“Tea Party: people covered by Medicare who hate socialized medicine.” Mike Lofgren, “The Party Is Over.”
The quote above is from a man who worked for Republicans in Congress for 28 years. For over half that time, he was a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget committee. He believed in what he thought the Republicans stood for, but as time went by, he realized that the Republican Party was losing its mind. He finally retired because he couldn’t stand what they were doing to the country, and there seemed no way to bring the party back to sanity.
Lofgren’s book was published just before the 2012 presidential election, and his analysis of the Republican candidates and their budget plans illustrates how far the Republican Party has drifted from its moorings. “The GOP presidential candidates’ budget plans are riddled with such fantastic assumptions that no neutral observer could come away with any reaction other than that Republicans are so math-challenged they could not manage a lemonade stand, let alone the finances of a nation of 310 million people whose government spends $3.5 trillion a year.” (p79) This is a man who is an expert on budgets; he saw that all the Republican candidates were making ridiculous claims. But that is what the faithful wanted to hear.
This is the same Republican Party that has now let the country sink into the morass of the sequestration cuts, because they either don’t understand or don’t care about the harm that will result. John Boehner tried to blame the president and the Senate. He said that the House had put forward two plans to avoid sequestration, and they weren’t going to put forward another. He neglected to add that the two plans he mentioned were from the last congress, and are now null and void. Not only did Boehner refuse to put forward a current plan, he sent the House members home for a three-day weekend on the day before the sequester. He didn’t even pretend he cared about what would happen to the country. He just cussed out the Senate, which has been trying to pass a plan that keeps getting blocked by Republicans.
The Tea Party has been supporting candidates who basically hate government. Many are now gleeful at these cuts, because it advances their cause, to eviscerate and weaken government, including Social Security and Medicare, so much that it becomes useless. Rep. Steve Scalise, (R – La): “We asked him [Boehner] to commit to us that when the cuts actually came on March 1, that he would stand firm and not give in, and he’s holding to that.” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R- SC): “He’s [Boehner’s] doing exactly what he said he was going to do, and I think it’s working to our favor and to his. I get the feeling that our party is probably more unified right now than it has been at any time in the last several months.” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R – Kans.): “This will be the first significant tea party victory in that we got what we set out to do in changing Washington.” Does that sound like a party that’s worried about the effects of the sequester?
One of Boehner’s favorite talking points is that the president has not put forward a plan of his own. Apparently Boehner thinks hiding behind ignorance gives him some moral authority. The president’s plan is available for anyone, even Boehner, to view on whitehouse.gov. Obama has signed $1.4 trillion in spending cuts into law. He has offered to cut another $930 billion, in return for $580 billion in increased revenue from cutting loopholes on the very rich. When these cuts and proposed new revenues are combined, the result is $4.3 trillion in deficit reduction. The president has also reduced the deficit from 10 percent of GDP to 5 percent, and it is growing ever smaller. Republicans seem unable to grasp these facts.
It doesn’t matter to Republicans that the president has been slowing the growth of federal spending. It doesn’t matter to them that duplicate or unnecessary programs are being eliminated. These people want to gut government itself, and they want the president to fail. If the sick, the old, the disabled, the young are harmed in the pursuit of these goals, that doesn’t matter. As long as they can drag the president and the government down, they don’t care if they take the whole country with them. Their current jubilation is all the proof we need.
Jeanette Strong’s column appears every other Wednesday.