Thursday, February 21, 2013

When Ideology Meets Reality

In politics it is often better to say nothing; because when you open your mouth you always run the risk of inserting your foot into the vacuum.
Just ask Joe Biden.  The master of the malapropos did it again yesterday when he basically encouraged citizens to buy a shot gun and, if threatened, fire it blindly into the night.  We love Joe!  And we know what Joe was trying to convey.  But sometimes the whole foot in mouth thing gets in Joe’s way.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Speaker Boehner.
We all know that if the Republican Party stands for anything it is small government and less spending.  They have been playing that tune for as long as anyone can remember.  It is their belief that the only way to reduce the debt and deficit is to cut government spending and encourage growth by reducing taxes.   Any thought of increasing revenue is a non-starter.  They are so entrenched in this ideology that in 2012 when the ten Republicans vying for the Republican Party’s nomination for the presidency were asked if they would agree to one dollar in increase taxes for every ten dollars in spending cuts; they all said “No.”    
Now comes a series of across the board spending cuts know as the “sequester.”  The “sequester” is a series of harsh cuts that were thought to be so drastic as to force congress to reach a debt/deficit reduction deal rather than allow these cuts to occur.  Congress, by means of a bi-partisan vote, passed the bill which was signed into law by the president.
On March 1st the “sequester spending cuts” totaling $1.1 trillion dollars over the next decade will go into effect.  $85 billion will occur this year.  Along with taking a bite out of the government’ check book they will reduce the size and scope of the federal government.
You would think that this would be seen as a great victory for Republicans…right?  Big spending cuts…less money being doled out for the takers…smaller government…what could be better?
But it is easy to talk about austerity in general terms.  It is a whole different ballgame when the realities of slashing the size and scope of government rear their ugly head. 
The defense department has said that these cuts would be disastrous to the military and would jeopardize our national security.  Yesterday the DOD announced that they had informed 750,000 defense department employees that they would be furloughed without pay if the sequester cuts are allowed to go into effect.
Suddenly Republicans aren’t so adamant about their desire to cut the size and scope of government.  It’s ok to cut social programs like unemployment, food stamps, Planned Parenthood and heating oil subsidies…things the “takers, slackers and the 47%” depend upon; but when you start messing around with those multi-billion dollar defense appropriations Republicans start singing a different tune.
That brings us to speaker Boehner and his foot/mouth problem.
Yesterday, the speaker penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.  He railed against the sequester cuts saying that while we need to bring spending under control the “sequester” was not the way to go about it.  He placed blame for the “sequester” at the feet of the president; ignoring the fact that all of the Republican leadership…including the Speaker himself…voted for the sequester cuts.  Here we have the Speaker of the House arguing AGAINST spending cuts that he approved because, according to him, they were the president’s idea. 
You know you party is in trouble when your party leader is arguing against your own ideology…because your party’s opponent supported your ideology.  Does that make any sense? 
Boehner’s op-ed unleashed a hair-on-fire reaction from his radical base.  They love these spending cuts and are perfectly happy to see them go into effect.  They are stunned by Boehner’s piece.  Even Rush Limbaugh was at a loss for words saying that he had “no explanation” for Boehner’s betrayal.
What we have here is a perfect case of what happens when strict ideology meets reality.  Reducing government spending and cutting taxes may sound like a swell idea.  But when you reduce government’s spending you necessitate the elimination of hundreds of thousands of government jobs.  Government workers spend their paychecks and that money that helps the economy. 
They also vote. 
Moderates like Boehner get that, and they are scrambling to push the blame onto the president.  But they are countered by far right members of their own caucus who want to see the sequester cuts enacted… and more.  If the sequester goes into effect it is the Republicans and their limited government ideology that will take the blame.
Somewhere Nancy Pelosi is smiling.


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