Saturday, October 26, 2013
Where are the Adults?
The leaders of the Republican Party, in full flight from their disastrous and juvenile shutdown stunt, now want to restock their ranks with grown-ups. “Let’s face it: it was not a good maneuver,” Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah told The New York Times recently. “You’ve got to have the adults running the thing.”
Mr. Hatch and other establishment senators believe that grown-ups would not threaten the country’s full faith and credit, or keep the government closed, in order to get their way. That’s true, but it’s a rather pallid definition of maturity. A mature and responsible political party would do more than prevent a government default; it would offer serious solutions to the nation’s most pressing problems instead of running from them.
And it is there that Republicans – whether adults or Tea Party members – continue to let the public down.
At a time when the economy is desperate for federal help and 11.3 million people are still unemployed, the party – and not just its far-right wing – is still pretending that cutting spending and lowering the deficit remain the country’s most urgent priorities. Republicans won’t acknowledge that tax increases, along with spending cuts they have forced on the country, have already driven the deficit down to 4 percent of the economy, from 10 percent in 2009. Their appetite for billions in further cuts has only grown.
This will become obvious next week when the budget committees of the House and Senate gather for their first conference on the budget for fiscal year 2014, which began more than three weeks ago. (Republicans had refused the repeated requests of Democrats for a negotiation since April.) The conference is a moment to finally set aside the sequester cuts that have hobbled the economy and begin needed investments in education and infrastructure, rebuilding cities and the lives of those left behind.
But Republicans won’t hear of it.
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking member of the budget panel, says that keeping the current spending caps is a bedrock principle. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, supposedly an anti-shutdown “adult,” wants to use the conference to cut social-welfare entitlements and give corporations more tax cuts. “We have to make a down payment on the debt and deficit,” he told Congressional Quarterly. That down payment has already been made, many times over – and Democrats have vowed not to even consider entitlement changes in the absence of big tax increases on the rich.
What ails the economy now is not corporate taxes but the iron lid on spending, clamped tight for two years.
The Republicans’ obsession with deficits is already taking a huge toll on the poor, who have seen cutbacks in vital programs, and could well see more if the Republicans have their way. Next week, for instance, a House-Senate conference on the farm bill will consider a proposal from allegedly “grown-up” House Republicans that would cut $39 billion from food stamps, which would push three million people off the program a year. Democrats will be so busy fighting off that proposal that they will have a hard time reversing the scheduled cut for all food stamp recipients that begins in November.
Senator Lamar Alexander says his party needs to persuade the public that it can be trusted with government. To do so, Republicans will have to do much more than simply reopen government’s doors.
In Search for Republican Grown-Ups, By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times