Taken as a whole, the Republicans seem perpetually cranky and fractious and clearly resent having lost the race for the White House. And yet they act, in comment and offered policy, as if they won the last election, all evidence to the contrary.
During Obama's recent State of the Union address, I found myself watching John Boehner almost to the exclusion of the president. His expression appeared grumpy, at times almost petulant, seeming reluctant to clap or smile, even when he could have done so without seeming bipartisan or even approbative.
I've concluded that Boehner's demeanor just about sums up his party's attitude to governing, hence the GOP's reputation as being the party of obstruction and "no," a party that continues to embrace intractable, ideological positions absent any willingness to compromise.
What is clear is that as narrators of their convictions on a myriad of issues the Republicans are decidedly unreliable. They say stuff, lots of stuff, knowing that it's either completely disingenuous or simply flat-out untrue, convinced that if they rinse and repeat it will eventually sound credible to the voters.
So what would be some examples? Where to begin? First of all, they're cynical hostage-takers who want us to believe they're choir boys. Briefly, some backstory: In 2011, this tea party-inspired crew refused to raise the debt ceiling (keep in mind that all that means is that Congress will either pay those bills already incurred or default), thus creating economic chaos domestically and internationally.
Instead of a "grand bargain," as originally intended by Boehner and the administration, both sides decided to to play for time, creating what has come to be known as "the sequester," meaning arbitrary cuts to programs and defense so draconian that Congress and the White House would revisit the GB and craft a plan that would raise revenue and make cuts that would reflect balance and restraint.
But once again, though the sequester deadline loomed, the Republicans grabbed another hostage. This time the ransom note said either make only cuts to, say, Medicaid or Medicare or food stamps or no deal. As for closing tax loopholes (how about not giving Big Oil tax breaks of some $77 billion between 2011 and 2021?), well, that's not on the table, no matter that such closures would bring down the deficit. Obama said keep the hostage. No revenue, no deal. Let the sequester games begin.
Regarding the deficit — a word that the Republicans utter with alarm buttressed by apocalyptic scenarios: Economist Paul Krugman refers to the deficit hawks as "fomenters of fiscal fear," who insist with all the righteousness of the newly ordained that something must be done now. What to do? Shred the safety net. Ignore defense.
And then these purveyors of fiscal fear state, with brows furrowed, sincerity and concern embedded in every word, that the deficit has exploded under the current "tax and spend" administration and it's time to act. Cut, cut, cut. The game clock is ticking. It's just a matter of time.
Truth be told, it's all theater. A ruse perpetrated by the unreliable narrator. It's not the deficit that they're truly addressing. It's all about reducing the size of government (think lima bean). According to Krugman, "The deficit is falling more rapidly than it has for generations," and is already down to sustainable levels.
Actually, considering the anemic recovery from the Great Recession, it should be greater, given the idea, based on Keynesian economics, that you feed a recession not starve it: create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, expand research and development, send every kid to a quality preschool, hire back teachers, police and firefighters, fix America's bridges and roads and water treatment plants. Do that and folks will begin spending because they're working. Then attack the deficit.
Also, notice that the word "jobs" has been dropped from the GOP's lexicon, replaced by "balanced budget" and "austerity." Both are fraudulent and unnecessary strategies that unfortunately possess the ring of fiscal responsibility but are pure drivel. People are desperate for work. Austerity will only increase their numbers. Look at England.
I know economics for many has a huge "huh?" factor. I'm one. But know that deficits and balanced budgets are not what the Republicans are really concerned about. These manufactured crises are straw men, a scrim behind which they conceal their real intent. Look closely at Paul Ryan's budget and it will be clear that this ideologically driven GOP wishes to privatize and voucherize and diminish (if not eliminate) programs such as Obamacare, Medicare, Head Start, Medicaid and Social Security while protecting the wealthy and large corporations and nothing less. All while drowning the federal government in a bathtub and nurturing the extreme belief that it is the problem not the solution.
Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.