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Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

The debt ceiling deal framework released by the Speaker’s office (in powerpoint form) does a great job of spinning a troubling bill.  Now to be clear, I am a debt-ceiling raise proponent, and I supported both bills that passed the House.  I support the goal of cutting spending in two tranches, and I support automatic cuts that enforce discipline on the political actors to reduce spending commensurate with the debt limit increase.

But the “triggers” that are intended to create incentives for all parties to achieve a solution by Thanksgiving create a no-win scenario for Republicans in November. To wit:

  • The Medicare cuts that would go into effect if the Joint Committee’s (“JC”) recommended cuts are not enacted are supposed to scare Democrats into accept the JC’s proposal.  Not so.  The cuts to Medicare don’t reduce benefits — they reduce reimbursements to doctors and hospitals.  So rather than require seniors to pay something for their health care and thereby make better decisions, the Medicare cuts would drive more health care providers away from serving Medicare patients, making health care less available for seniors.  No cost-reductions there – seniors will still get care, but they’ll have to drive farther and wait longer to get it.  That’s rationing by a thousand cuts.  So if Republicans fail to accept the JC proposal, they will give Democrats another talking point in their Mediscare campaign (Tea Party radicals, not Obamacare = health care rationing for seniors) without saving a dime in actual health care costs.
  • Despite representing around 20% of the federal budget, defense will comprise 50 cents of every dollar in the “trigger” cuts that occur if the JC’s recommendations are not passed by Congress.   If ever there was a sign that the Democratic Party has abandoned national security as a political issue, this is it.  Prominent figures across the center-right, from Allen West to John Bolton to Joe Lieberman, have sounded the alarm against these cuts, which would not come with any fundamental restructuring of our vision of defense policy.  We’d still be in Iraq (and losing ground).  We’d still be in Afghanistan (but leaving too soon).  We’d still be in Libya (for some unknown reason).  And we’d still be defending Europe from a superpower that we helped vanquish two decades ago.  But we’d be doing all of these tasks, which no other military in the world could handle simultaneously, with less armor, less ammunition, fewer soldiers, and less high-tech weaponry.  Think we’ve got a peace dividend to cash?  Consider the following graph.

h/t Heritage Foundation

And then consider that Democrats have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to strike a $750 billion hole in defense and blame it on the Tea Party, merely by refusing to make further cuts in spending.  Is there anything easier for a Democrat than refusing to cut the national budget?

Why in the world, then, would Democrats ever be serious in trying to achieve a consensus for spending cuts in November?  The alternative to military and Medicare cuts are domestic programs, precisely the things they refused to cut all summer in the face of debt default.  The automatic cuts are great for them politically, and the Medicare cuts can be undone once Democrats regain control over the budgetary process (to cheers from the Left and seniors, who will come back “home” to the Democrats).  The defense cuts, however, will be permanent — they will enrage the Right, starve our military of resources, and all but demand a pullback from “overseas contingency operations” that Obama can now say he is forced to end due to budgetary concerns.

This deal is a blueprint for Democratic political revival over the next 15 months.  Do not throw the Democrats into that briar patch, Republicans.  Admiral Ackbar knows best.

You knew it was coming.

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Republicans on Capitol Hill have been remarkably successful at demonstrating that the current spendulous bill doesn’t stimulate anything.  The popularity of the bill has dropped from 45-34% to 37-43% in two weeks’ time.  Perhaps most troubling for Democrats is that, among independents, the bill is now supported by 27% and opposed by 50%.  Did it really take only three weeks for Obama’s precious center to collapse?

The same Rasmussen poll shows that many voters still want the government to do something, although they fear that it will be the wrong thing:

Forty-six percent (46%) of voters remain concerned that the government will do too much in reacting to the nation’s economic problems. Forty-one percent (41%) are concerned that the government will do too little.

And to bolster all those who confirmed that President Obama still leads a center-right nation, Rasmussen tells us that a rather solid majority would support a stimulus plan consisting entirely of tax cuts:

A stimulus plan that includes only tax cuts is now more popular than the economic recovery plan being considered in Congress. Forty-five percent (45%) favor a tax-cut only plan while 34% are opposed…and voters strongly believe that tax cuts are good for the economy. Most Americans believe that a dollar of tax cuts is better for the economy than a dollar of government spending.

We all know it’s easier to attack than to lead, and the President may be far better at the former than the latter.  But these numbers show that there is an opening for an alternative proposal that will score well with the CBO as stimulative, focus heavily on tax cuts, and eliminate the long-term “transformative” spending that Obama is now selling the country (“This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending — it’s a strategy for America’s long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education.”).

Enter Bill Kristol, who outlines this approach in an insightful blog post for the Washington Post:

The Republican position should be: We’ll pass on this emergency timetable a real stripped-down emergency stimulus. But if Obama insists on legislation incorporating an alleged “strategy for America’s long-term growth,” then the country deserves hearings and debate that obviously will take some time. And Republicans should make clear they cannot agree to limiting debate to a couple of days on such momentous long-term legislation.

In other words: If Obama wants a stimulus, Republicans will give it to him tomorrow. It’s the president’s and the Democrats’ insistence on incorporating a huge and problematic policy agenda in this one bill that’s delaying action. Why then, Republicans can ask, is President Obama delaying a necessary, short-term, emergency growth package?

Listen to this man, Mitch McConnell.

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