John Boehner has now passed, if that is the appropriate term, Nancy Pelosi, in public opinion as the most ineffective and least well-liked member of either Congressional or Administration political leaders. Although Speaker Boehner is far from my most favorite politician – the term “favorite politician” being an oxymoron for me – the current disfavor with his actions and behavior is not entirely of his own making. It is, in fact, the result of a Republican party that seems to have forgotten – or wishes to ignore – both the role of government and the role of the Congress in making government work.
Again, I’m not going to blame the Republican party entirely, because the same attitude exists, if to somewhat lesser degree, among the Democratic Party. The fact that the attitude is less virulent among Democrats has nothing to do with virtue, but because, at this point in history, the Democrats embrace a wider constituency and have to look at a slightly wider range of alternatives in order to maintain what power they have, while the Republican Party has essentially divested itself of all who are fiscal and structural conservatives but who oppose the more fanatic aspects of the GOP true believers and certainly all moderates.
The result is that the GOP has become the “party of NO” – no tax increases, no abortion, no immigration, no gun control, no health care for the working poor, no corporate taxes, no unions, no equal economic rights for minorities and women, no gay marriage, not to mention denial of global warming and evolution. At the same time, much of the Democratic Party believes that almost any new government program is a good idea, particularly where the disadvantaged are concerned. Neither outlook is viable.
No matter how many poor and disadvantaged there are, even if we confiscated all the wealth and income of the top two percent, as I’ve pointed out before, it wouldn’t support government for a year. Government programs can’t expand, not unless other government programs are eliminated or curtailed. Right now, we can’t even fund the ones we have, but that’s because, in the past, both parties have agreed on taxes that were too low to support the programs that Congress had already created. Likewise, the mindset of denying reality that underlies much of the GOP agenda won’t work.
But Boehner is in an impossible position. The GOP essentially won’t compromise on taxes, and no compromise is possible without that. Obama has offered some compromise, but the GOP wouldn’t even accept Boehner’s alternative tax increase just on families making over one million dollars a year, let alone Obama’s compromise of $400,000 [incidentally, that’s just about the cut-off for the top one percent]. The fact that Boehner won’t even call the House into session unless the Senate acts, despite the fact that the House could take up an already Senate-passed bill and amend it, is another indication of his inability to pass anything remotely resembling a compromise and his unwillingness to admit it.
So… unless Obama caves in to the GOP, which looks unlikely, or the GOP looks at reality, which is equally unlikely in the next few days, going over the fiscal cliff looks most probable, although I, and most Americans, I suspect, would prefer less excitement.