The Agenda of ‘No’

by on October 8, 2010 · 18 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Election, War and Peace

GOP party of NoStrange are the times we live in. Never has this nation been in more desperate need of cooperation, but never before has this nation been so completely and totally divided (at least not in my lifetime). The November 2nd midterm elections are upon us, and they are sure to profoundly shape the immediate future of the United States, both politically and economically.

So what can we expect to see if the Republicans manage a coup?

Well, it won’t be good, that’s for sure. The simple answer is a return to the very same policies they had under the Bush administration. And that’s not conjecture. That’s exactly what they’ve stated. They want to return us to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

But let’s talk specifics. We’ll start with taxes. Republicans are absolutely adamant about extending the Bush tax cuts for EVERYBODY, while the Obama administration and the Democrats want to extend tax breaks to those families making less than $250,000 per year, and individuals making less than $200,000 per year.

There are a couple of ways to look at it. Republicans say that tax cuts are the only way to revive a struggling economy. And that by extending tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, it helps to spur job creation. Democrats say that it’s necessary to extend tax cuts for the middle class; that we need to put the money in the hands of people who need it most, who are most likely to spend it and put it back into the economy, which will help the economy grow.

GOP John BoehnerThere is no evidence to suggest that giving tax breaks, kickbacks, handouts, or whatever you want to call them, to the wealthy will do anything to spur economic growth. Quite the opposite. People who don’t need the money are more likely to put it into their pockets and hang on to it. There is no incentive for them to do anything with that money. There is no incentive for wealthy business owners to expand their businesses just for the sake of expanding their businesses. Tax breaks make the rich richer, and that’s about it.

Now, I’ll buy the argument that targeted tax breaks for small businesses will help spur job creation and economic development. For example, a tax break for those small businesses that hire a new employee, or some sort of temporary payroll tax holiday. Tax cuts in certain areas might make sense, and they might help growth. But that’s not what the Republicans are proposing. They want across the board tax cuts without any proof that it will help.

In fact, Republicans have offered no specifics on what they would do should they retake Congress. Lots of vague references, but nothing concrete. As if voters aren’t smart enough to know when they’re being snowed under.

The truth is that if the Republicans get their way, things will get worse. A whole lot worse. Repubs have vilified “out of control government spending,” telling us how we need to reduce the deficit and not grow the national debt. And they’re just the ones to do it, doggone it! The facts, however, tell us otherwise. The Republican plan to extend ALL of the Bush tax breaks, will ADD $4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years, and increase the budget deficit by $700 billion.

Oh, and by the way, lest we forget, it was a Republican administration, in concert with a Republican controlled House and a Republican controlled Senate that oversaw the explosion of the debt and deficit, that turned a budget surplus in to record budget deficits, and that saw government spending reach new heights. But let’s not let a little thing like the facts stand in our way.

This is not to say that Democrats have firm control of their policy message. Their unwillingness to directly challenge the Republican minority on their tax oath by putting off debate until after the midterm election is an astonishing display of cowardice, as they should use this opportunity to highlight the differences between themselves and their opponents. Dems are in the right, and have public opinion polling strongly in their favor, yet still refuse to publicly take up the fight.

Republicans recently released their “Pledge to America,” in which they said government had to cut expenditures; where they promised to cut federal spending next year by $100 billion. Again, they insist on cutting taxes for the richest two percent of Americans, yet have no plan to increase government revenues to address the debt and deficit. They also failed to point to a single program or area of the federal budget that they would target for such cuts.

GOP cartoon party of noAn analysis by Bloomberg News found that cutting spending by the proposed 21% would take $400 million out of police department budgets; $6 billion from health research programs, including cancer research; $15 billion from education, including $5 billion from the Pell Grant programs that provide a financial lifeline to students who otherwise would not have access to a college education. Our already decimated education system would be put in a veritable death grip. Fire departments would also see huge cuts.

Military spending, however, according to the Republican “Pledge,” is off the table. No need to discuss it further, despite Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ insistence on the need to trim $100 billion from the Pentagon budget over the next five years. Republicans have scoffed, since trimming the defense budget would surely mean that their defense contractor friends would see some of their government contracts disappear. And after all, examining military operational efficiencies is strictly taboo to the Republican base.

Entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, account for 60% of the federal budget, but they refused to detail what, if anything, they would cut from those programs. Despite that, Republicans insist that they can close the budget gap by cutting those mysterious costs and cutting taxes at the same time. In short, it’s MAGIC! It’ll happen because they say it will, but their math just doesn’t add up.

Speaking of entitlements: What was once unmentionable, even for Republicans, is now their preferred M.O. Privatizing (or “personalizing,” as Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle puts it) Social Security is now squarely back on the table. The idea is to hand over all of our inputs into the Social Security system to Wall St. and let them invest it in the stock market. Oh, and there will be no additional accountability to Wall St. execs, allowing them to gamble some folks’ retirement lifelines like they did in the years leading up to the “Great Recession.” How many of our seniors would have had their entire life savings completely wiped out two years ago if George W. Bush had been successful in 2005?

Republicans vow to wipe out capital gains taxes (which currently stands at 15%). That would mean that some hedge fund managers and Wall St. execs would pay no taxes at all, despite the billions of dollars in profits they take. Even billionaire Warren Buffet says it’s wrong for him to be paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. Democrats, on the other hand, want to raise the capital gains rate to 20%, still lower than it was under Bill Clinton’s administration. Also consider the fact that hedge fund managers don’t actually produce anything tangible, so they don’t anything concrete to our economy. Giving them even more tax breaks won’t provide more jobs for more workers. And when hedge fund managers bet against the American economy, as many did leading up to the “Great Recession,” it even further damages our national well being.

And those tepid Wall St. reforms put in place by Congress and signed into law by President Obama? Kiss those goodbye. Since the Glass-Steagall act was repealed in 1999, big banks have been free to invest their depositors’ money in any way they choose. Traditional banks have now become major investment houses instead of the safe, secure institutions we’ve counted on them to be. The complex and controversial derivatives market was completely unchecked. But thanks to the Democratic Congress and the Obama administration, big banks can no longer frivolously throw money at any project in search of astronomical profits for their executives with no accountability, and there is at least SOME transparency now in the derivatives market.

The Republican plan calls for less regulation on industry, particularly on Wall St. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom, since it was a dire lack of regulation that led to the near collapse of our financial system in the first place.

The Obama administration was also behind the biggest overhaul of the federal student loan program in history, to the benefit of every student who will need loans just to attend college. Instead of providing billions of dollars in kickbacks to banks to administer the loan programs, the government will now take on that responsibility, freeing up billions of dollars in funds that will now go directly to students in need rather than bank executives who have found new and creative ways to game the system and take money away from students and schools.

Under Republican rule, those student loan reforms will go away.

And let’s not get started on health care reform. The damage that would be done to the future of health care in this country would be simply devastating. Suffice it to say that Republican cries of “government health care” are disingenuous at best. While they bemoan “putting health care decisions in the hands of government bureaucrats,” what they actually want to do is return health care decisions to the insurance company bureaucrats that, due to their profit driven motives, have skyrocketed health care costs and made access to care a pipe dream for tens of millions of Americans, while simultaneously forcing employers to eliminate health care benefits or cut their workforce just to be able to keep their heads above water.

And for those who insist that the government is too incompetent to administer the program, under Republican governance, that theory becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. They want government programs to fail in order to prove how feeble government is, so they deliberately fail to provide the necessary resources that would ensure success. Just ask any senior dependent on Medicare how willing they would be to see that program go away.

Republicans have made no secret of their desire to return to the failed policies of the Bush II era that have brought about near disaster for the United States in the first place. They’ve promised a change; a change back to exactly the way things were between 2000 and 2008, except in many cases they’ll shift even more radically to the right of the political spectrum.

Despite claims to the contrary, “Trickle Down Economics” is a complete myth. Even the Oracle himself, Alan Greenspan, flatly denied Republican claims that cutting taxes actually increases federal tax receipts, that tax cuts pay for themselves . But if Republicans take over Congress, these are exactly the policies we’ll get. And we’ll long for the good ‘ole days of 2009 and 2010, when there was actually a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

A Republican victory on November 2nd is a victory for big business and special interests, and a major blow to average Americans, particularly middle class Americans. So do yourselves a favor and get out and vote and make sure we don’t cede our government to the corporate interests that run the Republican Party.

Post Script:

Regarding those “small business” claims by Republicans……you know, the ones where they say that by allowing the Bush tax cuts to lapse on the richest 2% of Americans, it will adversely affect small businesses? Well, the piece Keith Olbermann did on the Republicans’ definition of “small business” is truly “must see” TV. Here’s a hint: Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting giant, is a small business, according to Republicans. So is Koch Industries, the largest privately held oil company in the U. S., and Bechtel Corp., one of the largest engineering firms in the world.

Check it out below:

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar doug porter October 8, 2010 at 9:44 am

Karl Rove, the GOP strategist, once said that the art of politics is getting people to vote against their self interests. Thus far, I’d rate the GOP campaign as quite “artful”.


avatar Andy Cohen October 8, 2010 at 10:05 am

It should also be noted that in 2001 and 2003, the Bush administration INTENTIONALLY set their tax cuts to expire in 2010, since by law, if they had been made permanent, they would have to account for the long term economic effects, which they knew would be disastrous. This way, they get the short term political bang, and are looked upon by their contemporaries as heroes for delivering their beloved tax cuts, but they’re not held responsible for the long term boondoggle it would cause.

Another little inconvenient factoid that John Boehner chooses to ignore.

Say it with me, folks: “Speaker Boehner.”

Now, if that doesn’t send shivers up and down your spine……..


avatar RB October 8, 2010 at 10:08 am

Both parties represent special interest, not the voting public.

The repeal of Glass-Steagall occurred while Clinton was president.
Obama’s financial reform did not end too big to fail banking policy, did not reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and did not restore Glass-Steagall. Obama’s financial plan ignore the recommendation of the his top adviser and bank stocks went up dramatically when this weak bill past.

Has anyone noticed incumbents running for re-election based on health care? Have you seen any campaign material that reminds the voters of their health care vote?
Who said NO to tort reform and sales of insurance across state lines?


avatar Andy Cohen October 8, 2010 at 10:32 am

If you’ll notice, I said the repeal of Glass-Steagall occurred in 1999. It was indeed signed into law by Bill Clinton, but at the behest of a Republican House and Senate, and with the strong backing of Larry Summers, who has been appropriately vilified during his tenure as an Obama economic adviser. It was a bad idea then, but Clinton was convinced by some of his own people that it was a good one, and we’ve seen the consequences. It was a grand experiment gone awry.

As for your assertion of Dems running away from healthcare: There are a number of Dem candidates who are running on health care reform, including Wisc. Sen. Russ Feingold, and Virginia Congressman Tom Perriello. Barbara Boxer has made it a big part of her campaign. Dems all across the country are standing up and running on health reform. Better late than never, I guess. But it’s working, and Dems are pulling themselves up in the polls because of it.


avatar Andy Cohen October 8, 2010 at 11:02 am

And by the way: They’re not done with the needed reforms. Fannie and Freddie will be dealt with. They have to be.

There’s a lot that still needs doing, there simply hasn’t been enough time to do it all. Obama and the Dems get criticized for not doing enough, but the truth is that they’ve done more than any Congress in one term in history. It took us 8 years to get into this mess, and it’s gonna take a lot more than two to get us out of it.

What they’ve done may not be perfect, but it’s a good start, and it’s certainly better than we would have had otherwise. Watch as some of these bills get refined in the years to come, as always happens.

As Joe Biden said, let’s not let “perfect” be the enemy of good.


avatar RB October 8, 2010 at 11:19 am

Bring back Glass-Steagall! Bring back Volcker!
The shareholders and bank executives should walk away with nothing when a bank fails. Only the depositors should be protected with taxpayer money.


avatar Andy Cohen October 8, 2010 at 11:22 am

I agree. That’s what they should have done, and it was discussed at the time. But they would never have been able to pass it. That, unfortunately, is just the political reality we live with these days.

If only it were that simple……..


avatar Diane5150 October 8, 2010 at 10:56 am

I think it’s time for Obama to trot out the old sex scandal. The old white men and stupid white women of the republican party will be so distracted by the image of the big, black, Obama boner that perhaps our President can get something done.

Hey, it worked for Clinton.


avatar Sarah October 9, 2010 at 12:50 pm

The points you try to make are obfuscated by your lack of taste and manners.


avatar tj October 8, 2010 at 12:37 pm

If they do manage a “coup” – it will be thanks to the deception (“Change” – yeah, right), misplaced priorities (ObamaCare) & outright incompetence (bringing back Clinton’s Cabinet) that our “leadership” has shown – from the top on down.

Or, as a Presidential Candidate, WJ Clinton said – “It’s the Economy, Stupid.”


avatar Frank Gormlie October 8, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Well, a majority of Americans expressed that their biggest priority was health care reform, so don’t think that was a “misplace priority” – although we didn’t get what progressives wanted.


avatar tj October 9, 2010 at 8:24 am

“majority of Americans expressed that their biggest priority was health care reform”

Hi Frank,

Health care “reform” over the Economy – where did you see that?

Economic Recovery is the #1 priority – not some very ill-conceived “health” scheme that primarly benefits – doctors, lawyers, Wall Street, the government, agribusinesses, & big insurance companies.



avatar George (GrokSurf) October 9, 2010 at 9:37 am

The way I understand the Democratic plan, their tax cut WOULD be for everybody.

For example, take an individual making $400,000 per year. The tax break would apply to the first $200,000, and then the higher tax rate would kick in for everything above the $200,000 threshold.


avatar Andy Cohen October 9, 2010 at 1:23 pm

That is indeed how it would work. But that’s simply not good enough for the Republican side of the aisle.

The empirical evidence of how tax cuts FAIL to grow the economy is right there in front of us in the form of the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. They cut taxes, heavily weighted to the rich, yet the job market stagnated (1 million jobs created during the Bush administration compared to 23 million during the Clinton years), real salaries DECLINED, particularly for the middle class, and the economy eventually cratered. In short, the rich got richer, the economy as a whole went nowhere as big business shipped jobs overseas (thanks, Carly!), and the middle and lower classes are in far worse shape than before. Yet they claim to have the solutions to all of our problems!


avatar Patty Jones October 9, 2010 at 5:42 pm

A must see video… Bumping this post back to the forefront. Andy has added a postscript which includes a video defining the Republican definition of “small business”.


avatar Andy Cohen October 11, 2010 at 9:38 am

In the Olbermann piece, according to John Boehner himself, 3% of the “small businesses” in this country earn more than 50% of the revenues.

That doesn’t sound very small to me. But according to the Republican train of thought, it’s the number of OWNERS (which, according to the video, can be as many as 100) that make your business small, not the number of employees or the total revenues. So following that logic, a company with 49,000 employees and revenues of over $20 billion, because they’re a privately held company, is still considered a “small” business.

These are the “small businesses” and interests they’re looking to protect. To hell with the rest of us.


avatar tj October 10, 2010 at 11:37 am

Democrats are currently “the lesser evil” (in general) = not as sold-out to the ultra-Greedy Wall Street Banksters (who control the country for their own gain) & other Selfish Special Interests as the Republicans (R = Sold-out Special Interest Tools – the masses be damned).

But unfortunatly, NEITHER party is interested in actually representing middle-class majority’s interests – other than the obligitary election-time retoric to get their votes.

A political promise = no promise at all (like fools gold).

When will we ever learn?

“We need a new party, a 3rd party, a wild party.”
Vincent Furnier


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