As the GOP struggles to escape blame for an avalanche of automatic spending cuts and tax breaks ending, it’s forced to deal with its two most hated enemies—President Obama and reality.
The fact that Speaker Boehner can’t control his caucus because the Club for Growth forced him to shrivel up in front of his members isn’t just a self-parodying series of phallic references—anymore. It’s a huge problem for his leadership (and the country, not that that matters much to this GOP).
The so-called “fiscal cliff” is now an existential crisis for a party with a brand so old, white and male that it can’t win an election anywhere Ted Nugent can’t sell tickets.
Reality dictates that if the GOP continues with obstruction—which has been their default mode since President Obama was sworn in—they will end up simultaneously risking another Republican recession while guaranteeing a series of policies that are completely antithetical to what have become their only reasons for suffering this mortal coil: Cuts to defense spending will be paired with higher tax rates on the rich and investment income.
Along with this nightmare for the military-industrial complex are some policies that will make the majority of voters go all Lorena Bobbitt on Boehner—tax increases on the middle class, cuts to health care and education, and a wilting of the safety net.
And this slow-motion disaster for Republicans is no accident — they were led to this cliff by the man who has been the constant Roadrunner to their Wile E. Coyote.
President Obama couldn’t have guessed that the Romney campaign would be so deluded by its own spin that it would worry more about its transition website than actually winning. But he did know exactly what he was doing when he created the situation we’re now in that is forcing the GOP to violate its vow to never, ever raise taxes—especially on the rich.
In 2011, when Republicans, for the first time, used the debt limit to force spending cuts, the president came up with a Grand Bargain that included many concessions that would have broken the hearts of his liberal base: cuts to the future growth of Social Security and an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare, in exchange for slight tax increases.
The president risked alienating the people who elected him because he knew that any tax increases would leave the GOP in the midst of a civil war that might have even split the party. And that’s why Boehner eventually said “no deal.”
To keep House Republicans from detonating a fiscal suicide bomb that would have taken down the American economy with them, the president agreed to the sequestration of mandatory cuts to take place right after the 2012 election, along with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts—a deal he negotiated in 2010.
If he lost, it wouldn’t matter. The GOP would get to dictate its agenda anyway.
If he won, the GOP would be forced to do the one thing they hate more than being reminded of what Jesus actually said about the poor—compromise.
Now it’s 2012, as the president’s popularity has reached highs he hasn’t seen since the death of Osama bin Laden. So what does Speaker Boehner do? He says, “Um, yes, please. We’ll take that deal you offered in 2011.”
“No way,” the president’s team said.
“Okay then,” Boehner countered. “What do we get for $800 billion in tax increases, the amount that comes from the Bush tax cuts for the rich expiring?
“You get nothing,” the president said, according the Wall Street Journal. “I get that for free.”
So Speaker Boehner was forced to call for a vote on his “Plan B,” a compromise that would save many millionaires from tax cuts while raising taxes on the poor and punishing the unemployed. How could any Republican ever be against a bill that does all that?
Well, unlike the Tax Pope, Grover Norquist, the Club for Growth was against it. No deal, they said. We say no tax increases on any of the rich, ever. As you may have heard on Fox News several billion times, we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. We need to go on a diet, but we must never exercise. Our bills are too high, but we must never try to find a job that pays better.
And unlike Norquist, the Club for Growth has a solid record of defeating Republicans in primaries who displease them. So, despite protesting otherwise for hours, Boehner couldn’t find enough Republicans to call the vote.
Now Boehner’s approval rating is even lower than Nancy Pelosi’s after the GOP spent years and millions of dollars making the minority leader the nanny in the “nanny state.”
He can’t get the deal he had in 2011 and he probably can’t get the deal he had in 2012, which included the cuts in the growth of Social Security that put progressives in revolt.
It would be funny, if there weren’t millions already out of work.
The question now is whether or not Speaker Boehner is willing to risk his job to pass a bill that will set off a war in his own party to prevent an entirely preventable economic disaster.
Or will he have to go off the cliff before he looks down?
Image credit: DonkeyHotey