Jim Geraghty, et al: Obama won!
So, you know, deal with it. Besides, other “pragmatic” Republicans agree. It really was the best we could do:
There’s a lot of anger, frustration, and disgust building in the righty grassroots in the past few weeks. Over the past week I saw a lot of comments on Twitter in the vein of “we have a spending problem! Why won’t Republicans insist we deal with that first!”
Fume at Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all you want, but here’s the problem: The chance to gain leverage in these negotiations was on Election Day, and the GOP came up with bubkes that day. Sequestration and the expiration of all of the Bush tax cuts presented an awful status quo to begin with, and there was really no better alternative that would get A) passed in a Senate controlled by Harry Reid and B) signed by President Obama. They don’t want what we want, and we don’t want what they want. And time was on their side in several ways, not least of which was that as of noon Thursday, a new Congress, with even more Democrats, is sworn into office.
(A quick interjection here: it was Boehner’s willingness to caucus with Dems, rather than his own base, that allowed this monstrosity to pass. Having more Democrats would have only strengthened Boehner’s position. For those less concerned with optics than with outcomes.)
There was and is no magic argument, anecdote, policy detail, or chart that could change that dynamic. What was worse — or perhaps, if you look at it a certain way, liberating — was that Republicans were and are just about certain to get the blame from most of the public for either the failure to reach a deal or for the unpopular parts of any deal reached. Some of this is because of the power of the presidential bully pulpit, and some of this reflects people’s enthusiasm for taxing somebody making more money than they do. But a lot of this dynamic is because a large segment of the public just doesn’t pay attention to budget fights and doesn’t want to pay attention to budget fights. So no matter what the numbers actually say, they’re inclined to blame the party they already consider to be the problem.
Again, optics. Perception. Jockeying for position come the next election cycle. What about principles? What about doing what you were elected by your constituency — including those who make over $450K — elected you to do as their representative? Instead, it became a numbers game: who can we sacrifice to appear “reasonable” by the Marxist rules set by the New Left and the media. A losing battle, as I’ve long pointed out — and one that has become something of a point of stasis and surreal refrain. Which is precisely why many of us simply can’t believe any longer that the GOP is acting either in good faith or in our interests as its base.
The truth is, the media is always going to have the power to paint the GOP as the villain, precisely because we don’t do anything at all to neutralize that power. And yet, that’s beside the point in this instance: as I noted in an earlier post, the GOP is still to be blamed for bringing us so near the phony “fiscal cliff” — only now, a guy taking a tax-payer funded 20 day Hawaiian vacation gets credit for “tax cuts for the middle class” that were actually tax rate decreases pushed by Republicans and voted against by Reid, and Schumer, and Biden back when they were first enacted.
Allahpundit examines those who wanted the House to vote down the deal passed by the Senate about an hour and a half into the new year:
It’s worth driving a hard bargain to get something important done, even at the price of a backlash. Just remind me again what “important” goal will be achieved by forcing a new round of negotiations. What sort of spending cuts do you expect to see here? A trillion dollars over 10 years when we’re running trillion-dollar deficits annually? Even if they got Obama to agree to that, why would you believe that future Congresses would allow those cuts to happen down the line? This entire process is an elaborate charade designed to postpone the ultimate reckoning on entitlement reform, and you’re simply not going to wring serious entitlement reform out of the Democrats given the two parties’ current postures. Obama just won reelection; the Democrats expanded their numbers in the House and Senate; entitlement reform remains depressingly unpopular among the public despite attempts to educate them about the role mandatory spending plays in driving the national debt. House Republicans aren’t going to hold out for weeks on end in the futile hope of revamping Medicare against that backdrop while middle-class voters stew over their new, higher tax brackets. Why risk some of the GOP’s small reserve of political capital on a deal that’s only negligibly less terrible than this one? I understand the “let it burn” strategy, to force the public to fully absorb the cost of big government. I don’t understand this one.
These are set out as rhetorical questions, but the whole sham is predicated on the idea that Allahpundit hasn’t yet heard answers to these questions, or at least, answers to these questions that he can understand. So let me help: the “important” (why the scare quotes, by the way? Are those of us who truly think these things “important” to be “taken seriously” or not?) goal achieved by forcing a new round of negotiations is that it would have allowed the House to start from scratch. I don’t know how many times I and others have to write this for it to penetrate (or rather, cease being ignored for reasons of pretending no real alternative approach has been offered); but let me try again: spending cuts could be made to the military as well as to redundant programs and waste / fraud / abuse. But more importantly, a paradigm shift could have been effected: the House could have passed a bill offering real cuts to middle class tax rates, keeping the upper two rates the same — then promoted corporate tax rate cuts as pro-growth measures to bring money in from offshore, creating investment in American businesses, increases in jobs at home as a result of that investmen, and increased revenue as a result of more people working. The “revenue” brought in by the tax increases in this horrific bill will do nothing to cut government spending, nor will they be applied to the deficit. They were merely symbolic — Obama and the left’s way of saying we have the power and leverage to bully this through, and either you accept it or we blame the “fiscal cliff” on you.
And the GOP, terrified of being blamed, chose to give in rather than to fight.
This has nothing to do with “revamping Medicare.” It has to do with taking the opportunity of “middle-class voters” stewing “over their new, higher tax brackets” to introduce legislation that would actually cut their tax rates, rather than keep them at the status quo for the Bush years, effectively taking Obama’s class warfare argument away from him.
“Why risk some of the GOP’s small reserve of political capital”? Seriously? Because they have no real capital to risk, and can only hope to create political capital by taking on Obama and the left, not by acquiescing to him.
To put it bluntly, the GOP has now assured that we have “Obama’s tax cuts for the middle class” — which are nothing more than the Bush rates now usurped by Obama as part of his aim to paint himself as the man of the working people. That is, they lost even their own tax relief plans for the middle class to Obama, who has assumed ownership of them. And yet some chin-scratchers continue to pretend that even questioning the obvious extended mishandling of the whole question, from the debt-ceiling compromise onward, is perplexing to them — the product of minds not so finely nuanced as theirs.
Whereas the real problem is, these people can’t seem to think outside of the political chess game — and even given that limited perspective, they continue to get their queens raped by some randy Leftist knight.
The Washington Examiner’s Phil Klein sees the conglomeration as a mix of some modest good and some considerable bad and ugly — but points out that perhaps nothing was uglier than how this mess came to be presented to the public as the best option:
Conservatives believe that higher taxes are a bad thing, that the tax code needs to be dramatically overhauled and that the true driver of long-term debt is out of control spending, particularly on entitlements. For those who thought it was possible to emerge from the “fiscal cliff” showdown without tax increases, with genuine tax reform and with real spending cuts that made fundamental changes to entitlements, this deal is obviously a nonstarter. For those who assumed that President Obama’s reelection and continued Democratic control of the Senate at a time when the nation was facing an automatic $4.5 trillion tax hike would inevitably mean higher taxes without actual tax or entitlement reforms, the deal is less bad. . . . Beyond the specifics of the deal, the process was awful. Even though lawmakers knew this reality was coming for two years (on the tax side) and a year (on the sequester side), they waited until New Year’s Eve to strike a deal that passed through the Senate at 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day. The public has had no chance to review — let alone understand — the legislation. So much for transparency.
What Klein sees as a process of pure can-kicking, I’m beginning to view as orchestrated theater: of course the GOP was going to fold; because honestly, to a creature of government — particularly a career politician, regardless of party — what’s the downside of bigger government? We can view what we’ve witnessed over the past few years, ever since the TEA Party swept Boehner and Cantor into power, one of two ways: either the leadership is completely feckless, and needs to be be replaced, if not run out of town on a rail, the tar still hardening and the feathers still plump and wind tossed; or else its disastrous negotiating — always amid protests from those who brought them to power and the new representatives of those fiscal conservatives — was a ruse, a way to surrender while appearing still to be an opposing party. Because why not? Losing now requires we try to win later, and that means lots of party fund raising, followed, inevitably, by the next way of establishment candidates that will be forced on us to nurture the status quo.
Klein is correct, however, that the way these deals are reached — backroom negotiating, arm twisting, threats to conservatives from the GOP — is emblematic of a system that is entirely broken. Not to mention, entirely geared toward government, with the new delineation of forces being the governmental class vs. the people, not Democrats vs Republicans.
But since you deserve to hear dissenting voices, who loathe the agreement that passed the Senate, here’s Deroy Murdock:
President Obama repeatedly has called for a “balanced approach” to deficit relief and debt reduction. H.R. 8, the bill in question, is less balanced than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Amazingly, as the Congressional Budget Office calculates, for every $1 that this proposal cuts spending, it hikes taxes by $41! In total, $15 billion in spending cuts are dwarfed by $620 billion in tax increases. Meanwhile, America’s $16.42 trillion national debt roars relentlessly on, since this measure does not even attempt to fill this Grand Canyon of red ink.
And Ben Howe: “My problem with ‘pass whatever as long as taxes don’t go up’ position is that it’s a shining example of the can-kicking that got us here.”
Thing is, taxes do go up — at least on those Americans not saved by “Obama’s tax cuts for the middle class”!
Honestly, the fact that this game couldn’t have been played any more poorly had a script been written leads me to conclude — Occam’s Razor! — that a script’s been written. And in the denouement, we are the domesticated subjects who, if we just give Big Government a chance, will see just how wonderful collectivism can be, when divorced from the silly “natural laws” of Enlightenment philosophers too daft and idealistic to realize that there is nothing beyond men, the truths they construct, and their will to power as a method of enforcement.
But hey, in the managed decline, we’re going to need somebody on “our side” to rationalize away our rights. For the hope that, somewhere down the line — at just the right moment — the GOP will launch a conservative assault of dramatic proportions that will take back the country and restore it to its constitutional moorings.