Home / Culture and Society / Devotion To Conservative Principle No Longer Behind Debt Crisis — Now It’s Just Naked GOP Politics Driving Us Off A Cliff

Devotion To Conservative Principle No Longer Behind Debt Crisis — Now It’s Just Naked GOP Politics Driving Us Off A Cliff

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As the clock ticks closer to midnight Tuesday and a first-ever default by the federal government that threatens to wreck the U.S. economy, Republicans will repeat over and over again that they are standing on principle for the benefit of the American people.

Don’t believe them for a minute.

They aren’t standing on principle; they are cowering in fear for their own political hides.

But what could be more frightening than throwing our country back into recession?

Facing a primary opponent from their own party in next year’s elections. That’s what.

There is no other reason for House Republicans not to agree to a deal today. None.

The deals have become so favorable for them that conservative columnist David Brooks criticized Republicans for rejecting what he calls “the mother of all no-brainers.”

No less an anti-tax stalwart than the influential Grover Norquist, the activist behind a politically powerful no-tax pledge which most of the Republicans have signed on to, gave conservatives a hall pass with permission to take a compromise deal that raises some tax revenue.

Moreover, Republicans like to talk about coming to rescue of business and “job creators.”

But even business executives have gotten so fed up with inaction on the debt crisis that they are telling Republicans that some new taxes would be OK, so just take the darn deal already.

With a conservative political overlord like Norquist and their sainted job creators all telling the Republicans to go for it, what’s holding them back?

They are afraid, no matter how good the deal is, some tea party folks back home will demand some even more absolutist position and one of them will come out of the shadows and challenge them from the right.

They all don’t want to be the next Bob Bennett. Bennett was a longtime Republican senator from Utah. He was as faithful a conservative as you could find, but he also was rational and realistic. Too realistic for the tea party folks back home. A tea party activist named Mike Lee popped up, and defeated Bennett for the Republican nomination for Senate last year. Mike Lee now is the senator, and Bennett is history.

With tea party folks actively cheering for default, a lot of these tea party-back freshman are terrified that if they took a deal — even an awesome one — they’ll be the next Bob Bennett and their congressional careers will come to a screeching halt.

What these guys don’t seem to understand, though, is that a lot of them probably will lose next year, anyway. If not in a primary, then certainly in the November general election.

Don’t believe me? Ask Michael Flanagan.

“Who’s that?”, you ask.

He was one of the Republican heroes of the last big Republican takeover election, back in 1994. Flanagan defeated the Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, the then powerful-but-indicted chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Flanagan was a dragon slayer.

Except, guess what? Yep. Without a crook like Rosty to run against, Flanagan was dumped out of office just two years later.

It’s just going to happen: A number of the GOP freshmen sit in districts President Obama won in 2008 and a bunch of the 2010 freshmen will turn into defeated one-termers like Michael Flanagan.

While we’re name-dropping the names of obscure one-term wonders, let me drop one more: Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky.

Margolies-Mezvinsky was a freshman Democrat from a swing district in Pennsylvania back in 1993. She had the poor luck of being the Democrat who had to cast the tie-breaking vote for President Bill Clinton’s tax increase that year, a tax increase that helped pave the way for a balanced budget just a few years later. 

When she cast that vote, though, Republicans mocked Margolies-Mezvinsky mercilessly. Then Rep. Bob Walker went so far as to jump up and down on the House floor, yelling “Bye-bye, Marjorie!”

Sure enough, Margolies-Mezvinsky also couldn’t make it back for a second term.

Except, it turns out, Margolies-Mezvinsky is OK with that. She wouldn’t change her vote if she had it to do over. “I am your worst-case scenario. And I’d do it all again,” she says.

This little-known lawmaker popped up again just last year. She told her story in the pages of the Washington Post. At the time, she was counseling wavering Democrats who were unsure about casting a politically difficult vote for healthcare reform.

“Simply put, you could be Margolies-Mezvinskied whether you vote with or against President Obama,” she says. “You will be assailed no matter how you vote this week. And this job isn’t supposed to be easy. So cast the vote that you won’t regret in 18 years.”

While Margolies-Mezvinsky was talking to Democrats about healthcare reform, the exact same thing could be said today to Republicans about raising the debt ceiling.

So, House Republicans: You can do the right thing, or continue to act as lemmings. But this time, you will be are taking us over the cliff, too.

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About Scott Nance

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Of course, A.C.T. – the Dems controlled the House and the Senate and the White House…but no one counted on the Republicans having just enough (along with a few blue-dog Democrats) to effectively filibuster more legislation than at any point in American history – even when the legislation was co-authored or co-sponsored by Republicans!

    And in a few days we’ll see if the tea party Republicans successfully force America to default by refusing to negotiate, to compromise, to even meet the Democrats one-tenth of the way on raising the debt ceiling…and by sending up a bill filled with the poison pills I described above.

    Yes, BIG KUDOS to the tea party Republicans, for they somehow knew that even though Congress had raised the debt limit NINETY-ONE TIMES since 1960 without any real threat of a default, it was THIS time, the FIRST TIME that it was raised under Obama was the truly important time to force the Democrats to either give the tea party Republicans everything they want…or the American economy (and the world’s) goes right down the tubes.

    How incredibly honorable that isn’t!

    And A.C.T. – when you start paying lots more for everything you buy, be sure to blame the majority-party Democrats for not doing precisely what the tea party Republicans wanted!


    Because it’s as the hostage-takers said: “If anything happens to my hostage, it’s YOUR fault because you didn’t do PRECISELY what I told you to do!”

  • It is totally the GOP’s fault- they control the White House and the Senate, and have run Congress since 2006, passing budget after budget that is filled with deficits. The GOP needs to be thrown out on its butt in disgrace- heck, the GOP isn’t even submitting budgets in the Senate anymore and hasn’t for over 2 years, in total disregard to the law! All Democrats do is pass plan after plan in the House and all the nation does is look to the Democrats for leadership on this issue, and the GOP keeps blocking things to try to keep status quo. Down with the GOP!

  • STM

    Good on you Glenn.

    I’m hoping for different outcomes though. I’m hoping Americans will be smart enough to get their sh.t togethetr through this crisis and come through it and re-assess what is really important and how to attack it (without bombs!). A world without America at the pinnacle of the free part of it might be quite a dangerous place.

    certainly, it might be an unpleasant place.

    Unless Australia and New Zealand were in charge, of course.

    Then it’d be REALLY something 🙂

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    What the House Republicans did was to offer up “poison pill” legislation, a bill that Obama dared not sign – not only because it would devastate our social safety net and further damage our economy, but because it would require we have another vote to raise the debt ceiling before the 2012 election…which means that the tea party Republicans would get another chance to hold the American economy hostage.

    I suspect – hope – that what Obama’s doing is waiting until the very last possible moment before invoking the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling…and by doing so does not give the five right-wingers on the Supreme Court enough time to slap an injunction on his executive order.

    But in any case, thanks to the sheer irresponsibility of the tea party Republicans, America will lose her AAA credit rating…and each and every one of us is going to be paying higher prices as a result. Oh, Dave and his ilk will claim that it’s all Obama’s fault because he would not do precisely and to the letter what they demanded that he do or else…

    …and all the while any American with half a brain will understand that the tea party Republicans quite literally held America’s (and the world’s) economy hostage just so they could advance their agenda.

  • Baronius

    STM – There can be a financial crisis without a debt default. Dave’s correct in saying that there will not necessarily be a debt default, that the August 2nd deadline is somewhat bogus. The date was forecasted back in April, I believe, as the moment when the short-term shuffling of funds being practiced by the Treasury would no longer suffice. The US government has received a little more tax revenue than expected in April, so that’ll buy us some time, and there are many other fund shifts that Treasury could get involved in, including flat-out not paying some bills, before there would be any debt default.

    So A (debt limit crisis) doesn’t cause B (economic crisis). Both A and B, if B happens, are caused by something else: the high levels of debt. If you notice, financial institutions are saying that the US debt could be downgraded if the US defaults on the debt, and also if the US doesn’t make a deal that would address the debt. A bad deal that raises the debt limit isn’t good enough. So, rather than assigning blame, we should be trying to work out a decent debt plan.

  • Good for you. Occasional abstinence suits you just fine.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    That’s what happens when I forget to take my daily dose of liberal Kool-Aid.

    Thanks, though – I appreciate it.

  • Indeed!

  • Goodness me, Glenn, your #11 is quite an impressive bit of rhetoric. Very stirring.

    And quite possibly altogether true.

  • Kevin, Handy, Glenn

    Today’s Democracy Now! show devotes a good part of its program to discussing the recently released census data concerning the disparity of wealth in America between whites and the minorities. Start with 11:45 minute mark into the show.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Stan –

    For some time it’s been my opinion that since America was #1 for most of the 20th century, we ‘learned’ to rest on our laurels, and ‘learned’ to assume that if an idea didn’t come from America, then it must not be a good idea.

    When I was growing up, it certainly seemed that we were taught that we could only be happy if we lived in America, that America was ‘special’, that Lincoln was right when he (IIRC) termed America as Earth’s “last, best hope”. When our soldiers went overseas during Vietnam, they referred to coming home to America as going back to “the World”…and laughed when others were offended at the idea that they and their nations were somehow not part of “the World”.

    I suspect that such endemic arrogance and complacency – and the willful ignorance that are their constant companions – are precisely what brought down every great empire of the past. After a society and culture has spent a few generations at the top, it becomes a societal presumption that it’s “number one” and that’s the natural order of things…and the people of that society become ever more resistant to ideas and concepts from outside that society, even when those ideas and concepts are crucial to the improvement and longevity of that society.

    One of my favorite poems is Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” – not for its apparently racist undertones (for such was the context of the times), but for how precisely it captured the passing of the torch of global supremacy from England to America – and the warning at the end that all empires end, and America is no exception. He warns us that at the end, when our time of supremacy is a matter of history rather than of currency, we will be judged to see whether we truly belong in the first rank of the great empires of human history.

    For centuries England ruled the waves, and for a time held the greatest empire the world has ever seen, an empire where the sun never set…but they had the great good graces to recognize and accept America’s ascension foreseen by Kipling and made official by the Great War.

    But America’s supremacy is coming to a close – whether due to the faster pace of the times or our own cultural failings or (more likely) both. We are fast coming to the final stanza of Kipling’s poem:

    Take up the White Man’s burden!
    Have done with childish days–
    The lightly-proffered laurel,
    The easy ungrudged praise:
    Comes now, to search your manhood
    Through all the thankless years,
    Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
    The judgment of your peers!

    Our peers? The great empires of the past – China, Rome, and above all, England.

    Will we have the great good graces that England had when she passed that torch of supremacy to us? Will we have a poet with the foresight of Kipling that will help us to understand the irresistible march of history? Poetry is the truest of arts, and perhaps the sunset of America’s supremacy will be heralded by another form of art, whether in song or in film – but the artist must have the soul of a poet, and the time of this “sunset poet” is at hand.

    A final note: if China is to take the torch of supremacy from America, then that is a new thing – for it has been the pattern over the centuries that once a people has known the greatness of empire, when they have stood at the pinnacle of power for generations and ruled not only by might but also by cultural and educational influence, once they descend from that summit, they never again ascend it. It looks as if China may be the first to break that pattern. But how many centuries did it take before they as a nation were ready to do so? That is a macrosociological question that begs to be addressed!

  • STM

    Glenn, that’s certainly how it looks from the outside, and it’s a very scary thing given the current circumstances. The decline in the US dollar could actually be a good thing though if people got off their arses and started touting around for new export markets – like the America of old. That’s what Yanks do best: Making decent stuff and selling it at a prfit (like their cousins across the pond).

    There seems to be no concept of that in the new America, or if there is, it’s wrapped up in ideological nonsense that demands that even in the 21st century, Americans don’t need (what is essentially only minor) social engineering, because, DANG! The founding fathers never put that in the consteetyushun 200 years ago”.

    I mean, really, I’m finding this whole debate really bizarre. And a real throwback that doesn’t have any place in a modern world largely of America’s own making.

    If you want China to take over the rest of America’s markets, keep the anti-intellectuals in the Tea Party right where they are.

    The’ll achieve it in under a decade.

    In the meantime, it’s time for action on the debt ceiling, not political agendas and party political navel gazing.

    And in case anyone wonders why I might have the wherewithal to address this when I don’t even live in the US, I say: You fart over there, and we get some of the stench.

    The GFC is the classic example.

    What’ll the Republicans/Tea Party-ists want next? Oh, I know, a return to the Gold Standard.

    Then compulsory coonskin hats for all Americans.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Now THIS is the John McCain I used to like and admire!

    “And the tea party hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor. This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees. The reality is, the debt limit will be raised one way or another.”

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Stan, that’s a heck of a post!

    And no, they don’t really know how the economy works – there’s a strong strain of anti-intellectualism among American conservatives.

  • S.T..M

    How’s it feel to be living in a third-world country?

    You guys need to get your shit together before you go down the gurgler and drag the rest of us with you.

    If people don’t think this is deadly serious, they don’t know shit from clay.

    And Dave, cut the bollocks. This is no time for agendas. It is serious.

    Just how serious? From our opoint of view, deadly serious: One Australian dollar is now worth $US1.10. Good for us when we go on overseas holidays, especially to the US and Europe, but your ongoing crisis affects everyone else. When everyone else gets affected, the US should be worried. Given the vagaries of the global economy, what happens in one country now has a spin-off on everyone else.

    So that exchange fucks us up too. If you are going to keep your export markets, you need the currency trading lower against other currencies, not higher.

    Sometimes I wonder whether people like the Tea Party mob have any fucking idea how any of this stuff works, especially how an underperforming US economy – hardly Obama’s fault, either, as he inherited the mess – screws up your trading partners, and therefore further fucks up the US economy.

    And Dave, why all the agenda bollocks? Is this really the time for an ideological debate. You forget the the US people gave Obama a mandate to implement his policies with a pretty comprehensive victory at the last presidential election. Congressional elections can be a barometer of how much that might have changed in the interim, but wouldn’t convention dictate under normal circumstances that Obama be allowed to do pretty much what he set out to do, with some controls added through sensible debate? This really isn’t sensible debate.

    When you’ve lost, you can’t cry foul because you don’t like it – unless you end up with a minority cobbled together government like ours, but that’s another story.

    The rules say that you have to wait until it’s your turn to bat again, don’t they?

    Or is the president going to be simply a figurehead in the future, with government run and dictated entirely by the decisions of the majority in the house and the senate.

    Bloody-minded stalemate in this case is sour grapes. “We didn’t our way last time, so now we’re going to take our bat and ball and go hoime.”

    I’m sure Americans really don’t care how they look in the eyes of the rest of the world, but the general concensus out here in the real world right now is that a section of America is carrying on like a pack of complete fuckwits.

    Never thought I’d see the day … although I must admit, I’m always ready to surprised of late.

  • The government needs to function on a daily basis. Infrastructure needs to be built and
    repaired due to a population now over 300MM and growing to a half billion. The dual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan require funding to wind down.

    The thing we can do is to realize that we cannot engage in more costly wars. Simpler and cheaper protocols need to be used for Medicaid and other government programs. In addition, junk food should have an excess consumption tax component to penalize bad behavior and reward health and wellness. Besides educating kids, our schools and workplaces need to require physical fitness on a routine basis.

    When all of these things happen, our budget will come into a structural balance.

  • Glenn, there is no default. It’s a myth. If we do default it will be an action of choice by Obama and he ought to be impeached. He can do what Clinton did and shut down non-essential services and furlough workers and keep the government functioning for months and months, He can end the damned wars and come close to solving the whole problem. If he chooses to default instead of doing these things then he is criminally irresponsible and one way or another he will NOT remain in office.

    And BTW, we could very well have our credit downgraded even if they cobble together a debt ceiling increasing plan. International credit rating firms have already said that a debt limit increase without sufficient cuts might result in a downgrade, and no plan currently being considered includes sufficient cuts.


  • Glenn Contrarian

    John –

    Great article – but I would disagree with one thing: the Republicans of today are NOT devoted to conservative principles, for the real conservatives of bygone years weren’t afraid of raising taxes to pay for our nation’s bills.

    No, the devotion of today’s conservatives is towards one goal and one goal only – to defeat Obama in 2012. And they will do everything within their power to do it…including bringing our economy to the brink of ruin with the assumption that people will blame Obama for what they’ve done.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Dave –

    Are you going to claim that the Tea Party crowd is actively working to prevent a default?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    So when the nation defaults as most economists of note (and John Boehner) believe it will, and when our credit rating falls and interest rates for all new personal and business accounts shoot up, will you still claim that it was all fearmongering?

    I’m sure you will – far be it from you to think that economists might know better than the denizens of the Tea Party.

  • So, House Republicans: You can do the right thing, or continue to act as lemmings. But this time, you will be are taking us over the cliff, too.

    Except that there is no cliff and no one has to go over it and you’re just perpetuating the big lie behind all of this fearmongering.

    The problem you face here is that the people have woken up and they know that all of the lies are just that, lies. They have become informed and they can do basic math and they know perfectly well that failure to raise the debt ceiling will force cuts on the administration or else if they default it will be an act of choice, not necessity.

    If calling the great bluff is the only way to get government under control and impose cuts, then we’re ready to call it. Sadly Boehner and Republican leaders are not, but as you point out, they can be replaced next year. Not with Democrats – that party is no longer even relevant – but with responsible Republicans who believe in the reforms this country needs.