In the recent election, the Republicans willingly played the role of dumb in 'dumb and dumber.' Do they now have to insist on playing the role of dumber, too?
The Republicans lost the election in large part by refusing to acknowledge that the vast majority of the American people wanted taxes on the highest earners to increase. Now the President has been reelected and taxes on the highest earners have been increased. Spending hasn't been touched. So can you guess who won round #1?
The Republicans will also lose big on the debt ceiling issue if they continue to hold fast to trying to link spending cuts to the necessity of raising the debt ceiling.
Sure, we need government spending reductions and fiscal sanity, but first we have to get people to focus on those issues. In the presidential campaign, making the rich pay their "fair share" became a central but largely phony issue (at least in my view), thus enabling the President and the Democrats to avoid any serious discussion of spending and entitlements.
The Republicans have screwed up once, but they shouldn't make the same mistake again a few months later. How dumb are they?
My point is simple. Had prior to the election the Republicans conceded the point and taken the 'tax the rich' issue off the table, the focus of the American people would have quickly turned to government spending. Since they didn't, we haven't even begun as a nation to have that much needed conversation.
And now it's the same with the debt ceiling situation. As long as the Republicans are dumb enough to let the issue be whether or not we'll pay our bills and not whether or not we need to curtail government spending, the fiscal problems confronting our country won't ever be addressed.
But if the debt ceiling issue goes away, the spending issue will be front and center, as it should be.
Above the Debt Ceiling, Boehner Might Find a Blue Sky says this about the political situation today:
"ALTHOUGH he has been re-elected as House speaker, John Boehner is in danger of becoming irrelevant to the crucial economics discussions that must occur over the next few months. . . .
What has been accomplished, for better or worse, is that the Bush-era tax cuts for families earning less than $450,000 a year have been made permanent — or at least as permanent as anything in the tax code can be. Those earning more than $450,000 face a tax increase. There are further complications, of course, but the important thing is that there was no substantive tax reform, and no decisions about spending. The final bill even preserved the tradition of corporate welfare by extending a subsidy to Nascar.
Over the next few months . . . the debt ceiling will need to be raised or the government will no longer be able to pay its bills to Social Security beneficiaries, the military or the owners of government bonds — a group that includes nearly everyone with a retirement account. . . . the debt ceiling is . . . serious because it’s unthinkable that the government would stop paying its bills, and the ramifications if we defaulted on our debt payments would be catastrophic for the nation and the global economy. We don’t even want to think about going there.
But the debt ceiling is also ridiculous, because the law is redundant. It’s a tradition for members of Congress who aren’t in the same political party as the president to make sanctimonious speeches against raising the debt limit, to keep that president from running up big bills. Yet it is Congress, in fact, that determines how much we spend and how much tax revenue we collect. Our representatives and their predecessors passed the bills and authorized the spending that got us to this place. If they want to reduce the deficit, they should cut spending, increase revenue, or both. But what they should not do, under any circumstances, is to look back at the decisions they have already made and conclude that it would be smart to declare the United States bankrupt, thus creating a second global financial crisis.
Which leads to my proposal for restoring Mr. Boehner’s relevance: He should propose that the debt ceiling be raised for at least two years or, even better, propose that it be abolished. He wouldn’t need a majority of his own party to vote for such a bill, of course, because it would have wide support among Democrats. He would just have to propose it and persuade some of his colleagues to support it. That would be enough.
Here is why I think this is a good idea, for him, the Republican Party and the country:
Congress has plenty of incentives to make a deal on spending. Taxes have already been increased and Republicans are eager to even the score. The sequestration-induced spending cuts coming on March 1 should provide more than enough impetus for Congress and the president to agree to something, even if it’s only a plan to undertake serious tax reform and a comprehensive evaluation of all government spending. By removing an option that we should never rationally use, we can immediately accomplish an often-cited Republican goal — reducing global uncertainty — and likely restore our triple-A credit rating. The Bipartisan Policy Center has estimated that the dillydallying about the debt ceiling last time, which ticked up interest rates, will end up costing more than $18.9 billion over 10 years, about the same amount as the recent Medicare “doc fix, ” which blocks cuts to doctor reimbursement rates.
Tea Party conservatives would undoubtedly be outraged by this suggestion, arguing that Republicans need to retain the debt ceiling threat if they are to get the best possible deal from the Senate and the president. But taking this crazy threat away from a group that just might use it is precisely the point.
By undertaking this act of unilateral disarmament, Mr. Boehner and whichever Republicans had the courage to join him would be signaling that they’re willing to engage in the serious discussions the country needs, and to put pressure on Democrats to do likewise. Anyone who has a large bomb and is threatening to push the button doesn’t deserve to be a party to these discussions."
I agree. Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling and then be forced to address spending and taxing in a transparent and candid manner.
If Boehner led the charge in that direction, he would cause the President and the Democrats to put forward a spending plan of their own.
But if for some reason they don't and the country's financial situation gets even worse, which it will as long as the excessive government spending issue, including spending on entitlements, remains left unaddressed, both the tax the rich option and phony debt ceiling issues will be behind us.
That means that inadequate private sector led economic growth, excessive government spending, the growing welfare state, fiscal responsibilty and living within our means as a society will properly occupy center stage.
Then living within our means and prioritizing private sector led economic growth will become the focal points for achieving solid U.S. economic growth, fiscal stability and creating jobs.
Until all that happens and we begin to link spending to tax receipts to economic growth, we'll continue to be bombarded with more irrelevant and inconsequential political noise making.
So let's turn the volume and rhetoric way down and clear the way for a much needed discussion about doing the things we need to do to have the country we deserve to have to leave for future generations of Americans to enjoy.
Let's stop all the B.S. and wotk hard to get our country back on track.
That's my take.