Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Who wants a shutdown?

Suppose for the moment that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was serious when he said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

And assume that Michelle Bachmann meant it when she told the Conservative Political Action Conference, “The all-important must have for 2012 is making Barack Obama a one-term president.”

Back in September, when people were preparing for a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, Speaker-to-be John Boehner held a series of talks to plan their agenda. “The goal, obviously, would be to make it a one-term presidency,” said a GOP lobbyist familiar with the talks.

Let’s take them at their word. If you were to plan the defeat of President Obama, especially in advance of choosing who will be your standard-bearer, what are the things that you would do? It’s a simple question, really. You would fully embrace the Rush Limbaugh “hope” that President Obama fails. And then, you would work tirelessly to make it so.

Although after the last congressional elections, Republicans were quick to claim that the mandate they received was to reduce the deficit. As I have noted elsewhere, I don’t recall anyone actually campaigning on that. Rather, my recollection is that that the election was about jobs, jobs, and jobs, with a soupçon of tax cutting. Only the greenest naïf would be surprised that Republicans engaged in a little bait and switch. But the real question is this: Why have they suddenly pivoted to a philosophy that deficits matter, contrary to what Dick Cheney said? Now that Republicans control the house, you would imagine they would be eager to bring home the pork barrel spending.

After all, when you have a recession, deficit spending spurs the economy. A resurgent economy leads to the creation of jobs, which translates to lower unemployment numbers. The Republicans are demanding $61 billion in cuts. Moody’s Analytics chief economist, Mark Zandi, an architect of the 2009 stimulus package who has advised both political parties, predicts that the GOP package would reduce economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year, and by 0.2 percentage points in 2012, resulting in 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of next year.

If you are the least bit concerned about the deficit, you know that the Health Care law passed by the last congress and signed into law is essential to curtail the government’s deficit which is largely fueled by expanding medical costs. And yet the Republican enthusiasm for deficit reduction does not diminish their hostility to Obama-care. Michelle Bachmann has stated that she will not vote for any budget that does not defund Obama-care.

The Democrats have met the Republicans more than half way by agreeing to a $31 billion dollar deficit reduction plan. Senator Chuck Schumer has let it be known that privately John Boehner has agreed to this compromise, but Leader Boehner can’t publicly acknowledge the truth because he is a hostage of the Tea-party freshmen.

Why? Because the Republicans speak the truth. To them, the most important thing is for Obama to fail. They want unemployment numbers to go up. They want the government to shut down because that will kill the recovery and lead to inflation. They don’t care about the human suffering caused by the resultant increase in the misery index. They know that the higher the misery index, the better the chances of defeating an incumbent President.

They mewl and puke about the deficits, while ignoring the fact that much of the deficit was caused by the need to dig us out of the financial crisis caused by the Bush administration and the Republican congress he enjoyed. They forget that the extraordinary expenditures saved the American auto industry and hundreds of thousands of jobs. They forget that tax cuts to the super-rich and corporate welfare decimated America’s revenue base.

Soon you are going to hear Republicans asking “are you better off now than you were three years ago?” They know that if you answer “no” then you are less likely to vote for an incumbent president. They are banking on the fact that many people will forget how bad things were when the Obama administration inherited a mess that could have turned into a reprise of the Great Depression. And they are depending on the making the lives of Americans worse, and hoping that they can blame that misery on an incumbent president.

Who will rip the scab off this wound on the body politic? Who will call a spade a stinking shovel?

“... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"