Wisconsin Backlash

When Governor Scott Walker took on labor unions in his budget fight with Democrats earlier this year, he got more of a controversy than he bargained for.  Not only did the unions agree to cuts, meaning that limiting their collective bargaining rights was not required to deal with the budget shortfall, but Democratic lawmakers left the state to deny the Wisconsin Senate a quorum to pass the bill as a budget bill.

The Republicans could have (and in retrospect I suspect they wish they would have) right away separated it as a provision standing on its own and passed it, but that would make it clear that it wasn’t necessary to handle the budget crisis and be an overt admission that the goal was to punish and weaken unions.   Instead they decided to criticize the Democratic Senators for not doing their job, and try to pressure them to return to Madison.

The Democrats and labor unions used the resulting delay in passing the law to mount massive protests.   This got scathing criticism from Governor Walker and Wisconsin Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, who not only ridiculed the Democrats, but fined them, stopped their staff from being able to use office equipment like capital photocopiers, and ratcheted up the rhetoric.  The Democrats responded by trying to play “Wisconsin nice,” saying they were seeking compromise and respectful dialogue.   They said they left in order to force some time for discussion about the measure.

Frustrated, the Republicans wore their anger on their sleeves as Democrats mounted protests and put pressure on the Governor to compromise.  He refused to back down, and this gave the Democrats time to motivate their base and to paint Scott Walker as someone unreasonable, so focused on fighting unions that he refused to engage in dialogue and discussion.   A prank phone call and leaked e-mails made the situation worse.   Ultimately, the Republicans separated out the union portion of the bill so they could pass it, and the Democrats came back.   Because the GOP passed the bill quickly, not following Wisconsin open meeting laws (so the Democrats maintain), the law is now in limbo, held back from being made law until legal proceedings move forward.

On Tuesday the Republicans paid a huge price for their refusal to compromise and their inept handling of the crisis.   Joanne Kloppenburg defeated incumbent David Prosser for a seat as justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Prosser, a moderate and respected Republican was Chief Justice and apparently coasting to re-election when the budget/union controversy hit.   Unable to stop the bill from being passed, Democrats turned their sites on a valuable alternative — defeating a conservative Supreme Court justice and shifting the balance of power from 4-3 in favor of conservatives on the court to 4-3 in favor of liberals.

Kloppenburg won by a margin of only 204 votes meaning a recount is certain and it’s possible (though not likely) that Prosser could still eek out a win.   Still, without this controversy Prosser’s victory would have been a foregone conclusion.  Instead loads of money flowed into both sides of the campaign and it became a test of Governor Walker’s actions.  To be sure, Prosser got a lot of support from people who disagreed with Walker — 30 years in state politics as a respected legislator then Judge earns support and respect — but that only makes the victory more significant.  It shows that the Democrats in Wisconsin are motivated, and the Republicans may have over-estimated their power when Governor Walker and Senator Fitzgerald took on this fight.

There will likely be recall elections later this summer trying to replace Senators on both parties, and it will be interesting to see how those play out.  But clearly losing Prosser’s seat on the court and the conservative majority was not a price Governor Walker expected to pay for his uncompromising effort to weaken unions.   Democrats now feel they have the wind at their back heading into 2012, as well as a court more friendly to legal efforts to fight the law.

One can argue that a Supreme Court justice race is the wrong place for such symbolic politics to play itself out.   Perhaps, but once you make something an elected position the only real goal is to motivate voters, and in this case the union controversy overshadowed arguments on legal credentials.

Democrats can find hope that there is still a base out there that can be motivated and get out the vote.    The Republicans may be over reaching not only in Wisconsin but in other states and in Washington.   The public didn’t elect them to get tea party policies implemented, but out of dissatisfaction with Democratic policies and President Obama’s first two years.   Republicans in Wisconsin rode a wave to large victories in November but find themselves on the defensive in April.  Political winds shift suddenly.

Republicans nation wide can take solace that this is only in Wisconsin, and is taking place early in 2011.   But the message is clear: push too hard and be too intransigent and the public can turn on you quickly.  The same voters who overwhelmingly voted Democratic in 2008 aren’t suddenly tea partiers whose “eyes were opened” by Obama’s policies.  Most independents don’t like extremes left or right, the center is still where the votes are in the American electorate.

National Democrats will find it easier to play for the center in the next year and a half.  They can’t get anything passed anyway, so pushing for some major controversial reform makes no sense at this point.  If they make some strategic compromises, and if the Republicans find themselves unable to resist tea party pressure, the pendulum of politics may swing back in their favor in 2012.   This adds to the pressure on Speaker Boehner to show that the Republicans are not ideological extremists — Americans want pragmatic problem solving, and independents prefer that the parties work out compromises.   They’ll reward those they trust not to be too extreme.

The lessons from Wisconsin will no doubt be debated and analyzed by both parties in coming months.   One thing is clear: the 2012 elections will certainly offer another fascinating and exciting episode of political drama.

UPDATE: It appears the incumbent may have eeked out a victory after all.   New votes were found for Prosser in the strongly GOP Milwaukee suburbs, meaning that the fight probably did not cost the Republicans the balance of power in the state Supreme Court.  Still, the fact it was this close underscores the volatility of American politics at this juncture!

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  1. #1 by Sean Patrick Hazlett on April 7, 2011 - 04:30

    After looking at some of the polls, I think the Republicans are also potentially about to make a similar mistake with a government shutdown. While it would not be entirely their fault (after all, it takes two to tango), the plurarity of Americans would blame them for it.

    I personally think Governor Walker did the right thing, but he played his hand too aggressively and will now likely pay for it.

    It would be a principled, but not pragmatic, move for the Republicans to let a shutdown happen. I hope instead that they reach a compromise.

    • #2 by classicliberal2 on April 7, 2011 - 15:27

      “While it would not be entirely their fault (after all, it takes two to tango), the plurarity of Americans would blame them for it.”

      They would, in fact, be responsible for it. There was a teabagger rally yesterday in D.C., attended by several teabagger favorites from congress, and the crowd was chanting “SHUT IT DOWN! SHUT IT DOWN!” It’s sentiment that has recurred at every teabagger rally this year, and it’s representative of the sentiment that has prevented passage of a budget.

      Spending cuts, it must be said up front, are an extraordinarily bad idea right now. There is a weak economy with high unemployment. Such cuts, by definition, increase unemployment, and throwing even more people out of work in the current climate is the last thing any sane person would be looking to do.

      Our politics aren’t about sanity, though. If you’re John Boehner, they’re about keeping yourself in power. Boehner won’t take “yes” for an answer. He insisted on spending cuts at a time when that’s just insane policy, and the Democrats–to their eternal shame–agreed to go along with him. He initially suggested $32 billion in cuts, but this was insufficient for the nuttier wing of his party–they went around him and passed $61 billion in cuts. The Democrats offered a compromise of $33 billion in cuts, a billion more than Boehner had initially suggested, and more than half of what the other Republicans passed–meeting them “more than half-way,” as Obama put it. Boehner still won’t go along, because the nuts want more, and he’s afraid they’ll start looking for a new leader if he does anything that can even remotely be characterized as making a deal. Boehner has flat-out said he isn’t interested in a compromise with even the conservative Democrats–as the AP reported earlier this week, he “wants the overwhelming majority of votes to come from his fellow Republicans, even if dozens of easily attainable Democratic votes could help carry the budget bill to victory…. ‘Not very interested,’ Boehner told reporters last week when asked about forming a coalition with Democrats to pass the legislation to keep the government operating.” He wants at least 218 Republican votes before he’ll allow the matter to go forward.

      That’s why a shutdown looms.

      • #3 by Sean Patrick Hazlett on April 7, 2011 - 16:44

        Typical partisan argument. Blame the other side for everything and don’t accept responsibility for your part of the mess. Democrats had complete control of the government for two full years and yet the country is at 8.8% unemployment vs. 7.3% when President George W. Bush left office. The President can avoid a shutdown by agreeing to the $61 billion, which is frankly a paltry number to begin with in comparison to the total size of the $3.8 trillion budget (1.7%).

        Here are the facts. $61 billion is nothing compared to the magnitude of the President’s projected deficit for FY 2011 alone. To put things in context, $61 billion would be a reduction of 3.7% in the projected $1.6 trillion 2011 deficit and 1.7% of the President’s budget. President Obama spent between 1-2% of this $61 billion in the first week of his strange and ill-advised bombing of Libya, alone.

        If Republicans agreed to the Democratic proposal, it would reduce the deficit by 2.0% and the budget by 3.0%. Do you really believe that reducing the deficit by an additional 1.7% and the budget by 1.4% would jeopardize the economic recovery?

        Once one looks at the numbers, claims that these paltry cuts would threaten the economic recovery are ridiculous. What will really threaten our economic recovery is if no one buys U.S. Treasuries when they are next offered in June. If there are no takers, the Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates. Now that would stall any conceivable economic recovery. Yet the US government is still spending irresponsibly without regard to the consequences.

        Any sane policy would involve some mixture of spending cuts and tax increases. Yet doctrinal liberals and conservatives, like yourself, refuse to come up with a pragmatic policy and instead insist on blaming the other side for all of their problems.

  2. #4 by classicliberal2 on April 7, 2011 - 14:47

    The other important Wisconsin election was for Milwaukee County Executive, Walker’s old job. Chris Abele, a Democratic party nobody, destroyed Walker’s handpicked stooge Jeff Stone (Abele brought in over 60% of the vote).

    The potential violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law in passing the union-busting bill resulted in a court injunction against publishing or enforcing the law. Wisconsin law requires that the Secretary of State publish any law in the official newspaper before it can be enforced. Walker and Republican Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald decided they could just ignore this law and the injunction, as well; they had the law published by the Legislative Reference Bureau, then publicly declared it had been legally published, was in effect, and that it would now be enforced. Rather than simply holding these clowns in contempt, the judge in the case issued a second order tersely reemphasizing that publication and enforcement of the law has been enjoined. Walker finally backed down, but the entire incident is emblematic of his behavior throughout this ordeal. I described Walker, not too long ago, as a wannabe Mussolini of the Midwest, and that’s appropriate for more reasons that just his attack on unions. His every move is an effort to concentrate a great deal of power in his own hands.

    Though Walker was the focus of so much attention, Republicans in states across the U.S. are pulling the same sort of nonsense. They’re being politically destroyed by it in the short-term, but their larger goal is more forward-looking. Unions have money to spend in political campaigns, and they spend most of it on Democrats. If the right can destroy them, it effectively breaks the back of the only major non-business source of political finance. That’s the prize they seek.

  3. #5 by classicliberal2 on April 7, 2011 - 19:14

    @SPH

    “Typical partisan argument.”

    Actually, tha’t’s all you offered. You (wrongly) assumed I was a Democrat, then barely came up with a line that didn’t originate in Republican party talking points. To wit:

    “Democrats had complete control of the government for two full years and yet the country is at 8.8% unemployment vs. 7.3% when President George W. Bush left office.”

    Democrats never had “complete control of government.” They had the executive and huge majorities in congress, but Republicans prevented them from ruling. Republicans disowned legislation they’d written and championed for years as soon as Democrats endorsed it. The Senate filibuster was used against nearly everything, even procedural votes. This began in 2006, when Republicans first lost control of congress. Looking at cloture votes alone, there were, in the two years that followed, 139 such votes. This was over double the average of the previous five congresses, and had no precedent in American history. It has one now, though, because Republicans topped it in the 2009-2011 congress. More than 400 bills passed by the House were left to die in the Senate.

    Where Democrats fell short–and I’ve raked them over the coals for this more times than I can count–is in refusing to use their majority to play hardball. They could have gotten a lot more of what they’d wanted if they’d have been willing to get even a quarter as ugly as the Republicans always are.

    An important caveat, in grading any administration’s “economic record,” is that booms and busts are a natural cycle in an economy. Government policies can make things better or worse, but they can’t stop the cycle. The economy completely collapsed under Bush. The overall Bush economic record was the second-worst since records in the U.S. began (the first being that of Hoover). Economists are calling it America’s “lost decade.” The bullshit 7.3% unemployment number–again, a standard talking-point–was from an economy circling the drain and worsening with every new report. Obama’s administration can be subjected to a lot of legitimate, harsh criticism–I’ve offered plenty of it myself–but being stuck with the Bush economy isn’t one of them. Whoever won in 2008 was going to have the same problem, there.

    “The President can avoid a shutdown by agreeing to the $61 billion, which is frankly a paltry number to begin with in comparison to the total size of the $3.8 trillion budget (1.7%).”

    By the same token, House Republicans could avoid a shut-down by declining to make any cuts. They could also avoid a shut-down by meeting the Democrats half-way, which is the offer that is on the table, and that they’ve so far refused to take. There is a Democratic majority in the Senate, and a Democratic president–Republicans did NOT win the ability to dictate to them how the government shall be run by virtue of taking a majority in one congressional body. The rest of the electorate still counts.

    Your ranting about the size of the cuts is just partisan rhetoric that attempts to side-step that fact.

    “Do you really believe that reducing the deficit by an additional 1.7% and the budget by 1.4% would jeopardize the economic recovery?”

    That’s partisan rhetoric, as well, but, in offering it, you’re apparently unaware there is actual data on that question. Moody’s Analytics did a breakdown of the Republican proposal–$61 billion in cuts–after it passed the House, and reported that it would cost 700,000 jobs. That would be DISASTROUS for the economy, by any measure.

    “Any sane policy would involve some mixture of spending cuts and tax increases. Yet doctrinal liberals and conservatives, like yourself, refuse to come up with a pragmatic policy and instead insist on blaming the other side for all of their problems.”

    It’s impossible for you to make that case while offering boilerplate Republican talking-points. The fact that they’ve been so well-circulated by righty robots doesn’t make them any more sane or thoughtful. I don’t pimp for any team. As far as I’m concerned, there is very little sanity in our actual politics. There are only competing agendas, and various levels of buffoonery in perpetual collision. For Republicans, it’s a class warfare agenda–they’re the advocates of the rich and powerful against everyone else. The reason the Democrats are more like a car-load of clowns than a political party is that they don’t have anything resembling a unified agenda; just dozens of coexisting agendas that clash with one another as much as they clash with Republicans.

    If you’re genuinely concerned about the deficit, more than one serious plan does exist. When the bullshit “debt commission” made its draconian recommendations, for example, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who was on the commission, offered a much saner alternative, one that balanced the budget. As it includes tax increases on the rich and forgoes draconian cuts to things that aid the poor and middle-class, though, it was immediately declared DOA by House Republicans. It’s still out there, if anyone wanted a serious alternative, which they don’t.

    While you’re parroting those Republican talking-points, it seems pretty important to mention that almost every penny of government red ink, at present, is a consequence of the Bush, rather than the Obama, administration. Of the 2009/2010 debt, 12% is in the “other” category, things like interest payments. A whopping 52% of it, though, was a consequence of various Bush spending programs, principally the cost of the Bush-era bailouts, the Bush wars, and the Bush welfare program for the pharmaceutical industry. Another 20% is a product of a drop-off in receipts as a consequence of the recession. Obama’s spending policies only account for 16% of it. Since the Bush policies played a major role in bringing about the recession, and since the biggest chunk of the Obama portion was the stimulus package–an effort to deal with the fall-out of that Bush recession–an even larger chunk of the debt belongs to Bush than even those numbers would suggest. They’re the conservative version. Maybe there’s a certain disconnect, then, in parroting those Republican talking-points, when it comes to finding a solution.

    • #6 by Sean Patrick Hazlett on April 7, 2011 - 20:03

      @classicliberal2,

      First, I am not parroting Republican talking points as most Republicans would disagree that the country should increase taxes to close the budget gap. I too have hammered Republicans in the past primarily for being irrational (it is, after all, why my nom de gerre is the Rational Republican). I am merely commenting on the fact that both parties are to blame for the current mess. To wit, Boehner just asked for another week’s extension and the President threatened to veto the short-term funding request. Again, more partsan ridiculousness.

      Second, you are missing the larger picture here. At some point, countries like China will stop buying our debt. In order to fund all these government programs, the Fed will have to raise interest rates to encourage countries to purchase that debt. In turn, the country’s interest payments increase and the United States continues its debt death spiral. Things are only going to get worse the longer the country puts off this reckoning. The Brits are rightly implementing a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to push their way back to reasonable and responsible governance.

      You are correct in your assessment of the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill. It was obviously a budget buster and probably one of Bush’s major mistakes.

      The problem with the Democratic Congress is that they played hardball. They rarely consulted with Republicans before proposing legislation and therefore should not have been surprised when Republicans blocked it. If you think Pelosi likes to compromise, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

      The fact of the matter is that the Obama administration had over TWO YEARS and broad Democratic majorities in both Houses to turn things around and its plan was simply to swap out local debt with federal debt as well as reward its constituencies with pork (there is no denying that Republican politicians do the same thing — look at ethanol subsidies for instance). This may have helped prevent a worse economic collapse, but it has not resulted in a speedy long-term recovery.

      You can talk about the 2009/2010 debt all you want, my points are focused on what to do going forward and a paltry 1.7% cut simply won’t convince our debtholders that America is serious about confronting its deficits.

      When the Fed increases interest rates to fund government spending, the economy will likely lurch back into recession and the country will likely lose more than 700,000 jobs.

      Additionally, if the Republican plan would destroy that many jobs, why don’t the Democrats offer an alternative that still gets the country to $61 billion without such a dire impact? I would support that.

      Look, both sides included busloads of clowns who have no conception of basic economics. I am not familiar with Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s plan, but if it reined in Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and Defense spending, and increased taxes, it is probably a sensible one and Republicans would have been wrong to oppose it. I bet however, that it did not touch the first three and cut deeply into Defense.

      I actually think that you and I broadly agree on the ideological ridiculousness of both parties, but disagree on who is to blame in this particular instance. I blame both parties. You blame Republicans.

      • #7 by classicliberal2 on April 7, 2011 - 21:27

        “The problem with the Democratic Congress is that they played hardball.”

        You can’t write something like that–yet another worn-to-death Republican talking-point, it’s worth noting–then convincingly call yourself “the rational Republican” to anyone who pays attention. The Democrats didn’t play hardball over anything. If you think that was the case, I don’t have to sell you a bridge–you’ve already bought it. Most of the policy advanced by the Obama was, in fact, Republican policy, which he adopted as his own precisely because he hoped to get get broad support for it. He utterly failed to recognize the political reality, that Republicans would oppose anything he offered simply because he, being a Democrat, offered it.

        It isn’t a question of Republicans being “consulted” prior to introducing legislation. It was THEIR legislation that was being introduced. It’s true the Democrats didn’t allow Republicans to dictate absolutely everything, then give them all the credit for it, while trashing their own party–the only thing that would have changed how Republicans behaved–but the Republicans didn’t win the 2008 elections. They were, in fact, spectacularly destroyed at the polls. When even a victory of that magnitude doesn’t allow the victors to enact their program for a time–and in this case, it didn’t–democracy has no meaning.

        Military spending accounts for half of the discretionary budget–for anyone who is serious about cutting spending, it’s going to be the major item on the chopping block.

        Medicare is underfunded–the problem with its rising cost (and that of Medicaid) is one of the rising cost of health care itself. The only way to “fix” that is to reign in those health care costs. Obama’s rehashed Romneycare doesn’t do a damn thing to accomplish that. By putting the insurance industry on welfare, however, it would make it pretty much impossible to do this in the future, barring a catastrophic collapse of health care generally.

        Wealth concentration in the U.S. is greater, now, than at any time since the Gilded Age. The U.S. simply must start taxing the wealthy and big business again (and please spare us the empty Republican talking-point on this subject). More generally, Americans, in the last three years, have been taxed at the lowest rate since 1950, but that figure, stated alone, is misleading, because those at the top actually had to pay taxes then, a time when liberal governance generated a rising tide that lifted all boats, and turned the U.S. into the greatest economic power the world had ever seen.

        Social Security is a self-funding program, and, in spite of decades of sustained propaganda, is in no danger of failing. A few minor fixes–and there are half a dozen ways to do it–leaves it solvent into infinity, as long as the general government doesn’t default on the debt held by SS.

        America’s debt-holders aren’t going to drop the U.S. unless it does default (something advocated only by a few louder-than-bright nutters on the right).

        When I blame Repubs, it’s because they’ve earned the blame, and it’s a fact that I beat up on Demos a lot more than I do on them. More importantly, I don’t agitate for Demos as my team. When you do that, you have to take responsibility for what they do. They don’t represent me. They don’t represent anyone except whoever purchased them. It’s a fact that those who purchase them are often a great deal less toxic than those who purchase Republicans, but that’s hardly an argument in their favor.

      • #8 by Sean Patrick Hazlett on April 7, 2011 - 22:04

        @classicliberal2,

        “Medicare is underfunded–the problem with its rising cost (and that of Medicaid) is one of the rising cost of health care itself. The only way to “fix” that is to reign in those health care costs.”

        Part of the way to fix it is to rein in those costs, but you can also reduce benefits through means testing (i.e., income-based, wealth-based, what-have-you). As you say, Obamacare failed on those grounds (cutting costs). I would also agree that Romneycare was also a collossal failure.

        I am not sure why you think the Obama plan was based on a Republican one. You very well may be right. I am just not sure which plan you are referring to. Are you suggesting it is based on Romneycare? Just a question, not a challenge. If what you are saying is true, then the Republicans would have acted hypocritically.

        “Military spending accounts for half of the discretionary budget–for anyone who is serious about cutting spending, it’s going to be the major item on the chopping block.”

        I totally agree.

        “Wealth concentration in the U.S. is greater, now, than at any time since the Gilded Age. The U.S. simply must start taxing the wealthy and big business again.”

        Agreed. So long as it is within reason. Families making $250k is not within reasons if they live in certain parts of the country. Over $1 million might be reasonable.

        One reason for the wealthy’s ability to avoid taxes is because of the increasing complexity of the tax code. The government can increase tax rates on the wealthy all it wants, but until it simplies the tax code, the wealthy can always find ways to circumvent taxes. Additionally, the complexity of the tax code also provides incentives for businesses to offshore American jobs to countries with cheaper tax rates. Again, simplifying the tax code can help the government crack down on these practices. Now, I can make a profit in a low tax rate country and shift my losses to my US operations and thereby deny the U.S. government tax dollars.

        I also agree that Social Security can be fixed through 1) means-testing, 2) extension of the retirement age, and 3) a small increase in taxes. The problem is that no one in either party will touch this.

        “I don’t agitate for Demos as my team. When you do that, you have to take responsibility for what they do.”

        I disagree about having take responsibility for every idiot in one’s party. There are lunatics in either party. I take no responsibility for Sarah Palin’s antics, but I will freely admit that she gives the Republican Party a bad name (and she scares the hell out of me). I am just trying to bring more thoughtful debate back to my party.

        “America’s debt-holders aren’t going to drop the U.S. unless it does default.”

        I didn’t suggest they were going to drop the U.S. I suggested that they would not be inclined to purchase Treasuries in the future unless they received a higher rate of interest and higher interest rates will stymie future economic performance.

        “The Democrats didn’t play hardball over anything.”

        I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree on this point.

      • #9 by classicliberal2 on April 8, 2011 - 00:49

        “I am not sure why you think the Obama plan was based on a Republican one. You very well may be right. I am just not sure which plan you are referring to. Are you suggesting it is based on Romneycare? Just a question, not a challenge. If what you are saying is true, then the Republicans would have acted hypocritically.”

        The understatement of the century. Obamacare was a national version of Romneycare, which, itself, was based on a plan developed by lobbyists and the Heritage Foundation and adopted by congressional Republicans in the 1990s as an alternative to Clinton’s proposed plan. It was co-sponsored by some of the most backwards reactionaries in congress, including Orrin Hatch, Charles Grassely, and Kit Bond. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) advocated a near-identical plan right up to 2009, then, when Obama adopted it, switched and circulated a playbook to his colleagues on how to obstruct its passage. The individual mandate–arguably Obamacare’s most noxious feature, and the grounds on which the law is facing court challenge–has been in every iteration of these bills. A Republican idea from the beginning (when Hillary Clinton jumped ship and endorsed it in 2008, Obama used it to slam her, then turned around and endorsed it himself).

        That’s the lineage of Obamacare. Except for a stray feature here and there (the ban on pre-existing conditions, for example), it has no history at all among the liberals (who favored single payer). The only thing Obama really added was the public option idea, and, of course, he bargained it away with the health care industry right up front.

        This is what has happened with practically everything the Obama has gotten behind. He endorsed a a Republican-authored spending freeze; the Republicans immediately abandoned it (even John McCain, who had just advocated it in his presidential campaign, flipped on that one). He endorsed the Republican-authored PAYGO bill; the Republicans immediately abandoned it. He endorsed the Republican-authored debt commission bill; the Republicans immediately abandoned it. The people who authored the bills abandon them. When it came to the stimulus package, he larded it up with less stimulative tax cuts in order to draw in Republicans (they made up about 40% of the bill), but all but three Republicans voted against it, then most of the Republican congressional caucus returned home to their states and districts to claim credit for the money the bill was providing.

        That complexity built into the tax code is there at the behest of the very people who use it to avoid taxes.

        Congressional Democrats in 2009 and 2010, proposed a series of bills, later combined into one, that would have ended tax incentives for offshoring American jobs, that would have provided fairly generous tax incentives for importing jobs into the U.S., and would have imposed a penalty on companies that loss-shift. Because this ended tax incentives for relocating jobs, Republicans portrayed it as a “tax hike,” and lock-stepped against it, filibustering it to death. The corporate press didn’t bother to report very much on it.

        I wouldn’t raise the retirement age–I’d probably lower it, in fact. But yes, there are plenty of ways to deal with it. A modest tax increase, means-testing, or simply raising the amount of income subject to taxation could fix it. Some of these would be more controversial than others, but others are relatively painless. We have about 25 years to figure it out.

        “I disagree about having take responsibility for every idiot in one’s party.”

        That isn’t exactly what I mean. I think people who take an enthusiastic football fans’ attitude toward politics, and maybe even work to elect their “team” can’t then turn around and wash their hands of responsibility for what their team does. I’m not behind some “team”; I do my thinking on my own.

        Don’t be afraid of Sarah Palin–she’s just an uber-moronic publicity whore. Be VERY afraid of the fact that most of your party loves her so much)

        I have the historical record on my side, when it comes to Democrats most assuredly NOT playing hardball. I’ve managed to fill a blog with it since Obama was elected (so has pretty much every other liberal blogger).

  4. #10 by rkc1 on April 7, 2011 - 19:35

    I am your average conservative, probably leaning a bit to Libertarian, so my view will naturally be normal and acceptable. Let’s speak truthfully about the need for budget cuts and why the democrats should accept them in their entirety. The folks on the right know that it’s time for removal of leeches like NPR and Planned Parenthood off the govt. teat. These slugs do nothing for America but suck up good oxygen, and that’s being kind!! Normal people, like me, and other Para-Conservatives are not “street preachers from the information sidewalk.” We thorougly research everything from non biased sources like LibertythinktankforGod.com and FreedomFriesforJesus.com, before we make our decrees of truth and honesty that are totally unrefutable, so don’t misunderestimate me (Bush made it a word d***itt). So OblameMe should get off his high horse and accept that righties know everything there is to know about budgets and numbers and stuff like that. So, Mr Hazel it is good to know that we are both on the same page and all these dense lefties have to do now is think of other Nanny stuff to make American people do like supervise what their children are eating or drinking, and thinking of more subsidies to give to artists who like to make ceramic penises and display them in God’s schools where innocent sixteen and seventeen year old have to look at them and then ask their parents “What’s a penis?” I will close by saying that democrats and dense lefties in general just seem to ramble on and can’t put together cogent thoughts like para-conservative-teabaggers like myself and Mr. Hazel. You lefties will one day emerge from your dope smoking hazes and zen like states, and find that your nivana is ka put!!!! Put that in your hash pipe and suck on it!!!

    • #11 by Sean Patrick Hazlett on April 7, 2011 - 20:18

      @rkc1,

      This is the problem with America today. We cannot have a civilized without someone resorting to demonzation, stereotyping, and snark.

      My talking points come from information I’ve compiled from websites like the OMB, Reuters, The New York Times, etc. For your information, I am not a fundamentalist Christian, nor have I ever had any involvement in the Tea Party movement. I just see an impending fiscal train wreck. China won’t buy U.S. debt forever.

      I am here to discuss the issues and find solutions. If you are serious about engaging in a reasonable and informed discussion, that’s great. However, if you’d rather engage in anonymous and sarcastic vilification of people who possess different views, then I nothing further to say to you.

  5. #12 by Scott Erb on April 7, 2011 - 23:10

    I think China’s desire for stability (and fear of chaos) is one reason why they’ll continue to buy US bonds. They believe the US is losing economic power, but they prefer the US fall to be gradual so as not to cause global instability. That said, I agree debt is a problem — both public and private debt, here and across the industrialized West. I think more needs to be done to consider a global restructuring of the system – a kind of “Bretton Woods II” to deal with realities of a world that is not as state-centric as directly after WWII.

    I understand your criticism of Obama’s debt, Sean, but I also understand the argument that when hit by a massive recession you need stimulus. I was of two minds on it when it passed (I did a blog entry “Obama’s trillion dollar gamble”), but at least it drove up debt during a recession. The last two periods of sustained debt to GDP increase were from 1982 to 1990 and after 2002. Both parties contributed, but the Reagan Administration saw debt go from 30% of GDP to 60% during an economic boom. Adding massively to debt during a boom makes no sense (though it creates the illusion things are better than they are).

    I think Obama’s threat to veto another week extension is him saying he’s done playing games — either figure out a compromise or we’ll have a shut down. Constant extensions (and the one week extension seems designed to buy the GOP some political cover) aren’t doing much. I think the Democrats have signaled a willingness to compromise, and the issues now involve things like family planning and social conservative causes. That’s what seems to stand in the way of a compromise, and I think the Republicans should give in on those — this isn’t the time to push the social conservative agenda, both parties should focus on getting something passed to keep government going and deal with those thorny issues later.

    At the same time, I think President Obama should welcome Representative Ryan’s plan as a basis to start a conversation on how to get debt under control. I give Ryan credit for putting difficult and unpopular positions on the table. I fear the plan as is would redistribute wealth from the poor to the wealthy, but hey – it’s a bold initiative and a good point to start the debate.

    • #13 by Sean Patrick Hazlett on April 7, 2011 - 23:23

      Scott,

      Well said. I also think a stimulus was necessary. I just didn’t like the way it was structured. I think you are also correct in that some members of the GOP are playing games with their pet socially conservative policies. That said, I’ll take any excuse when it comes to cutting government spending. 😉

      I haven’t spent much time looking at Ryan’s plan, but I will take a look at it at my eariliest convenience.

      My five years in government has made me a bit cynical about how the sausage is actually made there. In the military, the budgeting process was a use it or lose it proposition. You can imagine what that does to incentives at the end of a fiscal year.

    • #14 by classicliberal2 on April 8, 2011 - 16:05

      “I think the Republicans should give in on those — this isn’t the time to push the social conservative agenda, both parties should focus on getting something passed to keep government going and deal with those thorny issues later.”

      Or not at all. They have absolutely nothing to do with the budget (or, really, with government, either), and they’re inserted only to act as poison pills. The Republicans pull this sort of last-minute nonsense because their nutter base wants a shutdown. They’ve turned up at rallies, for months, shouting “SHUT IT DOWN! SHUT IT DOWN!” In the new NBC/Wall St. Journal poll, 68% of Democrats and 76% of independents say they favor a compromise, while 56% of Republicans say they oppose it.

      That’s what has gummed up the works from the start, the increasing insanity–and that’s the right word for it–of the Republican base, the crowd of reactionary grotesques who think the Obama is a Kenyan Muslim socialist with a genetically-inherited hatred of America and a desire to set up government death panels to kill old people. They’re no long the low-single-digit aberrations such creatures have always been–they are the Republican party.

      To be clear, I think their behavior in this shut-down battle is a very minor example of their mania. One of the standard problems of democracy is how to make sound policy with an electorate that often has a poor grasp of the substance of issues. That seems quaint in comparison to the problem facing us, now, which is how to make sound policy when a big portion of the electorate has no grasp of reality itself, and has a mega-billion-dollar machine to which they’re enthralled telling them, on an hour-by-hour basis, to aggressively disregard it as a partisan trick. How does a democracy handle a huge gaggle of authoritarian nutcases who have their heads in the ozone, who despise and refuse to participate in democracy, who don’t even recognize the right of anyone else to any say in how they’re governed?

  6. #15 by Scott Erb on April 7, 2011 - 23:19

    I think a complete overhaul of the tax code would be a way to make it generate more revenue while being more fair (removing loopholes, etc.) I think we need to start talking about reforming social security. Means testing, an increase in the retirement age, and increased contributions seem like a reasonable path.

    I noted above that I think China doesn’t want to see the US collapse, but they will over time buy fewer bonds, hold fewer dollars, and this will cause the dollar to lose value. Moreover, the days in which the dollar is the world’s reserve currency are numbered, the global financial system is in the early days of a period of transition and re-balancing. The better the budgetary situation in the US, the easier that transition will be for the US economy. I think we need to worry not just about debt, but also the current account deficit, which is growing again.

  7. #16 by rkc1 on April 7, 2011 - 23:33

    mr. Hazlett that wasn’t pointed at you at all, just some nuanced humor really for Scott Erb as I see the shellacking he gets when he posts at Q and O, with his (and mine) libertarian adversaries. So, I do apologize since I have offended you. Didn’t mean to do it. I just wanted to be a blustery republican with no message. my bad. Just sort of reversed Ott Scerb.

    • #17 by Sean Patrick Hazlett on April 7, 2011 - 23:40

      rkc1,

      My sincerest apologies. I totally understand. I shouldn’t have been so humorless. It must be the Scots-Irish in me. 😉

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