Congressional “Leadership”

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.

9 thoughts on “Congressional “Leadership””

  1. Daze says:

    Quite a while ago, the BBC’s economics correspondent, Stephanie Flanders, suggested that the Republicans with pledges on no tax rises would have to go over the cliff first, because once the ‘cliff’ tax increases have been implemented, any remedial action would be to reduce taxes not increase them, and wouldn’t then compromise their pledges, even though they’d be voting for the same things they wouldn’t vote for before running over the cliff. As she said at the time, this may be stupid, but it is politics.

  2. Daze says:

    Now found the URL for Flanders’ 7 November article:

  3. Jack says:

    I work at a transportation related business, and I speak with truckers on a daily basis. Over the last year or so I have sounded out many of them on about how much they gross yearly. Quite a few of them are independent and make in the neighborhood of $300,000 plus a year (before any taxes). Excited and animated are mild terms to describe their reaction when I point out they are members so the 1%. They work 80 hours plus a week. Everything they make goes back into their livelihood. Like all small businesses, how can they afford to pay more taxes and hope to remain afloat financially? On the other hand how can those with their hand out for benefits, deservedly or not, expect to continue receiving a free ride. Congress once again chooses to deny reality. Cuts must come in all programs and departments. Pelosi’s line that the republicans want to hurt women and minorities every time she opens her mouth is ridiculous. And the republicans position that he democrats want to gut the defense department is just a foolish. Can congress act before Rome burns? or will the the republic once again fail, while a new empire is born catering to mob in fear of the day when it too shall fail, because of a insatiable demand for the “dole”.

    I know this rambles all over, but hopefully it points out the dilemma that congress and America face. To mix some metaphors, we cant have our cake and eat it too, for the pied piper has come calling. Maybe the overpaid fools in power in DC, states, and localities will wake up to reality.

    1. Joe says:

      $75/hour sounds rather steep for unskilled labor. Are you sure you are speaking to truckers and no the CEOs of trucking companies?

      1. Tim says:

        You have obviously never had to back up an articulated truck

    2. Chris says:

      The money they put back into their business is a business expense and can be written off, reducing the amount of income that is taxable. So if they are contractors and own their own truck, all of the maintenance and gas expenses are direct deductions. Also, any lodging during the cross-country trips also counts for deductions. This would put them under the $250k cap that has been talked about (and well under the $400k cap).

      Also, to nitpick a bit, they are technically limited to 70 hours of driving over a rolling 8 day period.

  4. Jim S says:

    The elected members of both parties need to stop catering to the most extreme members of their party, and DO THE DAMN JOB THEY WERE ELECTED FOR!

    It’s that simple. They were elected to pass a budget — and they haven’t done so for 3 years. They were elected to find compromises in order to do so.

  5. That’s easier said than done. Over 85% of the members of the House and a similar percentage of the Senate have no loyalty to their leadership because they’ve been elected from “safe” districts. Their only loyalty is to the people who elected them, and because of extreme gerrymandering over the past 20 years, most districts are dominated by one party or the other, and each party is dominated by its most extreme members.

  6. Wine Guy says:

    #1 Truckers are in a high-stress/high-demand job and work terrible hours. 99% of them are exactly what the profession demands: talented, dedicated, and with good endurance to put up with the crap that goes on while driving the highways and freeways of the US. And it’s not $75/hr since nearly all of them get paid by the mile.

    #2 In the absence of congressional leadership in the Senate or House, perhaps the governors could do something… like propose a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget or an amendment that would prevent Congress and the President from being paid OR RECEIVING BENEFITS until a true balanced budget is passed. The process is provided for in the constitution itself.

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