Monday, December 3, 2012

After Losing Election, Republicans Turn to Economic Terrorism

I oppose economic terrorism in all its forms - especially economic terrorism
from the Republican Party.

I will admit that this blog occasionally veers into hyperbole for dramatic effect or to illustrate a particular point.

This is not one of those times, however. I am not exaggerating when I say that, having lost the 2012 elections entirely, the Republicans have decided to turn to economic terrorism to try to force their policies through the American political system, against the will of the American people.

John Boehner, Republican Speaker of the House (and presumed future speaker of the House, since state-level corruption allowed the Republicans to retain control of the House even though Republicans received fewer votes than Democrats in House races), admitted as much just this past Sunday. From TPM:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that Congress will not give up control over the nation's debt limit and that each time the limit is raised, Congress will demand cuts and reforms, during an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
Congress is never going to give up this power. I've made it clear to the president that every time we get to the debt limit, we need cuts and reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit. It's the only way to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would if left alone.

Let me rephrase that last sentence of his: "It's the only way to force through our extremely unpopular policies completely against the will of the electorate, who utterly rejected our policies in the 2012 election."

Good God.

Everyone in Washington, DC and in the news media right now is flipping out about the fiscal cliff - but in reality, the fiscal cliff isn't a huge deal. In fact, one year ago, I already predicted that going over the fiscal cliff (it wasn't called the fiscal cliff back then) wouldn't be such a bad thing and would almost certainly be better than whatever Congress came up with as an alternative. I think what I said a year ago still stands - going over the fiscal cliff will likely be a better medium- and long-term outcome than any proposed alternative that will be acceptable to the Republicans.

A MUCH BIGGER short-, medium-, and long-term problem is the Republicans' willingness to invoke economic terrorism (i.e. threatening not to raise the debt ceiling) to push through their policy agenda against the will of the American people as obviously expressed in the 2012 election.

As I've written before:
This is such a SELF-EVIDENTLY AND PROFOUNDLY STUPID IDEA that I barely have the ability to contain myself to type out a semi-intelligent response, as I'm pretty sure that even hearing an idea that stupid has lowered my intelligence - though only temporarily, I hope.

Let's see ... how many ways is this idea stupid ...
So, the Republican Congress is yet again proving that it is full of crazy people and it's led by someone who's willing to act like a crazy person, even though I'm pretty Boehner isn't as dumb as he's currently acting. 

I hope Obama has the good sense not to try to negotiate with the Republicans this time. Instead, Obama should invoke one of the many options available to him to abolish the debt ceiling entirely, either by law or in practice:
No matter what happens, this episode confirms the fact that one of the two major parties has been taken over by ideological extremists bent on imposing their policy agenda regardless of the harm they cause to the poor, the middle class, the elderly, the sick, the environment, and the American economy in general. And those aren't my words - they're the words of a conservative American Enterprise Institute scholar.
Perhaps it was naïveté on my part, but I was hoping that the 2012 elections might have shown the Republicans that the American people don't want their policies, thereby making the Republicans less crazy and more willing to compromise.

But no, if anything, the 2012 elections seem to have made the Republicans even more resolute to resort to economic terrorism to fulfill their policy agenda, because the American people are obviously too stupid to know what's good for them and they should just shut the hell up and let the Republicans do whatever they want even though they don't control very much of the government.

Here's where things get even crazier - even if Obama wanted to agree to Republican demands, he can't - because the Republicans steadfastly refuse to say what they actually want. They really seem to expect for Obama to sit back and keep proposing things until he finally comes up with something they'll agree to, even though they won't say exactly what they want.

Thus far, it seems like Obama has refused to play this game (thank God - perhaps this time will be different than past budget negotiations with the Republicans). Instead, Obama has taken a more traditional negotiating strategy, laying out his proposal (which pretty much matches exactly what he promised in his campaign, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone) and waiting for the Republicans to make some kind of counter-offer. Instead, the Republicans are howling with indignation over ... I'm not sure what - Obama doing what he told everyone he'd do during the presidential campaign?

The reality is that most of the long-term budget problems of the United States are the result of ever-rising health care costs. Perhaps rather paradoxically, this is a problem that we (humans) know how to solve, we just lack the political will to solve it:
To control costs, you have to, you know, control costs.
And the truth is that we know a lot about how to do that — after all, every other advanced country has much lower health costs than we do, and even within the US, the VHA and even Medicaid are much better at controlling costs than Medicare, and even more so relative to private insurance.
The key is having a health insurance system that can say no — no, we won’t pay premium prices for drugs that are little if any better, we won’t pay for medical procedures that yield little or no benefit.
But even as Republicans demand “entitlement reform”, they are dead set against anything like that. Bargaining over drug prices? Horrors! The Independent Payment Advisory Board? Death panels! They refuse to contemplate using approaches that have worked around the world; the only solution they will countenance is the solution that has never worked anywhere, namely, converting Medicare into an underfunded voucher system.
So pay no attention when they talk about how much they hate deficits. If they were serious about deficits, they’d be willing to consider policies that might actually work; instead, they cling to free-market fantasies that have failed repeatedly in practice.
But instead of talking about what really matters short-term (the debt ceiling) or long-term (health care costs), everyone is flipping out over the fiscal cliff.

Well, I for one hope that if the Republicans again turn to economic terrorism when we next reach the debt ceiling, Obama this time has the balls to tell them, "You've passed two contradictory laws - the federal budget and the debt ceiling. Since I as the Executive have the Constitutional power and responsibility to implement the laws passed by Congress, I'm ignoring the debt ceiling law and obeying the federal budget law." And that will be that, I bet - though it will probably cost the U.S. more credit downgrades, which we will be able to firmly place at the feet of the Republicans.