EASTON, Md, June 27, 2011 — The Republicans took their marbles and stalked off the playground last Thursday, leaving the Democrats behind, stunned and dismayed.
The bi-partisan talks on raising the debt ceiling had collapsed. Everyone was Shocked! Shocked! Shocked!
I wasn’t. I knew the sucker punch was bound to come. It always does. When will the Democrats ever learn? These so-called Gangs of Five, Six, Eight, or Ten are a farce.
Remember the fiasco that Montana Senator Max Baucus led back in 2009, when his Gang of Six tried to reach a compromise on Health Care Reform bill? And remember how Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley killed any hope for bi-partisanship when he said the bill would “pull the plug on Grandma”?
Months of negotiation were wasted, the 2009 August recess erupted into frightening town hall meetings, and the bill that emerged was a watered-down version of what was needed. Thanks, Senator Grassley. The GOP leadership had to be proud of you.
So here we are in 2011, and we have Charlie Brown once again down at the goal line with Lucy, and once again she yanks the ball away and once again Charlie Brown ends up flat on his back.
There is no doubt about it: President Obama and the Democrats are becoming the party of hapless Charlie Brown.
And the Republicans are truly the party of Lucy. They constantly out think and out maneuver the Democrats, using a game plan that works like a charm.
Like Lucy, Republicans spout misinformation with aplomb, rarely bothered by facts whether it’s climate change or evolution or death panels.
Who can forget Lucy’s theories that “Snow comes up out of the ground” or that autumn leaves falling from trees are “flying south for the winter.” For her it is gospel and she tolerates no discussion.
Just like his “mentor” Lucy, Majority Leader Eric Cantor tolerates no discussion of tax increases or elimination of tax loopholes by the latest Gang of Six, led by Vice-President Joe Biden.
So Cantor, with Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyle scurrying out the door with him after suddenly learning of Cantor’s plan to bolt the Gang, has brought the negotiations to a screeching halt as he demands that his boss, Speaker John Boehner, take over and negotiate directly with President Obama. And, oh, by the way, no compromise on raising taxes, John.
While Republicans revel in their sabotage of the talks, the White House calls it merely an “abeyance.” Does an onion by any other name smell the same?
Is the President About to Sell Out?
The biggest worry Democrats have right now is not the GOP anti-tax dance, but their own President. Will he once again do what he has done in the past?
President Obama is said to have indicated to House Democrats during a recent White House session that he wanted to “get past” the debt ceiling debate. Translation: Obama may sell out the Democrats, taking revenue increases off the table.
The President caved on the Stimulus package, Health Care Reform, and, most recently, on extending the Bush tax cuts. Is he about to cave again, in hopes of better positioning himself for the 2012 election?
Or as New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, a Democratic member of both the Budget and Ways and Means committees, said bluntly, “What I’m concerned about — it’s not that I don’t trust them — is they [the White House] figure, ‘Let’s get this thing the hell out of the way, and if we gotta suffer from our base, let’s do it now.”
In that case, the Obama team is miscalculating. If the President folds on this issue and follows the GOP agenda of not closing tax loopholes or erasing tax credits to pay down the debt, there will be a high price to pay.
His army of Democratic volunteers will revolt, staying at home, disgusted. That can make or break an election.
Who Gives the GOP Its Marching Orders?
So who’s the puppet master pulling the Republican strings? Obviously it’s not the Speaker, who only learned of Cantor’s stunt as he was announcing it to the Wall Street Journal.
It’s the same people who pull the GOP’s purse strings. Look no further than the front groups for the Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity, Right Wing donors, and Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform.
Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) told reporters: “The reality here is that, until our Republican colleagues are more concerned about the need to reduce the deficit than they’re worried about what Grover Norquist will say, we’re going to have a really difficult time reducing the deficit.”
So true. As long as the Republicans have to kowtow to the Tea Party faction, they are not going to negotiate in good faith, much less compromise. The latest Bloomberg poll shows that only 32% of Americans view the Tea Party favorably, but that hasn’t stopped the GOP from genuflecting.
That’s because it’s about more than votes; it’s about dollars. Money is what fuels the Republicans’ agenda, that and fear, fear that the money will dry up if they if they even allow the words tax increase to pass their lips.
Big money is what wins elections and can catapult a Republican into the White House.
Or as a one Republican asserted, there will be “blood on the floor” if Boehner doesn’t get a humungous deal of trillions of dollars in spending slashed and no revenues increased.
What’s Next As Republicans Play Chicken?
If the debt ceiling is not raised by August 2nd, then America defaults on its debt of $14.3 trillion, money the country has already borrowed to pay for bills and that Congress already passed.
Wall Street, in a frenzy that we not default on our obligation because the resulting financial turmoil could plunge us into a Depression, are lobbying Republicans furiously to get a deal with the Democrats.
Yet there are Republicans who pooh-pooh the idea as a “Chicken Little and the Sky Is Falling” scenario. And that is probably why they are playing double-dare at the negotiating table.
Cantor says the ball is in President Obama and the Speaker’s court. The burden is now on Boehner to deliver what the GOP wants, and that means severe cuts in spending with no revenues raised to pay down the debt.
First, however, the President is to meet with Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate to get an idea of what he’s really up against, besides Cantor’s hissy fit.
What Republicans want us to forget is that this debt did not materialize out of thin air but was created by eight years of President Bush, two unfunded wars, deregulation laws that allowed Wall Street and banks to wallow in greed, and giant tax cuts for the richest among us.
Now as we try to struggle from this financial abyss, it costs us even more as unemployment remains high and the housing market sits in the basement.
What America doesn’t need is more brinkmanship. But that is exactly what is happening. For the Republicans, it is my way or the highway. And for Speaker Boehner it just may be the highway if this Congress nixes his negotiations with the President.
He will become Eric Cantor’s road kill, allowing the Majority Leader to step into the Speaker’s spot with the blessing of the Tea Party.
Make no mistake about it: This fracas is about more than the debt ceiling. It is also about Cantor’s ambitions. Did Boehner even see this bus coming down the highway?
The Speaker’s only hope is that the President will be driving his own bus, the Expedient Express, right through the Democrats, which is a real possibility.
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