The Existential Exasperation of Being John Boehner

Original photo by Gage Skidmore

You might think I would have a little bit of schadenfreude at John Boehner doing a faceplant yesterday when his “Plan B” scheme for the fiscal cliff couldn’t even be brought to a vote, thanks to the intransigence of Boehner’s backbenchers in the House — and you’d be right! I do! But mostly what I feel is sympathy for the man. Boehner (who is incidentally my representative) isn’t my favorite politician by a long shot, but I think he’s not an entirely unreasonable man, and I think he can read the political weather better than most. In a better time, with a better House, he might be an effective Speaker.

It’s not that time. His problem is he’s saddled with a batch of stompy petulant children who are still in denial that the majority of American voters cast their ballots for Obama explicitly, and implicitly for Obama’s plan to start raising tax rates on the highest-grossing Americans. They also appear to be in denial about the fact that if some deal isn’t reached, a deal they agreed to a while back will go into effect, raising taxes anyway, and after that Obama’s position becomes even stronger, since he’ll have the tax changes he wanted. If the House then refuses to lower middle-class taxes without also cutting the taxes on the rich, Obama and the Democrats will gleefully pummel them on it from here to Timbuktu. And if they think the public won’t blame them for all of this more than they blame Obama, that’s just one more thing they’re in denial about. This is reality that John Boehner has to work with.

My pal Joe Hill has labeled Boehner the “most ineffective Speaker of the House in US History.” I wouldn’t dispute Boehner is currently probably feeling as low as a Speaker can get without having criminal charges laid against him, but then again, could anyone have herded these particular cats? I don’t feel I’m entirely going out on a limb here when I say that the 112th Congress of the United States is going to go down in history as one of the mostly rankly partisan, stupid and incompetent congresses in the history of our nation, a genuine nadir of the ignorant, selfish, short-sighted and politically blinkered. And while neither party gets off scot-free in that assessment, the large majority of the ignorance, stupidity, incompetence, selfishness and short-sightedness is on the GOP side of the aisle — and they were the party in charge of the House. Boehner is not blameless for the current state of things, to be sure. But you try corralling ignorant, stupid, selfish, short-sighted ideologues who just won’t listen. Tell me how you do with it.

Boehner will never be remembered as one of the great Speakers. But the fact remains that the House remains in GOP hands for the 113th Congress, and Boehner, while not great, is almost certainly the best the House GOP can do. If Boehner is challenged for the speakership — and after last night’s faceplant, he may well be — anyone who replaces him will be more partisan, more tied to the “we’ll take the whole country down if we don’t get our way stomp stomp stompy stomp” philosophy of the right wing of the GOP. A couple more years of that and not even gerrymandering and low-turnout mid-term elections will save the GOP House majority.

So, a little — just a little — sympathy for John Boehner. He’s not spectacular at his job. But things could be so much worse if he wasn’t there plugging away. Think about what it must be like to have that be the reality of your job, every single day.

194 thoughts on “The Existential Exasperation of Being John Boehner

  1. I get the impression that the Congressional Republicans who think that they won’t be blamed for raising everyone else’s taxes while giving themselves (rich guys) big tax cuts are the same ones who still think that Clinton rather than Gingrich will be blamed for the government shutdown. You’d think that those who live in the past would find a way to learn from the past…evidently not.

  2. Reading this the thought that first came to my mind was, “The Tea Party made his (vastly lumpy and perilously inclined) bed – now Boehner’s got to sleep in it.”

  3. I think you meant “short-sighted,” and not “short-sided” in the third paragraph. I also think you nailed it here. I wouldn’t want to be a Speaker who had things to actually accomplish working with this Congress.

  4. I think this is the time for him to take a huge, huge gamble. When he meets with Obama, Reid and Pelosi, he makes the following offer:

    “Give me a plan that the Democrats in the House and Senate will approve and that the President will sign, but that gives me a few face-saving concessions. I will round up enough moderate Republicans to pass it in the House.

    “However, if the legislation passes, for every Republican vote I deliver, I get one Democratic vote for Speaker of the House next month.”

    If I’m the Dems, I might want a little more for my money – a promise that gun bills get out of committee – but I take the deal. Boehner then gets to try to run the House as a moderate coalition government against the wishes of a substantial part of his own party.

  5. Well, if the Republicans shoot themselves in the foot (feet?), they can’t blame Obama and the Democrats… of course they will, but hopefully their constituents will realize the truth. When Romney lost, I hoped that this would act as a bucket of ice water over the Republican party’s heads and they would realize that their extreme positions on various issues were not winning hearts and minds. I am praying for the return of the moderate Republican – and then maybe we can start getting things working again. Yup, I’m an optimist… but it’s Christmas time.

  6. It goes back to that whole alternate reality thing we saw full screen when Rove questioned the Fox News pollsters on air. Tea Party members and their followers actually do live in an alternate reality and they aren’t being intransigent because they don’t like the deal, they’re kicking and screaming because they’re trying to maintain their belief system in the face of an overwhelming assault from reality. About the only thing they CAN do is close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears and chant
    “la la la la la” as loudly as they can. There’s only one really effective way to deal with that – sit them in the corner for a time out until they finally accept the fact that the dessert won’t be served until they finish their meal. Unfortunately, “Time-Outs” for Congress only come once every two years.

  7. Well, this is one of the issues with representative government. When we vote for a representative, we vote for, well, our proxy in government, someone who will “represent” our views. They are supposed to be the stand-in for the people who voted for them. However, at the same time, they are supposed to be concerned with the good of the nation as a whole. If you’re an ignorant, selfish, short-sighted ideologue, and you vote for someone who you believe will vote as you would do on any issue, which is why you empower him to represent you, are they betraying you if they don’t vote the way you expect them to? Representative democracy doesn’t presume people vote for the wisest leaders, who will make the tough decisions after carefully evaluating all the facts in as objective a manner as possible. Representative democracy presumes people vote for the people who are most like themselves.

    As Mencken put it in 1920:
    “As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

    This was quoted an awful lot in November, 2000, for obvious reasons.

    If The People elect an obstructionist, and he fails to obstruct, is he a good politician, because he is putting the country ahead of his own career, or a bad politician, because he isn’t doing what he was elected to do? (I have found the answer to this seemingly complex question is simple: If a politician goes against his constituency in a way I approve of, he’s a heroic patriot who places the greater good above the selfish desires of the few. If a politician goes against his constituency in a way I disapprove of, he’s a flip-flopping hypocrite who has become corrupted by power games and favor trading and has sold out to big money interests. At least, that’s what I’ve learned is the correct formula based on any number of facebook posts, blog rants, etc. Our guy is flexible; their guy is wishy-washy. Our guy is principled; their guy is bull-headed.)

    (I wonder how it would work if one of the houses, the Senate, say, was elected for life, barring “high crimes and misdemeanors” (maybe recallable by a two-thirds majority, as a second safety valve), so they never had to fear for re-election or pander to special interests for campaign contributions, while the House remained as is, constantly turning over and keeping things fresh? Hmmm.)

  8. Sure Boehner has his problems. But many of his problems were self-created by him and his fellow leaders in the GOP. He supported the increasingly partisan house, he didn’t attempt to slow or stop that. He supported Tea Party candidates instead of people capable of compromise and thought. So yes, every morning he’s got to wake up to a bad day but he planted the seeds of these bad days and he’s nurtured them for quite a number of years now.

    I feel more sorry for the people he’s affected by his ham-handed leadership.

  9. @Bonelady — of course they can, and will, blame Obama, et al. The general form will go “It’s Obama’s fault we drove the country off the cliff, because he wouldn’t just give us everything we asked for, immediately. He knew we wouldn’t vote for his proposals, and we wouldn’t compromise or bargain, and he didn’t just roll over instantly! How can you not blame him?”

  10. NPR reported weak trading on stock exchanges around the world due to the looming fiscal cliff in the US. I checked Google news, and many are reporting the same thing. So, you know, Boehner and the GOP get to mess with the economy of the whole world, not just the United States.

  11. So assuming Boehner doesn’t just throw up his hands and head off for K Street, just how vulnerable is he to a primary challenge from the right? I know various Tea groups and associates have been talking about it for a few weeks now. And if he does get primaried out or quits, just how much farther to the right is the district willing to go? I’m guessing a Democratic pickup his highly unlikely in 2014, but if the GOP winds up picking a Mourdock/Akin type, could a Dem squeak in?

  12. I don’t even know why he tried. There was no way he could get a simple majority of this House to agree that the sky was up. It’s possible that when 113 convenes, he might be able to herd a few more cats towards a deal, since quite a few Tea Party reps are on their way out. I could be wrong, but my impression has been that 113 will be a bit more moderate than 112.

  13. Ever since he took the gavel from Pelosi and embarked on a tearful speech about how he started out as the son of a poor barkeep, my impression of Boehner is that he sees holding the Speakership as a validation of his personal history. It’s an achievement; a token of success. There’s nothing wrong with seeing things that way, per se, but I don’t get a sense that he has an equally compelling sense of the public service obligations that go with being Speaker.

    One could say the Speaker, rather than leading the House, reflects it; and the GOP’s contempt for public service – and, for that matter, the public – is central to its ideology.

  14. Makes me want to ship Boehner a large order of shock collars and remote controllers, but that probably wouldn’t help much. What a mess.

    Got to love that report that Anonymous blocked an attempt by Karl Rove to hack election results in Ohio. While it’s doubtful (evidence? Where’s the evidence?), perhaps Rove wasn’t delusional, just thinking he’d already corrupted the process sufficiently to win regardless of what Americans actually wanted.

    Of course, the real thing to remember is that these are the leaders we’re stuck with, like it or not. Perhaps it’s time to get back to that old-timey thing of looking out for each other, being actively engaged in politics, and not expecting Congress to do anything useful for a while?

  15. DemetriosX:

    Speaking as a resident of Boehner’s district, the only two ways he’s being unseated are if he retired or if he keels over dead in his office. He’s not especially vulnerable on the right, and the Democrats didn’t even bother running someone against him this year.

  16. I do feel sorry for Boehner. He is stuck with a caucus who believe it is better to go down (and take the ship with you) holding onto positions that cannot work and refusing every compromise. That said, I also noticed Cantor’s smile last night as he stated that they were all going home. He’s bucking for the Speaker position himself, not supporting his own party leader. Unfortunately, he is willing to see the world economy destroyed to get there. I have no respect for that kind of political gamesmanship. They are supposed to be running the country and safeguarding the world’s largest economy.

  17. You and Charles Pierce over at Esquire have actually caused me to feel the slightest bit of sympathy for Speaker Boehner:

    “He offered himself up as Speaker knowing full well that, in 2010, the country had elected itself a Congress straight out of the more fantastical chapters of Gullivers Travels. He had to have watched what happened thereafter, when the president put a deal on the table in 2011 that made him look like Dwight Eisenhower on a bad day, and Boehner couldn’t sell it to the vandals in his caucus. He had to have watched as a vulnerable Democratic president got re-elected with ease, and brought a more liberal Democratic senatorial majority along with him, largely because the Republican presidential primary field was such a carnival of the politically insane that it even made an useless windsock like Willard Romney look like the wildest hair across Barry Goldwater’s ass. Boehner had to know that there is no deal he could have brought back to his caucus — no bargain, grand or otherwise, that he could sell — because he no longer even is the putative leader of an actual political party. He is Speaker because somebody has to be, and he may not be Speaker for long, because it doesn’t matter who is.”

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/Over_The_Cliff_Already

  18. “Well, if the Republicans shoot themselves in the foot (feet?), they can’t blame Obama and the Democrats… of course they will, but hopefully their constituents will realize the truth.”

    I’m not so sure they will. I suspect a large part of the constituents will put the blame on Obama for not accepting the perfectly-reasonable plan that Boehner came up with.

    Okay, yeah, Boehner never got the bill passed, but lots of people simply don’t get that that’s how it works. They don’t know about bills being in committee and having to pass the House and then come to the Senate or anything like that. They don’t understand about the system of checks and balances and think that Obama has free reign to just write laws into being. Lots of people simply don’t get the nuts and bolts of how government works.

    So I think there will be plenty of people who see that Boehner and Obama were discussing the fiscal cliff, and that Boehner offered deals which Obama didn’t like, and those deals didn’t happen, and they will blame Obama for saying “no”.

  19. “A couple more years of that and not even gerrymandering and low-turnout mid-term elections will save the GOP House majority.”

    This is the only thing you wrote in this post that I disagree with. Any time I talk with voters who bitterly hate President Obama and who snarlingly blame “liberals” for the existence of cancer and child molestation, I come away convinced that hysterical, irrational, bigoted, screechy loons in politics will always have a sizable constituency in this country and will always get elected and re-elected into office. Indeed, in the wake of the election, I’ve read plenty of articles about and quotes from Republicans indicating that a significant portion of the GOP is taking the attitude that they just didn’t steer far ENOUGH toward bat-sh*t crazy in this election and need to be even more fruitloopy next time. A percentage of them will do it… and will get themselves elected. Because there is no “sell by” date on stupid.

  20. Sadly, I have to laregly agree. There are certain Republican (and, to be fair this is a bipartisan problem) who get more mileage out of being “pure” than they do out of fixing problems. Any real fix to the current situation will include unpopular measures. Right now, I see zero political will for those. Sure Obama has a weak mandate of sorts, but he was also delivered a divided Congress, and his mandate, if it exists, is for a platform (“wealthy pay their share”) that isn’t even a halfway serious solution, as it puts off the painful decisions about spending . It looks like things will need to get worse before they get better (if they, indeed, can get better).

    Other than that, Merry Christmas.

  21. @Lizard
    I agreed with everything you said unil the very last bit. While I agree that re-election is a problem for House and Senate, I would rather see term limits accross the board then I would elected-for-life. I can’t help but think that life-terms would just lead to poltical stagnation. Of coruse we seem to be there already in many cases.

  22. I’m a pretty moderate democrat and I totally agree here.

    SNL lampooned this situation, likening it to dealing with high school bullies. Heh, it’s not even that mature. It’s more like trying to reason with a toddler who’s having a meltdown in the middle of the grocery store. Sometimes all you can do is grab them and take them out of the store, but Boehner doesn’t have that option. He’s that mother who has to stand there while the tantrum goes on (and on and on) and everyone is looking and shaking their heads and being judgy. Yes, it’s your kid and everyone expects you to handle it, but good luck with that. Imagine having a whole group of people like that.

    His situation truly sucks. I can feel sympathy for that, regardless of his politics.

  23. I do have some sympathy for your representative, I’ve had jobs where many of my co-workers were off the rails nuts and made the place miserable for the rest of us. Trying to deny reality is a sign of mental illness.

  24. Of course Boehner’s seat is safe for so long as he wants it. After all, look at who he replaced.

    It’s going to be more interesting to see who replaces him as Speaker. A Tea Partier as 3rd in line to the presidency?

  25. Amazing. It wasn’t even Obama’s proposal he put in front of the House, as you noted, it was *Boehner’s*. And because it was clear that it would never get past the Senate or the President, it was purely a way to do symbolic posturing that might fool low-info people into thinking they were making an honest effort. It was pure theatre, and it flopped.

    When the Speaker can’t even get people supposedly on his side to have a symbolic vote to make themselves look good — well, less bad — that’s incredibly lame.

    To whatever extent there are any reality-based Repubs left in the House, they should consider switching en-mass to the Democratic Party. It’s mostly a center-right party anyway, so it’s not like they’ll catch socialist cooties or anything.

  26. Boehner, if ousted as Speaker, might decide to simply leave Congress altogether; it’s not exactly out of the question. That’s what Gingrich did after the 1998 elections, when he resigned the speakership rather than be forced out, then resigned his seat by January ’99.

  27. @ Jim Paul: Crap, I hadn’t thought of that. If that happens, the assassination danger to Obama and Biden will jump significantly.

  28. Iowa’s dean of liberal blogging, John Deeth, calls it, ” . . the House Republicans are more commited to drown it in a bathtub nihilism than they are to public policy. This is what happens when we elect people who don’t believe in governing to, well, govern. . . as far as basic functionality, the US House is beginning to resemble the German Reichstag circa 1932, when a combination of Nazis and Communists, both committed to the destruction of the republic in different ways, combined to make governing impossible.” http://jdeeth.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-nihilist-party.html

  29. I also have zero sympathy for Boehner. He willingly got in bed with nihilists, presiding over a house of Congress that spent it’s time attacking women and their health and crying on demand for the cameras.

    He’s good and stuck now. He boxed himself in. Barring a miracle, he’s finished as Speaker.

  30. he’s saddled with a batch of stompy petulant children who are still in denial that the majority of American voters cast their ballots for Obama explicitly

    He is saddled with a bunch of conservative Republicans. It is entirely besides the point whether or not these men acknowledge Obama’s election. What matters is the system by which they hold power. Representatives are elected, and not by the “majority of American voters” but by their districts. And their districts went against Obama, in some cases by landslide margins. In opposing the Democratic agenda of more spending and higher taxes, they are properly representing their district.

    One may be for or against democracy. But one should not be surprised when a democratic election puts into power a man representing his electorate. That’s what it is supposed to do; it’s what it is designed to do. If the electorate are a bunch of stompy petulant children — and the American people certainly are that — then their representative should be predicted to mirror that.

    As for your implication that Republicans are the irresponsible parties here, I disagree with that. The USA needs fiscal discipline. It will not get it, of course, exactly because we have democracy and the character of the people is too debased. Gimme gimme. But nonetheless, fiscal discipline is the adult policy. The fiscal “cliff” is more like a fiscal hill, but regardless, we need to jump off it or at least stroll calmly down. And we need more cliff, not less. Deeper spending cuts. As I said, though, fiscal discipline is almost entirely lacking in USG, outside of a few “stompy petulant children”, who still use common sense. Therefore we will get more and more spending without balancing taxes indefinitely, until the whole house of debt collapses.

  31. All These comments are so serious so I just had to say am I the only one who thinks Mr Boehner looks very much like the Grinch from the animated Dr Suess special?

  32. Where you wrote “he’ll have the tax cuts he wanted,” I think you meant “he’ll have the tax increases he wanted.” (Although, he will also have tax increases he has indicated he does’t want.)

  33. Can’t say I’m sorry for Boehner, and it’s not me rolling in Schadenfreude. The GOP has knowingly and carefully cultivated mob rage over the past twenty years, hoping to bring about a massive cultural shift. The trouble with mobs is that they are unpredictable and fragment easily. Now Boehner is faced with exactly what he and the GOP wanted, and he’s finding that wanting something and having it are *very* different things.

  34. @ Leonard: If Republicans proposed measures that might actually contribute to long-term, fact-based “fiscal discipline”, I’d support them in that. But there’s a reason that bloodletting is no longer a common medical procedure.

  35. Leonard:

    “He is saddled with a bunch of conservative Republicans.”

    No. The stompy petulant children are many things, but I would not classify most of them as conservatives. From an ideological point of view most of them are more accurately called “radicals,” and the fact that people who should know better allow them to continue to apply the word “conservative” to their actions and philosophies is telling in itself. There are also conservative Republicans in the House; Boehner is an example of one. As someone else noted elsewhere, the idea that Boehner might now been seen as a “RINO” is an indication of how out there — how radical — the GOP has become in these latter days.

    “It is entirely besides the point whether or not these men acknowledge Obama’s election.”

    If you honestly believe that refusing to acknowledge both who has been elected president by the nation, and the policies that he represents, is a viable method of governance for any Representative, you have just become the last person I would listen to for political advice. A Representative may choose to oppose a president and his positions, but to refuse to acknowledge his election is genuinely stupid.

    “As for your implication that Republicans are the irresponsible parties here, I disagree with that.”

    You’re wrong here, too. Bear in mind that I don’t believe all Republicans are stompy irresponsible children, but there are far too many who are, and there have been far too many who have been for too long.

  36. Shayde – I don’t think it’s a reasonable claim, to say that Boehner “made that monster”. The conservative/teaparty revolt of 2009-2010 wasn’t led by Boehner, who has always been more of a centrist pragmatist. As Speaker, he’s basically *always* been trapped between them and the job, and they’ve never been particularly good at listening to or trusting him.

  37. Leonard: What matters is the system by which they hold power. Representatives are elected, and not by the “majority of American voters” but by their districts.

    And those districts were gerrymandered by republican governors to disenfranchise democrat voters.

  38. Boehner “failed” because of one simple fact (http://pointsandfigures.com/2012/12/21/why-republicans-failed/)

    The Democrats don’t understand how Boehner couldn’t get things through his caucus because Democrats operate differently. They are a centrally planned bureaucracy. It’s top down, monolithic decision making. The head speaks and the party machine enforces discipline so everyone follows the same line.

    Which explains Obama, Pelosi and Reid’s absolute hatred of the GOP and the Tea Party and absolute rage at any dissent no matter how reasonable. If the “awful” hoi polloi would just do what the central authority says all would be well.

  39. Scorpius:

    Considering how famed the GOP has been in recent years for its ability to keep its members in line, whilst, the Democrats have been known to be fractious and difficult to herd, there is lots of irony in your assertion.

    That said, I would agree that at this point the House GOP, at least, has become rather more difficult to whip into line.

  40. @ scorpius:

    Are you seriously suggesting that *Democrats* have much more strictly enforced party discipline than *Republicans*?

    AH-HAHAHAHAHAhahahahateeheesnort!

  41. John,

    Why do you call them “radicals”? Are you using loony Andrew Sullivan’s logic that a “Conservative” is defined by one who does not want any change in any any way possible, ever in policy? Meaning that as soon as a bill is passed, no matter how destructive and unpopular (Obamacare) it suddenly becomes un-”Conservative” and “radical” to oppose it because it is now set policy. I hope you don’t because if you do you are far dumber than I thought. ;)

  42. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/11/07/1159631/americans-voted-for-a-democratic-house-gerrymandering-the-supreme-court-gave-them-speaker-boehner

    There is a simple explanation for how this happened: Republicans won several key state legislatures and governors’ mansions in the election cycle before redistricting, and they gerrymandered those states within an inch of their lives. President Obama won Pennsylvania by more than 5 points, but Democrats carried only 5 of the state’s 18 congressional seats. … Obama won Virginia, and Democrats took 3 of 11 House seats. Obama won Ohio, but Democrats carried only 4 of 16 seats in Ohio’s House delegation.

    The reason we have a Republican Congress is becaue Republican governor’s have completely gamed the system to disenfranchise Democrat voters. Bullshit rules about “voter id”, sending only a few voting machines to democratic voting areas, fiddling with voting hours, are only the tip of the Republican’s Lets-Fuck-With-Democracy game plan. But Republican gerrymandering to stack the House is the biggest “Fuck You” to democracy.

    One may be for or against democracy. But one should not be surprised when a democratic election

    This statement? This is complete propaganda when one realizes just how much Republicans are willing to game the rules and fuck with democracy. The house is Republican not because that’s the result that democracy would have given it. Democracy, the voters actual desires, would have made the house far more Blue/Left than it is now.

    This whole thing is just bullshit. Even more than Electoral College reform, we need gerrymandering reform, NOW.

  43. Maybe this commitment to jump gleefully over the fiscal cliff is the start of the end times that all this Mayan Apocalypse of 12/21/2012 talk refers to?

  44. John,

    I am a registered Democrat and volunteered for many campaigns in the 90s. I know better than anyone that the author of that piece’s description of the Democrats as ” top-down and monolithic” in their decision making is spot on.

  45. I’m loving the strange new respect for the position the Gerrymanders are an issue. i’ve been saying this for years. Is it too much to hope that we could move toward party- and race-neutral districting? Probably. Personally, I’d go with a mathematical model that minimized district circumference and kept district populations within, say 2-3% of the same number of residents, irrespective of the party or ethnicity of the residents. The current system is an incumbent protection racket that minimizes the need to appeal to a broad constituency. By some estimates, only about 15% of the races in 2012 were competitive. In an electorate that is overall nearly equally split between Democrats and Republicans, this seems way too low.

  46. @Scorpius

    I see a lot of accusations like that thrown at both parties. But the actual human beings I meet, are much more diverse. I suspect that “everyone follows the same line”, is just a prettified way of saying that the “people I don’t like can’t think for themselves.” It conveniently ignores the actual humans (in all their messy, complicated glory) siting across the table in favor of a self-comforting fiction.

  47. “The majority of American voters cast their ballots for Obama explicitly”
    Yes–but *barely* as far as the popular vote is concerned. I am *fully aware* that American politics is a “winner take all” contest, but why are so many politicians and commentators blind to the results of the popular vote?
    Obama won with *only* 51% of the popular vote. That is a win to be sure, and I won’t deny that one jot. Congratulations. But that means that the American people are closer than 0.02 to an even split for or against the Dems and GOP.
    That means that the Pres, the House, and the Senate have a clear mandate to meet somewhere in the middle. Taxes are going to have to go up for some of the rich: less than the Dems want, and more than the GOP wants. Spending is going to have to go down some: more than the Dems want, and less than the GOP wants.
    The results of the voting public shows this is what America wants. Anyone who says the (fill in your party here) plan is the only correct choice, needs to have a reality check.
    This goes for Obama, Boehner, and every commentator stomping around saying “my party won! I get my way!”

  48. Scorpius, you have finally jumped the shark if you truly believe the Democratic party is in any way organized, homogeneous or centrally planed – their defining characteristic is shambolic infighting leading to defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.. The Republicans used to be a highly disciplined party, but have collapsed into tribalism and nihilism after their collective meltdown following Obama’s initial election, and have sunk even deeper into dysfunction following his inconceivable (in their reality) re-election.

  49. I read some bit of inside-the-beltway inside baseball (I forget where) suggesting that the way forward for the Republicans is for someone from the tea-party wing-nut-itarian branch to challenge Boehner for Speaker, at which point they put in somebody like Cantor instead. I dunno if that’s actually ‘forward’ quite so much as ‘try to put some of the wheels back on’, but I can’t help but think that having a loyal opposition that’s capable of functioning at all would be nice.

  50. Not surprising what’s going on within the GOP. It’s a rerun from the past: “la révolution dévore ses enfants” (“the Revolution devours its children”) — Jacques Mallet du Pan, 1793 (one guess what he was writing about)

  51. Scorpius:

    “I am a registered Democrat and volunteered for many campaigns in the 90s.”

    You are saying your experience as a local volunteer is in any way equivalent to the experience of a politician on the national level?

  52. scorpius says:

    John,
    I am a registered Democrat…

    When did that happen? In August, you claimed to be unaffiliated with either major party, and to be a Libertarian.

  53. Just to throw some tiny (and mostly irrelevant) facts into the uproar: a) no one has voted for Obama to be President — they voted for Electors who pledged to vote for Obama-Biden and b) that election by the Electors was on the 17th of December (big news story, that) and c) those votes are opened and read on 6 January.

  54. @ John Scalzi: It’s not so much that House Repubs have become more difficult to whip into line, it’s that Boehner doesn’t have the only whip. There’s a significant subset of the House GOP that’s obviously being whipped in a different direction. The disloyal opposition is very disciplined.

  55. Democratic Party unity…right. You’ve got your Congressional Black Caucus, progressive wing, Blue Dog Dems, DLC Democrats. If you think that any of them on any given day agree on the official policy of the Democratic Party, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

  56. @ Skyfisher:

    51% to 47% in the popular vote is not a landslide, but it hardly counts as having “barely” won.

    And meeting in some mythical “middle” is the standard pundit line, but that only has a limited value in contexts where the argument involves the equivalent of:

    Is pi equal to:
    1) Somewhere near 3, maybe?
    2) See?! See?! They want to take all your pies away!

  57. Spending cuts need to be also made. No more free rides for the illegals, no more free rides for those to lazy to look for a job, cut foreign aide to all those special interests we’ve been paying off for years to make someone happy. Time for the rest of the world to grow up and support themselves! Cut pay and benefits to all ALL politicians on Capital Hill. It should be an honor to serve America instead of lining their pockets. Make term limits for all members of Congress, America has suffered enough from the Good Old Boys Club. Time for America to wake up, our Country needs to be run like a business and LESS like a country club for high government officials.

  58. John,

    I was more than a “volunteer at a local level”. You assume too much. My family had connections to one Democratic Senator and many Democratic congressmen from my state. I also live in a very blue state and work around the Left and see the mind-numbing uniformity of thought that is not encouraged but enforced.

  59. Wait. The Democrats have the Senate and the White House and until 2010 the House as well. Congress hasn’t passed a budget in three years, instead passing short term measures. If they couldn’t pass a budget when one party controlled all three, why are we expecting anything of merit now that the GOP controls one of the three? And if the President’s Fiscal Cliff plan is so great, why is Sen. Reid refusing to allow a vote on it in the Senate? The Senate GOP has been completely on board with getting the President’s plan to a vote there. I totally agree the House GOP shot themselves in the foot with the collapse of Plan B, but let’s get real here, Sen. Reid is refusing to allow a vote on President Obama’s plan – I think both parties are going to get the blame. This has reached ridiculous proportions.

  60. A government *isn’t* a business, and thinking it should be run like one makes about as much sense as comparing the federal budget to a household budget. It sounds clever but it’s not.

    Anyway, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-By-His-Own-Party circa 2001-2009 was a businessman — as much as he was anything, at least — and that turned out to be a spectacular mistake. And Romney was a businessman, too, but obviously not the kind you’d want to take home to meet your parents. (Vultures have notoriously bad table manners.)

  61. Actually Scorpious, Boehner was one of the leading voices on the Republican “Repeal and Replace” initiative during the 112th congress. So named because they wanted to Repeal Obamacare and Replace it with… well they actually never put forward a competing plan (that’s not me mocking a plan I don’t like, they really didn’t put one forward).

    Additionally ANYONE watching the House floor on the night that Obamacare passed (when Boehner took the Dems to task for the content of the bill and the speed with which it was put forward) would understand his complete loathing for tha particular piece of legislation. I didn’t agree with him at all, but I did have to respect the speach he gave.

    In other words, disliking Obamacare isn’t a useful cutoff point for the difference between Conservatives and Radicals.

  62. Well, as far as a Plea to Authority goes, I’ll give it a 6…cuz I can dance to it. As far as matching what I’ve seen from my life as far as the Democrats go (which is usually charitably described as “herding cats”)….nope, not very much.

  63. Scorpius:

    “I was more than a ‘volunteer at a local level’. You assume too much.”

    Very well, then: Enlighten me as to your actual experience, please. If you are going to assert that you have inside knowledge, you should be willing to detail some of that knowledge.

  64. I agree with all but one word. In describing a “nadir”, you are implying that things can’t get worse. I have to disagree; I foresee far worse ahead of us. I used to think that we might go over the cliff briefly just in order to create the context for a deal that cancels it; now I’m beginning to suspect that we’ll actually be living the cliff all of next year.

  65. Be glad you don’t live in California. We’ve had this level of gridlock in our state legislature for at least 10 years now.

  66. It’s also worth noting that there’s a big difference between party discipline as far as voters, donors, and such, and party discipline as far as the voting behavior of legislative office holders. The Dem Party *is* pretty strict in the former context — especially when they break out the special “Nader” whips — but pretty worthless in the latter context.

  67. Twin2:“The Senate GOP has been completely on board with getting the President’s plan to a vote there. I totally agree the House GOP shot themselves in the foot with the collapse of Plan B, but let’s get real here, Sen. Reid is refusing to allow a vote on President Obama’s plan – I think both parties are going to get the blame. This has reached ridiculous proportions.”

    You mean how Reid was wiling to bring it up and then McConnell ended up fillibustering his own proposed vote on the President’s plan, right? And meanwhile the Senate has passed a bill that would keep all tax rates for under $250k at the current level, but the House won’t vote on it.

  68. Scorpius, you say Obamacare is destructive and unpopular as if that is fact. I disagree. I think it is neither.

  69. John, to you they look radical; to me merely conservative. This shows you are further left than I am. This is no surprise. Every man feels his own politics are just, reasoned, sane, and where the center ought to be. Radical would look like, oh, reverting our constitution to the 1932 version of the Constitution, wherein pretty much all of the three-letter agencies would have been considered obviously un-Constitutional. These “radical” Republicans you so revile won’t touch the real problem we face, which is out-of-control entitlement spending. It is out of control exactly because they won’t touch it, and it is out of control exactly because it is popular. Democracy doing what democracy will.

    I do not know of any Representative who refuses to acknowledge Obama’s election. Perhaps there are a few. Do you know of any, or are you just blowing smoke? But again, the existence of nonexistence of this group of people is entirely immaterial to your assertion that they are Boehner’s “problem”. To whatever degree they do exist, they are not denialists because they are stupid but because they are politicians. The conservatives who are Boehner’s problem are his problem exactly because of political factors. If they deny Obama’s election, they are doing it for political gain — presumably because they feel that their electorate feels the same. That they oppose more tax and spend is for the same reason.

    As for what “viable methods” of governance are — we have a very large Federal government. It is largely on autopilot by now. It will continue to run with or without the fig-leaf of Congressional lawmaking. Just as, for example, the actual government of Belgium continued to run, for 2 years, without an official government. So, you know, I am really not concerned whether or not the Congress will do anything about the fiscal “cliff” glide-slope. There’s nothing exceptional about it at all. No crisis. No necessity to act.

    My opposition here is really all about your tone. I do not find yours helpful, at all, this “stompy irresponsible children” schtick. Conservative Republicans are not that. By demonizing them as such, you are part of the problem. Until you can acknowledge that your opponents are grown men (and the occasional women), acting rationally according to their deeply help beliefs and the political incentives they face, you reduce politics to namecalling, invective, and partisanship.

  70. Ron Grant, if you’re characterizing people currently on unemployment insurance as “people too lazy to look for jobs”, you’re not only wrong, but offensively so. First, eligibility for UI depends on the amount one has worked in the past 18 months, and the applicant may not have quit their job voluntarily (except for certain very limited circumstances that, in practice, are rarely accepted), nor have been fired for cause. Second, people receiving UI are required to perform a certain number of job searches every week in order to maintain their eligibility. Finally, studies have shown that people who have benefited from UI are re-employed at a higher rate and suffer fewer adverse effects of unemployment (such as evictions, foreclosures, loss of medical coverage). To call the people struggling to find a job in this environment “lazy” is mean-spirited and ignorant.

    I’ve been one of those people. My husband is currently one of those people, and right now we’re looking down the barrel of the gun.

  71. Leonard:

    “John, to you they look radical; to me merely conservative. This shows you are further left than I am.”

    Well, no. It shows that one of us may not be using the correct definition of the word “conservative,” as regards this particular group of representatives. Which has nothing to do with my political position relative to yours, as there are people who identify themselves as conservative who do not call them conservative, either.

    “My opposition here is really all about your tone.”

    Leonard, you need to be very clear that I don’t give a fuck what you think about my tone. Not just you of course; I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about my tone. This is actually covered in the site disclaimer, which I suggest you read. The short version is: I write what I please here. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it.

    “I do not find yours helpful, at all, this ‘stompy irresponsible children’ schtick. Conservative Republicans are not that. By demonizing them as such, you are part of the problem. Until you can acknowledge that your opponents are grown men (and the occasional women), acting rationally according to their deeply help beliefs and the political incentives they face, you reduce politics to namecalling, invective, and partisanship.”

    Oh, bullshit, Leonard. This particular groups of representative aren’t acting in the slightest bit rationally; they’re acting like jackassed ideologues who would rather shit on everything than entertain the notion that they might not be able to get their way all the time. Their “deeply held beliefs,” which are conservative in name only, are foolish and do not deserve my respect; their actions deserve it even less. You can suggest I treat them with respect all you like, but as I’ve said before, “if you want me to treat your ideas with respect, get better ideas.” Lots of people very sincerely and deeply hold fantastically stupid beliefs. I’m not obliged to respect those beliefs simply because they hold them.

    Likewise, until these grown humans stop acting like stompy irresponsible children, I’m going to point out they are acting like stompy, irresponsible children. It’s what they deserve. You are free to disagree with my assessment, of course.

  72. Leonard: Until you can acknowledge that your opponents are … acting rationally

    The Tea Party folks with signs saying “keep your hands of my medicare” are acting rationally?

    These “radical” Republicans you so revile won’t touch the real problem we face, which is out-of-control entitlement spending.

    What we’re facing is a House built off of gerrymandering used to disenfranchise voters, stacking the deck disproportionately in favor of Republicans, out of proportion to the actual population-based votes of the states they come from.

  73. @Leonard
    “My opposition here is really all about your tone. I do not find yours helpful, at all, this “stompy irresponsible children” schtick.

    Disagreeing with his tone is not the same as finding substantiative disagreement with his conclusions, and to claim the way some states either a fact or an opinion impacts the actuality of either is a ridiculous approach to any discussion.

    I do not know of any Representative who refuses to acknowledge Obama’s election.
    Rob Woodall, US House District 7, Georgia, (My rep) still will not publicly disclaim the birther notion of Barack Obama not being US Citizen, thus having little respect for the president’s legitimacy.

    Now you know one.

    @ Leonard
    Just as a point of fact, Rob Woodall got 89% of his reelection support not only from outside of his own district, but outside of the state of Georgia. No matter how the actual votes tallied, I hesitate to say that Rep. Woodall is representing the people of his district. He may be representing the people who got him elected, but in this case, how much influence those folks outside his state had on his reelection is worth consideration.

    And all this said, I don’t think Wood all is a particulary horrible person, but he is most definitely and idealogue of the tea party coalition, a southern conservative, and the new face of the republican party. None of which give me much hope for compromise on anything.

    and for the record — he does get a little stompy when people challenge him in his town hall meetings. (There’s one to night if anyone wants to go.)

  74. No. Not a bit of sympathy. Boehner’s ridiculous rhetoric and obstructionist attitude got him here. He *encouraged* the wingnuttery that is now biting him in the ass, thinking he could just turn it off when he wanted. His new campaign slogan should be “making beds and hoisting petards”.

  75. When it comes to elections, in certain areas, yeah, Democrats can be *very* organized. There’s a reason why the phrase “the party machine” is used in places like Albany (NY). And this may continue to be true on a local and state area in some places.

    But nationally? The simultaneously great and frustrating thing about Democrats on a national level is they have no issues fighting with each other over matters of principle and policy. The Democratic party, on a national level, looks like a coalition government of various progressive interests who don’t much like one of the other various progressive interests, only it’s a different one for each group, so they mostly manage to hang out and get things done.

  76. “The Democratic party, on a national level, looks like a coalition government of various progressive interests who don’t much like one of the other various progressive interests, only it’s a different one for each group, so they mostly manage to hang out and get things done.”

    And quite crucially, this is how both parties (minus the progressive bit) should act in a two party system.

    A large whack of the GOP is composed of people who are just about the opposite of conservative. Understand this – if you want massive, immediate changes to the way things are done you are NOT a conservative.

  77. “we’ll take the whole country down if we don’t get our way stomp stomp stompy stomp” philosophy of the right wing of the GOP

    Liberals and irony go together like peanut butter and jelly. It is almost as if a book of fiction was published and mislabeled as non-fiction.

    Speaking of “petulant children” crying foul when reality intrudes……

    Those on the left seem to want to double down on stupid and have this insane belief that “compromise” means getting everything their way.

    Aside from a very very few examples, I would suggest that what we have here is another example of a liberal echo chamber. Perhaps some of you might consider rethinking your paradigm rather than contributing to the effort to pound the final nail in the coffin?

    Did I miss the spending cuts? How about the effort to balance the budget? Not to mention submitting a realistic budget in the first place? Anyone want to take a stab at the last time an actual budget was submitted and passed by the Democratic majority? Any comment on the “new” “revised” estimates as to how much Obamacare will cost?

    I truly don’t understand how anyone with any intelligence can be so blind as to the numerous inconsistent and downright dangerous positions assumed by those on the left.

    Thanks….assuming this comment remains posted.

  78. “if you want massive, immediate changes to the way things are done you are NOT a conservative”

    This is Scalzi’s point (and, as someone pointed out above, Andrew Sullivan’s as well). Conservatives respect traditional institutions and try to keep the best parts of them even while adapting to changes required by the world moving on. This keeps the institutions relevant, and keeps society grounded.

    Wholesale replacement of said institutions is a radical policy, even if it’s being done from the Right rather than from the Left. This is just as true now as it was in the 1860s and 1870s.

    I’d go further and say that those who try to hold back the tide and /not/ accomodate change aren’t really doing justice to conservatism, either – since that just results in the institutions becoming obsolete and irrelevant and removing the grounding that they were meant to provide. But, as Alton Brown might say, that’s another show.

  79. Leonard: Until you can acknowledge that your opponents are … acting rationally

    How do you explain Sarah Palin?

    Or George W. Bush, especially his reelection?

    Also, from a 2010 poll, self-identified Republican voters came in at 55% against gays serving in the military, 77% against gays marrying, so, that’s irrational and bigotted.

    Speaking of the purely scientific definition of “rational”, 77% of self identified Republicans think Creationism should be taught in schools.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/02/02/832988/-The-2010-Comprehensive-Daily-Kos-Research-2000-Poll-of-Self-Identified-Republicans

    I await your next change of topic to avoid all this.

  80. ConstructiveConservative:

    “I truly don’t understand how anyone with any intelligence can be so blind as to the numerous inconsistent and downright dangerous positions assumed by those on the left.”

    i.e., “You’re not talking here about the subjects I think are important, and what you are talking about is something I’m not comfortable with, so watch me try to change the subject by throwing up a lot of chaff that has very little to do with the subject under discussion!”

    ConstructiveConservative: The topic under discussion is John Boehner, “Plan B,” it’s failure, and the GOP of the House. Topics not under discussion: ZOMG THE LIBRULS ARE SOOOO BAD. Perhaps some other time.

    If you actually wish to be constructive then you will actually keep your comments on topic, rather than attempting to derail the discussion into topics you find more congenial. However, if you can’t keep your future comments on topic, then they will be deleted, because the house rules note that intentionally off-topic posts are candidates for deletion. So now you know.

  81. We’ll all be dead – or at least old – before history has enough sources to render FINAL judgement.

    (“Master and Servant” by Depeche Mode just came up on my playlist. How much more topical can you get?)

    I am officially sick to death of all the people who betray their ignorance by declaring the Left and the Democrats as pining for totalitarianism. Problem is they really do know better, so they use codewords like “fascism” and “Communism” instead for the scare value.

    Schoolkids pull nonsense like that, usually followed with phrases like “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” and “neener neener I can’t heeeaaarrr you!”

    Never – NOT ONCE – have I seen credible source supporting such positions, notwithstanding repeated requests. If it was really that bad, someone would break an NDA in a blog entry, or a paper like the Washington Times (no fan of the Left, mind you) would get to the bottom of it gleefully, in the same way and for the same reason that the Post sussed out the Watergate scandal.

    Gawd.

  82. And here’s a good summary:

    History may well judge Boehner the HR’s analogue to James Buchanan, even if the consequences of that failure don’t lead to the same degree of carnage.

    More’s the pity.

  83. For those looking to some technocratic response to the gerrymander (e.g. minimize perimeters), bear in mind that most geographic districting solutions produce pretty much what we have now: highly concentrated urban raisins of Democratic voters in a pale pudding of suburban and rural Republicans.

    If you want competitive districts, say so (Arizona, to my utter astonishment, actually gets this somewhere in the same zip code as right.) Set a threshold for challenging districts, such as “more than a 95% statistical confidence that the district boundaries are not representative of the State as a whole” or something similar — by all means, have compact districts, but also have them generally representative.

    That, or ditch the whole concept of “districts” altogether in favor of something like the Australian system.

  84. @Greg, I think your point about redistricting is well-said. Unfortunately, it means that we are stuck with a more GOP-heavy congress for the next 10 years than we would have were districting not done by politicans. (The Iowa and California systems are flawed, but less so than making it a fully political decision)

    As much as I hate to think this far out, the 2020 election will be a presidential one, which will mean during the next redistricting cycle, state governments will better represent the country (because more people vote in presidential elections), and hopefully the resulting congress will as well.

  85. John,
    This whole comment thread seems to me to have degraded into:
    “You are just calling lies the truth. Now here’s my facts. Yadda yadda. I’m right you’re wrong.”
    Nobody in these comment threads seems to ever change their mind or convince anyone else to change their mind.
    This whole thread reminds me of the political ads that kept airing before the elections.
    (Sorry, that’s off topic. Maybe start a new post discussing such? (grins hopefully) )

  86. @Scorpius

    I’m not saying you aren’t a registered democrat, but I would be a registered republican* for at least part of the time in my own state if only because the State of Georgia and my congressional districts in particular tend to vote republican without exception. I live just outside the metro atlanta and thus while I may have voted for Obama in the General election, in the primary I voted republican in order to have a voice in the least offensive Republican candidate likely to face Obama — and I do so regularly in the state and local elections — and this is important — because the Democratic Party in the state of Georgia could not agree on in which direction the sun sets and rises , they are so fractiously caught in their own little “liberal” battlegrounds most of the time. So, in your state, the democrats maybe be a top down authoritarian force to be reckoned with but in my state, they are more like competitors in a pie fight.

    To which, I add, that I have some sympathy for Speaker Boehner only because Cat herding is such a tiring and ultimately frustrating endeavor.

    Speaking of which, Mr. Boehner, this is for you, for inspiration Cat herding is for Professionals

    (* I’m not a registered republican or democrat because the state doesn’t require it. )
    (**I am not in anyway affiliated with EDS)

  87. Interesting comment framed in a way that seemingly disallows any other response than one in agreement. I don’t doubt you will see this comment as further evidence supporting your decision to delete my previous comment, but frankly that’s not the purpose of me taking another stab at presenting a dissenting view.

    You clearly state in your comment above:

    “The topic under discussion is John Boehner, “Plan B,” it’s failure, and the GOP of the House.”

    Ok, I disagree with your claim that the fault lies with “the GOP of the House” rather than Boehner. I also wonder on what basis you suggest that the House members with whom you obviously disagree are any more guilty of standing their ground than Boehner or those on the other side of the aisle. Are you not the one claiming that “Ohhh, Conservatives are sooo bad”? I’m not trying to be contrary, just wondering why presenting the other side of the story is considered bad form. Nothing personal here, but are you suggesting that an argument can’t be made that those with whom you disagree are taking just as principled a stand?

    Boehner represents the old way of doing business, precisely the behavior which got us into this mess in the first place. Would you not agree that without the input of those conservatives you malign there would be no discussion on the spending side of the equation. If one considers the fact that spending bills are to originate in the House, isn’t it fair to suggest that it is the Senate and the President who are obstructing the “people’s will”?

    That said, I await your response….

  88. “Understand this – if you want massive, immediate changes to the way things are done you are NOT a conservative.”

    I’d disagree, with a observation: In my opinion, what the extreme conservatives want are massive changes in order to return to a stable time that they believe existed, when families were strong, everybody respected the flag, America was the first and only superpower, and things were So Much Better.

    The question of whether or not such a time actually existed is entirely beside the point, as is the question of whether or not it’s possible to create (or re-create) such a time.

  89. Uhm. Wanting to keep things how they are is “conservative”. Wanting to put things back to how they used to be, or how one imagines they used to be, has a word: “reactionary”.

  90. John, in fact I do understand it is your site and you can and will say what you want. This should go without saying. However, since you seem to doubt that I am aware of it, I am saying it for the record. Since you like your tone and I do not, there’s nothing more to discuss there. You say you have no respect for your political opponents’ ideas and that therefore they deserve your nasty tone. Got it.

    As for actual on-topic debate, I reject your notion that the Tea Party is not “conservative” rather than “radical”. But this is a semantic debate. I say conservative, you radical; potato, potahtoe. I can decode your speech and I believe you can decode mine. I do wonder how you view, say, Ron Paul in this light. I guess he would be “ultraradical” to you.

    I also reject your notion that conservative Republicans are acting irrationally. You have to look at their actions in light of what they want, how they are contrained, and what power they have. As I was arguing above, if gliding off the “fiscal cliff” is the best policy we can get, then stonewalling is the rational way to get it. That the fiscal “cliff” may be the most austere budget that is within the realm of political possibility in America 2012. I think so, and I am not alone in that. Indeed, I find it very interesting that the creation of a “if Congress does nothing” fiscal doom-cliff was ever agreed to in the first place. That was either some very shrewd calculation by someone, or else just good luck.

  91. I love how Republicans always think austerity is such a good idea for other people, and how the time to implement it is when the economic carnage it generates will make somebody else look bad.

  92. ConstructiveConservative:

    My immediate response is: thanks for the reframe, it’s appreciated. Further thoughts will have to wait until I am back at home; I am currently ferrying my family around on horrible slushy roads (not at this VERY second; commenting and driving in crap would be suicide).

  93. Interesting comment framed in a way that seemingly disallows any other response than one in agreement

    John asking you to stay on topic is equivalent in your mind to no dissent? Why?

    I don’t doubt you will see this comment as further evidence supporting your decision to delete my previous comment

    He didn’t delete your previous comment.

    As I was arguing above, if gliding off the “fiscal cliff” is the best policy we can get, then stonewalling is the rational way to get it.

    Cutting your own speaker’s balls off in the process is just a bonus, I guess.

  94. I still think taxes should be allowed to raise on everyone. Or, if we want to get charitable about it then raise them for anyone making more than 50,000 Of course to suggest that would be crazy cause it might cause pain in the middle class. Obama is ever bit as much to blame as congress in that he is inflexible and only wants to tax the hell out of people without controlling his spending. I have no respect for him at all.

  95. Obama does try to cut the war budget, but the congress scum won’t let him,

    “Funny” that the party that put two failed wars and Medicare part D on the national credit card, and said deficits don’t matter, is now bleating about deficits at precisely the wrong time in the fiscal cycle.

  96. Well it seems clear to me that if the democrats wanted a deal with Boehner they could have one. I mean you don’t need only republicans to pass a bill. You could have a coalition of democrats and republicans that together make up a majority.

    But there will have to be budget cuts for this to happen. There will have to be democrats willing to do something about social security, Medicare and Medicaid. Maybe I missed something but I don’t see it. I do however see republicans willing to raise tax rates, even though to my my mind limiting deductions to $50,000 seemed perfectly serviceable to me if ones goal was to raise revenue.

    To me, it seems like the President does want to go “over the cliff”. Or perhaps he just doesn’t know how to make a deal. Or doesnt have the power to make his coalition fall in line. I don’t know who will ultimately be blamed, but I’m pretty sure that if we do spend the next year in that far ravine, most will curse them all.

  97. InDaButt (seriously? grow up):

    Except Obama’s offered hundreds of billions of /specific/ spending cuts in addition to raising taxes on those making $250k/yr and above. Whoever’s been telling you otherwise is a liar and I suggest you get your news elsewhere.

  98. [Disclaimer: I have not read this thread, only John's post to launch the thread. Got things to do, no time to read a hundred plus comments. So this comment is a reaction to John's post, not comments by the many commentators. Though I do like you guys, just no time to read you right now.] The fiscal cliff is legislation enacted by Congress and signed by the current President with a Republican controlled house and a Democrat controlled senate. So, QED, it is the current policy of the government, notwithstanding all the current statements by either side to the contrary. AND it will reduce deficit spending in the SHORT term by raising taxes revenues and cutting spending. How in the world can any of us complain about our government finally doing something right? That is, cutting back on irresponsible deficit spending year after year. Bring on the fiscal cliff, I sway. Bring it on. Speaker Boehner, you are doing the best you can in a sorry situation. Your best bet is to put the Senate legislation up for a vote and let it pass with votes from Republicans and Democrats, but not a majority from either, but a majority of the whole House. That, at least, would avoid the tax rate increases on most of the middle class. Best you can hope for in the time between now and New Year’s Day. Otherwise, bring on the fiscal cliff. We true fiscal conservatives want tax revenues to cover all Federal spending. We hate deficit spending except in time of hot war and deep recessions that border on depression.

  99. Kevin, Obama is offering cuts in the out years. Name something (in writing if you can find it) that shows specific cuts for FY13. Much like Wimpy, he’s offering spending cuts tomorrow for tax increases today.. Those cuts ain’t never gonna happen.

  100. I actually do have some sympathy for Boehner, but not much. I’m not sure if his Plan B was even a serious attempt to compromise, I think he knew it didn’t have a chance in hell but whatever. But he also made it his mission to obstruct Obama at every turn during his 1st term that he shouldn’t be suprised that he trained them all so well. I do know that I think Republicans have a problem with increased taxes on the wealthy because it will affect them DIRECTLY. Instead of viewing it as what it is and evening of the playing field they see it as a direct hit on THEIR income. They sure as hell didn’t make it to the top 2% by giving away their money. And frankly they have gotten used to paying less than the rest of us. How else do explain their repeatedly voting ridiculous raises for themselves year after year? And Obama is not against cutting spending it’s WHERE the cuts come from, the Republicans want to cut things like medicare, mental health, disabled vets etc; but KEEP tax cuts for big business and the wealthy. Just like they don’t really have a problem with raised taxed, but only if it doesn’t affect them and their “friends”. Which most of America frankly has a Fuck You attitude about and said so when they re-elected Obama.

  101. jimbot:

    You’re moving the goalposts there. The original assertion was that Obama was doing nothing to rein in spending, which is false. That said, it’s amazing what you can get from looking at the White House website:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/ccs.pdf

    More: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget

    All for FY13.

    I think someone’s been lying to you as well, and I offer the same advice I do to the other poster.

  102. Interesting comment framed in a way that seemingly disallows any other response than one in agreement. I don’t doubt you will see this comment as further evidence supporting your decision to delete my previous comment

    FFS, dude, are you trolling for a malleting or do you just get off fancying yourself as some sort o lone wolf?

  103. And before anybody say’s it yes I know the Dem’s have voted for the raises too. I should of used my head not my emotions before adding that part-sorry. And I point at the Replucan’s because they are the ones who signed the no tax pledge.

  104. $8.5 billion in a $3803 billion budget? You’re talking 2/10th of 1%. VP Biden was bragging during the VP debate that “Less than four-tenths of 1 percent waste or fraud in the program.” while describing the stimulus program. That is over 2 billion dollars wasted by the government in one program alone.

  105. jimbot:

    You’re moving the goalposts again. [This part deleted; Kevin knows why, as detailed below - JS]

  106. Leonard:

    “I find it very interesting that the creation of a ‘if Congress does nothing’ fiscal doom-cliff was ever agreed to in the first place.”

    I personally suspect it was agreed to because the folks in the GOP made the assumption that they’d be dealing with someone other than Obama come late January, and fine-tuning could be made then. If so, it was not very wise to have done it. But I also think there would be worse things than to go over the cliff. I suspect if we do, there will be changes made in January.

    ConstructiveConservative:

    “Interesting comment framed in a way that seemingly disallows any other response than one in agreement.”

    Well, no. There are lots of ways to disagree and yet remain on topic. What I do find, however, is that if you don’t remind people to stay on topic, comment drift happens quickly, particularly on contentious topics.

    “Boehner represents the old way of doing business, precisely the behavior which got us into this mess in the first place.”

    Again: Well, no. The behavior that has gotten us into this mess is intransigence: The idea that good-faith compromise is a sign of ideological weakness. And to be fair to the GOP, the reason it functions this way is because this sort of tactic has worked before. Its problem now is that it’s so used to doing it this way that it can’t change its tactics now that this sort of tactic is going to be more damaging to it than not.

    “If one considers the fact that spending bills are to originate in the House, isn’t it fair to suggest that it is the Senate and the President who are obstructing the ‘people’s will’?”

    The concept of bicameralism and separation of powers (not to mention that senators and presidents are popularly elected) says, no, not really.

  107. @Scorpius: “Why do you call them “radicals”? – because they are. Conservatives, by definition believe in conserving the status quo, in slow change and thoughtful consideration of new ideas. Nothing they are currently advocating is Conservative. Economically speaking it’s radical nonsense with no basis in rational economic thought. They’ve got caught up in radical Austrian School economic thinking which has no basis in reality.

    I will continue to argue that things like Single Payer Healthcare are extremely conservative positions. They’re economically sound, they are pro-business and maximise the health of the population for the benefit of the economy.

    On social issues, the gradual consensus has moved towards gay rights too, putting the ‘conservatives’ out of touch with where a conservative ought to now be.

    @Skyfisher: “Yes–but *barely* as far as the popular vote is concerned.” – I’d say a 4% win, given the structure of the US population is fracking enormous myself. Obama won by more than Bush II did, and Bush II seemed to take that as Carte Blanche to do whatever the hell he felt like.

    @Leonard: “won’t touch the real problem we face, which is out-of-control entitlement spending.” Utter tosh. Entitlement spending in the US is far from out of control. But don’t take my word for it. Here are actual numbers.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/further-notes-on-one-trillion-dollars/

    But if you don’t want to read this, it basically shows, with Maths, that if you remove the cost of unemployment (a recession thing you know), and the tax cuts that shouldn’t have been given in 2000 you end up with a fairly modest deficit. Go figure. Who’d have thought it eh?

    But then again, I read that reality has a ‘liberal’ bias.

    Anyway, to my point. Actually going ‘off the cliff’ might be the best thing for everybody. At least the tax rates go to something sane and sustainable. Although the hit of 4% of GDP in spending cuts at this point will return the US to recession in less than 2 quarters which isn’t sane, sensible NOR conservative.

  108. On a related note, and I saw this after I posted (sorry John) – I agree with John’s analysis that the reason that Congress voted for the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ is they were completely sure that this would be a lame duck congress with an out going president and come January they’d be dealing with a President who, in the words of a famous ‘conservative’ would sign whatever was put in front of him.

    I am personally quite glad that that did not happen. Because balancing the budget on the backs of the poor isn’t something that’s all that sustainable either.

  109. presidents are popularly elected

    Before anyone says it, yes, they are. There’s an archaic layer of bureaucracy in between, but electoral votes are apportioned from the results of a popular vote,Yes, every once in a dozen or so blue moons, we get president who did not win at least a plurality of the popular vote, but that’s rare enough to be almost academic.*

    *Almost, but not quite, as debates about the electoral college earlier this year on Whatever attest.

  110. Hey, it isn’t easy being orange. The Federal budget is in a serious mess, and nobody from any of the parties is going to like the things it would take to fix it. The economy isn’t in the shape to absorb the taxes we’ll need to balance the budget, Social Security won’t work if we can’t run enough actual surplus in the general budget to pay back the so-called Trust Fund, and the Fiscal Cliff let both sides put off making hard decisions until after the election so they wouldn’t have to take responsibility for decisions their voter bases would hate, plus they all hoped they’d do well enough in the election to have an easier time passing a budget they were still going to hate.

    As a Libertarian, I get to pretend to be neutral about the partisan situation (ok, sometimes my neutrality doesn’t go farther that grudgingly admitting that Dick Cheney doesn’t actually eat live puppies for breakfast, but I did grow up doing actual Republican campaigns back in the 70s when Barry Goldwater was a crazy right-winger as opposed to the commie liberal RINO he’s now considered to be, and I get to hang around enough crazy radicals to be able to identify them when I see them.)

    The Tea Party itself is radical, and the main purpose it was created was so that the corporatist party machine could put the radicals to work attacking the Democrats while not having to take responsibility for their extremism, as well as to shove the deficit hawks off into the corner with the right-wing crazy people so they wouldn’t get to actually influence policy. Unfortunately for the machine, a lot of the Tea Party folks don’t realize that they were just supposed to be tools who stay on their leashes and bark when they’re told to bark, and the machine is having to deal with them. The corporate wing doesn’t want taxes on rich people or global-warming taxes on oil companies, the military-industrial wing doesn’t want a smaller Pentagon budget even though the Cold War has been over for 20 years and Bush’s wars are winding down (and even Ryan the Deficit Hawk had to do what he was told and say that cutting the military budget wasn’t acceptable, because he was just the VP candidate), and Grover Norquist keeps reminding everybody they’ve pledged allegiance to him.

    And Boehner, as the supposed leader in Congress, has to put up with those clowns, his party’s corporate sponsors, and a really uncooperative reality. He really deserves a nice comforting gooey slice of schadenfreude pie.

  111. There is just one problem with your contention that “his problem is he’s saddled with a batch of stompy petulant children who are still in denial that the majority of American voters cast their ballots for Obama explicitly, and implicitly for Obama’s plan to start raising tax rates on the highest-grossing Americans.” It’s that at the same time, these so-called “stompy petulant children” were also elected (or re-elected) to prevent him from doing just that. Most of the Republican rank and file see themselves as being the shield against Obama shoving more tyranny down our throats the way he did with Obamacare.

  112. Obama is ever bit as much to blame as congress in that he is inflexible and only wants to tax the hell out of people without controlling his spending. I have no respect for him at all.

    Obama has offered to cut essentially a dollar from entitlement program costs for every dollar that gets cut from defense and other conservative favorites. This was agreed upon and voted in approval by Congress last year (aka sequestration). The only people going back on this are the GOP. So your disrespect is misguided.

    But there will have to be budget cuts for this to happen. There will have to be democrats willing to do something about social security, Medicare and Medicaid. Maybe I missed something but I don’t see it.

    As pointed at above, you are, in fact, completely missing it. There is already an solution that the 112th Congress agreed to implement, and that the Senate majority and House minority have agreed to vote for. It contains billions in budget cuts to SS, MC, and MA. Yet the GOP has decided that their agreement no longer stands. Maybe they thought they would regain the Senate and take the Presidency, and wouldn’t need to worry about reneging on their promise, or figured that Obama and the Senate would just squeak by instead of winning by larger margins than the two elections of Bush the Younger (the second of which was referred to by both the GOP and the press as “a mandate” many many times, and is half as big as Obama’s current lead)

    To me, it seems like the President does want to go “over the cliff”. Or perhaps he just doesn’t know how to make a deal. Or doesnt have the power to make his coalition fall in line.

    His coalition has a bill ready to go that cuts taxes for the middle and lower class. They’ve had it for several months now, and it even got approval in the Senate. Again, the only people that aren’t voting on the already agreed-upon deal are the House GOP, who currently hold the majority.

    I don’t know who will ultimately be blamed, but I’m pretty sure that if we do spend the next year in that far ravine, most will curse them all.

    Oh, I think you do know who will be blamed, you just don’t want to say it. Literally every single poll taken in the last several months has shown that a plurality and/or majority of Americans will blame the Congressional GOP for the problem. Every. Single. One.

    Of course, the actual members only have to worry about their districts, and despite losing the majority of the national vote, gerrymandering and other district monkeying-about let the GOP hold on to their majority in the House.

    Just to throw some tiny (and mostly irrelevant) facts into the uproar: a) no one has voted for Obama to be President — they voted for Electors who pledged to vote for Obama-Biden and b) that election by the Electors was on the 17th of December (big news story, that) and c) those votes are opened and read on 6 January.

    At this point, it’s essentially a formality. The only “big news” was that half the Arizona contingent claimed that Obama has still not shown proof of his birth certificate, which is, at this point, literally crazy talk and in a just world would have disqualified them from the EC until sane replacements could be found.

  113. The problem with claiming that the GOP reps are perfectly entitled to obstruct the President because they also represent the ” will of the people” is that they don’t. The total vote for Republican house members was less than the total vote for Democratic house members. Republican control of the House is due to a combination of effective gerrymandering and the fact that Democratic votes are inherently concentrated in more homgeneous blocks than Republican votes. None the less, a clear majority of the votes at all levels of the federal government this year were for Democratic policies.

  114. It’s that at the same time, these so-called “stompy petulant children” were also elected (or re-elected) to prevent him from doing just that. Most of the Republican rank and file see themselves as being the shield against Obama shoving more tyranny down our throats the way he did with Obamacare.

    Actually, they were elected on a district-by-district basis, but they did not get the support of a majority of Americans, to the tune of being between half a million to a million votes behind in the total popular vote. And just so you know, the “tyranny” of Obamacare was the “liberty” of the mid-90s GOP. Starting with the Heritage Foundation in 1993, and as recently as 2007, John McCain, Chuck Grassley, and Orrin Hatch all supported, sometimes enthusiastically so, a health care reform package that included an individual mandate, a ban on pre-existing condition refusal, health care exchanges, the creation of a Health Care Data Panel, and Medicaid expansion, among other solutions.

    Just in case you don’t believe me, Google “Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993.” It’s very eye opening.

  115. Re: The Gerrymandering/aggregate count thing:

    Guys, arguing that the GOP only holds the house due to gerrymandering is like saying George W. Bush got into office only because of the Supreme Court: Even if it is true, it simply doesn’t matter from the point of view of whether they are in there or not. Likewise, the aggregate vote for house Democrats being more than aggregate for house GOPers matters as much as Gore having won the popular vote. Even less, because we don’t actually know if districts with different, non-gerrymandered boundaries would have resulted in a substantially different composition of the House. I suspect they would, but we can’t know at this point.

    I know I put in a little snark about gerrymandering, but at the end of the day we shouldn’t suggest that the GOP does not legitimately hold the House at present. For better or worse, depending on your politics, they do.

  116. Damn those Radical Republicans! Of course it’s a label they should wear with pride considering what the original group of Radical Republicans accomplished. But enjoy your schadenfreude. It comes with a side order of $hit sandwich that everybody in the country gets to sample next year regardless of whether or not the fiscal cliff is avoided (or postponed)

  117. Scalzi: but at the end of the day we shouldn’t suggest that the GOP does not legitimately hold the House at present.

    Well, Republicans “legitimately hold” the house, but there are flavors of “legitimate” that are just bullshit.

    Leonard went a bit too far with this: In opposing the Democratic agenda of more spending and higher taxes, they are properly representing their district.

    They may have been “properly representing their district”. But their district was created by Republican governors specifically to disenfranchise Democrat voters. At which point “properly representing their district” loses most of its common sense meaning and can only be justified on the grounds of being technically, legally, accurate in following the rules of the system. But the rules of the system were in fact totally gamed.

    For example: http://sync.democraticunderground.com/10021956300

    Pennsylvania:
    All Democrat House Candidates: 2.72 million votes
    All Republican House Candidates: 2.65 million votes

    50.7% of Pennsylvanians wanted a democrat as their US Representative over 49.3% who wanted a Republican YET 72.2% of the US House seats for Pennsylvanians are occupied by Republicans.

    18 House seats total in PA. Only 5 went to Democratic politicians, even though the vote for House candidates was nearly split 51/49 in Democrats favor, gerrymandering managed to put 13 Republicans and only 5 Democratic members in the House representing PA.

    There is nothing about this that can in any way be said to be “properly representing their district”. There was nothing proper about it. The rules were gamed specifically NOT to represent the voters.

  118. This article has a good graph:

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/11/republicans-gerrymandering-house-representatives-election-chart

    For each state, there are two bars. The top bar shows the popular vote, usually around 50/50. The bottom bar shows how the House seats ended up going for the parties, usually around 60/40. And the 7 states on that graph represent 109 total seats in the house.

    The House is currently split 234 Republicans to 201 Democrats. 17 seats is all it would take to flip the House to a Democratic majority. 17 seats would make the House 217 Republicans and 218 Democrats. If just 4% of the seats in the House were gerrymandered to the Republicans, then correcting that gerrymandering would give the House back to the Democrats. and we wouldn’t have to listen to these fucking republicans jumping up and down stomping their feet like little brats.

  119. Meh. I wasn’t talking about JUST the politicians in office. I was also talking about the republican voters who insist on trying to pretend that the current Republican majority in the House is “representative” of the will of the people. You can see that attitude peppered throughout this thread. But the numbers say voters for House seats across the nation went 51% Democrat and 49% Republican. So, the Republican 7% advantage in the House indicates nothing but how much Republicans are willing to subvert the democratic process, how much they are willing to game the system, to force their views on the rest of us.

  120. What the takeaway from a consideration of gerrymandering should be, for the Democratic Party, is a commitment to revitalize local and state development paths.

    The GOP populates everything from school boards up to state legislatures far beyond their share of popular support, partly because of the vigor with which first the anti-abortion and religious single-issue candidates, and then more recently the resurgent paleocons and birchers of the tea party movement, committed themselves to taking those positions.

    “Occupy the State Legislature” would be a movement that could change the country in ways mere protest never could.

  121. Here in Colorado, we have a split legislature and a centrist Democratic governor. The redistricting fight was hugely contentious and ended up going to the courts. The Dems outmaneuvered the Repubs during the court proceedings, so the court ended up settling on one of the Democratic maps. The Republicans, rather than acknowledging that they’d fallen asleep at the wheel, bleated about gerrymandering. They had a point, but then again, their maps were just as gerrymandered.

    After all of that, the 2012 elections resulted in… all of the incumbents keeping their seats.

    Yay, political theater.

  122. I work at a book store part time, and tonight I had a fun exchange. A young man (I’d guess about 30) plopped a couple of magazines on the counter. They were both gun magazines, and one was entitled AR-15. I started ringing him up, and he said, “If they’re going to take my rights away, I better start stocking up now.” This is in Minnesota–not a hotbed of militias and gun nuts. Hunters, sure. But not the usual survivalist whack-jobs.

    I chuckled before I was able to stop myself. I wished that I had been the next customer in line, rather than the cashier, because then I could have said something useful (not that it would have worked on this guy).

    The point is, Boehner is serving a constituency that is filled with this kind of idiot. I don’t pity him, but I understand that he’s got about nothing to work with.

  123. This sounds like a divergence from topic, but bear with me:

    People still characterize TPR politicians as if they were somehow of the same breed as every generation before them: wiser than their constituents, but cynically pandering to the lowest common denominator for the sake of votes and thus power. Indeed, the gang of GOPers who ushered in this brave new political world were just that.

    But in the last 25 years or so, the LCDs to whom they were paying lip service got a mind to go get some votes and power themselves. They started out with school boards and city councils, and quickly moved up. And now? They actually control the GOP. People like Bachmann are not ideological outliers anymore. They are the heart and soul of that party, and they like power so much, no way in hell are they letting go of it.

    Hoe this relates to topic: Boehner’s problem is that these people aren’t playing politics as his generation did. They truly, sincerely believe everything they say, just like the voting public they were and are. They are no longer merely pandering to the wingnut vote, they ARE the wingnuts. And–this is crucial–the wingnuts know it. They have circled the wagons and will never, ever compromise, because to do so would be instant dismissal from that fellowship upon which they rely for a sense of safety and purpose. Heretics get burned at the stake in their world, so there are none–not even secret ones.

    I wish Obama had realized this three years ago, when he had enough power (sans Senate supermajority, at least) to get more done. Instead, he naively believed that these folks were just Olympia Snowes and Lincoln Chaffees in the rough, and could be brought around with some gentle nudging. He squandered the opportunity to spank them then, and now he never can. And the rest of us will be the poorer for it for years to come.

    As the saying goes, you can’t negotiate with terrorists, and true believers like this would rather see the country burn to the ground than give up their political religion. The sooner the rest of us–moderate GOPers included–realize this and stop giving them concessions in the hope that they’ll give some back, the better.

  124. Ok…Back now? Road’s clear? Speaking of snow and slushy roads…reminds me of the years I lived in Wisconsin. In any event, thank you for your initial acknowledgement, followed by your more extensive response…

    Further grist for the mill. I just can’t seem to close off block quotes..

    Me:“Interesting comment framed in a way that seemingly disallows any other response than one in agreement.”

    You: Well, no. There are lots of ways to disagree and yet remain on topic. What I do find, however, is that if you don’t remind people to stay on topic, comment drift happens quickly, particularly on contentious topics.

    Me:How ‘bout we just move on and see how things go? I will say that I appreciate your willingness to go to the next level and actually participate in the discussions which occur in response to your articles.

    Me01: “Boehner represents the old way of doing business, precisely the behavior which got us into this mess in the first place.”

    You: Again: Well, no. The behavior that has gotten us into this mess is intransigence: The idea that good-faith compromise is a sign of ideological weakness. And to be fair to the GOP, the reason it functions this way is because this sort of tactic has worked before. Its problem now is that it’s so used to doing it this way that it can’t change its tactics now that this sort of tactic is going to be more damaging to it than not.

    Me: And I don’t think it will come as any surprise that I have a different point of view. Now, just to make sure I understand the rules correctly, I am working under the assumption that “on topic” includes, by definition, any issues or points that you have raised in the comment to which I am now responding. (Sincerely, no slight intended).

    You suggest that “The behavior………………… is intransigence”.

    First, I would suggest that “intransigence” is in the eye of the beholder, and of course even then it depends on how we each define “this mess”. In this particular case, without the need to agree on that definition, I would assume you claim intransigence as being the problem due to the fact that you see the perpetrators as standing in the way of progress. I would have to suggest that were the situation reversed and were you to agree with their stance you would see the same behavior as evidencing a “principled stand”. If that’s the case, shouldn’t we be concentrating our efforts on defining “this mess” rather than making wild accusations such as are contained in your article? In other words, to agree on intransigence being the problem, don’t we first need to reach some kind of understanding as to whether or not we agree on the proposed solution?

    Let me use your statement defining what you mean by intransigence, “The idea that good-faith compromise is a sign of ideological weakness”, to ask you if demonizing the opposition and assuming you have “the solution” is really evidencing a willingness to consider a “good faith compromise”? You may or may not take my question as a personal affront, but the real, and larger, point is how does such behavior meet the definition of being willing to compromise? And, further, the problem is that we haven’t even come close to having a substantive debate on the issues. I understand your problems with “off topic” remarks, so I guess I’m playing with fire, but if I were to ask if Reid should stop beating his wife wouldn’t you argue that questioning the premise would be a valid strategy rather than engaging in a discussion over whether or not the beatings should stop? So, how about this? Feel free to delete my comment if you must, I’m not really interested in pointless bickering, but then you might consider picking and choosing those portions of my comment which address whatever issues you do consider to be on topic……

    I guess this is as good a place as any to insert the portion of your article to which I was referring in terms of wild accusations and possible evidence that a good faith compromise might not be in the offing…

    From Article: I don’t feel I’m entirely going out on a limb here when I say that the 112th Congress of the United States is going to go down in history as one of the mostly rankly partisan, stupid and incompetent congresses in the history of our nation, a genuine nadir of the ignorant, selfish, short-sighted and politically blinkered. And while neither party gets off scot-free in that assessment, the large majority of the ignorance, stupidity, incompetence, selfishness and short-sightedness is on the GOP side of the aisle — and they were the party in charge of the House. Boehner is not blameless for the current state of things, to be sure. But you try corralling ignorant, stupid, selfish, short-sighted ideologues who just won’t listen. Tell me how you do with it.

    Me: Moving on….

    You suggest that “this tactic has worked before”, but I’m really not sure if I agree. How so? It seems to me that the media always frames these types of conflicts in a way that…… shows liberals, primarily Democrats, as heroically throwing themselves into the breach against those nasty Republicans. Once again, I feel the heat, but what, other than ideology, is the difference between the President refusing to sign the bill extending the Bush Tax cuts unless he gets what he wants…thus purportedly sending us off the fiscal cliff, and the Republicans in the House doing the very same thing? Either side could solve the problem by simply giving in to the demands of the other so why is only the one side being accused of intransigence?

    Me01: “If one considers the fact that spending bills are to originate in the House, isn’t it fair to suggest that it is the Senate and the President who are obstructing the ‘people’s will’?”

    You: The concept of bicameralism and separation of powers (not to mention that senators and presidents are popularly elected) says, no, not really.

    Me: How so? If the House, per its’ Constitutional mandate, passes a bill and sends it on only to have it rejected, who is obstructing whom? The President is the Executive and his function is to execute that which the Congress decides. It is not up to him to pick and choose which Congressional directives he wishes to recognize and enforce.

    As an added bonus…..and in response to the notion expressed by various other posters in response to your article claiming that there is some kind of Obama “mandate” intimating that “the people have spoken” and thus House Republicans should get out of the way..I’ll take a breath and provide just a short response. We have a FEDERAL Government. Each Congressperson represents his/her district. There is no mandate. The “mandate” of each individual Congressperson is determined by the voters of that particular district. The Congressperson does not represent the United States of America by virtue of his/her office rather his/her allegiance is to the concerns and best interests of his/her constituents. Once again, we have a Federal, not a National, form of governance.

    Thank you…pick and choose if you must….

  125. “We all know what we need to do, we just don’t know how to get relected after we’ve done it.” — Jean-Claude Juncker (EU politician, Prime Minister of Luxembourg) on (financial) reforms to
    reduce unemployment.

  126. I don’t feel any sympathy at all for Boehner, but for those so inclined, he seems to be in need of it. I just clicked on one of those Google links for thousands of news stories, from a variety of national and international news sources, about a story. As of early Saturday morning, here’s a sampling of the headlines from the first two pages about the fiscal cliff talks.

    Boehner’s situation is characterized as:

    Boehner’s Budget ‘Plan B’ Collapses
    GOP Policies Led To Fiscal Cliff Blow-Up
    Tax Fight Sends GOP Into Chaos
    Boehner Hobbled By Losses While He Keeps Job No One Wants
    Boehner Faces New Challenge After ‘Plan B’ Stumble
    House Scraps Vote On Boehner’s Tax Plan Lacking Support
    What Failure On Fiscal Deal Means For A Troubled Boehner

    While his chief opponent is getting these headlines:

    Obama Vows to Press Ahead On Fiscal Cliff Solution
    Obama Prods Congress To Avoid Tax Increase on 98% of Americans
    Obama Offers Scaled-Back Plan To Limit Tax Increases
    Obama Says There’s Still Time To Avert Fiscal Cliff
    Obama Tries To Rescue Fiscal Cliff Talks for Post-Christmas Deal
    Obama Calls On Congress To Pass Tax Bill
    Obama Makes Pitch To Jump-start Stalled Fiscal Cliff Talks With Republicans

    I’ve read 7-8 of the articles. In the text, as well as in the headlines, Boehner is framed [deservedly so, IMO] as an incompetent who’s about to screw the harm the nation with his ill-advised behavior and failed strategies, and President Obama is framed as working overtime to rescue a dire situation which is being badly mishandled by the GOP majority in the House and their Speaker.

  127. ConstructiveConservative: I’m not very knowledgeable about the details of US politics, being from Israel, so I just want to address one sentence from your comment:

    Either side could solve the problem by simply giving in to the demands of the other so why is only the one side being accused of intransigence?

    This is a logical fallacy – you are assuming there are only 2 options: either you “stick to your guns” and win everything or you cave in and give the other side everything they want. There is a third option: negotiate with the other side, and try to hammer out a deal both of you will hate, but each of you will hate less then if the other side got all they wanted. Yes, you need to have red lines, but they can’t be “I get everything I want and the other guy gets nothing”, because the natural(and justified!) reply of most people to that would be “if you want me to get nothing, why should I cooperate?”

  128. From an outsiders (Australian) point of view, it’s interesting seeing the parallels between the US House and Senate situations right now and the very nearly deadlocked Australian Parliament, where the Labor party currently rely on the vote of two independents and a minor party member to put any bills through.. And despite the media (thanks Uncle Rupert!) being very firmly anti-government and shouting from the rooftops about getting nothing done, Julia Gillard has actually made massive strides in implementing a very centralist (too centralist for me) program.

    I hope that, despite the situation in the US, that Obama can find a way to pass the legislation that will continue the economic recovery of the US. Maybe if things actually start getting better, those moderates who lean Republican might even start leaning back..

  129. ConstructiveConservative: The Congressperson does not represent the United States of America by virtue of his/her office rather his/her allegiance is to the concerns and best interests of his/her constituents.

    The fact that 51% of the population voted for Democratic House members but REpublicans got 8% more seats in the House due to gerrymandering pretty much VOIDS every syllable you utter about allegiance to the concerns and best interests of his/her constituents as being a valid excuse. If allegiance to the concerns of constituents is really the end-all be-all of the House, then the House would be 51% Democrat and 49% Republican and Boener would be the House Minority Leader.

    So, invoking all this pretty language to defend Republcans in the House just makes you a hypocrit.

    Oh, and just an FYI. intransigence: “Refusing to moderate a position, especially an extreme position; uncompromising”. There is no exception to that definition that gives a “Get out of being intrasigent Free” card to people who were elected to office. So, an extreme, uncompromising, nut job Republican congressman is intrasigient whether he was elected or not.

    If a Republican gets up and says something extreme and uncompromising like “abortion should be outlawed even in the woman was raped and the pregnancy is threatening her life” It doesn’t matter that he won a majority of votes or not. It’s an intrasigent position.

    So, on both fronts, your arguments fall short. You keep invoking flowerly language about how Republican Congressmen are simply following their allegience to the ooncerns of their constituents, but if the House actually folllowed the votes, thee would be a Democratic majority. And you keep arguing as if “intrasigent” can’t apply to an elected official because somehow. Even if being intrasigent were part of the job description of being a Congressman, that doesnt mean we can’t call them intrasigent.

    Obama, for example, offered different compromises. That means he isn’t intrasigient.

    For all your flowery language, it seems like the heart of your argument boils down to nothing more than an attempt to redefine intrasigent to mean Republicans politicians can’t be intrasigent because they were elected, but Democratic poliicians (who were also elected) CAN be intrasigient if they don’t give the politicians I agree with everything they want.

    The only handwavey thing you do is try to say that since the House has a Republican majority that they shouldn’t have to compromise, because they’re just doing their job. But (A) even if the majority fails to compromise, they can still be intrasigient, and (B) facts about gerrymandering voids your argument that Republicans represent a majority of the will of the people.

  130. OK, the topic seems to have wandered again…but…
    I find it interesting that Dems will say something to the effect of…
    .
    “The fact that 49% of the United States DIDN’T vote for Obama means nothing. We won so we can get what what we want and actively ignore the wishes of very nearly half of America.”
    .
    And then they say something to the effect of…
    .
    “Since more than 50% of the popular vote was for Democratic Representatives, the House is illegitimate and should behave more like we want than like Republicans.”

  131. Jerry Pournelle introduced me to Georgia junior congressman Newt Gingrich at a party with the late Jim Baen. I shook Newt’s hand, and said: “I appreciate your support of accelerated statehood for space colonies, professor. Did Isaac Asimov really get you into politics?”
    “Well,” he said, “The Foundation Trilogy got me into History.”
    “So what do you see yourself doing ten years from now?” I asked.
    “Speaker of the House,” he said, with confidence. And lo, it came to pass.
    A Smart man, in the SF genre (at least the Allohistory/Militray subgenre. A nice guy (unless you’re a betrayed wife). But he led the GOP onto the dangerous road of shutting the government down rather than making a rational compromise.
    IMHO, that’s what John Boehner inherited. So Saturday Night Live can parody Obama feeling sorry for him, as a high school or middle school kid whose pants are removed, and pushed into the little girls’ room.

  132. “I find it interesting that Dems will say something to the effect of…
    .
    “The fact that 49% of the United States DIDN’T vote for Obama means nothing. We won so we can get what what we want and actively ignore the wishes of very nearly half of America.”
    .
    And then they say something to the effect of…
    .
    “Since more than 50% of the popular vote was for Democratic Representatives, the House is illegitimate and should behave more like we want than like Republicans.”

    Even assuming (the very dubious proposition) that those two statements are true, they aren’t actually inconsistent, as you seem to be implying. In either case, the central idea is that the party who has the most popular support gets to make the rules.

  133. @ mintwitch

    There was no way he could get a simple majority of this House to agree that the sky was up.

    House Republicans are postmodernists? I have to concede, that would explain a lot.

  134. RE the percentage of votes vs. actual representation in Congress, Tom Suddes, a writer/editor who taught my Public Affairs class in j-school, wrote this piece (link below) in which he points out:

    “Ohioans cast 52.1 percent of their votes for Republican congressional candidates, and 47.9 percent for Democratic candidates…. So, did Ohio end up with, say, eight Republican U.S. House members and eight Democratic U.S. House members — or even nine Republicans to seven Democrats? No: Ohio next month will send 12 Republicans to the U.S. House (75 percent of the state’s 16 representatives) and four Democrats… That’s a 3-to-1 ratio in a state that’s 50-50.”

    RE my own post about how this is playing out in the media for Boehner, the top stories in my Google feed, I note, are headlining him as “bloodied” and “wounded” and questioning whether he can survive.

  135. Boehner ran without opposition?

    Well, this has to be remedied. There’s this really smart U of Chicago grad in that district that we need to talk into running. Writes and speaks well, too. I think he has a blog.

  136. @ Constructiveconservative: You said “The President is the Executive and his function is to execute that which the Congress decides. It is not up to him to pick and choose which Congressional directives he wishes to recognize and enforce.”

    What are you talking about? The President has a veto power, precisely to pick and choose if Congress is over-reaching. You fail on understanding a fundamental reason why America is great.

  137. ConstructiveConservative:

    “First, I would suggest that ‘intransigence’ is in the eye of the beholder”

    Oh, I don’t know about that. Intransigence is pretty objective as these things go: If one refuses to raise taxes in any circumstance, as an example, one can be accurately described as intransigent on that issue. Now, you may see this as a feature rather than a bug, but it doesn’t mean the word would not still apply.

    “If the House, per its’ Constitutional mandate, passes a bill and sends it on only to have it rejected, who is obstructing whom?”

    Again, you seem to eliding the point of bicameralism, which is that one house of Congress can (and does) act as a check against the other. If the House passes a bill and the Senate rejects it, then the latter house is, to put it in words that appear agreeable to you, acting upon its Constitutional mandate (or at the very least its Constitutional prerogative). Likewise, a president who chooses to veto a bill is likewise exercising a Constitutional prerogative. If you would like to have the House have no checks regarding what legislation it passes, you’ll need to convince both houses and 37 states of that argument, I’m afraid.

    Jon Meltzer:

    I can’t. There are photos. Compromising photos. And my wife has threatened to send them to the press if I run.

  138. @ John Scalzi

    If you would like to have the House have no checks regarding what legislation it passes, you’ll need to convince both houses and 37 states of that argument, I’m afraid.

    Actually, ConstructiveConservative will need to convince only 38 states, since Article V allows 34 states to convene a national convention to propose new Amendments, which then only has to be ratified by 38 states, requiring no Congressional action whatsoever. The number may soon be 39 if Puerto Rico opts for statehood.

    Come on, John, you know the Constitution better than to make a rookie mistake like that!

  139. Gulliver:

    Actually I didn’t want to bring up the Constitutional Convention option. I think it’s dangerous. DANGEROUS, I SAY.

    (Actually, I do. I think if we ever go a CC route you could probably kiss the Bill of Rights goodbye.)

  140. @ John Scalzi

    Actually, I do. I think if we ever go a CC route you could probably kiss the Bill of Rights goodbye.

    And the Union along with it…

    @ TheMadLibrarian
    If you think about it, John is already the president of all possible worlds, so really POTUS would be a demotion. How can he ask Krissy to give up being First Lady of the Multiverse?

  141. Boehner will get no sympathy from me. He helped to create the hyper-partisan current Congress by his dedication to the obstruction of Obama’s efforts to improve the country and fix what was broken by all those years of Bush. He helped to create the monster that he cannot now control. If the GOP continues to lose power, the country and the world will be better off.

  142. Skyfisher:
    First, it’s not “Dems” who are saying that. On this thread, it’s mostly Greg*. If you want to argue the point, try arguing with the person making the point, rather than railing against some incorporeal phantom “Dems”. Or, at the very least, name some names. Besides, lets not pretend like post-Presidential bravado is something new. I seem to recall not too long ago a President, after winning reelection by a much narrower margin (popularly and electorally) than this President, bragging about all the “political capital” he had. I further recall that that didn’t turn out so great for that President.

    Second, the make up of the Presidency is a little different from the make up of the House, insofar as there can only be one President. So it is inevitable that the election of a President is only going to coincide with the express wishes of 40-60% of the population. There’s not much to be done about that, and the sad fact is that that 49% is just going to have to wait out this presidential term for another shot. Probably not for the first time, nor for the last. However, when a state’s Congressional delegation is widely divergent from the voting demographics, that’s another issue entirely. One which people like Greg think should be addressed.

    *Sorry, Greg, I don’t mean to single you out, nor to imply that you hold a unique position, but you have posted more on the subject in this thread than anyone else.

  143. The question really is- Could things “be so much worse if he wasn’t there plugging away”?

    Compared to what? If any other member of the House Republican Caucus been Speaker, would it had made one iota of difference as to the actual bills that got passed? Could any other member been less successful at blocking Democratic legislation, less likely to compromise? Not really. Not and remained leader of caucus.

    I really want to know what, that could of had a reasonable chance of passing the Republican Caucus let alone the entire house, that he could have done that would have been worse if he wasn’t there plugging away.

    I guess if you were on the right side of the Republican party, someone else but Boehner might have been worse, but from a Democratic perspective? Nope.

    I am sorry but Boehner is entirely tied up in the Stompy Stompy wing. The entire Plan B was Boehner being stompy stompy, just not stompy stompy enough for the far right.

    I will not feel sorry for him because he couldn’t get other two year olds to go along with his three year old tantrum.

  144. Speaking as a conservative and someone who is Tea Party friendly, I’m totally confused by what the House Republicans are doing. Somehow they equated in their own rhetoric that any bill or deal that didn’t include all the Bush tax cuts was a bill to raise taxes. Since they’ve been saying that for a month (“I will not vote to raise taxes, blah blah blah…”) they’ve fashioned a rhetorical trap in which they do nothing and allow all tax rates to go up, or they vote to cut taxes for some, which they regard as a bill to raise taxes on anyone not getting a cut. Huh? Even Grover Norquist doesn’t think that a bill to cut taxes is really a bill to raise taxes. So why do the House Republicans and the Conservative Talk Radio guys do?

    In a way, this is a worse disaster for the Republicans than losing the Presidential election. If we actually go over the cliff, Republicans will get the blame on raising taxes on middle class out of spite because they couldn’t save tax cuts for “the rich.” Two weeks ago that simply would have been the Democrat­­­‑MSM spin. Now the Republicans are working to make that an actual fact.

    I think I’ll just go ahead and concede 2014 and 2016 to the Democrats. Don’t worry about the Whigs- err I mean Republicans. They’ll be involved in a circular firing squad.

  145. Skyfisher: And then they say something to the effect of…“Since more than 50% of the popular vote was for Democratic Representatives, the House is illegitimate…”

    Context is the part you apparently (intentionally?) missed. In an attempt to justify Republican politicians behavior, Leonard started humming the Star Spangled Banner, saying Representatives are elected, and not by the “majority of American voters” but by their districts. … they are properly representing their district. One may be for or against democracy. But one should not be surprised when a democratic election puts into power a man representing his electorate.

    And that just doesn’t fly. Sorry. No. This excuse would at least be fitting if the voters votes actually corresponded to the number of Republicans and Democrats in the House. But they dont’. Voters voted 51% for dems and 4% for reps. But thanks to republican gerrymandering, we ended up with Republicans having an 8% lead over Democrats in the house.

    So, its a very simple point, Leonard tried to justify Republican obstructionism because (hand wave) they are part of a democracy that represents the people. But if Democracy were actually honored in the House, then there would be 51% democrats and 49% Republicans, and Republicans wouldn’t be able to obstruct.

  146. Random side note – everybody keeps referring to constructiveconservative. In a fine bit of irony, he is not constructive, but rather contructive. The name as written is contructiveconservative. I think it highly likely that he wanted to be constructive, but it didn’t work out that way.

  147. And in today’s media on Boehner’s debacle:

    “Instead of being hailed as a shrewd tactician who could bridge the ideological divide and steer Republicans to a historic accommodation with Democrats, and thus avert economic disaster, he found himself pilloried as the architect of debacle.

    “I’ve never seen anything like it where leadership just completely backed down,” Colorado representative Mike Coffman told The Hill.

    An unnamed GOP insider gave a saltier verdict to the Atlantic’s Molly Ball. “He just lost the respect of the caucus. No one thought he was capable of fucking this up like this.””

    Full article at: http://tiny.cc/pnzrpw

  148. @Tapetum: You are absolutely right – it is “contructive”. I had to go and look. As my Latin teacher used to say, “The mind is quicker than the eye.” Good catch! Now I have to go and look up “contructive”.

  149. I’m also feeling some sympathy for John Boehner: He’s less obnoxious than Newt Gingrich, and less corrupt than Tom deLay (yes, I know he wasn’t *technically* Speaker, but Dennis Hastert was deLay’s man), thus making him the least bad Republican Speaker in modern history. He’s also not the blatant obstructionist Mitch McConnell is (thought experiment: switch Boehner and McConnell. Nothing would change in the House, but I’m guessing the first two years of Obama’s administration re: the Senate would have been different–more productive, to the country’s benefit.)

    Also, check this out:
    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/video/boehner-biden-talk-golf-ahead-obama-speech-14477608

    Hard to see Joe Biden doing this with everyone.

  150. @grem91436

    If nothing would have changed in the house, then nothing would have changed bill-wise since they have to pass both chambers. I suppose it conceivably meant easier confirmations, but I really doubt it. Bob Dole couldn’t get a treaty to help handicapped people passed, I doubt ineffectual Boehner could have done any better with that Caucus either.

    I also doubt that Boehner would have been less obstructionist in the minority than McConnell and co. were. More than McConnell, blame pocket holds and the filibuster.

  151. I’m curious as to if you have met or talked to John Boehner? You mention that he is your representative. Have you written to him and, if so, did you get a response?

    My representative is Mike Rogers. I’ve never met him. He does not campaign in our moderate-to-liberal part of the district and he does not seem to want to have town halls or things like that. I’ve written to him several times and never gotten a response (though I did get on his email list, lucky me).

  152. @constructiveconservative: Did I miss the spending cuts? How about the effort to balance the budget? Not to mention submitting a realistic budget in the first place?

    I suppose if you’re young enough, you might not remember the Clinton budget surpluses.

    Soon after that, during the adminstration of He Who Must Not Be Named By Republicans, things went downhill fast in terms of realistic and balanced budgets. Huge new spending programs, whole areas moved off-budget or relegated to “emergency” spending measures, massive tax cuts set up to expire in ten years to game the budget process, and so forth. The attitude was summed up in the quote, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.”

  153. @Mike: Huh? So why do the House Republicans and the Conservative Talk Radio guys do?

    I rather like Tod Kelly’s take on this, over at Ordinary Gentlemen. His idea is, what’s good for the conservative media machine is not necessarily what’s good for the Republican party, much less the country. The media gets better ratings by peddling UN conspiracy theories, so the GOP senators block ratification of a treaty that basically says “The US Americans with Disability Act was a real good idea, the rest of the world should try doing the same.”

    The same applies here; for the conservative media, there’s better ratings (and more money) from opposing everything Obama tries to do – so we end up with Republicans voting against tax cuts, just because Obama wants them.

  154. “Plan B. This is the pill you take when you screw the country, and don’t want to live with the results.” Peter Sagal, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

    Brilliant. The sad thing is, it didn’t work.

  155. John,

    All the vitriol and invective in the world will not alter the fact that our nation’s fiscal problems are rooted in over spending. Not under-taxation.

    Federal revenues have historically run in the 18-20% of GDP range. After dipping in 2008 and 2009, those revenues are back on track in that range. It has been increases in spending into the 24-25% of GDP range that are are driving our current deficit issues.

    The fiscally responsible members of Congress believe that we should solve our deficit problems by looking at the spending causes of those problems. Perhaps Mr. Obama should demonstrate some of that “compromise” that he keeps touting by seriously addressing our spending problems.

    Mr. Obama’s popularity does little to change those facts.

    Or to quote the fictional Mal Reynolds of Firefly fame with respect to this year’s election: “”May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

    Warmest regards and seasons greetings,
    Dann

  156. Dann:

    “All the vitriol and invective in the world will not alter the fact that our nation’s fiscal problems are rooted in over spending. Not under-taxation.”

    Well, no. It should be pretty clear by now that most people do in fact want a high level of service from our government, including a large military and a reasonably comprehensive social net, all of which is expensive. That’s not “overspending,” that’s providing what the citizenry wants. If you’re going to give that level of service — and we do, for a greater or lesser extent — then it should be paid for in some manner. Paying taxes is one excellent way to do it. If the government isn’t raising enough revenue, then it may in fact be undertaxing some or all of its tax payers. It may also be overspending in some manner, of course; this isn’t an “either/or” situation.

  157. IMO, people may want the services. But only until they have to pay the tax rates needed to fund those services. At that point, “demand” for those services will fall.

    I agree that people like the current condition of having services without paying for them. But that condition cannot last forever. At the current burn rate, I doubt it will last another few years.

    It has been our increase in social services over the last half century that is the source of our current problems. Congress-critters of all stripes have lied to us for years about the actual long term costs involved. They kept kicking the can down the road. Now we’re out of road.

    Equally IMO, a 20/80 split (tax increases vs spending cuts) should be workable and reasonable solution. But Washington isn’t close to that either.

  158. @ John Scalzi

    It should be pretty clear by now that most people do in fact want a high level of service from our government, including a large military and a reasonably comprehensive social net, all of which is expensive. That’s not “overspending,” that’s providing what the citizenry wants. If you’re going to give that level of service — and we do, for a greater or lesser extent — then it should be paid for in some manner.

    Two problems I have with that argument. One: I wouldn’t call our social safety net reasonably comprehensive. I’d call it two shakes north of a bad joke. America isn’t getting its money’s worth. Two: I’m less convinced the American people are all-in on the corporate safety net they were panicked into paying for, and the part they seem generally positive about, namely the auto-bailouts, have the distinction of being the only bailouts with toothy strings attached. Bailing out reckless financial institutions without setting boundary conditions on taking the money, then talking ineffectively about regulation after the horse has rekindled the fire and left the barn, is no way to hold those firms to account, but it sure is a good way to ensure nothing actually gets reformed. We had them over the barrel and the current administration and its predecessor let them off the hook. Well done, dipshits!

    Furthermore, letting the Bush tax cuts expire and cutting spending to bring the economic engine back in the black…that is also not an either/or proposition.

    That said, I remain adamant that the real long-term solution to reforming the deficit, both for the US and globally, is to increase the efficiency with which government spends. But as long as fiscal conservatives cleave to the received wisdom that government can’t leverage the power of competition as an article of faith, and the fiscal liberals continue to cherry pick stats showing government being more efficient than private enterprise, I don’t see how that dialogue is going to gain any traction. Worse, when the circumstances of this century force austerity from overpopulation, climate change, ect, I have an ominous sense that whichever side first suggests re-engineering the unsustainable system, the other side will automatically associate it with their opponents and so denounce it. That’s not cynicism, that’s learning from recent history.

  159. Dann:

    “At that point, “demand” for those services will fall.”

    No it won’t. The demand will still be there. The bitching about the taxes will just get louder.

    Also, nuthin’ says “Trust me” like linking to ones own poorly sourced and nigh incomprehensible post on one’s own blog. I mean, what is “Old Age- f”? If we stop that spending, will we have only young people? (Actually, i suspect that in short order we might.) And when you say

    Back in the 1950s, we fought global communism and won. We sent men to the moon, and brought ‘em back, too! We built a national highway system.

    (the odd loss of 40 years aside) how is that an argument against government spending?

    Gulliver: the first problem is a problem with the structure of the safety net, not against the argument that people want a safety net, and that any such safety net will be expensive. These are separate arguments about separate problems. Cutting spending will not, in and of itself, make the safety net either more comprehensive or more efficient. Nor will raising revenues. And, efficient or otherwise, a more comprehensive safety net won’t be any less expensive. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

    We had them over the barrel and the current administration and its predecessor let them off the hook.

    Who are you blaming for what here exactly? Also, are you suggesting that TARP is the sole or majority cause of the current deficits and/or debt? And how is this even relavent to the current issues?

    Furthermore, letting the Bush tax cuts expire and cutting spending to bring the economic engine back in the black…that is also not an either/or proposition.

    Now I’m not sure who you’re arguing against. Clearly, both will have to happen. The question becomes how much, from where, and when. But we’ve got a part that a) doesn’t want to touch the current tax rates and b) would like to cut, right now, everything that isn’t either defense or something they personally benefit from.

  160. Back in the 1950s, we fought global communism and won. We sent men to the moon, and brought ‘em back, too! We built a national highway system. We were able to be a real force for good in the world.

    Uh, we did none of those things in the 1950s. We started fighting global communism, we started the space program, we started building a national highway system, but we didn’t actually finish any of those things.

  161. @ Doc RocketScience

    the first problem is a problem with the structure of the safety net

    Yes, that was more or less my point.

    not against the argument that people want a safety net

    I agree. I should’ve perhaps specified that I was disagreeing with parts of John’s argument, not agreeing with any of Dann’s argument against which it was pitched.

    and that any such safety net will be expensive.

    Well, yes, but it may be expensive for the wrong reasons. The way our economy functions systematically fails to account for substantial chunks of both short and long-term costs, while simultaneously ignoring potential avenues of growth, all because we’ve bought the idea that the Invisible Hand is the only valid conductor of market forces. Let me be clear, the Invisible Hand is real; what it ain’t is omniscient.

    These are separate arguments about separate problems. Cutting spending will not, in and of itself, make the safety net either more comprehensive or more efficient. Nor will raising revenues.

    Again, I’m not saying otherwise. Balancing the budget is a short-term necessity. But if we want to avoid winding up right back where we started, and with less cushion for the fall, we better start thinking more about the long haul, out to two or three generations. Right now we’re riding the terminal phase of our fossil-fueled industrial ascent into post-industrial market realignment, but we aren’t safely above the atmosphere. Unless we want to get dragged back down into a high-tech medievalism, we need to figure out what the next stage is in the economic process that is human trade. And while that might sound all safely theoretical, it isn’t. We are living at the threshold after which the way we’ve done business won’t cut the mustard any longer. We have an opportunity to make a somewhat controlled transition, or let it roll us. Government is at the crux of the economy. The Founders understood that. FDR understood that. The President understands that. And I suspect even the Speaker understands it. Dann was right about one thing: we can’t just keep kicking the can down the road, though the stakes a little higher than he seems to realize.

    And, efficient or otherwise, a more comprehensive safety net won’t be any less expensive.

    I wasn’t talking about just the safety net. I was talking about the American economy as a whole. A more efficient economy means more sustainable growth. A more efficient safety net means more bang for our buck. Together they mean capitalism may be able to accomplish the dream of socialism, or at least a fair instantiation of the ideal of a just and equitable social weal. Capitalists have the key. Socialists have the lock. But capitalists refuse to believe the lock is worthy of the key, and socialists refuse to believe the lock isn’t fine without the key.

    Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

    I’m not selling anything, and when I did sell something, it wasn’t anything to do with this jazz. Nor do I think anyone else has all the answers. But I do believe that we owe it to future generations to start questioning the inveterate patterns we’ve become so protective of that we maintain them even when they backfire with predictable regularity.

    Who are you blaming for what here exactly?

    Not who, what. And what I’m blaming is the philosophy that Too Big To Fail is a reasonable policy. By extension, I’m blaming the maintenance of the status quo with which the last two administrations were complicit.

    Also, are you suggesting that TARP is the sole or majority cause of the current deficits and/or debt? And how is this even relavent to the current issues?

    I’m suggesting that TARP and the Financial Bailouts were endemic of an ongoing mentality that waits until the factory is on fire, then calls the fire department, pays out the insurance settlement and goes on neglecting fire codes until the next disaster. Damage control is not a viable solution.

    Now I’m not sure who you’re arguing against.

    John’s reply to Dann seemed to indicate that we didn’t need to cut spending, just raise taxes. I don’t know if John believes that, or if it was simply the way it sounded because he was responding to Dann. I’m sure he knows any compromise that can be reached will entail both, because he’s a savvy political observer, but I have no idea whether he actually believes one-sided reform is economically viable. I was replying to the arguments in his specific comment.

    Clearly, both will have to happen. The question becomes how much, from where, and when. But we’ve got a part that a) doesn’t want to touch the current tax rates

    Yes and yes.

    and b) would like to cut, right now, everything that isn’t either defense or something they personally benefit from.

    That’s what the Tea Party wants. What the majority of the Republican establishment wants is the same as what the Democratic administration wants, namely, to avoid being blamed for the cuts by the voters who decide they liked what the government was doing for them and theirs.

  162. Gulliver:
    I really don’t know what “John Scalzi” you’re arguing against, but it isn’t the one who writes this blog and gets the pretty blue background on his comments. Cause that John Scalzi has often reiterated that there is only one way to reduce deficit spending, in may writings, up to and including the comment you’re referencing.

  163. Ugh, hit post when I meant to hit preview.

    That’s what the Tea Party wants.

    Meh. Not only do I not really buy the No True Scotsman aspect of that statement, not only is the intransigence of the TP wing of Boehner’s party the entire point of this thread, but the Republican party’s attitude of “Tax cuts and military good, welfare and social security bad” has been there for as long as I’ve been paying attention (i.e. the mid-80s at least).

  164. @ Doc RocketScience

    Not only do I not really buy the No True Scotsman aspect of that statement,

    I’m not suggesting the Tea Party isn’t an integral part of the Republican part. I’m saying the Congressional reps that rode in on Tea Party support are at odds with the more seasoned Republican reps. So to say that they, as you put it, would like to cut, right now, everything that isn’t either defense or something they personally benefit from doesn’t describe the whole House Republican caucus, only the fringe holding Boehner and the other pre-Tea Party reps hostage. However, going back, I notice you said a part where I read a side, so I apologize for not reading your comment more carefully.

    but the Republican party’s attitude of “Tax cuts and military good, welfare and social security bad” has been there for as long as I’ve been paying attention (i.e. the mid-80s at least).

    I think that’s a mostly accurate, but overly simplistic analysis of the GOP, mainly because the Regan Administration (i.e. mid-80s) knew where it’s base was buttered and so protected Medicare and other entitlements for seniors. The GOP always says one thing, but the more time goes by, the more they do something else, which is why no one believes their small-government hype anymore, not even reliably Republican voters. What astounds me is that fiscal conservatives and social conservatives haven’t split into two parties yet. I suppose fiscal conservatives tried, and the social conservatives followed them while Fox News played the pipe.

  165. John…yes, I realize some time has elapsed…but still…thanks for your response…and hope you had a merry Christmas or whatever.

    As an aside, I agree with you on your opposition to a Constitutional Convention.

    As to your reply.. I believe I didn’t miss anything.

    “First, I would suggest that ‘intransigence’ is in the eye of the beholder”

    “Oh, I don’t know about that. Intransigence is pretty objective as these things go: If one refuses to raise taxes in any circumstance, as an example, one can be accurately described as intransigent on that issue. Now, you may see this as a feature rather than a bug, but it doesn’t mean the word would not still apply.”

    Not to argue over semantics (he said as he proceeded to do so), but according to thefreedictionary.com

    “Refusing to moderate a position, especially an extreme position; uncompromising.”

    It seems it might depend on the question of whether the position is “extreme”, not necessarily, but certainly by implication.

    In any event, I believe my post also highlighted some other comments which didn’t require much interpretation. Again, more about tone, so let me finish up by responding to your final comment.

    “If the House, per its’ Constitutional mandate, passes a bill and sends it on only to have it rejected, who is obstructing whom?”

    “Again, you seem to eliding the point of bicameralism, which is that one house of Congress can (and does) act as a check against the other. If the House passes a bill and the Senate rejects it, then the latter house is, to put it in words that appear agreeable to you, acting upon its Constitutional mandate (or at the very least its Constitutional prerogative). Likewise, a president who chooses to veto a bill is likewise exercising a Constitutional prerogative. If you would like to have the House have no checks regarding what legislation it passes, you’ll need to convince both houses and 37 states of that argument, I’m afraid.”

    Sure, they all check each other, and yet that seems to fly in the face of what I see as being the point of your article. Are you not complaining about those with whom you disagree “checking and balancing” those with whom you agree? The point being, it all depends on one’s perspective as to who is obstructing whom.

    Thanks.

  166. What astounds me is that fiscal conservatives and social conservatives haven’t split into two parties yet.

    Fiscal conservatives have the money, but social conservatives have the votes.

    @Dann, your “proof” consists of (extremely dubious) arguments* on your own blog, with some (also dubious) charts that are not much evidence of anything – how do you define ‘welfare’, exactly? – and which cite as their source another blog, not actually pointing to where the figures came from.

  167. contructiveconservative: The point being, it all depends on one’s perspective as to who is obstructing whom.

    If it’s purely a matter of “perspective”, then Scalzi could say the Republicans in congress are being intransigent and you wouldn’t be able to prove his perspective wrong because its his perspective. But it seems pretty obvious that you are invoking dictionary arguments to “prove” that you are right, and then you attempt to lay a row of sandbags in front of your position by saying “I’ve proven you wrong, Scalzi, but you can’t prove me wrong because I’m giving my perspective. Tag you’re it, no touch backs”

  168. Wrong on a number of levels==>only lists one mistake and then only indirectly

    Logic leaves quite a bit to be desired ==> you never used logic to begin with

    In short you are “the lurkers support me in email” away from Being the weakest post in the history of the internet.

  169. For those suggesting Boehner is the worst/most ineffective Speaker in US history, they clearly need to brush up on their particulars. Personally, he doesn’t even make the top 3: Theodore Pomeroy, March 3, 1869, served for less than a day; Michael C. Kerr, March 4, 1875 – August 19, 1876, died of consumption and had no major legislation passed under his watch; and John Bell, June 2, 1834 – March 4, 1835, “the Great Apostate” who also never passed anything significant, but was a renowned flip-flopper having first been pro-Jackson then against and pro-Union and then mid-war against, when it appeared the Confederacy might have a chance at winning.

    The majority of Boehner’s woes lie in the US clinging to the two-party system. Realistically, the Tea Party is a third party in US politics, but operates as a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing within the Republican Party. Of the 234 Republican House members, 59 identify themselves as part of the “Tea Party Caucus”. Thus Tea Party member comments, such as Todd Akin’s, gain the label of Republican. Taking the Tea Party out of the count, Boehner was 7 votes away from having a majority of Republican’s vote in favour of the deal to avoid/delay the fiscal cliff.

    As for the Senator’s for life thing, it’s a bad idea and Canada has been trying to get rid of unsuccessfully for decades (28 attempts since 1970). We have a mandatory retirement age of 75 (since 1965). In 10 years time (Jan 2023), there will still be a quarter of current Canadian senators sitting with 10% expected to serve beyond 2033, and the last to serve until 2049.

    IMHO, US political reform would be best served by: (1) an arms-length redistricting agency such as employed by Canada that seek to match electoral districts to US counties as much as possible with the only other consideration being population; (2) getting rid of US House mid-term elections to give congress some time when it’s not in election mode; (3) extend US Senate terms to 8 years with one of two seats per state elected every 4 years. Of course these are all pipe dreams, but we can always hold on to hope.

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