Obama is starting to get his second wind – for the first time, he’s making aggressive and even openly partisan attacks against the stimulus opponents. To which I say – it’s about time. The Obama team has a tendency to be a few days late on tactics, but they’re pretty good when they finally get the ball rolling.
But tone aside, the substance of Obama’s new message is even more important. In this speech, for instance, he openly attacks the idea that “tax cuts alone can solve all our problems; that government doesn't have a role to play.” Elsewhere, he says “This isn't some abstract debate.” Amen to all that.
Obama’s remarks help bring into focus just how silly and trivial the cable debate has been. Listening to them, you would think this is all a big game – “Is Obama off-message . . . Does the GOP have new energy. . .” What you wouldn't realize from listening to this silly back-and-forth is that there's a very serious economic crisis out there causing real pain and anxiety to a lot of people. Demand is down a lot (accordingly to Obama and others, it’s shrinking in trillions). And so we need to act and we need to act fast.
The bill’s not perfect, but this isn’t a normal situation. Spending a lot – maybe even too much – is the whole point. That’s why I have the vague urge to dropkick Senators Collins and Nelson. Cutting state education may make them feel like better and more serious people, but they’re causing pointless delays (and God forbid we provide a bit too much money to cash-strapped states to keep people employed -- that's quite clearly the more urgent danger right now).
Obama is also right to finally call the GOP out on their “false theories of the past.” It would be one thing if the GOP was joining this debate in good faith about what could actually help our country’s businesses and families. And to be fair, there are some conservative writers out there who are making substantive objections – objections that should be answered. After all, there’s no God-given right to get the stimulus passed – it has to be justified.
But those types of good faith arguments are not at all what we’re hearing from the institutional GOP and the idiot media circus these past two weeks. Let’s be clear – the GOP is proposing to do nothing other than redistribute income to the very wealthy. That’s it – that’s their plan.
The DeMint proposed amendment – which got 36 Republican votes (90% of caucus) – is a perfect illustration. (See also Brian Beutler – his regular site is here and should be on your readers and reading lists).
You might think the DeMint bill is a parody at first – the proposal of someone consciously trying to get chased out of office (think The Producers applied to politics). Indeed, in a more rational world, the DeMint proposal would be the story of the day – and an object of national ridicule.
Here are a few highlights of the very serious Jim DeMint’s proposal (borrowed from Heritage), which consists of zero spending and 100% tax cuts: (1) lower everyone’s marginal rates by 10 points; (2) lower the corporate tax rate; (3) eliminate most of the estate tax and slash the remnants; (4) make the Bush tax cuts permanent.
Needless to say, these are extremely skewed to the wealthy – almost comically so. Brookings crunched some numbers years ago on the distributional effects of making the Bush tax cuts permanent – no surprise there. The other stuff – reducing everyone’s tax rate by 10 points; slashing the estate tax – also disproportionately helps the wealthy. Even so, the bill won the support of over 90% of the Senate GOP caucus (you know, the more reasonable of the two GOP caucuses -- or is it "cauci"?)
Give more money to rich people. That's their plan for stimulating our crashing economy. That's what they’ve proposed and voted for to help millions of out-of-work Americans.
Well, here’s what Senator DeMint and his Senate followers should think about – this stimulus is going to pass. And while they’ve had their fun on the cable talk shows this week, the reality is that virtually the entire Republican Party is on record voting solely for massive tax cuts for the wealthy in the face of the worst economic crisis in our lifetime. Halperin may be very impressed by the GOP’s cleverness right now. But their position is going to look a lot less clever as time goes on. I predict it will become a big liability.
All in all, it’s a very clarifying moment – and it pretty much shows the state of the modern institutional GOP at this moment in history, and where their priorities lie.