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Monday, July 19, 2010

Republicans' Secret Plan to Fix America

If you ever needed to measure just how fundamentally insincere Republicans are about fixing the economy by reducing the deficit, National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Rep. Pete Sessions created a handy yardstick on Sunday's Meet the Press. On that program, two GOP party bigs gathered -- with brave, funereal expressions -- to explain what Republicans will do after the next election cycle. Or, more accurately, to pretend to explain it. In actuality, they'd come to be talking point machines, spitting out focus group-tested slogans that sound good, but say nothing. Host David Gregory gave it a good try, but he could not get Pete to crack. Chairman Sessions -- like Republican National Senatorial Committee chair Sen. John Cornyn -- would only talk about vague goals, not the methods they would use to reach those goals.

If this was a used car lot, you'd start to get the impression that maybe this great deal Honest Pete was trying to give you was a deal on a lemon. "Sessions was, as Gregory noted, dabbling in talking points," reported Sam Stein for Huffington Post, "or, to distill it even further, just repeating the question in the form of an answer. (How are you going to balance the budget? We are going to balance the budget.)"

There's a reason for this. As GOP Rep. Peter King pointed out last week, as soon as you stand for something, you're forced to defend that stand. So it's better just to keep what you stand for under your hat. "...I don’t think we have to lay out a complete agenda, from top to bottom," he said in an interview, "because then we would have the national mainstream media jumping on every point trying to make that a campaign issue."

Yes, how completely unfair would it be to have to campaign on a concrete plan rather than vague, market-researched fluff? "We need to live within our means" and "we need to make sure that as we look at all that we are spending in Washington D.C." sounds nice, but once you get into the specifics -- cuts to medicare, raising the retirement age on Social Security -- you start losing friends. So no specifics. The Republican Party's 2010 message is "we're for what you're for and against what you're against." And, as nebulous as even that message is, it's still not true.

Polls by both ABC News and CBS News show that the public disagrees with the party on their "deficit-cutting above all" message. While the GOP grandstands by blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, 52% of respondents told CBS that they'd rather see unemployment benefits extended than reduce the deficit. ABC found that 62% believe the same thing.

On the same show, Gregory asked John Cornyn why all the deficit-cutting all of a sudden? "Where did some of that debt come from?" he asked. "The President of the United States was George Bush when they passed a huge TARP just to bail out the banks. mean that's what ran up a lot of debt as well. Are you saying a Republican was somehow different?"

Cornyn: Well, you're ignoring the stimulus that was, ah, failed according to the President’s own standards.  He said he was supposed to keep unemployment to 8%.  A 2.6 trillion dollar health care bill that -- I agree with Pete -- will bankrupt not only the private sector, but the states and the federal government creating a new entitlement program.  My point is that unemployment was roughly 6.9% when President Obama was elected, now it’s 9.5%.  The deficit was 3.2% the last year President Bush was in office, now it’s 10%.  The debt was 2.3 trillion dollars lower in 2008 than it is now, because of runaway spending and debt so...

Gregory: So my question is still: What is the distinction of the Republican Party of today versus the Bush record that you’re defending?

Cornyn: Well, I think what people are looking for, David, are checks and balances.  They’ve had single party government, and it's scaring the living daylights out of them, and it's keeping 'job creators' on the sidelines rather than investing and creating jobs.  That’s why the private sector isn't creating jobs.

For the record, I pointed out last week that the private sector aren't "job creators." And Bush's debt didn't die when he left office. As anyone who has any can tell you, debt is an ongoing thing. Using a figure from the last year Bush was in office is misleading, since Bush's budget extended into the year after he left office and since he rolled over debt into the future. Unless Bush, like Clinton before him, left office with the budget balanced, Cornyn's figures are pretty meaningless.

But my larger point here is that when Gregory asked him to tell how today's GOP was different from the party under Bush, Cornyn couldn't do it.  In fact, when Gregory asked, "What is the distinction of the Republican Party of today versus the Bush record that you’re defending?" Cornyn went ahead and answered a completely different question, as if the host had asked, "What do you think voters want?" Both Cornyn and Sessions absolutely refuse to talk specifics -- what would they cut, what would they limit, what would they repeal, in what way are they different from the deficit-creating GOP of 2001-2008? Instead, they insist on talking about some pie-in-the-sky end-product; Republicans want to balance the budget, Republicans want to reduce the deficit, Republicans want unicorn ranches and rainbow factories and golden statues on every street corner.

And, to go back to the polling about unemployment, why wouldn't they refuse to get specific? They've lost the unemployment extension argument -- the people aren't with them. Further draconianism would just put them on the spot even more. So no specifics at all, just smiley faces and hearts and a perfect world forever and ever. If they tell you what they plan to do (that is, if they even know), they risk losing your vote. So they won't tell you.

It's a secret.


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