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Monday, February 09, 2009

That Taliban GOP

There is a growing anger in this country, and Republicans are badly miscalculating the public sentiment. In today's Washington Post, House Republicans declare that their party is on the verge of a renaissance, having found their voice and returned to their core values. Here's the quote:
"We're so far ahead of where we thought we'd be at this time," said Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), one of several younger congressmen seeking to lead the party's renewal. "It's not a sign that we're back to where we need to be, but it's a sign that we're beginning to find our voice. We're standing on our core principles, and the core principle that suffered the most in recent years was fiscal conservatism and economic liberty. That was the tallest pole in our tent, and we took an ax to it, but now we're building it back."

The second-ranking House Republican, Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), put it more bluntly. "What transpired . . . and will give us a shot in the arm going forward is that we are standing up on principle and just saying no," he said.
And you'll never guess whom they're using as a role model. None other than the Taliban. If a Democratic blogger called them the Taliban Party, they'd howl like a stuck pick. Yet, that's exactly whom they are modeling themselves after. Again, the money quote:
...Republicans are relishing the opportunity to make a big statement. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) suggested last week that the party is learning from the disruptive tactics of the Taliban, and the GOP these days does have the bravado of an insurgent band that has pulled together after a big defeat to carry off a quick, if not particularly damaging, raid on the powers that be.
There actually is a strategy to this madness. They know the stimulus bill will pass. What they are hoping for is that with enough sabotage to that bill by their so-called moderates, allied with some really dumb Blue Dogs, the bill will fail, and the Democrats will own it. They're ok with sacrificing Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Arlen Spector, who never were true believers and have the wrong accent for the base anyway.

And with the Northeastern moderate GOP troika, aided and abetted by Blue Dogs Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman, the watered down version of the stimulus bill could sputter into irrelevance. That's what Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman thinks.
What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.

Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse.
Krugman doesn't think much of the centrists proud boasts that they've cut out the pork and items that, while laudable (their term), are not stimulative. Indeed, he begs to differ.
One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending.

The original plan also included badly needed spending on school construction; $16 billion of that spending was cut. It included aid to the unemployed, especially help in maintaining health care — cut. Food stamps — cut. All in all, more than $80 billion was cut from the plan, with the great bulk of those cuts falling on precisely the measures that would do the most to reduce the depth and pain of this slump.
And here's what he says about the much vaunted tax cuts that Republicans are still insisting are the most effective way to go.
On the other hand, the centrists were apparently just fine with one of the worst provisions in the Senate bill, a tax credit for home buyers. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research calls this the “flip your house to your brother” provision: it will cost a lot of money while doing nothing to help the economy.

All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering.
Tomorrow or Wednesday I'll devote a whole post to explaining in easy to understand detail why tax cuts won't work in this crisis. Suffice it to say now, that the three GOP moderates and their fellow traveling Blue Dogs gutted the heart out of a good stimulus package, one which the Republicans will cheerfully vote against but not filibuster. That's because they want it to pass and fail. They hope it's their ticket to winning back some congressional seats in 2010. The problem is it will be a phyrric victory because their tax cutting strategy long ago failed. After all, if tax cuts stimulate the economy, why aren't we prosperous right now?

Meanwhile, for the party that boasted that it was the one that put country first - heck it was McCain's campaign slogan - it's becoming real clear that all they put first is partisn ideology. While America's economy crashes, they're gleefully taking their inspiration from the Taliban.

Meanwhile, here's how it's all working out for those devil may care GOPers. According this poll, Obama still enjoys the public's support for the stimulus package. Although Americans remain deeply pessimistic about the impact of the plan, they want it passed by 75 percent. And according Gallup, Obama still enjoys a 67 percent approval rating for his handling of the economic crisis. Democrats, by contrast, had an approval rating of 48 percent, while 41 percent disapprove of them, and Republicans only have a 38 percent approval rating. Republicans also have a whopping 58 percent disapproval rating.

While most Americans are badly frightened right now and are hearing so many competing voices about the plan, they still remain convinced doing something is better than being the Taliban party of naysayers.

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