John Boehner: Panem et Circenses
In March of 2009, at a Georgia GOP county convention, Sen. Johnny Isakson gave a stump speech in which he pleaded for the help of the faithful grassroots in returning him and other Republicans to power because, as he told the assembled crowd, we had to defeat the Democrats and Barack Obama to stop the reckless, runaway spending in Washington, D.C. I turned to my wife in abject shock and asked if he’d really just said that.
Afterward, I went to him and respectfully but pointedly reminded the Senator that, when Georgia W. Bush was president and spending money like he had a golden goose, as our senator he’d voted for every one of those pork-filled, bloated budgets. Yes, Obama and the Democrats were on a drunken spending binge, but the Republicans had only been better by degree. I told him that the Republicans will never regain the trust of the American people unless they governed in a way that mirrored their conservative campaign rhetoric. I also told him the surest sign I’d seen that they had not yet learned their lesson was the fact that the Senate Republicans had re-elected the porkmeister, Mitch McConnell, as Senate Minority Leader. It is hard to take seriously a party which talks about fiscal responsibility and then elects as their leader of the upper house a man who campaigned on the amount of pork he’d brought back to Kentucky.
And now we have the re-election of John Boehner, the eternally weeping love child of George Hamilton and the Great Pumpkin, as Speaker of the House. The ONE branch of the federal government controlled by the Republicans and they re-elect the man who received the MVP Award from Team Obama; a man whose chief negotiating tactic is to fold faster than a card table in a hurricane.
Seriously, my eight year old daughter could have negotiated better terms for the “fiscal cliff” deal than did Boehner! How exactly did that negotiation go? Obama: “John, the rich are simply going to have to pay their fair share, so I demand tax increases on the top earners. I’ll extend the tax cuts for the lower and middle class, but the higher earners MUST pay more!” Boehner: “Mr. President, I know you won re-election, but so did Republicans, and we made promises to our constituents as well. I simply can’t consider any rate increases unless we see significant reforms and spending cuts, since excess spending is the primary driver of our monstrous and growing debt!” Obama: “Johnny, I’ll tell you what…I’m feeling mighty generous, and I want you to feel you’ve done well, so I will give you $1 in spending cuts for every $41 in tax increases (okay, not REAL spending cuts, since I’ll get a few hundred billion more in spending)…but only if you kiss my ring and call me ‘My Most Exalted and Benevolent Master, From Whom All Mercy Flows’”. Boehner: “Wow! Thank you, Mister President…I mean, ‘My Most Exalted and Benevolent Master, From Whom All Mercy Flows’!!!…that’s mighty generous of you! You have a deal!”
The “fiscal cliff” deal is a farce. It raises taxes on the upper income earners, many of which are small business owners like myself, organized under LLC’s and Subchapter S corporations, who pay business taxes on their personal returns (hardly the Gates and Buffetts of the world, which actually get very little wealth from income). This is projected to raise $600 billion over a decade (assuming, of course, that history is defied and those evil “rich” people decide not to change their economic behavior to avoid the higher confiscatory taxes). To put that in perspective, this tax increase will further stunt economic growth so that we can supposedly generate enough new revenue over a DECADE to pay off less than half of the deficit we’ll accumulate THIS YEAR! What about next year, and the rest of the decade? What of the existing debt?
These are not serious people in Washington, in either party, and we need to understand and accept that, and act accordingly. We need to realize that when Rep. Paul Ryan can propose a budget that increases Medicare spending by 7% every year, and takes nearly three decades to balance the budget, and not only Democrats but many Republicans (initially, although some later supported it) describe it as too harsh, claiming that it guts the social safety nets, that these are not people to be entrusted with major problems and sound decision-making.
The simple fact is that we are rapidly approaching an existential crisis with our debt profligacy, and we can ignore it and kick the can down the road and try to minimize its importance…until we can’t. There will be a reckoning. Foreign investors like Communist China will not forever continue to lend us money with a near-zero return on investment. And with an average of 10,000 Baby Boomers now set to retire each and every day for more than a decade, the cost of Social Security and Medicare will continue to escalate, and all of those IOU’s in West Virginia, which is all we have left after Congress raided the Social Security Trust Fund for decades to fund vote-buying schemes, will have to be paid back. Who will pay for them? Today’s workers, and the result will be even higher taxes which will further erode economic growth. It is a spiraling death cycle.
And yet here we voters sit, audience members watching the Big Top Circus that is Congress and the presidency, clapping and cheering for our favorites, whether the elephants or the jackasses and all of the other clowns making such a grand spectacle, oooohing and aaaahing, as we watch The Greatest Faux on Earth. Like the Romans cheering panem et circenses (‘bread and circuses), our republic is crumbling and burning around us, but we’ll keep sending the same jackals to Congress to bleed us of the fruit of our labor, content in our slavery so long and we get our uninterrupted stream of sports playoffs and Honey Boo Boo, Kim Kardashian and whatever other drivel we are spoon fed by the media.
When will enough be enough? When will we realize that these manufactured crises are intentional? TARP, the bailouts, the sequestration deal…all were passed without a clue as to what was in the bills, all filled with evil goodies that kill the economy and personal liberty through a tax and regulatory death of a thousand cuts. They are the manifestation of former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel’s admonition to never let a crisis go to waste. Even I, a random country boy from northwest Georgia, accurately predicted the future results of the colossal failure that was sequestration deal. It wasn’t that hard. Like Lucy and Charlie Brown, Republicans once again kicked the can down the road, eventually accepting more taxes now for promises of spending cuts later; spending cuts which will never materialize. It is all a sad, pathetic farce, and proof of a complete failure of Republican leadership at the top. This is not a failure of conservative principles; this is a failure of leadership to stand by conservative principles. And if our leadership acts like they don’t believe in these principles, how we expect anyone to follow?
After a mini-revolt, Boehner won re-election as Speaker, but by the thinnest of margins, garnering only two votes above the minimum needed. That tells me that there is a growing segment of Republicans who understand the nature of our crisis, and the failure of our leadership. They are not yet enough to be a majority, but it’s a start.
On the bright side, Republicans control thirty governorships and are making major strides in using conservative principles to grow state economies and improve education. Good heavens, Michigan is now a right-to-work state, something I’d never have believed could happen in my lifetime. Maybe, just maybe, the GOP leadership in Washington will see their progress and follow their examples, and help lead this country back to prosperity. If not, then the GOP base needs to be willing to thank them for their service, send them packing, and bring in new leadership that will.