As a deadline approaches that could mean shutting down the non-essential operations of the federal government, both sides are weighing the potential impact on their political fortunes. The Republicans are squabbling among themselves over how much to cut from the remainder of the 2011 Budget, the Democrats have crafted a policy of offering minimal savings, as well as a campaign to label the Republicans as Tea Party extremists.
A couple of recent comments by leading Democrats point to a dilemma faced by the Republicans. At the National Journal’s Insider’s Conference panel, Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was asked by Major Garrett, formerly of Fox News, now with National Journal, “Do you think there is anything to be said for a grand debate that is precipitated in part by a government shutdown?”
Dean replied, “From a partisan point of view, I think it would be the best thing in the world to have a shutdown.” He said as an aside that he is not rooting for a shutdown because of its harmful effect on the country. He then suggested that half of the Tea Party people are dependent on Social Security and Medicare checks, and will be upset when their checks stop coming. He then acknowledged, when pressed by Garrett, that those checks won’t actually stop, but he said that because of what happened in Wisconsin, and people talking about the checks stopping, that Republicans will fall in popularity even more than they already have.
“If I was head of DNC, I would be quietly rooting for it,” said Dean, “I know who’s going to get blamed—we’ve been down this road before.” When asked why the Republican’s would be blamed, he said, “because of Scott Walker,” the governor of Wisconsin, who Dean said had overreached. If he was candid, he would have admitted that the mainstream media support the Democrats almost reflexively, and they know they can count on that.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was caught on tape saying something equally as revealing. While on a conference call, thinking he was only talking to four fellow Democratic senators before members of the press joined in on the call, he said that “the only way we can avoid a shutdown is for Boehner to come up with a reasonable compromise and not just listen to what the Tea Party wants. Because the Tea Party wants to stick to HR1, with its draconian extreme, I always use the word ‘extreme,’ that’s what the caucus instructed me to do the other week, extreme cuts and all these riders, and Boehner’s in a box…”
Schumer’s statement, “that’s what the caucus instructed me to do,” reveals the use of the word “extreme” as a ploy, that the Democratic caucus has decided to use. They know the mainstream media will climb on board. But is it extreme to cut $61 billion from a nearly $3.7 trillion budget that the Democrats refused to pass when they had huge majorities in both the House and Senate? Inaction meant one less position to defend while running for re-election.
Part of the issue that Democrats are labeling as “extreme” are the so-called “riders,” such as de-funding Planned Parenthood and preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from doing certain things related to the regulation of carbon emissions that the EPA enacted after Congress failed to achieve it through legislation. Actually the Republicans have passed nine such riders, which are amendments that are unrelated or not specifically related to the main bill. Other budget riders have not received the same scrutiny. One defunds the implementation of ObamaCare, another would eliminate funding for salaries and expenses of nine “czars” that Obama appointed without Senate confirmation.
As Investor’s Business Daily put it, “…over a lousy $60 billion. Never mind vitally needed reform of the entitlement programs hurtling us toward a fiscal train wreck. Forget repealing ObamaCare spending and reversing the stimulus that doesn’t stimulate, costing in the t-for-trillions. Democrats won’t embrace even the paltry first step back toward fiscal sanity that House Republicans are asking for. They’d rather shut down the government and cross their fingers that the GOP gets blamed, as during the Clinton presidency.”
The truth is that the Republicans will be blamed by the media for failing to compromise if the shutdown occurs. They must understand the double standard as it exists and do what they believe to be the right thing, rather than make compromises hoping the media will like them and give them credit. That won’t happen. The Republicans have said that in their soon-to-be-released 2012 Budget from Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) House Budget Committee, they will tackle the so-called entitlements—which account for some 63% of the total federal budget, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—and cut spending to 2008 levels.
But today conservative voices are heard much more so than in 1995 when the last shutdown occurred. With Fox News, the Internet and talk radio, at least they get to make their points.
As Ed Morrissey of the blog, Hot Air, wrote, “Even if the shutdown took place over the F[iscal]Y[ear]2012 budget in the fall rather than the rump FY2011 budget, the crisis stage of the deficit and national debt will make Democratic suggestions of merely a few billion in cuts look ridiculous to an electorate that just tossed them out of the House majority over budgetary and economic issues in the midterm elections last year.
“If that’s the ground on which Democrats want to play chicken, then they should dig their heels in on spending like drunken sailors and hope voters believe that nothing’s wrong at all with running trillion-dollar-plus annual deficits. Let them follow Dean’s war cry and see if takes them any farther than it took Dean in 2004.” He is referring to Howard Dean’s failed presidential bid that year.
The idea that the media will support the Democrats in their effort to paint the Republicans as extreme for trying to cut $61 billion out of a $3.7 trillion deficit is based on their support from media lackeys like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who said in February on the Tonight Show that “Politics has moved so far to the right over the decades… Politics shift every year, shift further and further to the right,” so far to the right that “if Ronald Reagan were running for president today, he would be drafting like, Dennis Kucinich, to be his running mate.”
I don’t know if she really believes that, but I suspect not. This shift “to the right” that she perceives over her lifetime has included legalizing abortion and gays in the military, the implementation of affirmative action, the election of Barack Obama as President, and a federal budget, which first reached $100 billion in the early 1960s, climbing to a current budget of $3.7 trillion, not to mention dozens of federal bureaucracies that were supposedly meant to make life better. This is what Rachel Maddow and others like her in the media see as politics moving “so far to the right over the decades.” Bizarre. What it actually reveals is how far to the left the media have shifted, and that MSNBC is leading the way in that direction.
With the priorities of the two political parties so divergent, it is hard to imagine a compromise that will satisfy either side. Perhaps a shutdown of non-essential government services is inevitable. There will still be elections next year for all members of the House, a third of the members of the Senate, and for the presidency of the United States. Maybe then the voters will show a clear preference for one side or the other, and the nation will decide which priorities and direction they prefer.