I’m in Houston for a few days, so in lieu of the “Sunday Wrap” of the news talk shows and Beltway pundits, I’ll share a few observations with the benefit of 1,400 miles or so distance from the political maelstrom.
For starters, in the rest of the country life goes on. We in the political world are not the center of most people’s lives. They spend weekends, well, like normal people do — football games, family outings, walks in the park, dinners out. They look up only occasionally. Oh, are they still at it? The whole lot of them are awful. I wish they’d all go away. That is what you hear, certainly not “Well, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine had a great proposal, but Sen. Harry Reid won’t live within the sequester caps from the 2011 Budget Control Act.” The percentage of Americans who follow at such a level of detail is small — miniscule perhaps. A large plurality of others, out inside of Texas that is, don’t even know enough about Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to form an opinion about him. (When they do, it’s generally 2 to 1 negative.)
What they do know is the Republicans have a bunch of loudmouths who want to defund Obamacare after they lost the White House — which is just nuts — and everyone else seems stubborn and inept.
If Americans were not busy with real life, they might notice some pretty weird things going on.
The president said he’d never negotiate and now he’s meeting with Dems and Republicans all the time. The Republicans generate proposal and after proposal, but President Obama and/or the Senate Democrats say no, not that, try again — and then reject the next item. But so much for “no negotiations.”
The House Republicans got very testy on Saturday because they were shunted aside by Senate Republicans. (The Senate minority and majority leaders are now seeing if they can come up with something.) Now that is rich. The right-wing crew who can never agree to anything (and therefore can’t present a proposal that the other side is confident the House will support) objects to grown-ups moving in to do the heavy lifting. I’d like to know what plan they were going to all get behind when the Senate stepped in.
This is a repeat of “Plan B” from the fiscal cliff. Then House radicals couldn’t get behind their speaker on a $1 million cutoff for the Bush tax hikes’ repeal, so the final deal was made in the Senate, and it wound up much worse for the GOP. Here too, they can’t figure out what they want; no wonder the Senate got fed up. By the way, the speaker and his staff evidenced so much upset. Maybe they understand all too well how unreliable are the House radicals.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) managed on Sunday to turn an internal spat into a minor comeback for the GOP when he took up a clean debt-ceiling bill and lost a cloture vote on party lines. Well, thanks, Harry, the Republicans mumbled. There is a nice clean debt ceiling increase — a treacherous vote for most pols (even for the once-Sen. Barack Obama) — and lined up every incumbent Democrat to take the fall. That’s one easy round of ads in 2014 for the GOP. More than that, Reid demonstrated that he will need GOP support to get a debt-ceiling bill through; there simply is no way to ignore the other party in divided government.
We then have the loudest, most unrealistic voices in the right-wing blogosphere suggesting that the GOP should just give up and agree to a clean debt ceiling bill. Oh, now they tell us. This was the crew willing to shut down the government and go into default to obtain the unattainable, and now they want nothing. Surely we don’t want government by temper tantrum, do we?
The grumpy far right, the “true” conservatives they would have us believe, have also taken to bashing the idea of the medical device tax as nothing more than the GOP “establishment” giving a break to big business. (In reality they don’t like anything attainable, so whatever consolation Republican grown-ups got would be sneered at.) If one ever needed more evidence that these people are not conservatives in the Ronald Reagan-Milton Friedman tradition of free markets, this is surely it. John Kartch of Americans for Tax Reform paraphrases one of Friedman’s favorite admonitions about taxes in an e-mail to me: “All tax relief is good. Less taxes going to the government is good. Repealing a part of Obamacare is good.” He concedes this won’t eviscerate Obamacare, but even the GOP radicals now admit that harebrained scheme is kaput.
Moreover, a lot of conservative economists have spent a good deal of time looking at this problem and have concluded that with a tax on all revenue (not simply profits) on one of the most innovative, high-paying sectors of the economy will hit small start-ups the most, decrease hiring and suppress medical-device innovation. Heck, if conservatives think taxes on business are fine, why not raise the corporate tax rate, the tax on capital gains and a lot more? It seems that in their contest for ideological purity, the right-wing radicals have thrown overboard basic conservative economic principals.
And finally there is Harry Reid, the man so incapable of deal-making that VP Joe Biden had to be brought into previous stalemates to unjam things. The Post reports, “Reid particularly wants to scale back deep automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, which were passed during the 2011 debt-ceiling showdown and will take effect every January for the next decade, unless Congress amends them. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, called that issue ‘really the single biggest sticking point.’” Translation: They want to spend more and make no entitlement changes. How is that ever going to get GOP support?
So it turns out Americans have it exactly right. Oh, are they still at it? The whole lot of them are awful. I wish they’d all go away. Voters’ time is much better spent living their lives. At least they can accomplish something and get along with others.