Thursday, December 27, 2012

Strategy of Deception

We used to play a game called "smear the queer" when I was a kid.  One kid would run around carrying a ball chased by a pack of screaming kids until he was tackled or passed it off because he didn't want to be tackled.  The Republicans are engaged in a game of "smear the queer" as a strategy of deception in the fiscal cliff budget negotiations.  First Boehner was the ball carrier.  All eyes were on him.  The pack chased him around for several weeks.  Then he was tackled -- smeared --  when he couldn't get a conservative version of increased tax rates (for those earning over a million dollars a year) through his own caucus.  Now Boehner has tossed the ball to McConnell who is starting to make his moves, his zigs and zags, as the pack renews its chase.

House Republicans leaders say the Senate must act.  In order for this to happen minority leader Mitch McConnell must agree to not use  procedural maneuvers to block a deal.  This from today's story by Jonathan Weisman and Jennifer Steinhauer:
But Don Stewart, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell, said no one from the White House or from Mr. Reid’s office has reached out to begin negotiations. Democrats say that Mr. McConnell knows full well what they are proposing: the same Senate bill that passed in July extending all the expiring Bush-era income tax cuts on incomes below $250,000, setting the tax rate on dividends and capital gains at 20 percent, and stopping the alternative minimum tax from rising to hit more middle class taxpayers. Onto that, Democrats would like to add an extension of expiring unemployment benefits and a delay in across-the-board spending cuts while negotiations on a broader deficit reduction plan slips into next year.

Democrats now suggest that Republicans are content to wait until after the January deadline. On Jan. 3, Mr. Boehner is likely to be re-elected speaker for the 113th Congress. After that roll call, he may feel less pressure from his right flank against a deal.
Also in the Weisman and Steinhauer story is Geithner's note to Congress yesterday that the government will hit the debt ceiling on Monday.

So where are we at with five days left of the year?  Republicans are running out the clock, making it appear as if they're working towards a deal when they are not.  The press is starting to report the impact of cliff diving on the working and unemployed (loss of $1,000 for a household making $50,000 a year when 2% payroll tax cut expires; in the first quarter of 2013 three million people will lose federal unemployment benefits averaging $290 a week).  And we haven't even begun to address raising the debt ceiling.

It does not look good.

And clearly that's the impression the GOP desires.  When the Republicans don't control the federal government they want to make sure that it doesn't work.  They pursued this course for the last four years.  And even though they lost a historic election in November -- a clear rebuke from the electorate -- they appear intent on pursuing an obstructionist course for the next four years.  Republican leadership thinks that Obama will buckle confronted with government default.  And once he does the burgeoning youthful, multiracial, progressive electorate will be demoralized and accept defeat and realize that elections don't matter.  That's the GOP wish.

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