Mitch McConnell's plan B approach for "allowing" President Obama to raise the debt ceiling and do the one thing that must be done to avert financial calamity is an indication that the Republican Party has painted themselves in a corner.
If you will allow me to reference another cliché, the proverbial box that Republicans find themselves in was completely self-constructed. Every box has six sides, and this one is no different. When constructing this box, they displayed a profound lack of foresight, and it suggests that their interests are more tied to winning elections than to effectively governing. These are the six sides of that box:
- Consistently labeling (or perhaps allowing elements of the party to label) the president as a socialist or a communist and painting a picture of the president bearing horns on his forehead instead of the flashes of gray that represent the reality -- a man who has gained some wisdom and whose learning curve is accelerating -- has made it impossible for Republicans to be seen working with him. And by "working with him," I really mean acting like adults and legislating in a way that benefits our country and not solely election results.
- Compromise has long been a necessary tool in passing legislation and being able to put that legislation on the desk of the president. People who excel at this are often seen as people who are able to get things done. Using the ridiculous definition of compromise as only doing what both sides agree on has done more to reduce the effectiveness of today's political leaders than anything else. John Boehner proudly stating that he even rejects the word makes him a big hit with the Tea Party, but also makes him an incompetent Speaker of the House.
- The impact of the Tea Party on Republican policy has demonstrated a rather surprising amount of influence on behalf of the wealthy, most notably the Koch brothers. The Tea Party membership, who blindly follow their insanely wealthy leaders, have demonstrated no interest in voting for Democrats unless you are talking about pseudo-Democrats, as in the Republican-placed contenders in the Wisconsin recall primaries. Fear of being "Tea-Partied" in Republican primaries seems to drive their every decision and keep them up at night.
- We must not forget good old Grover Norquist. Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform. He is also the bearer of all of the signatures of Republicans who have signed his Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Along with those signatures Grover is also in possession of a great quantity of red hot coals, which he uses to hold to the feet of fearful Republicans in the hopes that they will never vote for a bill that increases the revenue of the federal government. Voting "yes" on tax increases means a primary challenge. The problem with this is that a majority of Americans believe, as the president does, that we should taking a sensible and rational approach to deficit reduction by using a combination of spending cuts and increases in revenue.
- As the deadline nears, poll after poll confirms that the American people will blame Republicans for a default and the resulting economic downturn. Why have they come to this conclusion? It is pretty simple, really. They are bragging about their willingness to shut down the government, default on our debts and become a deadbeat nation. You have Mike Pence out there proudly saying over and over "cut it or shut it." His ability to rhyme may suggest that he is awfully clever, but perhaps he should just keep his mouth shut, because he is also proclaiming ownership of an idea that will mean financial disaster for the United States. You also have smilin' Eric Cantor storming out of a meeting and stomping his feet because he cannot stomach the idea of closing loopholes for corporate jet owners and hedge fund managers. This is neither the act of a leader nor someone who is afraid of America not paying their bills.
- While maintaining their defense of reducing the deficit only through spending cuts and promising to shut down the government if it means approving revenue increases, they have started to scare their largest campaign donors, corporations and the ultra wealthy. These people love the Tea Party when they are fighting on the behalf of the wealthy and corporations to protect their subsidies and limit their taxes, but their love only goes so far if one of their policies threatens their bottom line by reducing demand even further due to economic stress. In addition, stock holders know full well that not raising the debt ceiling will mean a substantial drop in stock prices, which will mean losses that will take a great deal of time to recover.
What they have unwittingly done is created a situation in which they know they must act, because the results will be dire and the public will blame them if they do not, but all their past rhetoric has suggested they would stand strong.
This has left Obama's administration with a rather powerful hand. Obama holds pocket aces, while the Republicans hold seven-deuce and only one chip. They have to play the hand, even though they know that they are surely going to be beat.
What does it mean when you act like John Wayne but turn out to be Pee Wee Herman? You look bad. You look bad to the people you need to win elections: independent voters.
Unfortunately for them, Republicans currently fear primary and third-party challengers more than they fear the loss of the support of independent voters. Winning primaries has turned out to be work. Winning elections quite possibly and hopefully will be more difficult as Independents recognize the Republicans' true loyalties and stunning incompetence at legislating. After all, legislating is what they were sent to Washington to do.
Ultimately the debt ceiling will be raised, likely close to midnight on Aug. 1, and with cuts amounting to somewhere between 1 and 2 trillion over 10 years with entitlement programs spared.
The day after the president signs the deal, Obama will tell the American people that he tried for a much more substantial deal that would amount to far superior substantial deficit reduction, but Republicans said they just could not generate enough support for real deficit reduction. In essence, he is able to effectively make the argument that the Republicans are not really serious when it comes to fiscal responsibility.
Obama will appear as the grown-up and will win the votes of Independents, because he was willing to put Medicare and Social Security on the table as well as sensible revenue increases, a move that will upset his liberal base, but Obama recognizes the obvious, that there is no reason to fear that his base will vote for Michele Bachmann or Mitt Romney, and he must have the support of Independents if he is to have a chance at winning reelection.
With time running out, it is time to push all in, and I am banking on the guy with all the chips.
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