Mike Kueber's Blog

December 7, 2012

Republican white flag

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 12:21 am

Dana Milbank, an uber liberal columnist with the Washington Post, recently authored a column titled, “Republicans wave the white flag.”  In the column, Milbank crowed:

  • One of Boehner’s lieutenants, Pete Roskam of Illinois, stepped to the microphones, essentially pleading for the president to show mercy. “President Obama has an unbelievable opportunity to be a transformational president — that is, to bring the country together,” he said. “Or he can devolve into zero-sum-game politics, where he wins and other people lose.  Those “other people” would be the House Republicans, because it is Obama who seems to be holding all the cards right now.

As President Obama is wont to say, elections have consequences.  And based on this reversal of fortunes, you might think the American voters in November had swept a super-majority of the Democrats into office rather than maintaining the status quo that existed prior to the election.  As Judge Andrew Napolitano recently reminded us, the president’s constitutional duty is to execute the law while Congress’s duty is to make the law.  Since when does a Democratic president get to dictate to a Republican House about matters of budget? 

Not surprisingly, David Brooks, a so-called conservative columnist for the NY Times, seems to have bought into Milbank’s “white flag” mentality with his most recent column is titled, “The Truly Grand Bargain.”  While reading his column, I found myself saying “blah, blah, blah.”  Then I noticed that, aside from Brooks’s opening and closing paragraphs, I only needed to read the first sentence in each paragraph.  The following abridgement is the result:

Sometimes you have to walk through the desert to get to the Promised Land. That’s the way it is for Republicans right now. The Republicans are stuck in a miserable position at the end of 2012, but, if they handle things right, they can make 2013 an excellent year — both for their revival prospects and for the country.

  • First, they have to acknowledge how badly things are stacked against them. 
  • Moreover a budget stalemate on these terms will confirm every bad Republican stereotype.
  • So Republicans have to realize that they are going to cave on tax rates.
  • Republicans should go to the White House and say they are willing to see top tax rates go up to 36 percent or 37 percent and they are willing to forgo a debt-ceiling fight for this year.
  • This is a big political concession, but it’s not much of an economic one.
  • In return, Republicans should also ask for some medium-size entitlement cuts as part of the fiscal cliff down payment.
  • But the big demand would be this: That on March 15, 2013, both parties would introduce leader-endorsed tax and entitlement reform bills in Congress that would bring the debt down to 60 percent of G.D.P. by 2024 and 40 percent by 2037, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Both parties say they are earnest about fundamental tax and entitlement reform.
  • Republicans could say to the country: Hey, we don’t like raising tax rates, but we understand that when a nation is running a $16 trillion debt that is exploding year by year, everybody has to be willing to make compromises and sacrifices.
  • The year 2013 would then be spent on natural Republican turf (tax and entitlement reform) instead of natural Democratic turf (expanding government programs).
  • The 2012 concession on tax rates would be overshadowed by the 2013 debate on the fiscal future.
  • Besides, the inevitable package would please Republicans.

It’s pointless to cut a short-term deal if entitlement programs are still structured to bankrupt our children. Republicans and Democrats could make 2013 the year of the truly Grand Bargain.

My conservative friends call David Brooks a RINO, and I concede that he is sometimes too willing to compromise on important philosophical issues.  But as I re-read his column, the wisdom of his advice becomes clearer.  Conservatives are not going to achieve any fundamental entitlement reform at this time, so let’s instead get this taxation issue off the radar and then we will be able to have the country’s undivided attention in dealing with entitlements later this year.

As I’ve previously suggested, put the competing plans up for a vote and then live with the consequences.  The problem is that with the Republicans controlling the House and the Democrats controlling the Senate, gridlock is likely.


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