No Cards to Play

This is my first post in a month due to some catastrophic computer failures at home.  First, in a ridiculous tugging match over looking at a One Direction video, my son and daughter broke my daughter’s laptop screen.  Then, my son’s laptop just died.  No particular cause, but my tech savvy brother in law examined it and declared it DOA.  Then, the home’s main desktop computer suddenly went wonky (sorry if I’m using technical computer language here).  It was unable to boot up and unable to restore at an earlier point.  Again, another examination by my tech savvy brother in law produced a post mortem; this time with no data retrieval possible.  We had fried hard drive for dinner.

However I did have a backup drive that was set to automatically update on a daily basis only…awww.  It turns out the automatic backup was turned off.  My backup hadn’t been updated in a year.  Not least among catastrophes, I had about a dozen drafts for posts that were lost.  So after losing 3 computers in two weeks, plus a year’s worth of data, my posting took a hiatus.  Particularly since computer time became quite a bit more rationed around the house.  And I do have a back log of amusing cat videos to watch…

And speaking of catastrophic failures, that means missing an entire month of posting on the “fiscal cliff.”   I suppose it’s just as well.  Any prediction that I would have made about how the Republican Congress should have responded would have been wrong.  A month ago I would have assumed they were rational actors who understood the lessons of the election.  A month later it’s clear that isn’t the case.

Speaker Boehner’s Plan B failed a test vote in the House last night which in a way was a proxy vote for whether the Republican Party was smart enough to survive and rebuild (it isn’t).  Republicans have somehow managed to figure out a how to take a bad situation and compound it to make it worse.

Just a couple of points:

  1.  President Obama had no intention of honestly negotiating with Boehner over the fiscal cliff.  Why would he?  The fiscal cliff is exactly what most Democrats, but especially the President want.  You get high taxes plus massive cuts in Defense spending.  What could Boehner ever have offered the President to top that?  By the same token, there were never going to be any spending cuts.  Again, Obama had zero incentive to offer a penny.  His best deal was already agreed to by Congress last year when they fashioned the fiscal cliff suicide pact.  Only, it was really a suicide pact for Republicans only.  Democrats probably couldn’t believe the deal the Republicans were handing them.  Meanwhile House Republicans were trying to finagle entitlement cuts from the President!
  2. Given all that, there was no, and I repeat, no scenario in which taxes were not going up, and there were never going to be spending cuts in this deal.  The fact that the Republicans refused to acknowledge this was one of their biggest mistakes and led to a cascade of other mistakes that led us to this point.  Remarkably, the conservative caucus in the Republican House didn’t seem to get this, and just as bad, the conservative radio complex didn’t get it either.  A sampled a fair amount over the past month (since I’ve been mostly computer-less lately I’ve sampled a fair amount of conservative talk radio).  They were very slow on the uptake, thinking that House Republicans actually had a negotiating position.
  3. Going over the fiscal cliff is not an option for Republicans.  That was supposed to be the one card to encourage coming to some sort of deal, but as I previously mentioned, Democrats want to go over the cliff. But if we actually go over the cliff, Republicans will get the blame on raising taxes on middle class out of spite because they couldn’t save tax cuts for “the rich.”  Two weeks ago that simply would have been the Democrat­­­‑MSM spin.  Now the Republicans are working to make that an actual fact.  And speaking of spin…
  4. The Republicans spun themselves into a trap.  They equated in their own rhetoric that any bill or deal that didn’t include all the Bush tax cuts was a bill to raise taxes.  Since they’ve been saying that for a month (“I will not vote to raise taxes, blah blah blah…”) they’ve fashioned a rhetorical trap in which they do nothing and allow all tax rates to go up, or they vote to cut taxes for some, which they regard as a bill to raise taxes on anyone not getting a cut.  Huh?  Even Grover Norquist doesn’t think that a bill to cut taxes is really a bill to raise taxes.  So why do the House Republicans and the Conservative Radio Complex do?
  5. The tax issue does not resonate with Americans anymore.  In this regard, the Republicans are a victim of their own success.  The modern conservative movement began with a tax revolt which led to the passage of California’s Proposition 13, which rolled back property taxes on California homeowners.  You could argue that without the movement that led to the passage of Prop 13, there would have been no conservative movement and no election of Ronald Reagan.  So over the course of more than two decades taxes were cut, culminating in the Bush tax cuts.  So now, Americans have been comfortable with our tax rates for over a decade.  They just don’t care about the issue anymore, and don’t think any future tax increases will touch them.

House Republicans should have just crafted a tactical withdrawal on this issue.  Since there was no way to win it, they could have at least minimized the damage by passing middle class tax cuts and minimizing the defense sequestration that is scheduled to devastate the defense budget next year.  As we learned from the Debt Ceiling talks, the longer you negotiate with Obama the more things he’s going to think of to throw in to queer the deal. The closer we get to January first, the more knickknacks and doo-dads Obama is going to insist on being thrown in. Any deal done now would require throwing in unemployment insurance; a condition that wasn’t on the radar last month.  At this rate, Obama will have Tea Party Republicans voting for Medicare for all.