Nov 102010
Rat on a Money Bag
Image by laverrue via Flickr

Article first published as GOP vs. Dems; No Compromise Equals No Solutions on Technorati.

Politics can be very complicated, or at the very least confusing. Case in point: what is it about the Republican pronouncement of “NO COMPROMISE” that President Obama and the congressional Democrats don’t understand?

Did they miss it when John Boehner, the presumptive Speaker of the new Republican controlled House, announced that, “This is not a time for compromise?”  Perhaps they misunderstood high-ranking Republican House member, Mike Pense of Indiana, when he said, “Look, the time to go along and get along is over,” even though he reemphasized, stating, “If I haven’t been clear enough yet, let me say again: No compromise.”

Is it possible that the President took Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement that, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president” as some sort of conservative jest?

It’s hard to tell what the President hears when congressional Republicans throw down the gauntlet and demand that he move in their direction. But, in response to the wave of emboldened Republicans taking intransigent positions against any sort of compromise, President Obama told the nation, “I believe there’s room for us to compromise and get it done together.”

The saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Fool me over and over again, and maybe the people who believe I’m actually being fooled are the ones being hoodwinked. Is President Obama really so foolish as to believe that the Republicans will engage in open, good-faith negotiations, or is he merely a performer in a stage show written and produced to convince the American people that somebody in Washington wants the status quo to change?

When the President spoke in Cleveland in September, he came out swinging. He artfully painted the Republicans as the champions of the very wealthy and articulated a plan for the extension of the Bush tax cuts that drew a line in the sand, defining $250,000 of taxable income as the divide between the middle-class and upper-crust. It was the perfect issue for the closing weeks of campaign 2010, but cowardly Democrats backed away in fear that the Republicans would paint them as tax-and-spend liberals.

Well, not only did the Democratic retreat fail to impress any independents, but it also ensured that there would be no resurgence of enthusiasm within progressive ranks. In fact, the real story of Election 2010 wasn’t the great turnout of Republican supporters, but rather that blacks and young voters stayed home. If even half of those who poured out to the polls in 2008 had been moved to vote, the election results would have been much different.

But whatever the case, the 2010 election is over, the Democrats got their collective butts kicked, and the Republicans have already started Campaign 2012. Republican leaders now insist that the election was a refutation of President Obama’s policies and promise a Republican led Congress that will focus on jobs and the deficit.

Americans rightfully rejoice that the promised focus is exactly where it should be, but in what has become the united chorus of one-trick-pony conservatives, the legislative remedy being offered is the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. In fact, fed by their new found sense of power, Republicans have become more intractable regarding any compromise on the wealthfare benefits and now insist that the extensions for the rich be made permanent.

Prior to the election, Republicans seemed amenable to a potential decoupling of the cuts along the lines suggested by President Obama. The notion was that cuts for the top 2% might be extended for a limited time period while those for the bottom 98% were made permanent. But according to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, there will be no such compromise. In a recent interview, Cantor told Greta Van Susteren of Fox News that the election gave the GOP a mandate to hold fast and accept only an extension of all cuts.

Just how the Republican leadership can reconcile their position on the tax cuts with their promise to focus on either jobs or the deficit is the subject of some serious snake oil peddling.

According to Cantor, it’s all about clearing up that “uncertainty“ the Republicans keep talking about: “We’ve got to put certainty back into the game and get these tax rates to stay the same.” But of course this is complete nonsense, since whichever way the cuts are decided, once the decision is made, the uncertainty is removed.

To the man, each of the Republican leaders has also associated the cuts for the top 2% with small business, claiming that 50% of small business revenue will be affected. Sadly, the small businesses they’re referring to are large hedge funds, law offices, and billion dollar companies like Bechtel and Koch Industries. These are the clients of the Republican Party, not the 98% of all small businesses that make less than $250K.

The sad truth is that no respectable economist believes that cutting taxes for the rich will do anything to create jobs. That horse just doesn’t run anymore — not since the results of 8 years of the Bush presidency where such cuts were a mainstay were tabulated and found to be severely lacking. The worst job creation record since the 1940s and the first decline of median household income of any cycle since 1967 are not sound arguments for repeating the policy.

And where the tax-cuts-create-jobs argument is no more than a con-job, even that bar is too high when discussing the impact on the deficit. Virtually all reputable economists agree that tax cuts are the worst form of economic stimulus, and cuts for the rich the worst of all. The Republicans are essentially without even a distorted con to explain away the $700 billion cost of the tax cuts for the top 2% over the next 10 years.

The cuts the Republicans are fighting for won’t create jobs but will add significantly to the deficit. These “fiscal conservatives” espouse fiscal responsibility and feign help for small business and middle-class America but willingly sacrifice both for the wellbeing of their corporate overlords. And the Democrats respond by offering compromise.

Just what part of slam dunk, hanging curve, lob-ball pitch do the Democrats not understand?

The Democrats need to go back on November 15 and work to pass the extension of the Bush tax cuts for those making under $250K during the lame duck session. It’ll be interesting to watch the Republicans argue why the very rich need the cuts and explain to the American people why increasing the deficit for those who don’t need the money makes sense. Their argument promises to be a mind-numbing spectacle of double-talk and diversion.

This is a win-win for the Democrats — any compromise is just once again playing into Republican hands and allowing them to set the agenda and color the conversation. The Democrats need to accept the fact that the Republicans who would not negotiate in good faith while in the minority are certainly not going to do so now. They need to figure out that the Republican campaign for 2012 has already begun and launch their counteroffensive. If they’re not willing to do so, they might as well just start packing their bags now.

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