Monday, April 11, 2011

The White House Has A Serious Bully Problem-- Even Beyond Standing Up For LGBT Youth


I know that not everyone has studied-- or paid attention to-- history and some people may look blankly on mention of the Sudetenland, the Munich Conference, Neville Chamberlain and Czechoslovakia. In Frank Capra's documentary, above, Hitler assures Europe that the sliver of Czechoslovakia bordering Germany is "the last territorial claim" he had to make in Europe. Watch Chamberlain-- now a universally despised and loathsome figure-- declaring he "had achieved peace in our times" by giving in to Hitler. History-oriented Democrats could not have helped but think of the scene when they saw Obama celebrating his capitulation to a laughable John Boehner Friday night. Though it's ironic that this comes in the midst of the White House's anti-bullying campaign, lets have a look, for example, at what Robert Reich had to say about the efficacy of placating bullies Saturday. Is there anyone who doesn't have a personal story like Reich's cupcake war?
When I was a small boy I was bullied more than most, mainly because I was a foot shorter than everyone else. They demanded the cupcake my mother had packed in my lunchbox, or, they said, they’d beat me up. After a close call in the boy’s room, I paid up. Weeks later, they demanded half my sandwich as well. I gave in to that one, too. But I could see what was coming next. They’d demand everything else. Somewhere along the line I decided I’d have a take a stand. The fight wasn’t pleasant. But the bullies stopped their bullying.

I hope the President decides he has to take a stand, and the sooner the better. Last December he caved in to Republican demands that the Bush tax cut be extended to wealthier Americans for two more years, at a cost of more than $60 billion. That was only the beginning-- the equivalent of my cupcake.

Last night he gave away more than half the sandwich-- $39 billion less than was budgeted for 2010, $79 billion less than he originally requested. Non-defense discretionary spending-- basically, everything from roads and bridges to schools and innumerable programs for the poor-- has been slashed.

The right-wing bullies are emboldened. They will hold the nation hostage again and again.
In a few weeks the debt ceiling has to be raised. After that, next year’s budget has to be decided on. House Budget Chair Paul Ryan has already put forward proposals to turn Medicare into vouchers that funnel money to private insurance companies, turn Medicaid and Food Stamps into block grants that give states discretion to shift them to the non-poor, and give even more big tax cuts to the rich.

There will also be Republican votes to de-fund the new health care law.

“Americans of different beliefs came together,” the President announced after agreement was reached. It was the “largest spending cut in our history.” He sounded triumphant. In fact, he’s encouraging the bullies onward.

All the while, he and the Democratic leadership in Congress refuse to refute the Republicans’ big lie-- that spending cuts will lead to more jobs. In fact, spending cuts now will lead to fewer jobs. They’ll slow down an already-anemic recovery. That will cause immense and unnecessary suffering for millions of Americans.

The President continues to legitimize the Republican claim that too much government spending caused the economy to tank, and that by cutting back spending we’ll get the economy going again.

Even before the bullies began hammering him his deficit commission already recommended $3 of spending cuts for every dollar of tax increase. Then the President froze non-defense domestic spending and froze federal pay. And he continues to draw the false analogy between a family’s budget and the national budget.

He is losing the war of ideas because he won’t tell the American public the truth: That we need more government spending now-- not less-- in order to get out of the gravitational pull of the Great Recession.

That we got into the Great Recession because Wall Street went bonkers and government failed to do its job at regulating financial markets. And that much of the current deficit comes from the necessary response to that financial crisis.

That the only ways to deal with the long-term budget problem is to demand that the rich pay their fair share of taxes, and to slow down soaring health-care costs.

And that, at a deeper level, the increasingly lopsided distribution of income and wealth has robbed the vast working middle class of the purchasing power they need to keep the economy going at full capacity.

“We preserved the investments we need to win the future,” he said last night. That’s not true. The budget he just approved will cut Pell grants to poor kids, while states continue massive cutbacks in school spending-- firing tens of thousands of teachers and raising fees at public universities. The budget he approved is cruel to the nation’s working class and poor.

It is impossible to fight bullies merely by saying they’re going too far.

But was Obama's back against the wall? Or was the celebrating actually real because this is the outcome he wanted all along? Today at noon, 5 of the Democrats from New York City who voted against Obama's and Boehner's compromise-- Jerry Nadler, Charlie Rangel, Carolyn Maloney, Eliot Engel and Anthony Weiner-- are holding a press conference on the steps of City Hall, along with civic leaders to "protest imminent federal spending cuts that will slash tens of billions of dollars from vital national programs, decimate funding for New York’s hardworking community organizations, cut jobs and services, and destabilize local neighborhoods during the ongoing recession. With the imposition of an extremist GOP social and economic agenda, local leaders will address the real world cost of the planned cuts... Among the hundreds of critical local programs that will be drastically cut are:

• Community Development Block Grants, which provide vital services to low and moderate-income families and communities across the city.  The grants fund career training, homeless shelters, assistance for victims of crimes, and help preserve affordable housing, among many other initiatives.

• Community Services Block Grants, which fight poverty, fund programs for youth, seniors, immigrants, and families, and spur community development.

• Workforce Investment Act, which provides job training and placement for tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

• Title I funding for Education for low-income kids.

• Head Start, which provides free childcare and educational programs for pre-school and kindergarten-aged kids.

• Child Care Development Block Grants, which provide childcare for low-income families.

• Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which provides food assistance, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income women, infants and children.

• Public Housing Capital Fund, which funds major capital needs for the New York City Housing Authority.

Are these Democratic leaders, each of whom is far more experienced politically than Barack Obama-- not to mention far more progressive-- correct? Or did Obama have no choice? Was he up against the wall? Even Charlie Cook, the voice of mediocre Beltway conventional wisdom, thinks the Republicans have overplayed their hand and alienated voters with their extremism, giving our famous poker-playing president a strong position... if he wanted it.
One of the biggest and most frequent mistakes in politics is for a party to misread its mandate. When it happens, independent and swing voters get angry and punish a candidate or a party on Election Day. Because American politics is a zero-sum game, punishing one party means rewarding the other party-- even when the latter is not necessarily deserving of support. Frequently, the party that benefits from the spanking mistakenly interprets it to mean that the public is embracing every aspect of its agenda. Republicans shouldn’t forget that their party had dismal favorable/unfavorable poll ratings last fall. They won because they weren’t Democrats.

There is no question that the Republican base, conservatives, and supporters of the tea party want to take a meat ax to government spending. When Republican congressional members return home and meet with their constituents, they are encouraged to vote against continuing resolutions and for deep spending cuts. These supporters have intensity, and they adamantly oppose any compromise with Democrats.

It would be a blunder, however, to think that such views drove the election. Republicans, conservatives, and tea partiers did not throw Republicans out of their House and Senate majorities in 2006, and they did not vote to increase the size of the Democratic majorities and elect Barack Obama president in 2008.

Independent voters were the ones who cast their ballots for Democrats by an 18-point margin in 2006 because they were mad at President Bush and upset about the war in Iraq, not to mention Republican scandals and the general performance of the GOP Congress. Two years later, these same voters were still angry at the president, were afraid of the financial crisis, and didn’t care for GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

In 2010, these independent voters were unimpressed by the economic-stimulus package, didn’t like cap-and-trade environmental regulation, and really didn’t like the Democratic health care package. Those over or approaching 65 years of age also feared that health care reform would erode Medicare benefits. Even those unaffected by the reforms rallied to defend Medicare.

Polling is very clear. Most voters want to see the federal budget balanced and spending cut. However, they don’t want Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid touched, and, oh yes, they don’t want taxes increased. Now, anyone with an IQ over room temperature knows that all of this is impossible. Spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, along with interest on the national debt, amounts to approximately half the federal budget.

There is no doubt that significant budget cutting is necessary and that Medicare and Medicaid must be reformed. No one can doubt the courage or sincerity of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. But it’s little short of suicidal to drop a Medicare reform package-- even a voucher plan that would be optional for those currently older than 55-- into tough budget negotiations stymied over Republican demands for deep spending cuts. Democrats have some experience with older voters going ballistic, even with changes that wouldn’t affect them.

For many seniors, doing anything to Medicare that can’t be portrayed as an increase is essentially a cut, and they will fight it to their last breath. From a political standpoint, Medicare reform is very dangerous territory. House Republicans are not just pushing the envelope-- they are soaking it with lighter fluid and waving a match at it.

One can understand why Republicans are pushing so hard. Their base is demanding that they do so. And if congressional Republicans resist, many of them can look forward to primary opposition next year. But it seems that GOP members of Congress have become so consumed with pleasing their base that they are ignoring general-election voters and the independents who drive the wild gyrations in American politics.

Congressional Republicans would be well advised to pay attention to the results of the latest Pew Research Center poll (conducted March 30 to April 3 among 1,057 adults) that asked Americans whether they would prefer that their lawmakers stand by their principles even if it meant that the government would shut down, or whether they would rather have their lawmakers compromise on a budget even if they didn’t agree with it. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who agree with the tea party movement, 68 percent said they would rather have a lawmaker who stands by his or her principles. But among all Republicans, only 50 percent said stand by their principles, while 43 percent said compromise. Among all adults, 55 percent said compromise; among independents, 53 percent said compromise, with 36 percent siding with the principles option.

The bottom line: GOP primary voters are very different from general-election voters. It would be a very shortsighted strategy for Republican members-- especially those in swing districts-- to focus too much on primary voters. A lot of Democrats did the same thing in 2009 and 2010. Many are now former members of Congress.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


At 5:17 AM, Blogger Eddy said...

The Irony The White House has a bullying task force. It must be how to be a bully. That's all the United states is.

At 8:21 AM, Anonymous John Evan Miller said...

It is really frustrating to see Obama continue to fold to the Republicans in his efforts for bipartisan partnership. If these cuts increase the unemployment rate, the housing market is going to continue to suffer and the economy will continue to recovery very slowly if at all.

There has to be at time when Obama and the government takes a stand for what is needed to put the country back onto a steady road for recovery. The current bullying is not helping at all and is putting the country in an even bigger hole than it is already in.


Post a Comment

<< Home