Last week I became seriously torqued after hearing a couple of supposed GOP leaders interviewed on the Sunday Talk Shows. Having to devote several days to the migration of my primary PC to a new machine following hardware failure allowed (forced) me to ruminate on this frustration even further, as I could not immediately write and publish my initial reactions! In the interim, I have discussed my thoughts on the subject with a couple of people I respect, including a radio talk show host and a conservative Congressman who I consider friends. The consensus of thought is presented here.
The two GOP leaders who left me so disappointed are familiar names. Paul Ryan and John Boehner!
Each was served a grooved fastball of a question, which they each had every opportunity to slam into "Big Mac Land." (A local reference to a section of the old Busch Stadium sponsored by McDonalds, but which was named for the area Mark MacGuire frequently blasted long homers into back in the day.) Instead, both stood looking – for an out on called strikes!
Ryan was discussing the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts. He was challenged with the idea that "cutting" (not permitting the expiration of the existing rates for an effective INCREASE) will COST the government x number of trillions of dollars… and asking how he proposed to pay for it. He took the bait and started hunting and fishing for an answer with cutting waste, reducing programs etc. He MISSED the golden opportunity to stuff the question right back in the pocket of the interviewer!
The right answer: "Your question is flawed because it not only presupposes that an action COSTS the government, as though it's already the Government's money – which it's not – but it's also factually inaccurate. Cutting tax RATES is not the same as cutting spending. When you cut spending you are cutting actual dollars. When you cut tax RATES you affect the economy itself. You stimulate growth. You create jobs, and therefore taxpayers. The pie of the economy grows, so though you take a smaller percentage of the whole, you actually get MORE pie by taking a smaller slice of a bigger pie. Tax cuts don't cost. They RAISE federal revenues EVERY TIME THEY'RE TRIED. It worked for Bush. It worked for Reagan. It worked for Kennedy. The problem is that every time revenues went up, Democrat controlled Congresses increased spending even more. If we cut taxes, we'll have more revenue. If we cut spending also, we'll reduce the deficit further. If we fundamentally change how we spend money – and address entitlements, which represent HALF our budget – we can actually return this nation to prosperity!"
Now THAT would have shut up the interviewer, had conservatives in the audience standing and cheering, and would have left progressive viewers with their jaws dropped and no comeback! Instead, we got Pablum.
Similarly, Boehner was asked about addressing spending. The interviewer highlighted the fact that a handle will never be gotten on spending without taking on entitlement spending. He put Boehner on the spot, asking if he would commit to bringing the budget axe to bear on entitlements. Boehner ducked the question so artfully he should have quacked his answer!
The right answer: "You're absolutely right that entitlement spending MUST be addressed if we are ever to restrain the runaway growth of government spending. Many of our entitlement programs are bloated, ineffective, unconstitutionally based and counterproductive to building a productive and prosperous nation. We cannot continue the status quo in perpetuity. It is unsustainable. Everyone knows it even if it's unpopular to say it. We MUST "fundamentally transform" the way the Federal Government handles money, and the way it views its constitutional role. Draconian measures must take place, even if they must be phased in over time. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid represent half the entire federal budget. These three entitlement programs, which are going broke, account for more spending than the military, foreign aid, Homeland Security, Health, Education, Border Security, Intelligence, Food and drug, Occupational Safety, the Space Program, Corporate Regulation, Environmental Protection and all government salaries, COMBINED! We MUST address this elephant in the room. The longer we remain in denial and refuse to tackle this gargantuan expenditure on wealth transfer – the sooner we will face the inevitable collapse of the system itself – which no one wants and from which there is no recovery. It may be unpopular. It may be painful. But addressing entitlements is now unavoidably necessary."
Again. Making the hard choices and making the hard statements would have won cheers from the majority and astounded the rest. Another missed opportunity.
One must begin to question whether the GOP leadership is simply missing opportunities, or is missing the point. Do they get it? Do they understand what the grassroots movements have been trying to tell them since February 2009?
We've seen with Karl Rove's seeming intent to sink the candidacy of Christine O'Donnell, there are some within the ol' boy GOP network who are more concerned with the old power structure than with achieving the conservative agenda – which is backed by a clear majority of Americans. Some within the GOP think that they can co-opt and exploit the Tea Party and its allies for political gain for the Party. They will soon learn that the grass roots are not interested in being acquired and merged. They're out to fundamentally transform the Party! It's a hostile takeover! Those who resist will bear the wrath of the people.