Will History Repeat?

Shutting down the Government is risky business.  When Republicans followed Speaker Newt Gingrich’s advice and refused to approve legislation funding daily Government operations in 1995/1996, President Bill Clinton called their bluff.  Unfortunately for the GOP, it was not a bluff and the Government was forced to suspend all but essential services for 28 days.  The GOP paid the price for this irresponsibility in the next election.

The tables are almost set for a repeat.  President Obama has proposed a budget which calls for modest increases in spending while the GOP is calling for significant cuts (except in Defense and State).  They know their proposals won’t pass in the Senate but that hasn’t reduced their bravado.  To the contrary, Senate Republicans are spewing their own “Armageddon” warnings.  And what would be a better target than the Affordable Care Act?

So why this threat to repeat history?

  • Bluffing.  President Obama has demonstrated that he is a poor negotiator preferring to show his best hand right away.   The President, however, has no history of yielding as much as the GOP is asking.  Is this a wise GOP strategy?   Hmmm.
  • Principle.  The GOP has been consistently calling for a balanced budget and that will require significant spending cuts.  How can the GOP suddenly change its message?
  • Appeasing their base.  Most GOP supporters do not favor Democrat spending priorities and believe cuts are necessary.  How could the GOP not respond to this grass roots appeal?
  • Emotional reasons.  The GOP seems to believe that spending cuts, especially to entitlements and healthcare programs are a fundamental truth of life.  America is an exceptional Country, they believe, and pulling oneself up by the boot straps is simply part of what makes America great.  Hmmm.
  • Clear and logical reasons.  The GOP is supported by a brain trust of conservative economic thinkers who believe lowering taxes, emasculating Government services, and basically throwing fate to the hands of private enterprise is the way to go.  These same thinkers dismiss the notion of global economic connections (the US can prosper alone) and the experience which all the European Union nations have endured when they instituted austerity economic packages over those which could stimulate growth.  Hmmm.

In the end, it makes little difference why the GOP is so directed.  The GOP is flirting with serious damage once the American people find an alternative.  While Democrats represent more sanity on this issue, Democrats fall far short of having any long term plan for producing growth and a sound economy.

The answer to this predicament is, of course, doing nothing.  A budget compromise where spending increase below the rate of inflation and the national debt is extended without incident are the sensible answers.  The world’s economies are connected.   There is no place for the US to grow other than within its boarders  But is Congress smart enough to recognize this?

The GOP’s consistent and persistent rage against the Affordable Care Act is shameful in the absence of specific and actionable alternatives.  The GOP claim that ACA is flawed is most likely correct.  The question is where is it flawed?  (Remember the ACA is originally a Republican think tank proposal and it is a near copy of Mitt Romeny’s Massachusetts healthcare legislation.)

There is still a lot of time for reason to prevail.  The danger is that with each day, GOP leaders are gaining headlines with messages that also march them closer and closer to the cliff.  One of these days, the GOP will wake up and find that Americans (maybe not the very rich) are feeling good about the economy and the steady hand the President has carried towards domestic policy.

 

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