The Sunday morning talk shows were aglitter with Republicans Michelle Bachman and Ron Paul vying for humiliated Herman Cain’s supporters to jump aboard their campaigns. In what has become an almost comical sideshow the Republicans stand firmly divided about their presidential candidate. The possibility of Ron Paul running independently must sound like a musical dream to Democrats. If the stakes were not so high, the Republican performers could easily outdo their Saturday Night Live impersonators.
But, the stakes are high, very high. The tragedy is that the world’s greatest democracy is behaving like a third world government or, worse yet, Greece. The extension of the payroll tax cuts is just one more example of how divisive politics in Washington have become. First the Senate rejected the Democratic proposal to extend the payroll tax cut and pay for it on a tax for millionaires. Last Thursday, the Republican proposal to pay for the extension by freezing federal employee salaries and reducing the work force by 10% failed miserably.
The payroll tax cut is due to expire on December 21, 2011. On Thursday, the Republican proposal sank when 29 Republicans jumped ship. Undoubtedly, Republicans are in a quandary. They have painted themselves into a corner on this one and cannot reconcile how the payroll cut could not receive support without costing thousands of federal employees their jobs.
This tax cut impacts the taxpayer’s take-home pay. If the extension is not granted, everyday household income will decline about $1,500 in 2012. Republicans are quick to say the payroll tax cut has not been effective. Democrats rightly point to the explosive holiday shopping season and economist’s predictions that 4th quarter GDP will rise 3 percent.
The Republicans took another hit on Friday when the U.S. Labor Department published its Non-Farm Payroll report for November. 120,000 new private sector jobs were created. Additionally, hefty adjustments to September and October payroll reports helped to drive the unemployment rate down to 8.6 percent. In November another 315,000 persons stopped looking for work. Republicans suggest that these are discouraged workers. Maybe, maybe not. At this time of year, there exist ways for workers to work “under the table.”
In any case, the facts are clear. The unemployment rate is down and GDP is growing. All this despite coordinated attacks by Republicans against the will of the people and contrary to the best interests of the people they are sworn to represent. In reality, the Republicans are more concerned with denying President Obama a second term than they are to legislate responsibly.
The Republicans emit so many objections that they now seem to be disputing the very tax cuts that they have supported in the past. How extending the payroll tax cut violates the Republican mandate, Grover Norquist’s pledge, is confusing, even to the pledge signers. Voting against extending the payroll tax cut is contrary to the Norquist pledge.
The behavior is so out-of-character that even John Boehner slipped and stated that the payroll tax extension had merit. He may live to eat those words when the likes of Eric Cantor and his Tea Partiers oppose the extension. With every Democratic proposal, the Republicans appear unorganized, out-of-sync and flailing for more negative input. Thankfully, many conservatives are making it clear that their Tea Party has run its course.
The public view of Congress is that this is the least effective Congress in the history of the nation. The national approval rating is dwindling to new lows and resides uncomfortably below 10 percent. Undeterred by the reality that only one in ten Americans think the Congress is functional, the Tea Party continues their barrage of assaults on well-intentioned members of Congress. No wonder Boehner is confused. He has never been subjected to such a self-imploding body of government.
Republicans hate that the country is recovering at a slow pace without any help from Congress. Imagine where we would be with a functional Congress!
Let’s not forget the recent 60 minute documentary that confirmed that members of Congress were permitted to use insider training to bolster their income. The revelation that 40 members of Congress have become millionaires while serving the people shocked most voters but might help explain the disconnect. Most likely, the effects of the recession and the unregulated subprime mortgage crisis, served these insiders well. No wonder the Republicans want less regulation and no tax increases for millionaires. Those initiatives are too close to home.
Republicans are so far removed from constructive governing that they have lost their way. Instead, they have turned against the very people who elected them. Congress works in an environment that is totally removed from Main Street. Fortunately, it is in the best interests of Wall Street and the too large financials to extend the tax cut. Perhaps Majority Leader Reid’s new proposal, which will be paid for, will get enough support from the other side of the aisle. Then, we will have to go through the uncomfortable tragedy that is the Republican controlled House of Representatives.
This has the makings for another perfect storm. One in which Boehner knows the right course but can not sell it to his Republican allies.
Bigger fights are in the immediate future. Not only is the payroll tax cut about to expire but so are long-term unemployment benefits for million of Americans. The last time around, Congress held the gun to Obama’s head. Republicans were set to deny 7 million unemployed workers their benefits. The President was held hostage. He grudgingly agreed to extend the Bush Tax Cuts that helped the wealthy Republicans reap big rewards with inappropriate tax cuts while the country was engaged in two Republican wars. This was Republican George Bush’s formula that jumped started deficit spending.
The fact is that Congress will be gridlocked until the President is supported by a majority in both chambers. While we cannot wait until the next election, we cannot compromise. If Republicans cannot respond favorably to the payroll tax cut, unemployment extension and the Bush Tax Cuts, the President should allow them to expire. That would create a $4 trillion windfall to help reduce the deficit and to fund worthwhile job initiatives.
If we cannot succeed with bi-partisan efforts, we must vote these dissenters out of office.
Republicans are uniform that the Bush Tax cuts help high income earners create jobs. Really? It is impossible to see job creation linked to the Republican tax cuts. It sure is easy to see that the middle class is dwindling and that the poverty that does not exist in Congress is running rampant in the home districts of these self-helped millionaires. With 44 million American families and 21 million American children living in poverty and with another 45 million middle class families trending toward poverty, how can Republicans look themselves in the mirror?
If things do not change, we may well revisit the 60′s protest era. Who amongst us believes Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich will help the middle class or the impoverished? It will not happen. When considering all the political possibilities, nothing could be more treacherous and fill the streets with violent protest than Newt or Mitt presiding over a country with a Republican House and a Republican Senate. It does not get any more dangerous than that.