By Lynn Paris
After watching the Sunday morning news shows (some of which I watched in the late afternoon, but still) I came away astounded at how much political posturing and pandering is still going on, despite the imminent economic crisis faced by this country. Isn’t it about time to cut the crap?
It finally seems clear that no sane Republican will cast a vote against raising the debt ceiling. Clearly, everyone with even a scintilla of intelligence, from economists to conservative politicians, realizes that the ramifications of default are far worse than any of the other options out there. (That, of course, leaves out the few who remain steadfast in saying they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling, like Michelle Bachmann. Draw your own conclusions.) So it’s down to which deficit reduction plan will be able to get past the House, Senate and President Obama.
That’s why it’s almost painful to listen to Republicans continuing to utter such ridiculous statements as, “Nothing will happen until Obama stops demanding these job-killing tax hikes.” What?? Still with the programmed sound bites? Even the reporters sitting around the table looked too annoyed to say anything. What job-killing tax hikes is Obama demanding? Stopping the subsidies for oil companies, which even the oil companies say they don’t need? Closing the loopholes for big banks or the super-rich? Oh, and by the way, what jobs are they killing?
The fact is that Obama’s proposal to get something huge accomplished – his call for a $4 trillion deficit reduction – got caught up in the absurdity of right-wing politics because the responsible conservatives in Congress (Yes, I did write that and yes, I do believe there are some) are still scared to death of losing their seats or their seniority to those newly elected tea partiers. Many of the old-time conservatives, the ones who revere Ronald Reagan, are undoubtedly agonizing over the fact that they couldn’t take Obama up on his offer. After all, those $4 trillion in cuts represent everything the Republicans could have ever hoped for and more; how is it possible not to reach a compromise when a deal like that is on the table?
But they had to let it go, because to accept a compromise with Obama is anathema to the tea party, even if it’s one that’s in the country’s best interests. Even if it’s one that’s in the Republican Party’s best interest.
Of course, there WAS a caveat. Obama did want his deal, which is based almost solely on previously unimaginable spending cuts, to be fair. He wanted it balanced with a tiny bit of revenue in the form of, let’s say, ending the Bush tax cuts. Or closing some of those loopholes. But “fair and balanced” is not the Republican way, despite everything FOX has done to try to make us believe otherwise.
In fact, the cuts proposed by Obama even made it clear that he was willing to talk about entitlements, including raising the age for Medicare eligibility or maybe means testing for social security. It’s true; he didn’t get specific. He didn’t have to. Just putting them on the table proved that he was willing to risk his own political life for the good of the country.
And what did that get him? It forced the crazies on the left to come out. (Yes, I also wrote that, and yes, I do believe there are some ultra-liberals who are just as narrow-minded as the ones on the right. Well, maybe not as narrow-minded, but definitely short-sighted.)
Just as most of the country has now accepted the reality of the situation regarding the debt ceiling . . . and most have accepted that it can’t be accomplished without some compromise on the part of both parties, most intelligent Democrats and Progressives understand that some revisions to Medicare and even social security are going to have to be made. Entitlements make up a huge proportion of our spending and it’s irresponsible and just plain silly to assume they can remain untouched and still be around for our children.
Yet those on the far left acted as though Obama had proposed to wipe out Medicare as we know it and trade it in for a voucher program! He didn’t DO that! Paul Ryan did. So why did those on the far left have to attack the President as though he’d sold them down the river? Like the members of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, who were so upset about the potential cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that they marched to President Obama's campaign headquarters to deliver 200,000 signatures from people who are refusing to donate or volunteer for his re-election campaign if Obama cuts entitlement programs.
We’re so polarized and entrenched in our extremist views that we can’t see that Obama is working his tail off to strike the best possible deal for the country, one that does the least amount of harm to those who have already borne the brunt of this economic mess. I know I’ve been guilty of wanting him to fight harder, or call the Republicans out for their hypocrisy or stick harder to his principles. But I’m rethinking that, because I think that’s what he’s done. He’s been inordinately patient. He’s been willing to compromise. He’s done what a great leader needs to do to get anything done. I guess that’s what his principles are all about.
For Congress, I will end with one of a host of similar comments I just read on yet another article on this subject; it expresses the frustration so many in this country are now feeling:
“Just get it done!!!! Cut your own paychecks and healthcare you bunch of selfish losers!”