Refocusing the national conversation
It’s hard to deny that the first nine months of the 112th Congress saw this country transfixed by Republican demands for austerity. Indeed, President Obama was met with a lot of criticism from the left for seeming to give in to this Republican-framed national conversation. Many on the left were frustrated that Republican jibber jabber about spending cuts seemed to rule the day.
First, there was the April budget showdown which saw the radical right itching for a government shutdown unless Democrats acceded to their demands for $100 billion in cuts and defunding Planned Parenthood and the healthcare bill. Instead, Republicans got $38 billion in cuts, the continued survival of the Obamacare albatross, and the uterati retained control over their lady-areas. Needless to say, Teabilly-in-Chief, Michele Bachmann was gutted.
Then came the Republican-manufactured debt ceiling crisis which resulted in Orange Julius crowing that Republicans had gotten 98% of what they wanted and some lefties again pissed off about — something. (Turns out OJ and these lefties were wrong.)
After the debt ceiling tears had dried, President Obama pivoted to the most important issue in this country – JOBS, JOBS, JOBS. Knowing that Republicans were going to do exactly two things about jobs — jack and squat — President Obama took his jobs act on the road. Criss-crossing the country, he made his case for his American Jobs Act directly to the people, and asked us to get involved by calling Congress to demand they pass the bill. (We all know how that worked out.)
Inescapably entangled in the president’s jobs message is the very simple notion that rich-ass people should pay more in taxes. Warren Buffet hopped on the Jobs train and became the figurehead for the Republicans’ worst nightmare: the growing outcry in support of a simple idea that the Riches™ should pay more.
And then came the game changer: Occupy Wall Street.
Arguably, the five-week old occupy protests that have captivated America (and, indeed, the globe) have done more for our national conversation than anything President Obama has done. Whichever way one slices it, however, it is clear that the conversation has changed from “austerity” to income equality.
Everyone in the country is talking about income equality now, and that conversation all leads to one conclusion: tax increases on the rich.
Since the beginning of this austerity debate, poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans favor tax increases on the wealthy. This is not up for debate: Americans want the rich to pay their fair share. Yet, Republicans continue to balk at this notion because of a silly tax pledge they signed with a man — Grover Norquist1 — whom nobody elected and whose name nobody (outside the political junkie circuit) even knows. The tension between what Grover Norquist wants and what errrrrybody else wants has led to political theatre of the absurd.
Republicans keep yammering about the same crap they’ve been yammering about for years. Low taxes and deregulation lead to job creation and Whargarrble. We can’t increase taxes on millionaires and billionaires because they won’t have the incentive to Blaargh. Over and over Republicans repeat the same talking points: Deregulation and tax cuts. Tax cuts and deregulation. But Americans are tired of it. They know that tax cuts and deregulation are not going to solve this country’s problem, nor are tax cuts and deregulation going to put Americans back to work. But the GOP simply doesn’t give a fuck.
That Republicans continue to repeat the tax cut/deregulation canard demonstrates the GOP’s utter mendacity. It cannot even be argued that the GOP is simply “out of touch” with American sentiment. They are, in fact, flat-out ignoring American sentiment. Why? Because, again, the GOP simply doesn’t give a fuck.
Paul Ryan is the figurehead the Grand Old Don’t Give a Fuck Party. When he introduced his budget plan, the Washington pundunces were falling all over themselves in praise of Mr. Serious, much to the chagrin of those who are capable of calling a spade “a spade” (or in this case, a shit sandwich “a shit sandwich”):
Courageous. Serious. Gutsy. I imagine that within a few days this will be the consensus view of the entire Beltway punditocracy. A plan dedicated almost entirely to slashing social spending in a country that’s already the stingiest spender in the developed world, while simultaneously cutting taxes on the rich in a country with the lowest tax rates in the developed world — well, what could be more serious than that?
It was a Serious Plan from a Serious Guy, and even though it essentially slashed Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security while simultaneously cutting taxes on the rich, the sheer seriousness of the plan (It had numbers in it, after all!) made Paul Ryan Washington’s political darling.
There was one slight problem: Americans hated Paul Ryan’s plan. They hated it so much that Paul Ryan got heckled at a town hall meeting during which he tried to dress up his shit sandwich and serve it on a silver platter to the American people. (This was a town hall meeting in his own district, mind you.)
Additionally, once People In the Know examined Paul Ryan’s plan, they discovered it was, indeed, a shit soufflé served with a side of unicorn chutney:
Paul Krugman this morning summarizes the problem nicely: “Gosh. For a plan that supposedly sets a new standard of seriousness, Paul Ryan’s vision depends an awful lot on unicorn sighting — belief in the impossible…. This isn’t a serious proposal; it’s a strange combination of cruelty and insanely wishful thinking.”
Needless to say, Paul Ryan has had a rough go it. He has a sad, as was evident during Ryan’s speech to the Heritage Foundation — unironically entitled “Saving the American Idea: Rejecting Fear, Envy and the Politics of Division” — in which he whined about President Obama “sowing the seeds of social unrest”:
“Instead of working together where we agree, the president has opted for divisive rhetoric and the broken politics of the past,” Ryan said. “He is going from town to town, impugning the motives of Republicans, setting up straw men and scapegoats, and engaging in intellectually lazy arguments, as he tries to build support for punitive tax hikes on job creators.”
Ryan accused Obama of using “class-based rhetoric” in his re-election campaign. Obama’s tactics, he said, make “America weaker, not stronger.”
“Instead of appealing to the hope and optimism that were the hallmarks of his first campaign, he has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy, and resentment,” Ryan said.
“This has the potential to be just as damaging as his misguided policies. Sowing social unrest and class resentment makes America weaker, not stronger. Pitting one group against another only distracts us from the true sources of inequity in this country – corporate welfare that enriches the powerful, and empty promises that betray the powerless.”
Paul Ryan is silly. He seems to think that it is Obama’s “divisive rhetoric” about income inequality that is the problem rather than the income inequality itself. (Think Progress thoroughly debunks this notion, demonstrating that it’s income inequality, not talking about income inequality that is the problem.)
Moreover, the notion that it is Obama who is sowing the seeds of dissension (by — you know — making it easier for Americans to repay their student loans) and not Paul Ryan (by callously suggesting that students should work three jobs to pay for their education2) is utterly preposterous.
One thing is apparent (at least to me): President Obama is getting under the Republicans’ skin. At this point, the GOP’s strategy for beating President Obama in 2012 is hoping that Americans are stupid enough to blame President Obama for the GOP’s utter failure to even discuss job creation in any productive manner.
The GOP is hoping that Americans forget that the 112th Congress swept into office on a wave of JOB CREATION! only to spend nine months pushing bills that would install tiny governments into womens’ uteri, deregulate the EPA, and destroy regulations and protections set in place by the Obama administration to curb Wall Street shenanigans.
The GOP is hoping that Americans forget that Mitch McConnell has admitted that his number one priority is to make Obama a one-term president, and that Republicans generally have committed to offering no bipartisan solutions to help President Obama steer this sinking ship. Either that, or the Republicans hope that Americans reward them for political fuckery.
President Obama is essentially going it alone, while the Republicans run around like children, trying to give the president atomic wedgies and thwart any forward progress just so they can cry “Neener! Neener! One-term President!”
And for what? So they can send President Obama on his multi-jillion dollar lecture circuit four years earlier than planned? This is their big idea?!
Let’s hope Americans aren’t as stupid as Republicans think they are.
(A girl can dream, can’t she?)
1 Leo Soderman’s post on the Super Congress is a must read: “Debt Ceiling Deal: The Devil is in the Details.”
2 Karoli has a must-read post about Paul Ryan’s disdain for students struggling to pay for college: “Paul Ryan Tells Student To Work Three Jobs Rather Than Take Pell Grants“
3 In case you don’t know who Grover Norquist is, read this from the Star Tribune: Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge undermines democracy
- Budget Cuts: There’s a Difference Between Quality and Quantity
- Angry Black Links – A Compilation Of Sane Responses To The Resolution Of The Debt Hostage Drama!
- A Real Conversation Starter: Taxing the Rich
- Much to the Village’s frustration, President Obama isn’t giving up on job creation