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Posted at 03:20 PM ET, 03/03/2011

Senator Merkley unleashes harsh attack on GOP budget cuts

Senator Jeff Merkley opens fire on the House GOP plan for budget cuts in some of the harshest terms I’ve heard yet:

The GOP budget plan will destroy 700,000 jobs. The last thing our nation can afford right now is further job losses. We need to be creating jobs, not destroying jobs.

There are common-sense budget cuts that could reduce our deficits without wrecking the economy or attacking working families. We can start by cutting back on the bonus tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires that Republican leaders insisted on just ten weeks ago. We could end tax subsidies for oil companies and save tens of billions of dollars in the process.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner summarized his perspective on the Republican budget as follows: if people might lose their jobs, “so be it.” You might think the House Republican leaders would show some humility after their failed agenda turned record surpluses into massive deficits in 2001, or after their policies reduced the wages of working Americans during the modest expansion in the middle of the decade, or after they burned down the economy with unregulated derivatives and predatory mortgage securities in 2008.

Apparently not. Their proposals are exactly the same: give massive tax cuts to the wealthiest, shred the safety net, and eliminate investments that would help restore American economic leadership.

It’s tempting to imagine what would happen if Dems were united behind a hard hitting message emphasizing the charges Merkley leveled here: GOP budget cuts will destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs. Republicans are hacking away at programs that benefit working and middle-class Americans even as they preserve tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. And Republicans have no business lecturing America with pieties about the deficit, given that their policies played a major role in creating it.

But Dems are not united behind such a message. It’s true that we’ve had some strong statements lately from Senate Dem leaders. But at the same time, we have Dem strategists privately counseling Dem officials that they face certain disaster if they aren’t seen to be wholeheartedly embracing cuts. And some “centrist” Dems are worried that they will be political toast if they don’t do everything in their power to shore up the conservative government-is-always-bad narrative.

Look, I get that Dems facing tough reelection fights in Republican-leaning states have their reasons for thinking they can’t breathe populist fire as Merkley does here. But Merkley’s strong stand reminds us that by and large Dems are not really united behind a powerful, coherent, and consistent critique of the GOP’s fiscal policies. And Republicans are rubbing their hands together in glee about it.

By  |  03:20 PM ET, 03/03/2011

 
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