Thursday, January 3, 2013

GOP Threat: Stop Us Before We Kill Ourselves!

Can the Republican Party possibly do more to inflict damage on itself? Is this a cry for help from a psychologically wounded group? Perhaps we should give every GOP member of Congress a gun and watch them shoot themselves in the foot. Or form a circular firing squad.

The honest truth is that we are witnessing the end of an era and the implosion of the party. The election of 2012 signaled the beginning of the end of the conservative era and like most things these days, the decline is coming swiftly and unmercifully. The fiscal cliff deal is emblematic. Denying the Northeast hurricane aid was a public-relations disaster. The worst is yet to come.

Now we get to look forward to two more rounds of economic negotiations on the debt ceiling and entitlement programs. Other writers are saying that these will be fought on more sure-footed GOP ground. I don't buy that for one second. Having been beaten soundly by the president on the tax issue, they now have little leverage on the debt ceiling or budget cuts.

Think about it.

Most Americans already blame the Republicans for almost scuttling a New Year's deal and then witnessed first hand the comeuppance of John Boehner at the hands of those frisky Tea Party conservatives. They saw how the party hesitated to even raise taxes on millionaires and how the House abdicated its responsibility and needed to be bailed out by Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden.

And this was the easy deal.

Most Americans, again, do not want severe cuts to their government Medicare and safety net programs, but that's exactly what the GOP is peddling. And the sheer size of the cuts that will be necessary to achieve Paul Ryan's aims will ultimately prove to be a disaster for them. I just know that Boehner and Cantor will overstep the mandate they think they have and will also want their pound of flesh from Obama to make up for the just-completed deal.

Likewise for the debt ceiling. The country certainly remembers that it was the right that played brinkmanship with the budget in 2011 and got us a lower credit rating. Just let them do the same thing again and see what happens.

Of course, all of this is predicated on the idea that the president keeps his cool and doesn't give away more than he needs to in the negotiations. The left is not happy with the tax deal, but really, how much can you push tax cuts for the wealthy? The difference between what he wanted and what he got is miniscule, which is exactly the problem, budget-wise, and Obama still came out a winner. Plus he's already offered cuts to social programs that the GOP has rejected as too little. He's in the driver's seat.

The GOP is still convinced that only their ideas are correct and I seriously doubt that they will come out with specific proposals on how to retire the debt responsibly or which tax loopholes they want to close (which will also be unpopular). So the way I see it, this should be a good season for the president and Democrats.

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