Tuesday, September 3, 2013

GOP Domestic Policy: Brinksmanship, extortion and ignorance

                   Speaker Of The House John Boehner (R-OH) is in a quandary. His Caucus seems to be beyond his control. At times it resembles herding cats.
The Republican House Caucus has a plethora of avowed Tea Party aligned members and those pushed to the extreme right by fear of a primary challenge. Many are Freshman or on their second term having been elected in the weird frenzy of 2010. So, many are inexperienced in the way politics and governing actually works. They are also proud of that.
These Republicans came to office after vowing to burn down the House if necessary to undo the socialism and secularism that has in their view ruined America. Compromise, the lifeblood of American politics, is surrender. Everything seems to be a test of ideological purity.
Speaker Boehner, who stumbled into the position after Hastert left the House, seems uniquely ill suited to reign in these maverick members.
The apparent weakness may be that he has a Caucus that rejects politics as usual. Previous Speakers had a caucus that actually attempted to accomplish something. This has been the least effective Congress in history. The Speaker has said success should be measured by how much they repeal not what they pass. By that metric they are an abysmal failure.
Republican policy has been extreme to say the least. They annually pass a budget that has zero chance of clearing the Senate. They have, to date, passed a bill repealing The Affordable Care Act forty times. They have done this knowing it would not even hit the Senate floor and if by some miracle it passed the Senate would be vetoed in a heartbeat. This can only be simple political posturing. These votes are cited at home as proof of their conservative bonafides. The evil Washington Establishment is thwarting the will of the people.
The conservative movement seems to have devolved to the point any theory or conspiracy is treated as a serious issue. Statements that would have sent previous politicians home in ridiculed humiliation are now commonplace. It seems the more ignorant, xenophobic, sexist, racist and absurd the better. And this Speaker allows it.
Rep. Michele Bachman and others send a letter to assorted Federal Departments like the DOJ, Department Of State and Homeland Security, among others, demanding an investigation of deep infiltration by the Muslim Brotherhood. This was reminiscent of what Senator Joe McCarthy used to do. They did this with no repercussions from the Speaker. Used to be if a Member embarrassed the House or Party they could expect to be disciplined. Boehner seems loathe to exert any authority based on fear of repercussions. So, they all say anything they want no matter how ill conceived.
We are seeing what unbridled House Members will do or say. I admit at times I find it amusing anyone could be in a position of responsibility and say or even think some of these things. Then I remember these people are in power and cringe.
There are members of The House Science Committee that basically don't believe in science. One decried Evolution and the belief the Earth is over four billion years old, "Lies from the pits of Hell". Others feel climate change is a liberal conspiracy to get grant money and is scientific fascism.
They also are politicizing the peer review grant awarding process by wanting to make sure no money wasting grants are funded. One area they deemed worthless was Social Sciences.
They are ignoring how science actually works by putting a cost/benefit slant on research from the onset.  This is what happens when people who are hostile to science are put in charge of funding research. Had they been in power there would have been no funding for research into things like lasers, robotics, chip design, archeology, climate, biology and a myriad of other discoveries. Luddites on the Bridge of the Enterprise.
It seems ignorance is now considered a career path and is worn like a badge of honor. They are going after women's reproductive rights(denying basic biology as they do it) equal rights for LBGT, voting rights and the biggies. Social Security and Medicare. They are taking the entire social safety net along for the ride.
The goal seems to be who can make the deepest, most draconian cuts.
Unemployment compensation causes unemployment so cut it. After all it is just a paid vacation and all these lazy slackers are partying their asses off on that big money.
SNAP is used to buy drugs and high priced food poor working stiffs can't afford.
Women have more babies just to get more benifits and not work. So, let's cut off contraception. That'll do it. Poor women having babies and not working is one reason for the decline of America. Get a job.
Abortion is a direct challenge to the will of God. Make these women stay home and have babies. Women working and not being stay at home mothers is one reason for the decline of America.
Social Security is a ponzi scheme. It needs cut because we can't afford it.
Medicare creates dependency. Why should there be government run healthcare. That's socialism.
The list goes on and on. Now the big idea is defunding the ACA.
Speaker Boehner received a letter from eighty members of his caucus demanding no funding for it in the continuing budget resolution. Basically, shut down the Government to stop Obamacare. They are being egged on by presidential hopefuls and others in the Senate. Also conservative groups that donate lots of money to campaigns and Sarah Palin are chiming in. Expect any votes not to defund to be used as a reason for primary challenges. Again, any compromise is surrender.
The Speaker and other leaders in the not quite batshit crazy wing of the party see this as a mistake.This is one time the are right. The voices are strident though. The zealots see this as a last stand. They may mutiny and the Speaker will be helpless to deal with it without relying on Democratic House Members.
Boehner is trying to get them on board to forget this extremely bad idea. He is going with a promise of a whale of a battle over raising the debt limit to mollify them.
So, shutting down the government over the ACA is a bad idea in a chamber that has cast forty meaningless repeals of the law. It may be 50/50 he can pull that off.
However tanking the economy, crashing a fragile recovery, ruining the credit of the United States with a default is a wonderful idea.
Boehner is going back to the well again in his strategy to gut the social safety net and also cut programs the not rich benefit from. He feels that the House version of negotiation which is give us everything we want or we'll wreck the Nation is viable. President Obama has already said he will not negotiate to have the House do their Constitutionally mandated job. protect the full faith and credit of The United States Of America.
The Republicans feel however if push comes to shove the Dems will fold. Or, if they stand firm and we default America will blame the President for not giving in to blatant extortion. Somehow they have developed the view if they act like Tony Soprano they will be well liked and seen as heroes. They will take us to the brink and beyond to get their venal view of spending to happen.
The Caucus may take Boehner off the cliff over defunding the ACA and seem gleeful as they shred what's left in the Debt Limit fight. Seems reasonable to me.
Good luck with this plan, Mr. Speaker.
The Senate was devised as a more temperate counterbalance to the House. It's purpose is to slow things down. To basically tamp down a House led plunge off a cliff. Unfortunately this time several of the cliff divers are in the Senate.
Right now three possible GOP Presidential contenders are the ringleaders of a glorious last stand to stop the ACA by defunding it. The plan is defund ACA or shut down the Federal Government. There is enough support for this bit of extortion to give the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
(R-KY) heartburn.
Mitch has a Tea Party challenger in the Primary. He also has a formidable Democratic opponent ready to go after him in the general election. McConnell is already catching heat for not being on board for a defund based hostage crisis. He's being painted by the rabid right as a sell out. Not a strong enough foe to the liberal, socialist, UN backed, secular attack on God and Country.
So, with an insurrection at home and a high profile possible mutiny in his caucus he is trying to walk a thin line between madness and absurdity.
Senator Ted Cruz(R-TX) has already called those not on board the Surrender Caucus. Conservative groups are cranking up the pressure to force this doomed gesture into being. The Republican Senators are looking at attacks by well funded groups that can make their political life dangerous.
Senators Cruz, Paul, Rubio and Lee are willing to grind America to a halt to throw their temper tantrum. They see this as the last chance to stop the law from going into effect. The opponents believe the President will sign legislation crushing a major accomplishment before it takes effect. These Senators are quite comfortable with extortion.
With the arcane rules of the Senate they may be able to delay action well past the deadline. They are pushing the extreme members of the House to sign on and defund or shut down the Federal Government.  Patriots all.
This backfired in the 90's when they did this to President Clinton. They expect a different result this time. One must remember though you can't reason with zealots.
This is another example of Republicans refusing to accept election results they don't like. Some are trying to figure out how to impeach the President, which worked out so well for them the last time.
Here we go.
Two cliffs. Two chances to be responsible and take care of a couple bookkeeping issues with no muss, no fuss. No. Let's turn it into the Alamo instead. Why be reasonable when you can act like Sonny Corleone and put a horse's head in America's bed. Go to the mattresses. After all this is why you ran, right?

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