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Making Republicans Misbehave
Or how I make Kay Bailey Hutchinson sound nuts

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
February 2, 2009

Back a few years ago when even right wingers were beginning to realize what a mistake Iraq was, one of the less lucid people on Usenet came up with a novel theory as to why my opposition to the occupation of Iraq was anti American. It was because the occupation of Iraq had hurt America.

Now, you might be wondering how it could be that if I opposed something that hurt America, that would be un-American. I wondered the same thing, and, being bored, asked.

The problem was that I was (and am) a known liberal who opposed (and still oppose) the occupation. If I had had the good sense to keep my mouth shut in 2003, conservatives wouldn't have pushed so hard for the invasion of Iraq because they wouldn't have known that it would annoy me.

Well, my word. I had no idea I wielded so much personal power. Had I known, I would have written George W. Bush a letter, urging him in the strongest possible terms to never, ever drive a car at 120 miles an hour off a 1,000 foot high cliff, and that I would be really, really irritable if he did. Really. It would just ruin my whole morning. Still would. Don't do it, George.

Well, it turns out it wasn't me personally. It was liberals in general. Conservatives just think it's a good idea to run headlong into brick walls at top speed just to make liberals wince. I'll just have to resign myself to the realization that I cannot rule the world through passive-aggressive reverse psychology. Nuts.

But I was struck by the childishness of the rightwinger's argument. "You said no, and so you MADE me do it!" A willful four-year old, being disobedient for the sake of being disobedient.

I see it a lot. Every time Ann Coulter or Bernie Goldberg bring out a new book for a brief flash of glory through the magic of bulk sales and then rapid decline to the remaindered racks, right wingers all over the web praise the books, shouting, "This will really annoy liberals!"

Of course, most liberals don't even hear about such events, because they don't watch Faux News or read Drudge, and the mainstream media have finally belatedly realized that pandering to the right wing noise machine did little for their journalistic credibility. Those of us who DO hear about these things either laugh, or shake our heads and wonder when the right wing will stop exploiting that poor psychotic woman.

The problems begin when it goes beyond one of Coulter's "neener, neener, liberals suck" books into such things as national policy. It's why, even after winning concessions from Democrats on the stimulus package last week, Republicans voted against it anyway. It's a foolish politician who breaks his word for spite, but in the GOP there are many fools.

I'm hoping for better in the Senate. Negotiations on the bill are moving right along, and some of the GOP positions are actually pretty reasonable. For instance, on the infrastructure portion, there's about $30 billion that will be able to create jobs by the end of summer, and another $20 billion that will have effects further on. The GOP is arguing that the $20 billion should be eliminated from this particular bill, and given more careful scrutiny in a few months time, when we have a chance to see if any of the actions the government has taken to slow the fall of the economy have had any effect or not. The devil is in the details, of course, and the reasonableness of this objection depends, on large measure, on whether the Senator making the objection has done an accurate job of dividing the results of the two sets of money, or if he's just miffed because his state won't benefit much from it.

Some are just weird. Kay Bailey Hutchinson wants $200 billion in "social spending provisions" cut from the bill immediately (the NY Times describes this as "health care support and other aid to the states", both of which are vital if the country is to remain operational. Most of the states are running in the red right now, and by their own constitutions, cannot legally do so, which means they are making cuts to the bone in essential social services, the sort needed to keep a first world economy from becoming a third world economy). Much better that major international corporations can get the money so they can ship more jobs overseas (GM got caught using bailout money to build plants in Brazil) and of course, for tax cuts.

Oddly enough, two major provisions in the Democratic version, a $85 billion tax decrease, and a tax rebate of $500-$1000 for each working family are highly unpopular with the GOP. Indeed, the $85 billion plan was removed from the House version at the insistence of the GOP, who voted against it anyway. That plan was to simply shield middle class families from the alternative minimum tax. Designed originally to get corporations with crafty bookkeepers to cough up at least SOME tax on their billions in profits, inflation has caused the tax to cut in at upper middle class levels, 25 years later.

You read that correctly. The GOP, which had been howling that tax cuts, rather than social spending, would lead the economy to recovery sneaked in an eighty five billion dollar tax INCREASE, one that would target the middle class. They still don't like the tax rebate, even though it assures liquidity that would go right out onto main street no later than May. It was money going to those who weren't "the right sorts of people." Similarly, the GOP dug up some economists who swore that infusing the economy with some $65 billion that would almost all go out onto main street immediately wouldn't do a think to help, but giving several billion more to the oil companies would.

Some of the cuts are actually good. I agree that funding is needed for family planning, and sprucing up the national mall is a good idea, but those don't really contribute to an economic stimulus, and are battles that should be fought another time.

Kyl, the Republican Whip in the Senate, is threatening a filibuster unless the bill meets his demands, a move that should take a population already irritated with the GOP and make them flat-out pissed. But news reports suggest that Republican Senators Schumer, Snow, Collins and Gregg will vote for it pretty much as it is. Which means the Dems can beat a filibuster if only two in their caucus vote, and even Lieberman supports the package.

I suspect that the same situation exists in the Senate as existed in the House. Many, perhaps most of the Republicans in the House were acting in good faith, and voted according to their convictions and in services to their constituents. The leadership, however, was not acting in good faith, and forced many GOP House members to vote against their own beliefs and their constituents in order to play a very foolish political game. In the Senate, however, it's much harder to get the members to march in lockstep. Only if the caucus is agreed is there a prayer of it happening. The stimulus package will have widespread and perhaps unanimous Democratic support, with no arm-twisting from the White House needed. The GOP should see at least five defections, perhaps more depending on the final shape of the bill, and leadership calculations on how much the party stands to gain or lose with a show of solidarity that might only infuriate voters.

The main problem with the stimulus package is that it may simply not be enough. Economic reports for the past few weeks have been uniformly dismal, with the economy contracting by 3.8% in the past quarter, and the Dow down again, to about 8,000 points. In constant dollars, it's now lower than it was the day Bill Clinton took office. The huge boom of the 1990s is gone, and unfortunately, the money didn't revert back into society, but wound up in tax havens and blown on overseas investments. America got raped, and it's going to take a lot to get her back together, physically and emotionally.

The Senate vote will happen as soon as Wednesday. I'll be watching.

I suspect that we all will be watching.

Posted: February 2, 2009

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