Here we are at the 11th hour of the debt ceiling debate(?) and still we have no sign of intelligent life among the Republican caucus. They have drawn a line in the sand that leaves them unable to pass a bill through both houses of Congress. Now they are fighting amongst themselves over the latest Boehner plan. The Republicans could still win the debt ceiling battle, but it may be a Pyrrhic victory at best. The voters may have already decided that sending intellectually obtuse hostage takers and “ditto heads” to Washington might not have been a very good idea.
Just look at the dueling appearances on Monday night. While the President aimed his remarks squarely at the moderate majority, Boehner’s speech was focused on right wing talking points that only graduates of talk radio education camps could understand. Americans may be disgusted with both parties right now, but at least they can see that the President is open to finding solutions and compromises. The conservatives, however, see no possibility of compromise. They have pledged their way into an ideological box that drives them and defines them and leaves little or no room for any other viewpoint but their own.
More than any other issue, the debt ceiling fight has exposed the sharp divide between the left and the right. Liberals and conservatives simply have a different vision of how the country needs to move forward. Liberals believe that we should pay for the things that we, as a country, decide are important and we are willing to suffer higher taxes to accomplish that simple goal. Most of all, we want government to function effectively. Part of it functioning effectively is that those we send to Washington must be capable of finding compromises that bridge ideological divides in order to solve big problems. Conservatives, however, have decided that compromise is capitulation.
The conservative’s goal is to cut taxes so that government has to shrink. They are interested in reducing it to the size where they can “drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub” as Grover Norquist believes. And despite paying lip service to the idea of protecting entitlements, Social Security and Medicare are their number one targets. Let’s face it, besides the Pentagon, that’s where the money is. That’s what the balanced budget amendment is really all about. If you cap spending to a fixed percentage of GDP and then require a two-thirds majority to raise taxes, social services get cut. In other words, they will force the cuts upon us whether we like it or not.
Liberals don’t like deficits any more than conservatives do. We just don’t categorically reject taxes as part of the solution. At the end of Clinton’s administration we had a balanced budget and a surplus. Then Bush took office and the train went off the rails. If Bush could argue that cutting taxes was necessary because Americans were “overcharged”, then isn’t it possible that it’s necessary to raise taxes now because Americans aren’t paying enough? Ask a conservative and they will robotically repeat that “Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, they have a spending problem”. It is almost like conservatives use it as a magic talisman that dispels the specter of reality based economics.
The conservative media has always viewed politics as total war and defined victory as the death of liberalism forever. Some of us on the left who have always seen compromise as the greatest legacy of the Constitution are starting to see it their way, but with liberalism the victor and conservatism bound for the ash heap of history. With ideological obstructionism the norm and compromise an impossibility, that may be the only way left. Let’s hope the voters ultimately see it that way as well.
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