There’s been a lot of hand-wringing lately from so-called moderate Republicans over the brainless crew of chuckleheaded “leadership” running their party headlong over a steep cliff.
Even David Frum (David Frum???) has taken to expressing his exasperation with his party in a recent New York magazine article titled “When Did The GOP Lose Touch With Reality?”:
The Bush years cannot be repudiated, but the memory of them can be discarded to make way for a new and more radical ideology, assembled from bits of the old GOP platform that were once sublimated by the party elites but now roam the land freely: ultralibertarianism, crank monetary theories, populist fury, and paranoid visions of a Democratic Party controlled by ACORN and the New Black Panthers. For the past three years, the media have praised the enthusiasm and energy the tea party has brought to the GOP. Yet it’s telling that that movement has failed time and again to produce even a remotely credible candidate for president. Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich: The list of tea-party candidates reads like the early history of the U.S. space program, a series of humiliating fizzles and explosions that never achieved liftoff. A political movement that never took governing seriously was exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing—but all too interested in merchandising. Much as viewers tune in to American Idol to laugh at the inept, borderline dysfunctional early auditions, these tea-party champions provide a ghoulish type of news entertainment each time they reveal that they know nothing about public affairs and have never attempted to learn. But Cain’s gaffe on Libya or Perry’s brain freeze on the Department of Energy are not only indicators of bad leadership. They are indicators of a crisis of followership. The tea party never demanded knowledge or concern for governance, and so of course it never got them.
In an NPR interview, Frum discusses how people who listen to talk radio or watch Fox News have a completely different set of facts than the rest of us. He’s correct there, of course… and he’s David freakin’ Frum!
I’m perplexed, but grateful for small miracles that at least there is one conservative pundit out there who can translate their brain-damaged behavior (to a certain extent) for the rest of us. And will you look at that: They seem fucking crazy to him, too!
And then there’s today’s column, also at New York, from Jonathan Chait titled “The Agony of the Moderate Republican,” where he observes that former Bush speech writer, Michael Gerson, “[w]hen confronted with a relatively straightforward description of the party’s agenda, he instinctively recoils — not at the agenda, but at the description itself.
“As president, Obama has asserted that Republicans want the elderly, autistic children and children with Down syndrome to “fend for themselves,” and that the GOP plan is “dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance.” In what context would these claims be true?”
Here’s how Chait parses the question posed by Gerson and turns it right around on him.
In what context? Well, let’s see. The House Republican budget would cut Medicaid — a bare-bones health insurance program for the poor, disabled, and elderly — by $750 billion over ten years, ramping up the scale of cuts until funding has been reduced by 35 percent by 2022. When you’re slashing the funding of a program that’s far cheaper than private insurance and not replacing it with anything, you’re pretty much leaving people to fend for themselves.
As for children with Down syndrome, they’re an important part of the Medicaid program. (People with disabilities account for 42 percent of the cost of Medicaid.) Unsurprisingly, disability advocates were apoplectic about the Republican budget.
The dirtier air and water part is pretty straightforward: The House Republicans have voted to roll back basic air pollution standards and strip the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to enforce clean water standards. When you eliminate laws that keep air and water clean, you make them more dirty.
And the House Republican budget would repeal the Affordable Care Act and put in place nothing whatsoever to cover the uninsured, thereby increasing their ranks by some 32 million.
Now, Republicans can certainly contest Obama’s description. I’m sure they have arguments as to why weakening laws that have produced cleaner air and water will not actually make the air and water less clean, and why cutting or eliminating programs that provide medical care to people who can’t afford it won’t deny them medical care. But Gerson doesn’t merely consider Obama’s description to be contestable. He considers it a lie so obvious it requires no rebuttal. [Emphasis added]
That’s interesting, isn’t it? Like there’s this weird blind spot that conservatives have about their own biases that makes it awfully difficult to even talk sensibly with them anymore. I doubt Jon Huntsman would have much of a quarrel with that statement in private, what do you think?
Then there’s this over at today’s Daily Beast, where columnist Michael Tomasky argues persuasively that the Republicans are set to self-destruct over their rejection of the payroll-tax cut as Senate Republicans set about proving beyond all argument that they are the lickspittle toadies in thrall of the 1% and don’t give a shit about the common man. Here’s Tomasky’s hilarious blunt pull quote:
How a party can so nakedly represent only the top 1 percent while at the same time trying to stop anything that will help the economy, and survive while doing it, is beyond me.
More from Tomasky:
Every blessed once in a great while, all artifice is stripped away, rhetoric collapses under the weight of its own absurdity, and we get to see things as they really are. Such will be the case later this week when the Senate tries to vote on extending the payroll-tax holiday. The Republicans will oppose it—that is to say, the Republicans will support a tax increase on working Americans. And why? Because the Democrats want to pay for it with a small surtax on the very top earners. So the choice couldn’t be more direct: which is more important, giving the middle class a tax cut or protecting those who make more than $1 million a year? Republicans are making it clear. This vote alone should destroy them.
The facts: The Social Security payroll tax comes to 12.4 percent of an employee’s salary—employers and employees each pay 6.2 percent. The money goes into the Social Security Trust Fund and finances benefits. At the end of last year, the Obama administration, in exchange for temporarily extending the Bush tax rates on all income levels, got Congress to agree to a one-year 2 percent payroll-tax holiday for employees, down to 4.2 percent. For a $50,000 earner, that meant paying $1,000 a year less in payroll taxes. It was agreed in that law that the holiday would cost the Social Security Trust Fund nothing—the depleted revenue would be replaced out of the general treasury. So the holiday adds to the general deficit but does not affect the trust fund.
The cut proved popular, or is presumed to be popular, so now, as many people predicted last year, Congress wants to extend it. Republicans of course say (as they say of everything) that it hasn’t done any good. But economists attest to its stimulative value. Two economists at the Economic Policy Institute say ending the holiday would reduce GDP by $128 billion and cost 972,000 jobs in 2012. The EPI is a liberal outfit, but Mark Zandi of Moody’s, who advised John McCain in 2008, agrees that raising the payroll tax back to where it was could cause another recession.
And besides those macroeconomic concerns, there is the simple question of money in people’s pockets as they try to tough out the economy. A thousand dollars to a $50,000 earner, or $1,500 to a $75,000 earner, isn’t nothing.
What the Senate Democrats want to do now is this. They want to increase the employee’s reduction from 2 percent to 3.1 percent (that is, to cut it in half from the normal 6.2 percent rate). And they now want, for the first time, to extend the holiday to employers as well. This is important, and it probably won’t be well explained in very many places. But the Democrats would have employers pay 3.1 percent (rather than the 6.2 percent they now pay) on the first $5 million of their payroll. Also, if employers add to their payrolls, they would pay no payroll tax on new hires. So the new bill is specifically aimed at helping the job creators. The total cost is $255 billion.
The Democrats want to pay for it with a 3.5 percent surtax on dollars earned over $1 million per year. In other words, if someone earns $1.3 million a year, she will pay the extra 3.5 percent only on the last $300,000 in earnings; that is, an extra $10,500 a year (bear in mind that this person takes home, after taxes, around $30,000 every two weeks). So it certainly raises the taxes of the very wealthiest. But it gives more money back to middle-class people, and it stimulates the economy, perhaps to the tune of 50,000 jobs a month, maybe even more.
How, I ask you HOW, HOW do these feckless “Marie Antoinette Republicans” think they can vote against this and still hold EVEN THE DUMBEST members of their base? How many Senate Republicans will vote for this? One? Two? None? It’s incredible to contemplate what this will do to them. I’ve always hoped to see the suicidal self-immolation of the Republican Party, but I was afraid I wouldn’t get to see it in my lifetime. At the rate these buffoons are heading for the cliff, it could happen before Christmas!
Obama should give an Oval Office speech Wednesday night and say: “If you are an employee and make less than $1 million, or if you are an employer of any size, I am trying to give you a tax cut. If you are an employee who makes more than $1 million a year, you should write and thank your Republican senator, because the Republicans are blocking me and helping you.”
It really is that simple.