When he was White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel famously said “Never allow a crisis to go to waste.” Republicans in Washington D.C. have certainly learned that rule, and learned it well. So much so that they are in the process of manufacturing a crisis in order to create the opportunity to get reforms they feel are necessary.
Let’s leave aside for the purposes of this post the sheer absurdity of the notion that after having passed a budget that increases the amount of the national debt over the debt ceiling that Congress then has to re-approve spending to that level. What Congressional Republicans are doing right now is even more reckless than how Minnesota Republicans handled budget negotiations over the last few months.
President Obama has offered significant spending cuts and pared back his tax increases to the bare minimum. In fact, what President Obama has offered as part of these negotiations is well to the right of Alan Simpson-Erskine Bowles Bipartisan Deficit Commission, the Senate “Gang of Six”, and the Alice Rivlin-Pete Domenici Deficit Commission.
President Obama has offered a plan that is almost 4:1 spending cuts to revenue increases. The revenue increases consist of eliminating loopholes, subsidies, and deductions — many of which Republicans have supported in the past. The tax code should not be used to pick winners and losers, but rather to ensure a level playing field and to provide the necessary resources for government to perform its functions. They would be accompanied by a lowering of rates overall to make the changes generate far less revenue than they otherwise would. This used to be a core Republican value.
Normal people would jump at such a deal — a chance for real entitlement reform ($650 billion in savings over the next 10 years), real cuts in discretionary spending ($1 trillion over the next 10 years, taking such spending back to pre-WWII levels), and rational tax reform that generates about 20% of the overall solution.
But today’s Republicans aren’t normal. They are devoted to “no new tax” ideology at any cost. They are willing to drive the car off the cliff as opposed to forcing their wealthy and corporate patrons — who have benefitted the most over the past decade while the labor market and median incomes for the rest of us have stagnated — to chip in just a little bit more.
If Congressional Republicans can’t come to an agreement on the debt ceiling and the country goes into default, they will effectively raise the taxes of every American through increased interest rates. Our stock market will feel the impact of lost confidence of investors. There could even be a run on the banks. This is not a risk we should even be considering, but Republicans are still — even at this late date — still holding out for complete capitulation from the President.
We shouldn’t also fail to point the rank hypocrisy of many of the Congressional Republicans at the heart of this crisis today. During the Bush Administration, these same leaders voted seven times to raise the debt ceiling — from $5.95 trillion to $11.315 trillion. They also voted for policies that destroyed our financial future. As the New York Times pointed out over the weekend, if you take out the impacts of the recession and only look at policy changes, what happened in the Bush Administration caused far more damage than anything that has happened under President Obama (even extending out the impacts of the Obama policy changes to 2017). Note that the cost of the Bush tax cuts alone is more than all of the policy changes under President Obama combined.
It’s time to stop the false equivalency. There is a very real difference between Democrats and Republicans — both in Washington D.C. and in St. Paul. Democrats aren’t willing to put their partisan goals ahead of the well-being of the American people. Republicans are seemingly content to “take hostages” — including the American economy — to fulfill their ideological goals.
Compromise isn’t a dirty word. Compromise isn’t weakness. Compromise is necessary in a divided government, and it’s time Republicans started getting back to doing the serious work of the people instead of being led around by their special interest groups.