Being in opposition, after eight years of a Republican presidency and 12 years of GOP rule in Congress, suits many of them just fine. It's not that they were glad to lose. There are a lot of indignities involved in being the minority, and a pretty small minority at that. But talk to Republican lawmakers and insiders these days, and they speak as if an enormous weight has been lifted from their shoulders. Some of that weight was named George W. Bush, but in a larger sense, Republicans are relieved to be free of the burden of running things.
-Byron York, DC Examiner (via Political Wire)
"We weren’t very happy with the results of the election, and on through the inaugural, but I guarantee you, I’ve never seen the spirit of Republicans as high as it was at the GOP retreat,” Arizona Rep. John Shadegg told the Examiner's York. "When we held our guys together [on the House stimulus vote], that had people extremely excited. Then there were the ongoing scandals with Democratic tax cheats, and I think Republicans are beginning to say, ‘Ah, there could be some fun in the minority.'"
The joy is felt in the Senate, as well. "I’m much happier,” said Sen. Jim DeMint. “Our message was so muddled with Bush in the White House, often going the big-spending approach, that we could not define ourselves in any other way.”
Joy! Republicans don't have to worry about "the burden of running things" anymore. They're free to dick around and have fun. Of course, the problem with this new Republican happiness is that they're still Representatives and Senators -- their job is still to govern. "The burden of running things" is still squarely on their shoulders, as much as they seem to believe that it's not. And I'm not sure if their constituencies would approve of many of their ideas of "fun."
Take Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson. He managed to get a boneheaded provision into the compromise stimulus bill that Dean Baker calls the "House Flipping Subsidy." Isakson, a former realtor, created his own bailout for the realty industry, with a $15,000 tax credit for those buying new or existing homes. In all the howling about provisions that don't create jobs, this one was lost. Since it applies to existing homes, there's no incentive to build. As stimulus provisions go, this isn't very stimulating. In fact, since it's available to all homebuyers -- not just first-timers -- it really doesn't even do much to create a new market. Current homeowners leave an empty house behind for every one they buy, making that market a wash.
Worse, Isakson low-balled what this subsidy would cost the government -- it'll actually costs about $30 billion more than he said. By comparison, $16 billion for school construction was cut because building schools is porky -- despite all the kids these schools would educate and all the jobs building them would create. Much better to have some amateur speculator buying properties to sell later, while taking out balloon mortgages on those properties. That's right, Isakson thinks we need to encourage one of the practices that got us into this mess in the first place.
But here's where things get really fun -- Isakson's not going to vote for the stimulus. He'll complain about all the "pork" in the bill and vote against it, secure in the knowledge that it's going to pass anyway. He'll get his pork, while pretending to be outraged by it. And that's just one example of a Republican loading the stimulus with crap, then announcing they'll vote against it because it's too loaded down with crap. There are plenty more.
Republicans, in their newly discovered freedom from doing anything constructive, are enjoying themselves in other ways as well. It turns out that freedom from having to govern means freedom from having to make any damned sense at all.
[N]ewly-elected Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele believes that government-funded jobs don't count as real employment because "a job is something that a business owner creates."
"What this administration is talking about is 'making work.' ... It's not a job," Steele explained during a Sunday appearance on ABC's This Week. "It ends at a certain point... These road projects that we're talking about have an endpoint... There's no guarantee that there's going to be more work when you're done that job."
That's right, if you're working for the government, you aren't really employed. Tell the people at your local police department to get a damn job. And Steele should know -- he used to be the Lt. Governor of Maryland. Which, of course, wasn't an actual job. It was, after all, only temporary. In fact, since he's up for re-election in the future -- Steele is still a temp as RNC chair. Here's hoping he finds a job soon. Being unemployed must be a real hardship for him.
But back to the fun. Steele says everything's just great. What we're seeing now is just "the downside" of a recent period of economic expansion. Who needs a stimulus package and to create jobs when we live in the Land of Milk and Honey?
Of course, the job losses in this Republican Eden looks like this (full-sized graph here):
The blue line represents job losses in the 1990 recession, the red line is the 2001 recession, and the green line -- that one way down there toward the bottom -- is now. Kind of looks like Steele's idea of a "permanent job" is a bunch of crap, doesn't it? It seems all jobs are temporary jobs these days.
But hey, Republicans are the minority now. They don't have to govern or even be responsible, they get to have fun! They're putting the "party" back into Republican party. No responsibilities (or reasons to be responsible), no need to make any sense, no reason to do anything other than grandstand and sneak pork into bills and spread propaganda that only morons would buy. It's not winter for the GOP -- school's out and it's summer vacation. No more work!