While the Senate leadership negotiated a deal (the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012) just as we began our “plunge” over the FC, the welcome, though surprisingly quick approval by the House required many Republicans to break ranks and violate their pledge to, “not raise taxes” incurring the wrath of the far, far, far extremist right in their party. Even with the deal struck the ultimate endorsement of that agreement appeared tainted because of its many loose ends and the reaction of the few who we now wonder why they can (or even want to) call themselves Republicans (more later).
The House vote was 257 for to 167 against meaning that 172 Democrats and 85 Republicans voted for the bill. Only 16 Democrats joined the 151 Republicans who voted against it. Those 85 Republicans earned a Purple Heart for their efforts with many members of the Tea Party vowing to put up candidates to oppose them come their reelection. We are amused that some Republicans are now defending the bill as, “the largest tax cut in history” while an overwhelming majority of all Congressional Republicans voted against the bill. Ah, pure spin…
What we do know is that this is just the start of what will be an extraordinarily volatile and contentious (no expletives deleted) 2013 with many major issues yet to be negotiated, most conspicuously - the US debt ceiling which is not even mentioned in the current bill. This bill also delays for two months the implementation of the sequester - those billions of dollars in across-the-board spending cuts. We have lots of work to do.
We think the reality of restoring payroll taxes to 2011 levels (from 4.2% to 6.2%) though not appealing is something we will certainly have to learn to live with. We need remember this was only a temporary reduction of the payroll tax rate and it apparently performed its stimulus purpose. Companies across the country have already notified their employees of the impending change (mine has). We all knew that some tax rates were going to be restored and while this stings most of the country's 160 million workers, it isn’t the huge bite and pain that the full impact of an unfettered FC would have prompted. We need not throw out the baby with the bath water…though we absolutely need to cut spending.
Our challenge is find new revenue streams, restore those legitimate sources now in hiatus and cut spending. That will take a huge bipartisan effort and one we, frankly, don’t see happening. Criticism coming from moderate Republicans directed at the Republican Senate and House leadership is now flowing freely exacerbated by the incredible and deliberately insensitive political faux pas by Boehner to delay any vote on the relief bill directed to Super Storm Sandy victims. Go figure…
While some Republicans have publicly “kissed and made up” with House Speaker Boehner it appears that great damage has been done to the GOP and Boehner’s leadership even as he was lamely reelected House Speaker. We’re with Those Republicans who have seen the light and the necessity for inclusion and a more responsible and cooperative approach to the business of the country. That includes New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and specifically New York Republican Peter King, who disgusted with Boehner’s politicking and delay on Sandy Relief publicly advised GOP donors in New York and New Jersey to not give even a dime to the Republicans who delayed the vote.
Then last Friday when the often delayed Sandy Relief vote to start to pay flood insurance claims from the storm finally came up, the measure was passed unanimously by the Senate. However, 67 Republican members of the House of Representatives voted "no" to assisting Sandy victims - many of whom remain homeless as of this post – two plus months after the event! Republicans voting against the bill included those from states that benefitted heavily from federal aid following Katrina, some of those Tea Baggers from Texas and the entire Kansas House delegation that received assistance after a 2007 tornado destroyed the city of Greensburg, Kansas and more than likely will be seeking disaster aid for their continuing severe drought.
We note that this Sandy Bill is just the tip of the relief iceberg ($9.7B) with a vote on January 15 looming to authorize the additional $51B. As Kansas State Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita) opined about the Kansas Republican/Tea Party rejection of the Sandy Relief Bill, "I do think their ideology got in the way of common sense."
While the Sandy Relief Bill can be modeled overall as disaster relief much of the package relates to the authorization to pay legitimate flood damage claims under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It seems ludicrous to have to remind pointy-headed Republicans that include Paul Ryan that there is a legal responsibility to pay legitimate claims by policyholders who bought this insurance as protection against just such a calamitous event. So, where is the option to deny benefits? Point in fact – there is none unless the US Government is going to default. We can only wonder what would happen if a private insurance company acted in such a manner. They would soon be out of business. If the NFIP requires tweaking then fix it, but not at the continuing expense of legitimate policyholders and taxpayers.
Yes, Paul Ryan voted against the Sandy Relief bill along with other Tea Baggers. It’s becoming more and more obvious that we have two parties on the other side of the aisle and we appear nearing the point where one fraction will surely split and become an autonomous entity. Perhaps one group can call themselves Republicans and the other – the Tea Party. Once formally separate they can pursue their own agendas unfettered by the politics of the other. When the Republicans played to a dwindling and radical Tea Party base they, as respected former congressman J. C. Watts opined, "… got our heads handed to us. We were wrong on every single front." Perhaps we can now have a third color besides red and blue on our political maps. How about brown…
Ryan Cooper of the Washington Monthly prophetically opined in an October, 2012 column, “The Republican party gets much of its power from an extremist base, easily whipped into a frenzy, that is increasingly out of contact with reality. It gives them an organizing edge, but is also driving them to total absolutism (can’t negotiate with socialism!) which at the least isn’t a guaranteed route to electoral victory.”
Republican former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 probably committed political suicide and perhaps with some sour grapes, characterized the GOP in a recent interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph as being “devoid of a soul.” With the Sandy vote that works for us.
All this points to the gist of the problem with the GOP and potentially with the Democrats if they too forget their roots (stop the pork barrelling). Yes, we need a healthy two party system and right now that’s broken. If any party is to succeed and remain relevant they have to embrace a wide range of persuasive, workable political viewpoints and approaches (conservative, progressive, moderate, liberal, etc.) built around a core philosophy that reaches into the majority of the electorate. To do otherwise is political suicide. And what the Republicans are now doing is readying their own hara kiri demise.