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Monday, December 06, 2010

Republicans Agree to Only Wound the Hostage

We'll start off with a clip of John Kerry on Meet the Press this weekend, along with commentary from The Atlantic's James Fallows:

By John Kerry, no less. On Meet the Press today. (Clip may start with an embedded ad):

Note to Administration officials: make these points, and just keep making them. The Administration is offering a plan with tax cuts for everybody, and the Republicans are saying no -- to that, and to extended unemployment benefits during a time of record joblessness -- unless there is a hugely expensive extra tax cut for the very people who are least likely to spend the extra money they get.

For the record, it didn't start with an ad when I ran it. Your mileage may vary. Kerry makes a lot of good points here and Fallows does a good job of pointing them out. He also points out that consistency in messaging has been hugely successful for Republicans and Democrats ought to take that strategy out for a spin. "On Fox, from Rush, from the Republican leadership, you hear the same themes day after day," he writes. "They allow their audience to 'frame' each day's items in the news."

And it's not just the same messaging, it's the exact same words -- anyone recall how "cut and run" was the wallpaper in our national discourse for a while there? Turns out you can force a concept on the media, simply by repetition.

But a point that Fallows misses and that Kerry avoids saying right out is that Republicans lied. Kerry spells out the lie, but avoids the "L word." You could make the argument that he doesn't really need to, having laid out the facts so well and calling the GOP position "phony." But still, it'd be nice to see someone launch the message that Republicans lie.

Here is what the President is doing. The President is fighting to get unemployment insurance that they have held hostage. This is the point. People need to focus on America. The Republican have been willing to hold unemployment hostage to this bonus tax cut that adds to the deficit. And the phony recklessness to their position has this: they've said for months we can't give you unemployment compensation because it's unpaid for and it will add to the deficit, but yesterday they were willing to vote for a $4 trillion increase that wipes out everything the debt commission is doing in order to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people. The President is willing to compromise to get unemployment insurance, to get the work for pay tax cut, child care credit tax cut, to get additional tax cuts that go to average people and create jobs. But he wants to do more than that. This is the most important difference between us and them. the Republican agenda is tax cut and cut spending. We cannot cut our way to competition with other countries. If we're going to be a great power, if we're going to project in the world, if we're going to put America back to work and be part of the $6 trillion market that is new energy market of the future with 6 billion users, we need to invest in America's future. And the president is fighting to get an infrastructure development effort in America so we regrow our own country. he is fighting for an energy policy that they fought against all last year, delayed and delayed and delayed, even though we made compromise after compromise. And I know, I was out negotiating it. R & D, science, technology, engineering, math. This is our sputnik moment. We've seen it going across the sky but did nothing similar as we did in the 1960s to respond to it.

After weeks of saying that extending unemployment benefits without paying for them is the worst thing ever, it looks like they're now willing to pass an extension and a deficit-swelling, pointless tax cut for people who neither need it nor deserve it. Neither are paid for. So, when the GOP was saying that adding to the deficit by extending unemployment benefits by adding to the deficit was unacceptable, they were lying. They were just making up a reason to take the unemployed -- and with them economic recovery -- hostage, to lay out the groundwork for this agreement.

And what do Democrats get out of this deal? Pretty much nothing, really. Well, nothing other than an avoidance of economic disaster. By holding unemployment benefits hostage, Republicans were threatening a kamikaze run at the US economy. And, if they get their deal and we get a temporary extension of the Bush tax giveaway, then we'll be right back here again when that extension expires. This wouldn't solve anything, it'd only be putting off the fight for another day. Republicans want these cuts to be permanent and this would likewise mean economic disaster for the nation.

Paul Krugman:

America... cannot afford to make those cuts permanent. We're talking about almost $4 trillion in lost revenue just over the next decade; over the next 75 years, the revenue loss would be more than three times the entire projected Social Security shortfall. So giving in to Republican demands would mean risking a major fiscal crisis -- a crisis that could be resolved only by making savage cuts in federal spending.

And we're not talking about government programs nobody cares about: the only way to cut spending enough to pay for the Bush tax cuts in the long run would be to dismantle large parts of Social Security and Medicare.

Which is, of course, what Republicans actually want. Since the day after FDR's New Deal was set in motion, Republicans have been trying to undo it. Economic Darwinists to the man, Republicans seem to prefer a society that rewards success lavishly and punishes failure brutally. "Succeed or die!" might as well be their motto. They have no belief, no faith, in the American people and believe social safety nets only encourage people to be as lazy as they really want to be in their heart of hearts. It's related to their love for arming everyone -- they believe that Americans are incapable of doing the right thing, unless they have guns to their heads. For them, failure is a choice -- the poor choose to be poor -- and the only way to rescue them from making that choice is through tough love. They're paranoid and they don't trust you.

Of course, Republicans are going to get their deal and all Democrats will get out of it will be an unshot, but perhaps mortally wounded, hostage. Republicans will succeed in ballooning the deficit at the same time they're complaining about ballooning deficits. Then they'll call for cuts in those social safety nets to pay for it. Win/win for them: the rich get a free ride and everyone else has to pay for it.


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