Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Is Sabotage A Crime Punishable By Something or Other?


Has the whole media signed an agreement to avoid the word "obstructionism" when reporting on the Republican Party policy agenda in Congress? Because I never see the mainstream media using that word-- and there is virtually no other way to describe what Boehner, Cantor and Miss McConnell have been doing for the past 5 years. Last week, the National Memo ran a bang-up post of the 5 ways the Republican Party has sabotaged our economic recovery, Republican Party sabotage being a direct outgrowth of Republican Party obstructionism.

The GOP "made a conscious decision to slow the economic recovery the moment the president took office in the hopes of denying him a second term. They made that decision before he was even inaugurated. And they haven't slowed down now that he has won a second term!
To deny Obama a second term, they knew they had to slow the recovery. And their plan worked in 2010. The unemployment rate was rising as the GOP swept to the largest congressional landslide in the last half-century. However, their plans were thwarted as they paused their most aggressive efforts for the 2012 campaign and job growth continued at a steady pace of around 160,000 new jobs a month.

The Economic Policy Institute’s Josh Bivens and Andrew Fieldhouse summarized how the congressional GOP actively smothered the economic recovery. But the effort to cut spending and spread destructive myths about the economy united the entire party and could have easily caused a recession, if it had only been more effective.

...The stimulus-- along with the auto rescue-- should go down in history as the most effective government interventions for long-term job growth since the New Deal. But it could have been so much more effective.

Because three Republican votes were needed in the Senate to pass the American Recovery Act, the total cost of the bill had to be kept under $1 trillion, when $1.8 trillion was needed. Those Republican senators made specific changes to the bill that ended up killing as many as one million jobs, EPI’s Bivens and Fieldhouse explain:
The price tag of getting these votes was nearly $30 billion in school construction funds stripped out of the bill at the insistence of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), one of the three GOP votes in the Senate. These funds would have supported roughly 250,000 additional jobs. Further, the final version also included the nearly $70 billion cost of a one-year extension of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) ‘patch’-- a provision that provided no stimulus at all, since it was done literally every single year, but which was included to woo another GOP senator, Olympia Snowe. If this amount could instead have been spent on productive stimulus, it could have created roughly 750,000 jobs. In short, just luring the minimal GOP votes needed to pass ARRA in the Senate likely kept it from supporting or creating nearly a million more jobs than it did.
What Republicans did after the stimulus passed was even more destructive. They coordinated their messaging and began calling it “the failed stimulus” before it even went into effect. That talking point was supplemented by millions in political advertising calling the stimulus “failed” and “reckless.”

...In March of 2013, the Wall Street Journal‘s Phil Izzo estimated that federal, state and local governments employed 950,000 fewer Americans than in June of 2009. Without those cuts, he estimated the unemployment rate would be .6 percent lower, meaning today it would be a flat 7 percent. A Brookings study suggests the unemployment rate could be as low as 6.1 percent if not for cuts.

Yale University’s Ben Polak and Peter K. Schott confirm that we’ve experienced “unprecedented austerity at the level of state and local governments, and this austerity has slowed the job recovery.”

...No Republican president has balanced a budget since Dwight Eisenhower. A Republican president and Congress took a budget surplus and grew the deficit at a startling pace-- Bush Jr.’s final year in office left a deficit of well over a trillion dollars. Despite all this, Republicans decided they were the voice of fiscal reason and President Obama, who grew government at a slower rate than any president since Eisenhower, was busting open your grandchild’s piggy bank to buy beers for Solyndra.

Overwhelmed by impressive message discipline, Democrats bought into the “family budget” analogy Republicans used to justify cuts: What’s the first thing your family does in a crisis? Cut back! But I might cut back on my family’s nuclear weapons first.
And then there were the GOP shenanigans with the debt ceiling and the Sequester. It's the kind of thorough and independent reporting I've come to depend on the National Memo for-- what a lot of people used to think Huffington Post would be all about before they were all about... well, you know. Anyway, I was more than a little surprised to see an editorial in the NY Times over the weekend finally making many of the same points-- that congressional Republicans are sabotaging the efficient and orderly functioning of government-- even if Andrew Rosenthal choses not to speculate on their transparently ugly motives.
Filibuster Abuse: The practice of halting Senate deliberation is an old one, practiced by both parties, but the current Republican caucus has taken it to new heights. They have filibustered an unprecedented number of President Obama’s nominees. The District Court for Washington, D.C., perhaps the most important appeals court in the land, has four of its 11 seats vacant. The last time the Senate confirmed a judge was in 2006. The Republicans have filibustered all of Mr. Obama’s nominees because Republicans simply don’t want him to appoint any judges to a currently conservative court, which rules on appeals involving federal regulatory agencies, and which has exclusive jurisdiction over national security matters.

Boycotting: Also known as taking your marbles and going home, the most recent example came on Thursday, when Republicans refused to attend a meeting of the Environment and Public Works Committee, thereby blocking the nomination of Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. They claimed they were not completely satisfied with her answers to the more than 1,000 questions they dumped on her in the confirmation process. In addition to stymying Mr. Obama, holding up her nomination has the great virtue of hamstringing the E.P.A., which the right thinks shouldn’t exist in the first place. And that leads us to the next G.O.P. tactic:

Denial of services: Some government agencies require a certain number of members, or a permanent chief, to operate. If the Republicans don’t like those agencies, they simply make sure those positions never get filled. For instance, the National Labor Relations Board, which Republicans loathe because it protects workers, requires a quorum to take action. So the Republicans refused to confirm Mr. Obama’s nominees. Then they held fake pro-forma sessions during their vacations to try to prevent him from making recess appointments. He did that anyway and the Republican-packed D.C. appeals court (see above) ruled that the appointments were illegitimate-- which could invalidate scores of decisions. The Republicans are playing this same trick with the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created in response to the wildly reckless actions that led to the financial collapse of 2008.

Investigate again and again and again: When Darrell Issa, took over the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform after the G.O.P. won the House majority in 2010, he said he wanted to hold “seven hearings a week times 40 weeks.” His supposed reason was that Mr. Obama is “corrupt.” That’s a frequent Republican talking point, but it’s so obviously ridiculous that I wonder if they actually believe it. In any case, the real reason is that endless “investigative” hearings cause trouble and distract administration officials from their actual jobs. The hearings on Benghazi, for example, have revealed none of the impeachable offenses that Republicans claimed would come to light. They have kept Congress and the administration focused on what happened in Libya eight months ago, which was awful, rather than on what is happening there today, which is awful.

Refuse to negotiate: Republicans in Congress used to complain that the Senate Democrats hadn’t produced a budget in the last four years. But recently the Democrats did just that. So the Republicans abandoned their old talking point and are now refusing to form a conference committee to reconcile the Senate budget with the House budget.

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