Home > Uncategorized > 2013/10/01: Commentary: GOP paints itself into a corner… and worse

2013/10/01: Commentary: GOP paints itself into a corner… and worse

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COMMENTARY: Tuesday, October 1, 2013.

130939-STEWARTshowSHUTDOWNeveWONKA

Daily Show – Jon Stewart and the ‘Wonka Message’ to the GOP’s right wing firebrands

Jon Stewart is well to the Left on the political spectrum. As such, we disagree with a lot of what he considers enlightened policy and politics. However, the shenanigans of the right wing of the Republican Party (and the leadership which has been coopted by it) have made Stewart and most Independent voters and even moderate Republicans/conservatives kindred spirits.

We have quite a bit more to say below on the many ways the GOP has looked bad and performed worse in the manner in which it handled the current budget confrontation the Democrats. The Stewart clip is worth watching for two aspects that resonate with many US voters. The first is his sense of exasperation… that is shared by everyone outside of the far right wing of the Republican Party. The second is Stewart’s naturally funny delivery on such an otherwise troubling topic.

After that we are going to launch into a vigorous dissection of the myriad ways in which the GOP leadership being seduced by the siren call of a government shutdown confrontation is totally counterproductive for a Republican Party that had shown some real gains right into Mr. Obama’s re-election last year. Really quite tragic for all the moderate conservatives out there.

 

Today’s US government shutdown is hardly a tragedy for the US as a whole. The fact it is partial and most of the government and military continues to function means most folks will not really be affected. That could change if it drags on. Yet the real loser is the Republican Party, where many moderate members warned against attempts to de facto repeal the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) through any sort of budget debate. Aside from the negative feeling generated in the body politic by another round of ‘inability to get anything done’ in Washington DC, there is the specific opprobrium that will be heaped on the right wing of the Republican party for falling prey to its own rhetoric on smaller and more effective government.

There is one aspect of the late phase minutiae of the contentious Republican House versus Democratic Senate battle which illustrates how Dems have outmaneuvered the GOP again. Leaving all the Obamacare support or opposition aside, there was another very simple and long-standing matter of principle that was finessed beautifully by Senate Democrats. They had previously requested the typical ‘baseline’ increase in government funding this year above last year’s $988 billion level. For anyone unfamiliar with vagaries of Washington DC budget-speak, ‘baseline’ increases are deemed (accurately or not) as the minimum increase to keep a program or department fully funded in spite of natural inflation pressures. In other words, it is basically an increase masquerading as ‘holding the line’ on spending at ‘current’ levels.

And in a neat little trick which the Senate Democrats will therefore be able to characterize as a ‘budget cut’ (i.e. from the normal projected baseline spending levels) the last Continuing Resolution (already an admission normal budgets cannot get passed timely) sent over by the Senate yesterday evening agreed to keep this year’s spending constant at $988 billion. So we can all hear how they agreed to ‘spending cuts’ as a way to keep the government funded as they moved to negotiations with the House. Yet the House Republicans (at least the right wing faction) had already leaned so far out over the tips of their skis on demanding some significant changes (including a one year personal mandate delay) to Obamacare, they couldn’t possibly allow that any agreement with their own ‘constant’ budget request was enough.

While we agree in principle with a lot of what the Tea Party and ‘smaller government’ crowd are seeking, the right wing operators who have coopted them and the current Republican leadership politicians are, well, not very good at …politics. They consistently get outflanked and outplayed by the Democrats, and even the left wing of that party. Look for Republicans to suffer mightily in the opinion polls. And the longer the shutdown drags on, the more they will weaken.

And it gets worse

Aside from the immediate PR failure, Independent voter defections and demotivation of moderate conservatives, there are other negatives. Did it occur to anyone on the GOP right wing to ask whether any weakening of the economy might now be ascribed to their aggressive negotiation-driven shutdown? There was a case to be made previous that Obamacare might be an economic drag. Yet the current shenanigans will allow the Dems to point at the GOP where nothing it had done previous would have been considered in that light.

This also gives Ben Bernanke cover on his lack of appetite for any QE tapering… where he specifically noted the potential for a government shutdown as a major influence on that decision. Even if the shutdown should end sooner than not (let’s say by the coming weekend), the FOMC will have to consider the economic data from after the return to normalcy prior to considering whether it is safe to cut back on their market intervention. This is a real ‘shoot yourself in the foot’ moment for the right wingers who have been such vociferous critics of the extended Fed QE program.  

And then there is the degree to which the entire approach of waiting until the last minute of a budget negotiation to challenge a law that they had attempted to reverse many times (with no success) and the Supreme Court had already deemed constitutional was benighted in the first instance. And they should have known this was even more so the case due to the President’s recent problems. Rather than weaken his resolve on the Affordable Care Act, it left it the one major accomplishment he had to defend in the midst of all the other weakness (Benghazi, NSA snooping, IRS misdeeds, etc.)

Who was the genius who figured the GOP right wing could actually get him to capitulate on that single crowning achievement of his first five years in office? And even worse is the degree to which more savvy operators in the Republican leadership knew this and warned them… in fact, pleaded with them to NOT take this tack on their Obamacare opposition. Senator Corker (R-TN) is one of the few highly successful businessmen in the US Congress, Senator McCain (R-AZ) is a savvy negotiator, and Representative King (R-NY) is a highly qualified analyst of realpolitik. All of them pointed out the ultimately fruitless nature of trying to change anything other than spending levels during the Continuing Resolution debate and negotiations.  

Conclusion

The Tea Party Republicans were able to make many of their gains into the re-election of President Obama in 2012 because they challenged the way in which the Democratic Party had run roughshod over the broader political consensus during and after the Obamacare legislation drive. Many also knew of the other abuses and generally overbearing attitude of the Democrats’ left wing that Mr. Obama generally agrees with on so many issues. Yet, their cure is beginning to look worse than the illness.

Their own roughshod tactics in the recent debate and CR negotiations leaves them looking as bad, if not worse, than the Dems. This may go down in the political science history books as the prima facie example of “How to Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory.”  

Thanks for your interest.

p.s. As we are just back to blogging after a lengthy hiatus, some of the information on the blog is a bit dated. We will be clearing that up soon, and all of the current critical information (Calendar, Perspective, Technical Projections) is up to date.

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