Thursday, December 13, 2012

GOP: The opposition without a plan (updated)

We all know by now that Republicans don't know how to govern these days...only obstruct. We've seen that in everything from their position on Obamacare - which was to "repeal and replace" to Mitt Romney's attempt to keep quiet about his own proposals and try to make the presidential election simply a referendum on President Obama.

We're seeing that now in the negotiations about the so-called "fiscal cliff." They keep screaming about how they want the President to negotiate with himself when the best they've come up with is a three page letter that offered no specifics.

The only thing we DO know that the Republicans want is spending cuts. They just won't say exactly what it is they want to cut. There's a reason they won't say what and Jonathan Chait does a good job of explaining.
There really isn’t money to be cut everywhere. The United States spends way less money on social services than do other advanced countries, and even that low figure is inflated by our sky-high health-care prices. The retirement benefits to programs like Social Security are quite meager. Public infrastructure is grossly underfunded...

When the only cuts on the table would inflict real harm on people with modest incomes and save small amounts of money, that is a sign that there’s just not much money to save. It’s not just that Republicans disagree with this; they don’t seem to understand it. The absence of a Republican spending proposal is not just a negotiating tactic but a howling void where a specific grasp of the role of government ought to be. And negotiating around that void is extremely hard to do. The spending cuts aren’t there because they can’t be found.
To prove that point, McClatchy recently published a poll in which they asked Americans what they did/didn't favor about the proposals currently under consideration in the negotiations. What is interesting is the response from Republican voters.
Republicans oppose every option mentioned in the survey.

“There’s no clear statement of what Republican voters want to happen. There’s opposition to everything,” said Miringoff.

“If you’re a Republican in Congress looking for what Republican voters are telling you, they’re not telling you much.”
That is the state of the Republican Party today...they've got opposition and nothing else.

To quickly demonstrate how different that is from what President Obama is proposing, take a look at this diary by leftreborn.  Whether you like your information in bullet form or in graphs, s/he  has a detailed summary of the President's plan to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion in the next 10 years (notice that it includes almost $600 billion in reduced Medicare costs WITHOUT raising the eligibility age) via spending cuts AND increased taxes.

To be effective in their "opposition only" approach, what the Republicans need is a media that is too ignorant, lazy, or complacent to point out this difference. If you'd like to see how that's done, take a look at this video of Bob Woodward being interviewed on CBS This Morning (sorry embedding disabled). What you'll see is 5 minutes of Republican spin about how both sides do it and total lies on the reality I've just laid out here.

That's what we're facing folks. And so we can either sit back and expect President Obama to do all the work of calling that shit out. Or we can buck up and do our part - no matter how large or small - to tell the truth about what's going on here.

Let's get busy!!!!!

UPDATE: This morning Greg Sargent is ON IT!
I spoke this morning to an official familiar with the fiscal cliff talks. He tells me that ever since Republicans rejected the first White House fiscal offer, White House negotiators have been asking Republicans to detail both the spending cuts they want and the loopholes and deductions they would close to raise revenues while avoiding a hike in tax rates for the rich.

According to the official, Republicans continue to refuse to answer. “No answer ever since the Geithner meeting,” the official said. “To date they have been unwilling or able to identify a list of specific cuts or changes they would like or a single loophole they are willing to close.”

...How on earth can there be any progress under these circumstances?

There is a great deal of consternation this morning over the failure to reach a deal and what it says about the failings of our “political system.” But the main problem is not the “system,” it’s the behavior of one of the participants. It is overwhelmingly clear at this point that Republicans are the primary obstacle to any compromise.


  1. The GOP's post-Goldwater (intensified by Watergate) tack was based primarily (one exception below) shifting the terms of discourse to favorable terms rather than a more organic attempt to increase the number of voters who actually support policies GOP desires.

    In particular, the GOP opposed the New Deal, and the New Deal was enormously popular with voters of all labels save "Texas oil tycoon." The party made no attempt (Eisenhower was a particular individual) to modify its policy, but rather made an attempt to modify voter behavior through rhetoric. "Taxes too high," "too much spending," etc.

    The other prong to this was to make opposition to civil rights legislation a policy objective. This was one policy tack that was popular with large portions of the Democratic base. Not my main point here, though.

    Anyway, the GOP became the party of rhetoric rather than policy. The GOP base still approves overwhelmingly of the rhetoric. It's just that when you point to any actual policy that would result from the rhetorical ideas, they curl up like a stuck sea anemone. This is because, as we know, whatever rhetoric is involved, the vast majority of GOP voters support the basic tenets of the New Deal in practice. As they do Medicare, and as they will with Obamacare.

    So, you get a GOP proposal that's all rhetoric, just like their party's been for decades.

    1. Your comment reminded me of a really great article on this point I read quite a while ago. I don't have time to track it down now - but hopefully I'll remember to do that later today.

      The point that comes clear to me is that the GOP are the exact polar opposite of Obama in the sense that they are practically anti-pragmatic. That's why I find the left/right distinctions that many want to draw today to be so outdated. Rather than left/right, the battle these days is over pragmatic/empty rhetoric.

    2. Agreed.

      I just thought about the second Bush administration now. They offered a saleable rhetoric, "War on Terror," and everything along with that. When it came time for actual prosecution of the war, it was cluster*&%k all over the place, because that crowd had no patience for the hard work of policy formulation. Some may have been lazy or incompetent, or some may genuinely have believed in some kind of automaticity. "They'll throw flowers," "as soon as we show up with our hyperpower, they'll drop their guns and surrender."

      Same is true with taxation. It would be wonderful if all you needed to do to make a modern economy (industrial/informational) operate effectively was to have the state get out of the way through lower taxes and no oversight. Problem is, reality doesn't work that way. The system is complex, and it taxes a complex effort to have it (by any reasonable standard, left or right) function well.

      There's a lot going on here, I think. We have system that requires expertise to understand, which means that non-experts will, as such, not understand our system. Yet the democratic elements in our system place some element of choice in the hands of non-experts. We don't educate people to actually understand our system, from schools to media. That's a big issue. It makes it easy to attract voters with the type of rhetoric the GOP uses.

      It won't be their economic idiocy that ruins the GOP, it will be their use of racism to motivate white voters. I'm obviously not making a brilliant statement with the second part, but I don't think we really have dealt with the first.

  2. My own response to this was it shows that the Republicans have absolutely nothing.

    Seriously, after all this time, they haven't come up with a single specific? It makes me incredibly glad that we re-elected this President and kept control of the Senate. I wish Democrats had taken the House as well. It's obvious the Republicans would have been even worse at running the country than I thought they'd be, and that's saying a lot!

    1. About the House: I read recently somewhere that Democrats got a fair number more votes for House Reps than the GOP, yet the GOP comfortably won the House. That is to say, we really have a gerrymandering problem.


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