Tag Archives: Party of No

Unintended–and Deserved–Consequences

Well, I see that “The Donald” won yesterday’s New York’s GOP primary. Handily.

If you are a Republican (or just a citizen) wondering how this posturing buffoon could have become the party’s likely Presidential nominee, a bit of recent history may be instructive.

One of the (many) things that has driven me nuts these past few years has been the single-minded obstructionism of House and Senate Republicans to anything and everything that President Obama has proposed. Good idea, bad idea–even, originally, their own idea…it hasn’t mattered. (So much for the quaint notion that we elect these bozos to work on our behalf.)

There’s a reason the GOP has been dubbed “the party of NO.”

My frustration with the childlike refusal of these political partisans to engage with the policies rather than the personalities–a refusal which has reached its apex with their defiance of their constitutional duty to “advise and consent” to a Supreme Court nomination–is probably why my reaction to this article was “serves them right.”

MEMO to Republican legislators biting your nails over the New York primary, wondering if you can finally derail Donald J. Trump’s candidacy with, gulp, Ted Cruz: You brought it on yourselves.

The article pointed to the characteristics of Trump’s supporters, the majority of whom are white men without college degrees–precisely the workers most negatively affected by changing economic realities.

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Obama has put forward constructive proposals to help those displaced workers. For its part, the Republican Congress has been behaving like Nero.

Take, for example, the administration’s 2011 proposal of a $447 billion package of measures including payroll tax cuts and the creation of an infrastructure bank that would have led to the creation of thousands of construction jobs, as well as other substantial economic benefits.

Designed to be bipartisan and fully paid for by higher taxes on rich Americans and some corporations, the American Jobs Act was nonetheless dead virtually upon its arrival on Capitol Hill.

The Jobs Act was only one of a number of initiatives designed to help precisely this population. The article lists a number of others: proposals for larger tax credits for child care; community college investments; expansion of the earned-income tax credit; changing retirement plans to be portable across employers and available to part-time workers; and tax credits for manufacturing communities.

Most recently, with truly breathtaking arrogance, Congressional Republicans refused to even consider the President’s budget.

If there had been a serious discussion of the merits or demerits of these proposals–if, following such a discussion, Republicans had rejected one or several of them, citing such analyses–that would be a very different matter. Americans might agree or disagree on policy grounds, but that’s the way the process is intended to work.

Instead, what we’ve had (and let’s not pretend otherwise) has been an unprecedented display of petulance and racism: We don’t care what that black guy in the White House wants; we don’t care if it is good or bad for our constituents; we don’t care that the level of disrespect shown our duly (and overwhelmingly) elected Commander in Chief empowers America’s enemies at home and abroad.

The truly unAmerican vendetta being waged against the President has slowed overall recovery from the recession, to be sure, but its most damaging consequences have fallen on the people who are currently supporting Donald Trump. If Trump, or Cruz, end up leading the Grand Old Party into the wilderness in November, the wounded will have no one to blame but themselves.

I think they call that Karma. Or just desserts.

For me, it’s schadenfreude.

Dollars and Sense

This morning, I was scheduled to participate in a statehouse rally intended to urge the Governor and General Assembly to exhibit rational behavior, also known as Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. (Of course, this is Indiana, where rational political behavior can be pretty rare.)

The weather required organizers to reschedule, but I’m posting my prepared remarks, which centered on dollars and sense.


Many of us have just wished our friends and loved ones a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year. In Indiana, those are going to be elusive goals.

According to a report issued in December by the respected Kaiser Family Foundation, Indiana stands to forego17.3 billion dollars between 2013 and 2022 because we are refusing to follow the lead of surrounding states (including those governed by Republicans) and implementing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

Indiana is refusing to accept the federal dollars that would pay for expansion of Medicaid despite the fact that over half a million Hoosiers have lost employer-sponsored coverage since 2000, and despite the fact that Indiana has seen the nation’s largest loss of health insurance coverage for children. More than eighteen percent of Indiana children have lost coverage since 2000.

Let’s talk dollars and sense.

Under the ACA, the federal government will pay 100% of the costs of expanded Medicaid for the first three years and 90% thereafter. Expansion would actually save Hoosier taxpayers money, since some of those federal dollars would pay for services we currently provide.

Since there is no rational reason to forego billions of dollars and deny a quarter of a million Hoosiers access to affordable coverage, some Indiana officeholders have resorted to deliberately misleading their constituents. One legislator recently sent out a survey seeking “input on legislative topics”.  The Medicaid question read as follows:

 “Currently, one out of six Indiana residents is on Medicaid, or about 1.1 million Hoosiers. Medicaid makes up about 14 percent of the state’s budget. Under the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), Indiana can expand Medicaid to cover more uninsured Hoosiers at a projected cost to taxpayers of more than $1.4 billion by 2020. This expansion would allow one in four Indiana residents to enroll in the program. Do you support full Medicaid expansion for Indiana under Obamacare guidelines?”

The question clearly–and dishonestly–implies that Indiana taxpayers would foot the bill for expansion. (Of course, he might get an answer he doesn’t want if he explained that new federal dollars would cover the costs.)

The question we need to ask our Senators and Representatives is pretty simple: Why are you refusing to allow the federal government to pay the entire cost of expanded coverage for three years and 90% thereafter—especially when those dollars you are rejecting would create an estimated 30,000 Hoosier jobs and, according to health economists, would reduce premiums paid by those of us who do have private insurance?

The only response I’ve heard is weak and highly speculative: the federal government might stop paying the full 90% at some future time. But if the feds cut payments, we could cut services, so that excuse just doesn’t pass the smell test.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Indiana is leaving 17 billion dollars on the table, leaving more of our citizens uninsured, costing Hoosiers who are insured more money, and refusing to cover Indiana’s most vulnerable children simply because our governor and state legislative leaders will oppose anything and everything proposed by this President, no matter how that opposition affects the citizens they were elected to serve.

Here’s a news flash: you don’t have to like this President—and you don’t have to like the Affordable Care Act—in order to accept billions of federal dollars that will save lives and money and create jobs for the people of Indiana.

Thanks to Governor Pence’s refusal to implement  Medicaid expansion, Hoosiers will pay higher state taxes, higher health insurance premiums and higher out-of-pocket expenses. And those costs will fall most heavily on those who can least afford them.

Our politicians may be aiming at President Obama, but the people they are hurting are the Hoosiers who elected them.


Pushed Too Far

Remember the old comic book ad in which a bully kicks sand in the face of a skinny guy, and the skinny kid takes a Charles Atlas course, muscles up, and comes back to flatten his tormenter?

I think Harry Reid took that course!

Yesterday, Reid invoked the “nuclear option,” changing the Senate’s rules in order to permit most Presidential nominees to be approved by a simple majority.

If you are old enough, you may remember when such majority rule was the rule. The filibuster–a procedural mechanism devised by the Senate itself and found nowhere in the Constitution–was until recently employed only rarely, and usually by a Senator who actually filibustered, a Senator who talked until he could no longer hold out. During the George W. Bush administration, Democrats used it more frequently, but it was only with the election of Barack Obama that things got seriously out of hand.

As media reports have confirmed, early in the Obama Administration, Congressional Republicans decided to block any and all measures coming from the White House. The merits of the proposals, the bona fides of nominees, the desires of the electorate–none of those things would matter. And they would no longer bother to actually filibuster–they’d just say “we’re filibustering, so you need sixty votes” to pass this bill or confirm this nominee.

There’s a Yiddish word for that: chutzpah. 

The GOP’s goal was simple: deny this President any victory, no matter how small, no matter how good for the country, no matter if the proposal had originally been their own.

Case in point: Lawyers and judges have pleaded with lawmakers to fill the mounting  and unprecedented vacancies that have slowed justice to a crawl and brought business to a halt in many of the nation’s federal courts. Legal organizations and the ABA have sounded the alarm. No matter. Senate Republicans have kept focused on their primary mission: say No to this President.

They finally pushed the Democrats too far.

Reid’s reluctance to “go nuclear” has been clear for some time. But it  finally became obvious even to him that the alternative was another three years of stalemate, another three years of national drift, of getting virtually nothing done.

The Constitution requires a simple majority vote to pass bills and confirm most nominees. Except in a few specific instances, it does not require a super-majority. And yet, for the past five years, the GOP’s constant abuse of the filibuster has effectively required a super-majority for even the most mundane and previously uncontroversial actions.

The Party of No has used the filibuster to throw sand in the gears of the Senate–as a way to refuse to do the people’s business so long as Obama occupies the White House. Senate Republican leadership made a calculation: they would stand united to ensure the failure of the hated (black/Kenyan/Muslim) Obama, and the Democrats wouldn’t have the balls to go nuclear.

It was a reasonable bet, but it turned out to be wrong.

The skinny weakling grew a pair.


If Only Today’s Crackpots Would Listen

This morning’s comic strip, Non Sequitor, explains ideology. And Fox News. And the Tea Party.

Unfortunately, a stubborn insistence on an alternate reality is more and more likely to do irreparable damage to the real world we occupy.  A couple of days ago, William Ruckleshaus, Lee Thomas, William Riley and Christine Todd Whitman made precisely that argument in the New York Times. All were EPA administrators in Republican Administrations, back when the GOP was a political party rather than a cult.

They point out that there is no longer any credible debate about the reality of climate change (the operative word here being “credible.”) And they endorse President Obama’s climate plan.

 The costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only stronger and more numerous. And the window of time remaining to act is growing smaller: delay could mean that warming becomes “locked in.”

A market-based approach, like a carbon tax, would be the best path to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but that is unachievable in the current political gridlock in Washington. Dealing with this political reality, President Obama’s June climate action plan lays out achievable actions that would deliver real progress. He will use his executive powers to require reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the nation’s power plants and spur increased investment in clean energy technology, which is inarguably the path we must follow to ensure a strong economy along with a livable climate.


Mr. Obama’s plan is just a start. More will be required. But we must continue efforts to reduce the climate-altering pollutants that threaten our planet. The only uncertainty about our warming world is how bad the changes will get, and how soon. What is most clear is that there is no time to waste.

If only the petulant ideologues would listen. But we live in a world best explained by the Non Sequitor cartoon linked to above.  The party that gave us Bill Ruckleshaus and Christine Todd Whitman no longer exists; for its current manifestation–the Party of No–blocking anything and everything that Barack Obama proposes is far more important than saving the earth.

Reminding Us of the Obvious

President Obama made an important speech yesterday, focusing on economic policy.

Much of the coverage has focused upon his insistence that a robust economy grows “from the middle out” and not from crumbs “trickling down” from the 1%–that when the middle class lacks disposable income, otherwise known as the wherewithal to buy things, the economy stalls.

That should be obvious.

It was another “should be obvious even to an idiot” part of the speech, however, that most resonated with me.

We’ve got ports that aren’t ready for the new supertankers that will begin passing through the new Panama Canal in two years’ time. We’ve got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare. Businesses depend on our transportation systems, our power grids, our communications networks – and rebuilding them creates good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. And yet, as a share of our economy, we invest less in our infrastructure than we did two decades ago. That’s inefficient at a time when it’s as cheap as it’s been since the 1950s. It’s inexcusable at a time when so many of the workers who do this for a living sit idle. The longer we put this off, the more expensive it will be, and the less competitive we will be. The businesses of tomorrow won’t locate near old roads and outdated ports; they’ll relocate to places with high-speed internet; high-tech schools; systems that move air and auto traffic faster, not to mention get parents home to their kids faster. We can watch that happen in other countries, or we can choose to make it happen right here, in America.

Given the choice of representatives they have sent to Washington, I can only conclude that a significant number of voters are less concerned about crossing those aging bridges or driving on those crumbling roads than they are about what I do with my uterus. Despite the jingoism and “We’re number one” protestations, they really don’t care that wireless access,  citizens’ health and children’s education in other countries  far exceed ours.

Those of us who do care about such things–those of us who were raised to believe that part of our obligation as human beings is to leave a better world for our children and grandchildren–look helplessly at a Congress controlled by childish buffoons who seem to have only one goal: say no to anything this President wants.

We can debate forever whether this behavior is rooted in excessive partisanship, fear of change or the color of the President’s skin, but those who insist that they just have “policy differences” with the administration cannot cite “policies” that justify allowing America to disintegrate. I can attribute opposition to healthcare reform to policy differences (but not 39 useless votes to repeal it–votes taken in lieu of doing the nation’s business.) I can  understand different approaches to education reform. But what “policy” argument is there for allowing our roads and bridges to crumble? What “policy” prevents us from putting people to work repairing and updating our aging electrical grid?

Recessions cause all kinds of pain, but they also offer us an opportunity to fix things “on the cheap.” We will lose that opportunity because–thanks to gerrymandering and political gamesmanship– we have sent a group of bratty children  to Congress instead of thoughtful representatives who are willing to work for the good of this country’s future.

A genuine opposition party picks its battles. It doesn’t throw a tantrum and scream “no” no matter what is put before it. It doesn’t block administration nominees or initiatives simply because it can, without regard for their merits.

We are at a crossroads. We can emerge from this toxic time a better, more mature America, or–as seems increasingly likely–we can go the way of other empires. Down.

Wherever we go, we evidently won’t be able to take our roads and bridges to get there.