Republicans For Big Government

Barack Obama - Sequester - Obamaquester

Run for your lives! The Obama Jobs Sequester is coming!

The evil President Obama sneakily – and somehow avoiding the notice of Congress – inserted into a congressionally approved bill a provision that would make large, across-the-board cuts in domestic spending if Republicans and Democrats failed to work together to reach a grand bargain on spending, tackling tax revenues and federal spending in a unified and bipartisan way.

And now that congressional leaders have failed to agree on these items, the undiscriminatingly large cuts are about to fall on the federal budget, which will result in many lost jobs, particularly in the area of national defence, which is just terrible. And all because of Obama. Right?

At least that’s how Kimberley Strassel, writing in The Wall Street Journal, sees it:

A year ago, the president demanded a $500 billion “sequester” of defense dollars as a penalty should Congress fail to cut a grand debt deal. Congress of course failed, and Mr. Obama’s sequester is now imminent. The sequester slash comes on top of the $487 billion in defense cuts Mr. Obama had already ordered in January of this year, threatening the likes of Mansfield.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned of the damage the sequester will do to national security. Yet the far more immediate political problem for Mr. Obama is that the cuts are compounding his domestic jobs liability—in the final stretch of the campaign.

More than one million lost private-sector jobs, to get down to it, as estimated by groups ranging from the National Association of Manufacturers to the Aerospace Industries Association. Military jobs are on the block, but the bulk of the pink slips will come from private businesses—from giant defense companies on down to smaller businesses that are the economic mainstays of their communities. They’ll come from states crucial for President Obama’s re-election: Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, and more.

So apparently, according to the Kimberley Strassel school of thought, what we should be doing in this recession is cutting government spending, because government doesn’t create jobs, entrepreneurs do. Unless that government spending is supporting jobs in the defence sector, of course, in which case we should be increasing it, dramatically!

Some more “moderate” Republicans argue that while they support cuts in principle, they are appalled by these looming defence cuts in particular because they are across-the-board and arbitrary, and pay little heed to particular defence programs or areas that could be more reasonably targetted for cutting. That’s the point of the sequester that they and their Democratic colleagues agreed to. It inflicts blind, undisciminating pain on areas of government spending precious to both sides of the political aisle, with the intention of presenting such an unthinkably draconian package of cuts that leaders would get together to forge a compromise.

If you don’t like the idea of a scythe being taken to defence spending or to welfare programmes without regard to their individual merit, get together, in the name of patriotism and bipartisanship, and for the sake of the people who elected you, and hammer out a compromise that cuts the welfare state while raising tax revenues to help close the massive hole in America’s federal budget.

Interestingly, you never hear Republicans making the same arguments against across-the-board cuts to welfare programmes, or social security, or food stamps. In those cases, apparently, it is fine to slash away at the budget with little regard for the people who were led to believe by their government (Republicans as much as Democrats) that certain benefits would be available to them, and who planned their lives accordingly, often with little left in reserve.

We can argue the rights and wrongs of this – personally I find the welfare state too generous, and politicians of all sides too cowardly in failing to tell voters the truth about the unsustainability of current levels of provision over the past recent decades – but surely we can all agree that just as you cannot rip a bandage from an open wound and expect the patient to be unharmed, so you cannot remove anticipated benefits or support from citizens overnight, at a time of economic hardship, and expect their lives, or the social fabric, to remain stable.

In fact, there is only one other area of government spending besides national defence that I can think of where Republicans have come out in outraged horror at the mere talk of blanket cutbacks – I’m speaking, of course, about Medicare. Those lofty words about scaling back federal spending and shrinking the size of government sure do fly out of the window awfully fast when one of their core constituencies (in this case, the grey vote) is in the firing line.

But Kimberley A. Strassel is not troubled by any of these arguments or contradictions, content instead to bob gently in the vast ocean of her own ignorance, wilful self-deception and cynically fiscally irresponsible propaganda.

No, for her it is the Obama Jobs Sequester, the Machiavellian outcome that he desired all along in order to gut his own nation’s capacity to defend itself. It’s the only plausible explanation for how we find ourselves in this situation. Unless it isn’t.


Cantor Defends The Indefensible

michele bachmann


In this case “the indefensible” refers to Michele Bachmann, also known as “Minnesota Palin”.

Eric Cantor – “Young Gun”, darling of the right and sadly House Majority Leader – has come out in defence of the Bachmann Witchhunts, and her attempts to smear US government workers by drawing tortuous and far-fetched links tying them to the Muslim Brotherhood or other radical Islamist organisations. Cantor, always one to try to out-conservative his boss, House Speaker John Boehner (even Boehner denounced the actions of Bachmann and her paranoid accomplices), came out swinging in an interview for CBS and refused to criticise or moderate Bachmann’s stance.

Politico reports:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) Friday defended Rep. Michele Bachmann’s questioning of a top Hillary Clinton aide’s loyalty to the United States, saying the Minnesota lawmaker’s “concern was about the security of the country.”

Ah, well now I think I understand. We can say what we like and cast any aspersions we wish about a person’s character or patriotism, so long as we do so out of a concern for the security of America.

So here’s my attempt:

Michele Bachmann is a dangerously ignorant politician. Worryingly, and despite the fact that she sits on the House Foreign Intelligence Committee, she remains as woefully unknowledgeable about foreign affairs as she is on the history of her own country. She is deliberately divisive, will stoop at nothing to stoke the fears and resentments of those equally ignorant as her for political gain, and in doing so is undermining the fabric of American society and government. Her husband and family hold Swiss citizenship. As we all know, Switzerland is a neutral country and historically has not sided with the United States in some of the most important issues and conflicts in our nation’s history. I am sure I am not the only one concerned that Bachmann’s torn loyalties between the country of her birth and that of her husband might lead her to use her prominent position to influence US government policy in favour of the Swiss and at the expense of the United States. – Samuel Hooper, 30th July 2012.

And I say this not through any personal animus, but out of a genuine concern and fear for the future safety of the United States of America. So it’s okay.

I look forward to Eric Cantor’s endorsement.

Bad Journalism Award

You know how it is when you read an article that is just so weak, so clearly living in a hermetically-sealed bubble of similar opinions, so insulated from opposing viewpoints, so grandiose in its self-righteous assuredness and yet so utterly wrong that it makes you just want to issue a point-by-point rebuttal of every stupid thing that the author committed to print (hopefully at this point you are not nodding and thinking “yes, that would be the last article I read here…)?
Well, Charles Hurt, writing in The Washington Times, stepped up to the challenge and magnificently managed to push all of my buttons with his piece entitled “Obama’s South Side Chicago Thuggery” (yes). So here you are, Charles: this is why you are wrong. From the top:

Now that we know just what President Obama thinks of people who succeed in business, it is no wonder that the economy is so much in the crapper. In his desperation to avoid any discussion of his own disastrous handling of the economy, Mr. Obama announced last week what he thinks of the struggling spark plugs of commerce: They are a bunch of felons.

Of course, he did not come right out and directly say that himself, because that would risk drawing renewed questions about whether he is actually an American with the slightest whiff of respect for private industry and ingenuity that defines America.

The economy being “in the crapper”, of course, is all Obama’s fault. Nothing to do with the huge credit crisis and other systemic and structural flaws developed under the previous eight years of Republican oversight.

And what’s this? “…that would risk drawing renewed questions about whether he is actually an American with the slightest whiff of respect for…” Actually an American, what an interesting turn of phrase. Almost as though the author were trying to subconsciously plant the idea that the president is, in fact, actually not an American. But we’ll say no more about that.

So he did what gangsters from the South Side of Chicago have always done. He dispatched one of his bloodthirsty capos to handle his dirty work. Then he strolls up onto the scene all clean and innocent-looking in his fancy, pressed duds and shiny spats and plays the wise guy.

Oh really? Valerie Plame. Scooter Libby. Dick Cheney. George W. Bush floating serenely above the fray. That is all I have to say to that.

As Mr. Obama misquoted Harry S. Truman the other day: “The buck stops with you.” Obviously he was confusing Truman with his real hero, Al Capone.

This political thuggery straight off the streets of Chicago signals desperation in the Obama campaign and a level of deception unrivaled in recent presidential politics.

Yeah, I don’t know what he is talking about either. But will someone please explain to me the American right’s frequent use of of the terms “thug” or “thuggish” in describing left-wing activism? You read or hear it all the time, on any right-wing blog. Why thugs? Is this a remnant from the Jimmy Hoffa days, or something else? Why is a left-wing person who uses strident language and occasional overstatement a “thug”, while a right-wing person is just understandably carried away because of their deep and abiding love for America, and should be given a free pass? Huh?

And most decent people would not suggest that the president’s hero is a murdering gangster. You can say it, Charles, that is totally within your constitutionally guaranteed rights, but I’m going to call you a low-life, slanderous, sanctimonious moron for having said it.

Democrats howled when John Kerry got “swift-boated” during the 2004 election with questions about his deservedness of medals he won during Vietnam — medals that he later threw away in protest of America and the military.

Okay, this one really annoys me. “…threw away in protest of America and the military”? Charles Hurt, could you be any more of a stereotypical US conservative? All about institutions and paternalism and respect for authority, and livid whenever anyone questions any of these. John Kerry loves his country, I’m sure, having served it in so many ways throughout his career, and it is disrespectful in the extreme for you to suggest otherwise. I would venture to say that Kerry threw away his medals in protest at the US foreign policy of the time, as conducted by the US military, and not at the idea of America and the US military in themselves. Many people, patriots also, would defend the right to burn the flag as a protest, but then I’m sure you would consider them traitors and anti-Americans too. Because anything but total, blind, unswerving allegiance to the government policy of the day is treason, of course. Oh, wait – unless there a Democratic administration that you disagree with in power, in which case you exercise your patriotism by making warm noises about armed uprisings and overthrowing the government.

And it’s just so much easier to win an argument when you grossly mischaracterise someone else’s actions and arguments, isn’t it, Charles?

Okay, I’m not going to spend any more time on Charles Hurt. I should not have risen to the bait. But the thought of him sitting there, reading the daily papers and getting outraged about all of the terrible policies that liberals are enacting, and the dirty processes by which they operate, whilst wilfully forgetting everything bad that happened under the previous Republican administration, was too much for me.

So I’m calling you on this one, Mr. Hurt.

Your article sucks, and you are the first winner of my Bad Journalism Award. Not that what you do – based on this example, at least – can really be called journalism as such.

In case you are wondering, your prize was the fact that I called you a low-life, slanderous, sanctimonious moron on my blog.

Giant Tax Increase Or Cynical Nonsense?

Twenty-four hours after the US Supreme Court handed down their ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, and the Republican Party’s initial line of attack against the new reality is starting to emerge. (1) Push, at every opportunity, the line that ObamaCare represents a massive tax increase for all Americans, and (2) sow fear that the IRS is poised to start hammering at the doors of the uninsured (a group for which the GOP seems to have suddenly developed strong and protective feelings of filial loyalty) with threats of wage garnishment or prison.

As this piece from Politico, discussing Romney’s likely response to the SCOTUS decision, says:

To the Romney campaign, the ruling left the ACA looking like a richer target than ever: The justices upheld the law — leaving its unpopular provisions intact as a campaign issue — but did so on the grounds that the mandate requiring all Americans to purchase insurance is a “tax,” a traditionally easy target for Republicans.

One strategist aligned with Romney called that “the best-case scenario of it being upheld: It’s upheld as nothing but a massive tax hike.”

“President Obama just turned GOP intensity amps up to 11,” the strategist said.

And in this article, the new line of argument is laid bare:

Everyone from tea party stars to establishmentarians to possible 2016 presidential contenders seized on the tax language in the Supreme Court’s 5-4 majority opinion, which included Chief Justice John Roberts.

“‘Obamacare’ raises taxes on the American people by approximately $500 billion,” said Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. “‘Obamacare’ cuts Medicare by approximately $500 billion. And even with those cuts, and tax increases, ‘Obamacare’ adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt and pushes those obligations on to coming generations.”

Unfortunately for the GOP, there is precious little evidence to support either of their new assertions. My stance on the Republican Party’s new line of argument against ObamaCare is this:

  • If you are a hard-pressed middle class American doing the ‘right’ thing and keeping health insurance either individually or through your employer, exactly how does ObamaCare represent a tax increase for you? You don’t have to pay the ‘fine’, and your insurance premiums should actually start to fall as more healthy people are brought into the insurance pool.
  • If you are doing the ‘wrong’ thing and not buying health insurance when you could afford to, then surely you are a parasite within the system, clogging up emergency rooms when your untreated conditions come to a head, and leaving yourself unable to pay any unplanned medical expenses that you incur, forcing insurance companies to charge higher premiums to everyone. That’s not exactly responsible citizenry, so are Republicans really going to act aghast in horror that this group of people will have to pay a fine, or a ‘tax’ as interpreted by the Supreme Court, to compensate for the negative externality that they are creating?
  • If you are doing the ‘wrong’ thing and not buying health insurance because you cannot afford to, the government will help you to buy it in the private marketplace, as I understand it using funds raised from fining people with the ability to pay who choose not to.

To me, the embryonic Republican response to defeat at the Supreme Court appears to be dumbed-down politics at its worst. Having had their well-worn argument that ObamaCare is a gross constitutional overreach taken away, they have reverted to the tax increase argument, not because there is any compelling evidence to support it but because of a semantic technicality in the language of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Republicans love to be on the side of defending people against higher taxes – a very worthy stance, and one which I share – but are they really going in to bat now exclusively for people who freely choose not to purchase health insurance, and burden everyone else with the costs of that attendant risk? I think I would almost rather be known for advocating tax cuts just for billionnaires.

It is too early yet to see how this new GOP line of attack will play in the media and the opinion polls, but given the fact that I managed to deconstruct it on my blog in less than ten minutes, I do hope (and sadly it is hope rather than expect) that proponents of the Affordable Care Act will be able to do so with even more effectiveness, and show this sudden Republican concern about ‘raising taxes’ on the willingly uninsured to be the cynical nonsense that it is.

My Turn To Be President

Politico reports on Jeb Bush’s surprisingly frank confession that he believes 2012 was his “time” to run for the presidency, and that he may now have missed his chance:

“This was probably my time,” Bush told “CBS This Morning,” referring to the ongoing presidential campaign. “There’s a window of opportunity, in life, and for all sorts of reasons.”


I think we can all quite happily do without a third member of the Bush dynasty ascending to the presidency and making a mockery of American meritocracy. Thanks for sitting this round out, Jeb.

That said, the Florida Republican doesn’t know whether he ever wants to be president.

“Have you made a decision that you don’t want to be president?” asked CBS host Charlie Rose.

“I have not made that decision,” Bush responded.