David Broder accuses the Democratic majority in Congress ("The Votes Obama Truly Needs" Jan 30) of using
…the tight timetable and their control of legislative procedures to block virtually all efforts to open the [economic recovery] bill to compromise.
Sounds like a serious charge. What exactly were these oh-so-productive and highly useful "compromises" that the Republicans were generously and patriotically offering to "improve" the economic recovery bill? Broder doesn’t say. This is a rather crucial point if Broder is to make the case that compromise is necessary. How can citizens decide whether compromise is needed if we have no idea what one of the sides is offering?
As it turns out, what was being offered was essentially tax cuts. On MSNBC Live, CNBC host Erin Burnett stated that conservative icon Rush Limbaugh offered "serious ideas" on the issue and proceeded to name " ‘cutting the corporate tax’ and ‘slashing capital gains [taxes]’ ", after which Media Matters quotes economists examining such ideas and awarding them a failing grade. Very usefully, the piece shows a chart giving us the relative efficacy of various proposals. Giving the proposal "Cut in corporate tax rate" a "score" of 1:0.30 means that if the US cuts the corporate tax rate, it will sacrifice one dollar that would otherwise go to the Treasury in return for 30 cents worth of economic stimulus. A "score" of 1:1.59 for "Increased infrastructure spending" means that for a dollar spent on that item, the US gets $1.59 worth of economic stimulus back.
A member of the American Enterprise Institute think tank made precisely the same point in a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer ("Obama must grab the U.S. mood" Feb 1), namely that Democrats should make unspecified compromises in order to get Republican support for the economic recovery bill. Nothing wrong with a columnist using Republican talking points without bothering to even talk to the majority party that dominates both chambers and runs the White House, but it’s a rather obvious giveaway when blatantly partisan talking points are so seamlessly lifted from one source to another.
Broder also makes a very interesting statement later on in his piece when he talks about:
…the sickening economic slide that has gripped the country in the past five months.
Okay, so there’s a real rush here and the rush is not entirely due to Democrats using their "control of legislative procedures" to hurry the other side along. Again, this gives the impression that this article is a hurried cut-and-paste job, copied almost verbatim from Republican talking points.
Nothing was more central to [Obama’s] victory last fall than his claim that he could break the partisan gridlock in Washington.
“I’ve always believed that you can only bring about real change when people come together across party lines, and I’ve seen what happens when folks put politics aside and get down to work,” Senator Obama said. “If you can’t bring people together across the old fault lines, you simply aren’t going to be able to make progress on the challenges we face.”
This certainly sounds to me like President Obama intended to try and "break the partisan gridlock," but he doesn’t "promise" to do any such thing. He very definitely expresses it as a means to an end rather than as an end in itself.
What I really remember was Obama promising to do specific things that George W. Bush and John McCain were strongly opposed to, such as to get American troops out of Iraq, to fix America’s then-looming economic crisis and to restore America’s moral place in the world by stopping torture and closing Guantanamo. One of the more effective lines in the campaign was that McCain was seeking to do "Bush’s third term." Obviously, this line was effective precisely because Americans were not looking for Democrats and Republicans to be nice to each other and agree with each other about everything. Sure, it’d be nice to get the other side of the aisle to vote for an effective economic recovery, but I think most Americans would rather see a good bill with no Republican votes than a bad bill with Republican votes. Broder then states that
[Obama] wants to be like Ronald Reagan, steering his first economic measures through a Democratic House in 1981, not Bill Clinton, passing his first budget in 1993 without a single Republican vote.
The first way leads to long-term success; the second foretells the early loss of control.
Erm, Clinton "lost control" because Republicans under Newt Gingrich took an extraordinarily partisan approach to governing, spending enormous amounts of time investigating non-stories such as Whitewater and later demonstrating screeching hysteria over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, an extremely trivial, low-grade scandal that would not have warranted even being publicly mentioned a few short decades ago. Sorry, but the lessons history teaches often can’t fit neatly onto a bumper sticker the way Broder clearly wants this example to.
…dozen or so House Republicans who wanted to vote yes before the process turned ugly..
sounds to me like these House Republican are guilty of the charge "Dereliction of Duty." If they voted against an urgently needed bill because they wanted to quibble over a few details or because their tender sensibilities were bruised, they need to simply quit their jobs and hand them over to people who are capable of doing them. To play such juvenile games with an economic crisis is…wow!
David Broder is obviously just cutting-and-pasting without any real thought or concern for what he’s writing. Can he please retire now? There’s a rocking chair on a porch with his name on it.