A man went to the school to pick up his son after being informed that the son had been fighting. As they sat in the car on the way home, the boy holding an icepack on his swollen black eye, his dad asked him what happened.
“Johnny said he was going to beat me up if I didn’t give him my lunch money.”
“That’s not a good reason to get into a fight,” said his dad. “Why didn’t you just give him your lunch money?”
“That’s what I’ve been doing; every time he forgets his own money, he does this. A couple of times I talked him into letting me do his homework instead.”
“So if talking was working, why didn’t you talk to him this time?”
“Working? Talking wasn’t working! He started threatening me for my lunch money even when he didn’t forget his. Nothing was ever enough, so I decided that I wasn’t going to do it anymore. He told me yesterday to give him my lunch money or else and I told him no. I’m not giving up my lunch money any more. Well, he said he’d give me until today to think about it and I told him I wasn’t going to change my mind. He told me he would not only beat me up, but he’d beat my friends up, too and I told him I wasn’t going to give him my lunch money.”
“That was yesterday?”
“Yes, Dad. And today he walked up to me when I got to school, yelling at me to give him his money and I just ignored him. Then he said, ‘Okay, just give me half of your lunch money and I won’t beat you up.’ When I didn’t say anything, he said, ‘Okay, I won’t beat up on two of your friends.’ Then he said, ‘Okay, I won’t beat up on 3 of your friends.’
“Well, that sounds like a good deal, why didn’t you give him your lunch money then?”
“Dad! It’s my money. And it’s pizza day. And if i gave him my lunch money again today, he was just going to come back again next week or the week after and demand money again. And besides, I was winning. He kept asking for less the more I refused to give up.”
“Okay, now I’m confused. You did fight didn’t you?”
“Not really. He finally got so frustrated that he ran at me and tripped on someone’s bookbag. He accidentally hit me in the eye and broke his arm when he fell. But he didn’t get my lunch money.”
So, my lovely audience: Should the boy have given Johnny his lunch money? Who is to blame for the “fight”?
It’s not enough for me and if I were advising the President, I would advise that he stand firm, but the House Republicans have started to come to their senses. Speaker John Boehner yesterday announced an offer to the President (to try) to pass a debt ceiling increase good until around the end of November in hopes that the Democrats would come to the negotiating table about the budget. It’s a start.
Of course, their proposal still includes what Newsmax calls “several modest changes” to the Affordable Care Act. I remember when Republican partisans used to accuse me of Bush Derangement Syndrome, reflexively reacting to every move by GWB as if it were coming from the Devil himself (I may be exaggerating slightly). Apparently, GOPers aren’t immune to Obamacare Derangement Syndrome. Anyway, I digress. They should give that up. They should not only raise the debt ceiling but also pass a clean continuing resolution (which they may be considering). They should apologize to the American people and specifically to all those furloughed federal workers. But, for now, I’m going to be happy that they have taken any steps toward being reasonable and negotiating in good faith no matter how small those steps might be.
It occurred to me that I’ve been preaching to my Congressman, presenting problems without presenting any solutions. Or at least not presenting any solutions to HIS problem as he (probably) sees it. So I realized that some of my other preaching on the relationship of the GOP to their base might be germane to our current budget/debt ceiling woes. So here’s the result:
I understand you’re in a tough spot right now. Having taken the position you have on Obamacare and the budget, you’re looking for a way to save face because, if you are seen as caving in on this position, you become vulnerable to getting “primaried” by someone even more conservative than you next spring. But the President isn’t budging on this and I don’t see any reason why he would. And I really don’t want to see you and your colleagues forced to give up because we’re already defaulting on debts and watching our economy crumble. That’s bad for everyone.
So, “caving” sooner rather than later is good for the United States of America as a whole but is bad for [you personally]. And I think the answer is to get comfortable with this idea: The Republican Base is too small and relying solely on playing to “the base” to get through the primary and then having to energize “the base” to make it through the general election is not a winning strategy in the long-term. Playing to and energizing “the base” only serves to push moderates away making the base even smaller. I know this is true, because that’s me. I’ve always considered myself a moderate Republican, but I can’t, in good conscience, support this party anymore. For many reasons, but not least of which is they don’t seem to want me around anyway. “Fine,” I say to myself, “I’ll take my vote where it’s appreciated.” Giving in on this budget fight is going to piss off “the base,” no doubt, but there are literally millions of people who don’t vote at all in the primaries that would easily dwarf the mere 2 million who voted in both primaries in May 2012. In [your district], even if every person who voted for you in 2012 voted against you (all 43,317), there are still 606,285 [that didn’t vote in any primary, Democrat or Republican] in the voting age population to pull from. Now that’s a base! If you could get just one out of 6 of those to vote for you in the primary you’d blow a putative “attack from the right” out of the water. And are those people going to vote for the Democrat in the general? Please! Me personally, I think the GOP needs to repudiate the Tea Party, but for you, in the face of a very real possibility of having to cave in no matter what you might want to believe, I think this provides a way to still come out a winner. Think about it.
Actually, the 43,317 was my Congressman’s vote plus his only primary competitor. I don’t recall anymore if his competitor was tea-party-er than thou but in this district that’s the way to bet. I doubt that very many of those who opposed my Congressman did so because they thought him too conservative and so might respond favorably to a more moderate position.
But the real point is that I don’t think there’s any scenario in which he doesn’t have to give in on Obamacare and just go ahead and fund the government and raise the debt limit. And when he does cave in, it’s really going to hurt him in the next primary. And even if (somehow) it doesn’t, growing the base is going to be the way to remain competitive in the future (I mean 10-20 years out). And Daily Kos thinks this is one of the districts that is turning bluer these days. Moderating is probably good for my district in the nearer future (say, 5-12 years out).
Well, okay, that’s a little harsh. But he’s definitely drunk the kool-aid on this whole continuing resolution.
Right now, it’s clear the Senate is not even willing to come to the table for discussion. This should outrage the American people. We cannot let Obama and his democratic-controlled Senate steamroll over the voice of the public. We cannot let this administration continue to pick and choose what laws it wants to enforce. It is not even fully enforcing its own landmark legislation- Obamacare. If it’s not good enough for the administration to enforce now, it’s clearly not ready!
I will continue my fight to fund this government in a fiscally responsible manner. I will continue my fight to delay Obamacare and protect the American public.”
No real facts of course, just GOP talking points. So here’s my response:
I just read your email blast entitled “Where do we go from here.” You complain about the Democrats not negotiating with you. I gotta tell ya, I wouldn’t negotiate with you either if I were in there shoes. First of all, you’re trying to negotiate on a fight you’ve already lost, both in Congress and in the courts. Second, you’re negotiating from a position of weakness; you’re a minority of a minority insisting on being able to control the agenda and there’s really no reason for anyone to let you do that. The Democrats have finally figured out that they are in the majority (with veto power no less). I don’t know why they’ve let you get away with this strategy this long. Third, you’re negotiating in bad faith; no concession is ever enough. The next time a must-pass resolution comes along you ask for more concessions. Y’all are like the vikings in England back in the middle ages; sure they can pay the Danegeld to keep this band of marauders out of your villages, but that won’t stop the next and the next after that. In such a world, only an idiot would keep letting the aggressor get away with it without a fight. Eventually, even an idiot should be able to figure out that standing up to you is the only possible way to get you to quit. Finally, you’re offering a lousy deal. In the first round you seriously wanted to trade a measly month or two of continuing resolution in exchange for giving up on their signature legislative achievement, the work of a century and a dozen presidents? You’ve got to be kidding me. What were you thinking? I know what you were thinking; they’ll fold like a napkin just like they did the last several times. Well, Mr. Congressman, they aren’t folding. I think they are done folding. I think you should expect them to continue to beat you up in the press and I think you should expect to lose. And I think you should expect to kiss the White House good-bye for the next two cycles if not the next two generations. You’ll be lucky to hold the house, and if you do, it’ll only be because of all the gerrymandered seats.
The place to go from here is out to the floor to pass a clean CR and hope the country forgives you. And then, do the same with the debt ceiling. With all this talk of fiscal responsibility, voting against raising the debt ceiling would mark you as a hypocrite.
I’ve probably said a number of these things here before, but I wanted to share with you my latest letter to my so-called Congressman:
I notice the House still isn’t getting serious about a budget; I talked about that yesterday. And of course, the longer you all spend futzing with the continuing resolution, the less time you have to deal with the debt limit. Let me tell you my thoughts on the debt limit. Republicans are very fond of talking about how the government should run its finances like a family or a small business would. I’m actually quite fond of that idea myself.
Do you know what happens when a small business or a family defaults on their credit payments? They get their interest payments jacked up. When you are a talking about an entity with over $16 trillion in debt, any flirtation with default is, to say the least, foolhardy, at worst, stupid. Look, clearly the President grew a spine sometime in the past year and he’s not going to cave to pressure from you guys like he’s done in the past. It’s clear he’s not going to stand for your tea party shenanigans this time around. You and the GOP talk a lot about fiscal responsibility. Well, the responsible thing to do in this situation is to raise the debt limit. Because even 1% of $16 trillion is a LOT of money. Yes, we can’t afford to keep spending the way we do, but we also can’t afford to get our interest rates jacked up for no good reason, either.
It’s also worth noting that the debt is not the fault of the President, it’s the fault of Congress. You pass a budget and the President has to spend it. You pass taxes and other revenue and the President can’t collect any more than that (sometimes you get lucky and your AIG stock goes up higher than you thought, but you can’t count on that). Your spending far outstrips your revenue, so the only way to resolve that is to borrow money. So the President does what he has to do to meet all of his obligations under the law, but Congress throws one more monkey wrench into the works: you also pass a debt limit that doesn’t cover all the spending you required over and above the taxes you’ve approved. Dirty pool if you ask me.
Raise the debt limit without strings or explain in the primary why we’re now paying even more interest when we could continue to borrow at rock bottom rates.