Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Republican Party Is Only As Relevant As Its Obstruction

True or false: The Republican Party is the party of ideas. True, if you count irrelevant ones.

Rand Paul: If we can't blow up the world economy, what good are we?

What made me focus on this aspect of the Republicans' current state of affairs was a Richard Cohen article this morning in the WaPo. Ordinarily I read Cohen only to see how irrelevant he is, but this morning his schtick rang true:
Now, though, it is conservatism that is both intellectually exhausted and nearly indefensible. It is the movement of the ideologically ossified, of gun zealots and homophobes, of the immigrant-phobic and the adamantly selfish. It insists that government must be small (an impossibility!), education must be local (a stupidity) and that debt, no matter what the reason, is immoral and reckless. The movement has lost its reliable monster. Godless communists have been replaced by the church ladies of Planned Parenthood. History giggles.
Ouch. But true, spot-on in fact. Well stated Richard Cohen. However, is there a valid opposite view, one in favor of the current conservative contribution to the conversation?

One could insist, why yes, of course they retain a relevance, but in my view it's one that hangs by a thread. Let's see if we can find positive contributions among the detritus, the flotsam and jetsam floating behind the Republican vessel. Let's look at some.

Texas Senator John Cornyn: “It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain,” Cornyn wrote in an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle. “President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.” Okay, there's an obvious tell here: As with most if not all Republicans, what they try to do is bait President Obama to put forth the plan of action so they can criticize it or, worse, stonewall it. They want the Dems to own all the cuts, pure and simple. Republican idea? Shut the government down. Cute. Blow up American fiscal well-being to save the country. Smart.

Newly minted junior Texas Senator Ted Cruz jumps on Cornyn's bandwagon:
"You fast-forward to the debt ceiling. I think that’s the mirror image of the fiscal cliff, because the default, if nothing happens, is that the debt ceiling is not raised.
"And what that means — it doesn’t mean, as some who would demagogue this issue suggest, it doesn’t mean a default on our debt. What not raising the debt ceiling would mean is a partial government shutdown. Roughly, 40 cents of every dollar the federal government spends is borrowed. If you don’t raise the debt ceiling, that 40 cents is temporarily stopped.
"Now, we did that in 1995. We didn’t default on our debt."
 No, Senator Cruz, that's not what we did in 1995, and you know it (and if you don't know it, holy crap). In 1995 the House refused to appropriate money for government use, causing elements of the government to shut down, one by one, until the Republicans, under pressure from the American people, blinked. Debt -- obligations -- was never affected. In today's scenario, with Republicans threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, something very different happens. The Treasury is forced to pay Congress's bills -- for that's what they are -- with whatever revenue comes into the Treasury day by day, and the bills it chooses to pay are those bills coming due that day. If there's a shortfall, and there will be, some don't get paid. If it's Social Security payments, they don't get paid. If it's veterans' benefits, they don't get paid. If it's government debt obligations, the U.S. defaults, pure and simple. Hey, Republicans: smart, real smart.

Once financial markets don't know they can count on U.S. paying its obligations, the whole world panics, all at once.

Hey, I'm almost nobody in this scenario, but in various funds and investments, I own government bonds. What are they then worth? Who knows??

I just pointed out the views of just the two Republican senators from Texas, which amounts to, hey, if we don't pay our bills, at least we won't be Greece. What?

I could go on, but it's better you just sample what's going on in the news. Below are some links. As you check them out, keep this in mind. The Republicans have volunteered nothing except threats to shut the government down and default on our obligations if President Obama and Democrats don't agree to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and, what's more, Republicans insist Obama make all the offers, so Republican fingerprints aren't on the cuts.

That's how they roll. More:

A good overview of the Republican threat at the American Prospect.

Eric Cantor's view at ThinkProgress.

Senator Rand Paul, R-KY will only raise the debt ceiling if a balanced budget amendment is passed. Aside from such an amendment throwing us back into a steep recession, it also will never happen, mostly because Republicans don't even want one (see the past thirty years).

Final nugget: Greg Sargent at WaPo points out the emptiness of the debt ceiling threat. If it's empty, what then is the Republican position on anything? I mean, hate old people, the poor, the gay, and love guns, more guns, love Latinos except stay away, go away, well, is that a philosophy or a recipe for irrelevance?

Texas hyperconservative rising star Ted Cruz: At least I'm Latino, sort of, right?

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