the Republicans.  And what did the Republicans do?  They heaped criticism on the president for tackling a problem that could not possibly meet with approval in Congress.

Their worry, in fact, has nothing whatsoever to do with Congressional approval.  It has everything to do with the 2012 elections.  If Republicans are perceived as having capitulated on tax “increases”, or for having caused the country to default on its debt, they stand a good chance of losing many of the races in next year’s elections.

The stakes are huge.  One third of the Senate is up for election/re-election, and all of the House is up for election/re-election.  The Senate is now Democratic-controlled.  The House is now Republican-controlled.  Losing elections means that Republicans could be weakened in the Senate next year and, worse, lose their majority in the House.  They would lose the power they now enjoy.  And in Washington, “power” is the second most important word; “re-election” is first.

The only way to avoid such a political disaster is to pin the blame for the process and its result on the Democrats in the person of President Barack Obama.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today presented a plan which, to his credit, hides nothing.  Contortion #1 is layed bare for all to see:

  • The president would request an increase in the debt ceiling.  The largest part of a three-stage strategy would take place next summer — during the heat of the 2012 election cycle.  (White House lawyers say the president already has the power to raise the debt ceiling without asking for anything.)
  • Members of both parties would deny the request.  The president would then veto their “measure of disapproval”, effectively approving his own request.
  • It is all but impossible to gather a two-thirds majority in Congress to override the presidential veto.

The net effect?  The president (and, by association, Democrats) get the blame for continued and growing budget problems; Republicans get elected/re-elected.

Even some conservative critics are calling this an abdication of Congressional responsibility.  The first job of Congress, after all, is management of the budget.  Nevertheless, under this plan, the president gets his debt ceiling (without any budget cuts), and Republicans score political points in a critical election year.

Is this how our government is supposed to work?

Which brings us to Contortion #2.

Wisconsinites of both parties are angry with Governor Scott Walker (R) for — among other things — ramming through legislation which removes collective bargaining rights from unionized state workers.  So unhappy is the electorate that the first of four recall elections was held today targeting nine state senators (including three Dems) who voted with the Governor.  So far, so good.  Voters are using the processes available to them.

However, Republicans inserted six fake Democrats (wolves in sheep’s clothing?) against Democratic incumbents.  The Republican’s out-of-the-closet placement of phony candidates caused a delay in the upcoming general election by a month thereby giving Republican incumbents more time to distance themselves from accountability for their anti-union votes.

Again, the question:  Is this how our government is supposed to work?

%d bloggers like this: