Saying no only goes so far. The Congressional Republicans obstructionism has been purely a political strategy, but it is a shortsighted political strategy with no long term vision. Perhaps that is because that Republicans have no long term vision, and that their campaign agenda amounts to nothing but clichés and platitudes. Over the course of the primary campaign season we have heard Republican candidates use phrases like "pro-growth," and "free enterprise," and "lower taxes," and "less spending," and of course "smaller government." These candidates have spent most of their time informing voters about everything that they’re against, but they haven’t spent much time explaining to voters what they support. Some may argue that Republicans don’t have a coherent narrative for a policy agenda because they do not have one. However, the real reason they don’t have a coherent narrative might be because they do have an agenda, and the policy ideas that Republicans are advocating are to simply double down on the failed economic policies that lead to the Great Recession.
This year Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) introduced the Economic Freedom Act of 2010, which among other things would eliminate the tax on the capital gains of individuals and corporations; reduce the maximum corporate income tax rate to 12.5%; allow a permanent and unlimited expensing allowance for depreciable business assets; and reduce payroll tax rates for employers, employees, and self-employed individuals in 2010, permanently repeals the estate taxes. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, what this proposed legislation amounts to is a $10 trillion giveaway to corporations and placing a further burden on working and middle class Americans. For all of the Congressional Republicans talk about budget deficits, this legislation would add $7 trillion in deficits over the next ten years. When you consider Republican support for extending the Bush Administration 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, the Republican economic agenda would add $10 trillion to the deficit. How does the legislation proposed to pay for these policies? By repealing TARP and using the remaining stimulus funds. However, that would only pay for about 5% of the cost of the legislation, which disproportionately benefits the wealthy. The average middle-class taxpayer would receive a tax cut of $467, compared to the average taxpayer in the richest 1% receives a tax cut of $157,500.
Then there is the Roadmap for America's Future Act of 2010, which was introduced this year by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI). While Congressman Jordan’s legislation would simply disproportionately benefit the wealthiest of Americans and add trillions of dollars to the budget deficits, Congressman Ryan’s legislation would also increase the tax burdens on the work and middle class and make significant cuts to the social safety net. Basically not only does Ryan want to dismantle the policies that kept the Great Recession from turning into the Great Depression, he wants to dismantle the policies that where created because of the Great Depression to protect the most vulnerable of Americans. According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Roadmap would reduce by half the taxes of the richest 1% of Americans and the tax cuts would increase the further up the income ladder you climb. The richest 1/10 of 1% of Americans (whose incomes exceed $2.9 million a year) would receive an average tax cut of $1.7 million a year. How would these massive tax cuts be offset? By taxing working and middle class Americans. A new consumption tax on most goods and services, and this would shift the tax burdens so considerably from the upper class to the middle class that people with incomes over $1 million would face much lower effective tax rates than middle-income families would. When you consider that the Roadmap makes drastic changes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, discontinue the Children's Health Insurance Program, radically reduce federal spending, the picture becomes clear that Ryan’s plan is a roadmap to the Gilded Age.
There is a Republican public policy agenda. However radical this agenda is, it is also a long term policy agenda. Ezra Kline summarizes Congressman Ryan’s economic agenda:
"According to [Ryan] businesses are frozen because the bills passed in the past year, such as health-care reform and financial regulation, were bad, and the bills not passed in the past year, like deficit reduction and tax reform, have left businesses confused about what'll happen in the coming years...But [Ryan’s] solutions didn't seem like they would increase certainty very much. He wanted to repeal and replace both the financial regulation and the health-care reform bills...But in practice, repeal would take a long time, building something new would take a long time, passing it would take a long time, and then waiting for the regulators to do whatever they needed to do with it would take a long time. Same goes for deficit reduction and tax reform. You might be able to pass better bills, but you can't pass them quickly, and there are no assurances as to what they'll look like when you're finished. If there's uncertainty when some of the laws are certain, there'll be even more of it when they become uncertain again. Businesses can't plan based on legislation that hasn't passed."
This is then the crux of the policy argument: Republicans have no economic policy ideas for the short term economic problems. No doubt about it Republicans have economic policy ideas, but they are exclusively focused on long term economic problems. The Republican Party is attempting to recapture the success of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with American, while appeasing the Tea Party and their Contract from America, and creative a Roadmap for America’s future that leads to the dismantling of the social safety net. While it is always difficult to get the voters interested in policy, and it is impossible to prove the negative (that Democrat economic policies prevented a second Great Depression), forcing Congressional Republicans to address their policy agenda runs counter to the Republican political strategy. The roadmap to Democrat electoral success runs through the Republican policy agenda.
Political and Social Thought...
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