Posts Tagged ‘ Congress ’

But the public is always right

Karl Rove once again demonstrates his incredible ability to construct an entire platform out of nothing but opinion polling data. My favorite bit is when he juxtaposes a report from OMB on the deficit impact of health care reform against an ABC/Washington Post poll on the same issue, and concludes that the poll is more accurate. The day I start going to polling data to justify policy choices is the day you can strip me of my degree and all the privileges I wish it bestowed.

This article is pure nonsense because it operates under the assumption that the Republican pledge during the midterms to repeal Obamacare was the most important part of their platform. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part, but I’m pretty sure the GOP got its boost not from its position on the particulars of the health care reform bill, but on the promise to rein in government and cut wasteful spending. And it seems to me the House’s vote to repeal Obamacare did just the opposite, on both counts:

1) It showcased yet another example of politicians using critical time to air their petty grievances on a national stage, rather than tackle real issues such as deficit reduction; and

2) It was an utterly meaningless vote because it will not pass the Democratic Senate. And even if God, Yahweh, Allah, Shiva and Jacob Marley all somehow intervened to force the Senate to vote for repeal, Obama still has the veto. And no celestial intervention, whether great or small, could muster enough votes to overturn. In short, our money was wasted paying these officials for the time it took to prepare and vote on this bill.

So, in their first weeks at the big boys’ table, Republicans are already failing on their central pledge to make government responsible and efficient. I sincerely wish them the best of luck because our ossified system of government needs a good shake-up, but crap like this will not earn any brownie points with me.

Obama’s a pragmatist? Finally, some good news.

(Inspiration thanks to the Daily Dish)

David Kurtz describes the compromise President Obama reached with Senate Republicans to extend all the Bush-era tax-cuts for two years in exchange for a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits and a number of other economic stimulants as a “turning point … in how we understand and perceive him.” He goes on to say that no longer will Obama be seen as a “progressive savior,” but rather as a plain ‘ole pragmatist. To that I say: “Thank goodness!” It’s why I voted for the guy. And I hope Kurtz is right.

Many reactions on the left fall somewhere between outrage at Obama’s “capitulation” and a dispirited cynicism because they don’t like the deal, but “it could be worse.” Yes, it is an imperfect deal (I, for one, despise the estate tax reduction), but it accomplishes what Obama felt was the most urgent issue before Congress: extending unemployment benefits. And that is what a pragmatist does. A pragmatist understands the broader decision-making context and seeks to achieve what is possible, not what is ideal. Sure, he could’ve used the bully pulpit over the next two years to castigate the GOP for its unforgivable legislative intransigence, and that might’ve had a discernible impact on his chances for re-election in 2012. But that wouldn’t have passed a measure which will have the greatest impact on getting money back into our economy.

And those who argue that widespread public agreement with Obama and the Democrats over the tax-cuts for the wealthy justifies a showdown with the GOP have a fundamental misunderstanding of how policy is made in this country. If the fate of the Bush tax-cuts were decided by popular referendum, the public opinion argument would mean something. But since it is elected officials who actually vote for (or against) a policy, and since Senate Republicans had vowed to kill any legislation which did not extend all the Bush tax-cuts (and would succeed because of the Senate’s broken filibuster procedure), such public support was essentially meaningless. To put it another way, Obama and the Democrats can scream at the top of their lungs, “THE PEOPLE SUPPORT THIS!!!” and Jim DeMint can – and will – simply say, “But I don’t care.” And that is where any chance of actually governing ends.

All of which makes it clear that we are lucky Obama is a pragmatist rather than some kind of progressive ideologue. He surveyed the political landscape, saw that it was unfavorable, and made the best decision he could based on the resources available to achieve what he thought was most important. It wasn’t a shrewd political calculation about getting re-elected in 2012, nor was it a sign of weakness in the face of staunch Republican opposition. It was a realistic appraisal of what was needed to get what he truly believed was most necessary for the country as a whole. Pragmatism isn’t glorious, but it is effective, and that’s what we need most urgently in a leader.

Having said all of that, I still think there’s all-too-often an erroneous impulse to lay all the blame or the glory at Obama’s feet. He’s one man. Let’s think big picture here, unless the House Dems scribble all over it next week and leave us with no meaningful economic bill at the end of the lame-duck session.

G.overning O.nly P.assively

Fuck the Grand Ole Party.

Seriously, this is bullshit of the highest calibre.

They think that tax cuts are a panacea for all problems facing our society. So what happens when the Democrats offer tax cuts for more than 95% of Americans? They declare that they will halt all other legislative action unless those tax cuts are also given to the richest slice of America, even though it will add $830 billion to the deficit over the next decade.

Fuck the GOP.

And Kirk better cut the crap. In the House he was known for being a moderate Republican – and I think he has the potential to be a better senator than Giannoulias, who would’ve been a liberal partisan through-and-through – but this overarching fiscal conservatism that Republicans in Congress are using as a justification for opposing pretty much everything is really discomforting. If everything is to be solved by “small government,” then where do you draw the line?

Seriously, read Harry Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit.” It very clearly defines most of the rhetoric coming out of Republican Party the last two years.