Congress passed tax cuts for the rich and cut the estate tax way down, adding $800 billion to the deficit and placing Social Security on the chopping block. No one will have predicted what's coming next year in the name of deficit reduction: they are going after Social Security and everything else that benefits the middle class, and will hold the full faith and credit of our country hostage to get that.
Where We've Been
The Congress passed tax cuts for the rich and a huge cut in the estate tax at a time of worries about deficits and intense concentration of wealth. This act just puts the name on what has occurred since Reagan: it formalizes the collapse of We, the People democracy, replaced by plutocracy. And that was with the big Democratic majorities that we all worked so hard to elect. Next year is when it starts getting bad.
Here is my message to Republicans: Tax cuts for the rich were so important to you that you took the country hostage, you refused to help the unemployed, you obstructed everything to get them. You blocked unemployment checks, DADT, the DREAM Act, the START Treaty, everything. So don't come back to me and complain about deficits, and say you need to cut the budget.
My message to the president and Democrats: Rewarding obstruction just makes things worse. You caved on, well, everything in the last two years. You pre-negotiated away things the country needs, only to have Republicans respond by increasing their demands, and then you caved on that. They filibustered something like 420 bills, not to mention judges and appointees, and you only brought the cots out once. So they just did it more. And they will do it more and more, until you stop rewarding them.
Worse Fights Coming
There are already signs of the start of the next fight. The big fight is when the debt ceiling has to be raised, and they can hold the country's and world's economy hostage to their demands. Before that, though, will be an omnibus spending bill.
Giving in to hostage takers has only solidified this kind of hostage-taking as a successful tactic. For example, Thursday night, even while the House was capitulating to the last hostage-taking, Republicans again used the tactic to kill the omnibus spending bill. Republicans took the spending bill hostage and threatened to shut down the government if Dems didn't accept their new demands. And Dems again gave in. As TPM puts it today:
Late last night, Harry Reid's plan to get the federal government funded through the end of the fiscal year went up in flames, burning months and months of work by Senate appropriators and their staffs. To avert a government shutdown, Reid agreed to work out a federal funding plan with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- Congress will agree to continue funding the government at its current levels through some yet-to-be-determined point next year.
...Next year, though, this arrangement will come back to haunt Dems. ...Whatever date they decide will be the deadline for resolving the next spending fight, which will occur in a dramatically different, and more conservative political environment. Republicans will demand spending cuts. And if they're successful, the stimulative impact of the just-passed tax package will be clawed back.
If they win every time, why would they stop using the tactic? Again and again rewarded for obstruction, Republicans take new hostages. Essentially they say, again and again, "Agree to our demands or we will blow everything up." Again and again the President and Dems cave. Rinse and repeat.
How Far Will They Take This?
Just how far will they take this? Look at just how far they have taken it. Look what they have already done to the country. As CAF's Robert Borosage put it in "Top End Tax Cuts and a Collapsing Infrastructure":
America is literally falling apart. Collapsing bridges, exploding water mains, crumbling levees are a deadly clear and present danger. Children go to schools that are dangerous to their health. Our declining infrastructure is also costly economically, with outmoded transport, crowded highways, slow and inadequate broadband impeding our ability to compete. As President Obama has suggested, we need to make significant investments in building a 21st-century infrastructure, in education and training, in research and development as a foundation for a revived American economy.
The new batch of conservatives is very different from anything this country is used to, and that even includes the conservatives who shut down the government in the 90s, and relentlessly investigated President Clinton and literally anyone who ever knew him. Don't forget impeachment. They do not care about governing, they care about winning. And they now see absolute obstruction -- no matter the cost to the country -- as a wining tactic.
People haven't come to grips yet with what it means when one party can just block everything, and has no interest in governing at all. The corporate right intends to use the debt ceiling and the threat of literally ruining the country to get their way. They will refuse to provide funding for anything they don't like and threaten to kill the government if they don't get their way. At risk: Social Security, Medicare, alternative energy programs, infrastructure funding, the Department of Education, certainly NPR, anthing to do with science, reason, civility...
They see this as their moment. They intend to reform the government in their far-right image or destroy it. If you think I am being extreme to say this, watch Fox for a while, listen to their radio shows, read their magazines and blogs. They intend to destroy the government.
Limbaugh: "We won the election, we shut it down."
Limbaugh was talking about last night's hostage-taking on the omnibus spending bill, but reflects what I am hearing on the radio and blogs about their attitude in general. They really, really mean it, they see this as their moment to get everything they want or just destroy the government. They don't really care which.
Former Senator Alan Simpson recently gave a preview of conservative thinking. From Politico:
"I can't wait for the bloodbath in April," Simpson said, relishing the prospect of political turmoil. "When debt limit time comes, they're going to look around and say, 'What in the hell do we do now? We've got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give 'em a piece of meat, real meat" in the form of spending cuts.
"And boy, the bloodbath will be extraordinary," he said.
They want that "bloodbath." They just can't wait.
First we have to bolster our own leaders, ask them to stop rewarding obstruction and fight for us and let them know you will fight for them if they do. We need an absolute commitment that Social Security will not be touched! Especially now that the just-passed payroll tax cut threatens Social Security's financing.
Action: Get ready now for the coming fight.