Still living under the illusion that if we just get a Republican majority in Congress America will be “made safe for Democracy”?
Wake up Dorothy! You’re not in Kansas anymore.
(And no, America is not a democracy.)
If you are still buying into the myth that a Republican majority in Congress is “the answer to our problems”, then in fact, you are not only not in Kansas, you are not in any of the several states, including your own. Sure, you might be there physically, but the part of you that matters for the purposes of this discussion is somewhere else. Your focus, attention, and problem solving skills, at least, are stuck in Washington, D.C.
A D.C. focus at this stage is the one least likely to derail the express train to total government. And stuck on D.C. is exactly where the Ruling Class wants your head, your focus, your energy, your efforts, and above all, your donations.
For purposes of clarity, the Ruling Class includes establishment incumbent Republicans. (Need a full definition of the Ruling Class? See Andrew Codevilla’s article, America’s Ruling Class — And The Perils of Revolution)
So, you may ask, what’s wrong with re-electing so many incumbents?
Most of the incumbent Republicans have been in Congress for a long time (1), which means they were in Congress during all or most of George W. Bush’s terms. In fact, it is mostly those very same Republicans who voted for the largest growth in government in history up to that point. All that President Obama and his majority Democrat Congress have done is “double down” on those maneuvers.
Sure, most of the Republicans are talking a good game now. And yes, now almost all are voting no on the bills which receive a lot of attention, like cap and trade, healthcare, and financial regulatory reform.
But when Americans are paying less attention the Republicans revert to their habits of accepting perpetual government solutions to every conceivable problem. Further, they display incompetence in making effective opposing arguments when they are attempting to obstruct one or other of the majority party’s brazen power grabs.
Accepting big government solutions, they don’t even put up a fight.
One need not look back to a previous session of Congress to see how Republicans revert to “big government type” when large numbers of people aren’t focused on what they are doing. The recent debate over extending unemployment compensation benefits for the third time should be all the evidence anyone needs of the ignorance, incompetence, and the reversion to political expediency that are par for the course for most of our Republican Congressman. Instead of flatly refusing to extend unemployment compensation to an absurd 99 weeks, Republicans argued “of course we want to extend jobless benefits, we just want them paid for!” Flat refusal to extend jobless benefits is easy for anyone who understands Economics 101. The statistics support limiting the term of benefits paid out; the longer the term of unemployment benefits, the more protracted the period a person will remain unemployed. Studies show that the majority of unemployment compensation recipients wait until the benefits are nearly set to run out before making a serious effort to find a job. Making such arguments that they only wish a program be paid for before it is approved is another absurdity. We’re BROKE! We can’t pay for anything! They’re playing the shell game right along with the Democrats.
What IS unemployment compensation extension for nearly TWO years if not a form of bailout or stimulus?
And the Republicans say they are opposed to the general idea of bailouts and stimulus? Sorry folks, it doesn’t pass the smell test, does it?
As pointed out in Codevilla’s “Ruling Class…” article:
Although after the election of 2008 most Republican office holders argued against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, against the subsequent bailouts of the auto industry, against the several “stimulus” bills and further summary expansions of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens, the American people had every reason to believe that many Republican politicians were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition. After all, Republicans had been happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind.If one does accept the premise that Republicans in Congress won’t do nearly enough, then that leaves us scratching our heads as to what we can do. [Editor’s note: emphasis added.]
To further expand upon Codevilla’s point, I don’t believe any Republican involved in the debate over the bailout (TARP) has any further business serving in Congress. Why? Simple. Even leaving aside the disastrous concept of “too big to fail“, months after the “meltdown” in September 2008, it leaked out from several members that they were essentially threatened with martial law in meetings with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and other Bush administration officials. Perhaps we can understand why no one came running out of the White House and grabbed any one of the many reporters stationed there to inform Americans about what they’d just been told. But it is not understandable why no one came forward when the entire plan was scrapped. Congress was told they must pass legislation that allowed for the purchase of toxic assets – assets that threatened to suck the whole financial system into its horrific wake. And it must be done immediately. Paulson actually used the sweeping authority granted to him to directly purchase shares in banks, taking weeks and weeks to make the determination. Why the emergency, why the predictions of total economic collapse and the attendant civil unrest that would require the imposition of martial law? When the naked power grab and tactics were clear to members of Congress who were lied to directly, why did none of them step forward and lay those facts before the American people? Are any of us supposed to believe our representatives are acting in our best interest? That they have any serious convictions beyond their own personal political gain?
And voters are re-electing the same Republicans who are aware of all this – by wide margins in primaries all over the country.
What does this all mean in real terms? What is the result of, as Codevilla puts it, all the head scratching?
That is a matter for my next article. Bear with me. Now it’s time for everyone to put on their foil hats for a moment. (Adjust the antenna and crystals first, though.)
You will excuse my skepticism, but I have this nagging feeling that we’ve all rather been had and are currently being further set up by the same machine that has been in place for far too long. My theory points not only to incompetence but to the continued game-playing in which the Republicans are engaged.
Notwithstanding the powerful Democrat majority and its ability to ram through legislation, the Republicans displayed their incompetence at making solid arguments during the lengthy debate over health care.
Republicans took the position that health care does require reform. They were willing to negotiate, to be “bi-partisan”, to work towards solutions. At some points in making their opposing arguments to the Democrats’ plan, they cited how the Dems were endangering Medicare. The most oft cited solutions to the problem were tort reform and ability to buy insurance across state lines.
Upon examining the healthcare issue, there are many other reasons for the ballooning costs. Chief among them are government’s tentacles embedded throughout the industry, primarily through Medicare and Medicaid and the requirements imposed by these programs. Everyone else in the system picks up the shortfalls in reimbursements. Besides the federal government interference, state governments dictate to insurance companies what coverage must include (heavily influenced by lobbyists from the industry). Another huge source of high costs is the proliferation of employer provided health care coverage (which has roots in government interference that date back to the New Deal). Patients have no incentive to keep an eye on the cost of care – provided with coverage, they are spending “someone else’s money”. All the third party providers in the system, whether it is government or insurers, have massively increased costs due to the requirements and forms processing.
In other words, there is plenty of blame for the high costs of healthcare to go around; government needs to get out of the business altogether, people need to take personal responsibility for their own medical costs and stop looking at medical malpractice akin to winning the lottery, doctors need to have competitive pricing such as exists everywhere else in the economy, and politicians need to mind their own business.
But politicians do not have the will to tell unpopular truths, and they don’t want to give up the power that comes with government’s entrenchment in the healthcare industry. Further, the Republicans had more incentive to mount weak opposition to healthcare than they did to mount a strong one. The passage of healthcare would make for an excellent election issue…let it pass…we can hit them over the head with it later and make promises to repeal if we get control of Congress.
So Republicans who have been in Congress have exhibited they are a-ok with big government much of the time and are incompetent to stop it’s ballooning. And yet, the Republican Party powerful everywhere is backing incumbents. I’ve seen with my own two eyes in Nebraska how the Party’s Constitution was amended in October 2009 to endorse all incumbents. I’m aware in other states of similar maneuverings. The incumbent protection plan has been in full swing since immediately following the 2008 elections. Again, in most every case, those incumbents are the same folks who teed up the mess now being ratcheted into outer space by the majority Democrats. In some cases, the party is backing the very Progressive RINO Congressmen for higher offices, such as Governor or Senator. The very RINOs whom they are backing were the very Congressmen who voted for huge government growth during their terms and for the TARP bill.
I was a delegate to my county and state party conventions. It was the same dog and pony show, the same blame-the-Democrat, vote-for-Republicans-and-they’ll-fix-it hogwash we always hear. In Nebraska, Rep. Lee Terry was the star of the convention who required extra money, extra backing, and even a room for dedicated training of volunteers to make calls on his behalf. Terry has the worst voting record of the three Nebraska Congressmen. Besides Lee Terry, “giving Ben the Boot!” was the second point of focus. If we could just get rid of Ben Nelson, we would have a near picture-perfect Nebraska federal delegation to represent our state! (I really hope we DO give Ben the Boot, and good in 2012, but he is not the only flawed representative we have. Not by a mile.)
Again, it’s clear the Republicans are still playing a game.
I am very concerned, based on past history, and what I’ve observed of late, that we will spend the next two years watching only more of the same; “no” on big things most people are paying attention to but too much saying “yes” on things like a third extension on unemployment benefits. But see, there’s a President still in the White House with the power of veto. Republicans don’t stand a great chance of accomplishing reversal of much even with a majority. To over ride an Obama veto, a two-thirds majority vote is required from both the House and the Senate. What do we suppose are the odds of that?
Unfortunately, the whole thing looks like too much of a setup for 2012. The Republicans in Congress can spend the next two years appearing to fight against “the Obama agenda” only to blame Obama for obstructing their efforts. Meanwhile, we have opinion poll after opinion poll and rampant speculation already about potential 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates that includes a list of very familiar faces who themselves are entrenched members of the Ruling Class. The media, even on the right, is already attempting to play a roll in shaping the 2012 political landscape.
(You may now remove your foil hat.)
Leaving aside any speculation about the big game plan here with in the GOP, let us just ask ourselves one simple question:
Do any of us really believe the very same GOP structure and its long list of incumbent politicians are prepared to do all that is necessary to turn around the huge mess we are in?
More to come…I will address the results of that head scratching.
1) According to the annual Congressional profile put together by the Congressional Research Service, members of the House entering the 111th Congress had an average length of 5.1 terms (10 years) and Senators had an average length of just over 2 terms (12 years).