So here we are again, approaching another self-inflicted economic cliff. This time it’s the sequester – a truly stupid idea that will result in a mindless meat cleaver approach to cutting the budget in order to solve a problem that’s disappearing, using the same tactics that caused the problem in the first place. Oh, and quite possibly it will plunge us back into a recession.
What is Washington doing? Trying to fix blame, of course.
The truth is, both Parties agreed to this uniquely idiotic idea. Yes, it ultimately comes from the Republican’s decision to play brinksmanship with the budget and the debt ceiling, but Democrats in general and Obama in particular let them make debt and deficits into the all-purpose bogeyman it has become. By failing to confront the myth, they empowered it.
But the Republicans have backed themselves into a corner. They’ve been clamoring for austerity for 30 years as part of their “drown the beast” strategy, and now they are faced with a popular backlash against austerity. Their response has been to blame Obama. Mitch McConnell keeps saying the President hasn’t offered a politically viable alternative to the sequester. Boehner says much the same. Even the less rabid David Brooks has repeated this line. In fact, it’s become one of those cascading talking points that the rightwing chants in unison, over and over again.
The key here is the qualifiers they use: “politically viable,” “politically acceptable,” or something comparable. They must, because Obama has put forth a plan. More about that later.
So what, exactly, is “politically viable?”
One would think it is defined by the will of the people. And as we just had an election in which the people soundly rejected the Republican platform of drastically cutting social programs benefiting low- and middle-income Americans so that they could preserve – or in the case of Romney and Ryan increase – tax cuts for the rich, the will of the people is quite transparent. The recent election, exit polls and polling in general all tell us the people want to increase taxes on the rich, preserve the social safety net, and invest in job creation.
In Punditville, reality is defined as splitting the difference between bat sh** crazy and whatever compromise the Democrats are making to “meet them in the middle.”
Which sounds something like Obama’s plan, with the exception that the compromiser-in-chief is offering up cuts in Medicare and Social Security.
But apparently, Republicans define "politically viable" as only what they themselves are willing to pass, the people’s will be damned. Thus, the entire country is being held hostage by those who would cut and gut popular programs that support working class and poor Americans in order to preserve or extend tax cuts benefiting the uber rich and corporations.
Incredibly, the mainstream media doesn’t confront this hypocrisy at all. For the most part, they echo the “pox on both their houses” meme pedaled by ultra rich austerity mongers like Pete Petersen and the Koch Brothers. To hear them tell it, the whole Washington establishment is at fault, with both parties holding their breath until they pass out, rather than doing the mature thing which they describe as "making hard choices.”
Those choices, according to Washington consensus pundits, almost always involve preserving such vital benefits for the rich as carried interest, lower capital gains, Bush’s lower marginal rates on wage income, lower inheritance taxes, sheltered corporate income for off-shoring, etc. etc. Combined – as Warren Buffet famously said – these policies give the rich much lower tax rates than their secretaries.
Now a bit more about that Obama plan. The fact is, he’s compromised well beyond what the people say they want. And if past is prologue, look for more. But he has proposed getting more income from the wealthy to avoid some of the more draconian cuts Republicans are seeking.
So this whole pox-on-both their houses meme just doesn’t hold up. Democrats have compromised their way past the middle ground, while Boehner, McConnell and their band of crazed Tea-partiers are subverting the will of the people, blowing up the economy in the process, in order to protect the wealthy and large corporations.
In addition, as history shows, austerity in an economic downturn is stupid, whether we use a cleaver or a scalpel. The European experience tells us that. It’s about as controversial as the sun rising in the east tomorrow morning.
And guess what? There is a proposal that closely tracks what Americans say they want. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has put forth a plan called The Balancing Act which closely tracks the people’s preferences.
Oh, you haven’t heard of it?
Not surprising. In Punditville, reality is defined as splitting the difference between bat shit crazy and whatever compromise the Democrats are making to “meet them in the middle.”
It’s way past time to treat Republicans as anything other than what they are: a collection of crazed radicals willing to use terrorist tactics to get what they want, the people’s will be damned.