THE BLOG
04/15/2011 06:55 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2011

Our Congress: The Nine Cent Solution

The only meaningful difference in Congress between modern times and long ago is that now we have only a single political party in America. Face it, we have a one-party system with two right wings.

Our population has doubled and doubled again, based on 1913 statistics, over the last 100 years. No matter, the House of Representatives still has the same number of members it had then. It takes the same number of votes -- 218 -- to pass a bill in the House Of Representatives today as it did a hundred years ago.

The budget bill that passed the House has been characterized as not only a Republican bill, but also one which the Democrats, both in the House and the White House, were forced to negotiate and accept. The bill contains "only" $39 billion in cuts. As the late Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen once remarked: "A billion here, a billion there, and before you know it we're talking real money." Since the Republicans gained control of the House in the last Congressional elections this budget bill -- and all other legislation in the House -- can rightly be called to either the credit of, or lay the blame on, the Republican Party. They have the majority. It's their watch. What happens is marked under their name in their column. This is the Boehner budget. Or is it?

So, why was it that a budget bill containing the reduction of 39 billion dollars in programs widely favored by Democratic Party members passed the House only because those very same Democrats voted for it? Like Alice In Wonderland, aren't you asking which party is which? Who's on first and what's on second?

Has Speaker Boehner been exposed as a fake leader? He's the one with the majority. The Speaker's troops number a commanding 242. Democrats have only 193 seats in the House. The ruling party, under the Speaker's leadership, ought to be able to pass any bill they want. Even with a handful of recalcitrant members, the drop-off from 242 should never fall below 218 votes. What kind of Speaker would let that happen?

So, why did the budget bill -- one that the Democrats screamed in outrage about claiming the GOP was holding the whole country hostage with a potential government shutdown -- why did 81 democrats have to vote for this bill to get it passed? The answer is in the numbers. John Boehner, The Speaker Who Never Was, was able to muster only 74% of his members on a vote so vital to the national interest its failure to pass would have resulted in the shutdown of the federal government of the United States. The Republican majority is a paper tiger. Elections have consequences! Or do they?

Democrats to the rescue!

Why didn't a single one of President Obama's advisers tell him Boehner was weak, bluffing all along? Why did Obama himself -- widely regarded as the most intelligent man ever to be president -- how come he didn't see it? The Republicans were, when the covers were peeled back, the Munchkins or maybe the flying monkeys and John Boehner -- he was the man behind the curtain, the Wizard Of Oz.

Why didn't the Democrats in Congress and the Democratic President call the GOP bluff when it first burst its ugly, mean-spirited head through the mud and into the light of day? If the Republicans wanted to slash programs for women and the needy, for the elderly and sick, for the undereducated and unemployed while funneling more and more money into the hands of those with uncountable riches already -- why didn't the Democrats call that bluff? The president should have told John Boehner -- "Go ahead, bring your bill to the floor." President Obama should have known it wouldn't pass unless Democrats voted for it.

Should have known? Perhaps he did.

There is an answer for these questions, and it's one few if any progressives will want to hear. The answer can be found in the words of a would-be president, 43 years ago. As even a broken clock is right twice a day, so too the repugnant racist Governor George Wallace was right about something. He said: "There's not a dime's worth of difference between the Democratic and Republican parties."

Welcome to the real world. Welcome to our one-party system ... one political party with two names and two right wings. When you vote, when you select one of these names over the other, the most you'll get -- if your candidate is the winner -- is nine pennies.

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