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Boehner’s Embarrassing Night

I’m a little late with this; you might have noticed I’ve been a bit busy. But even through a haze of morphine, it was fascinating watching Rep. John Boehner’s thoroughly humiliating attempt to pass a bill that would raise tax rates only for those who make more than a million dollars a year.

When the Tea Party movement swept Republicans into power in the U.S. House and many state legislatures, I immediately said at the time that while the GOP was harnessing the energy of that movement, it would end up being bad for them. They’re trying to ride a horse that is only going to buck them off, and this is a perfect example. They are so extreme in their anti-tax views that they are willing to do great damage to the party in the name of ideology.

Boehner is caught in a bind here. He could bring a more moderate package up for a vote, one that would keep the Bush tax cuts in place for 98% of taxpayers and raise rates on the top 2%. That package would almost certainly pass with big Democratic support and a portion of the Republican vote (the sane portion). But that might well lead to a revolt against his speaker position that he’s not sure he could survive. So he’s trying to keep the crazies from revolting, something they will not do without absolute purity. No tax increases, even on the richest Americans, period — and if that leads to higher taxes on everyone, so be it. Only purity matters, not pragmatism. David Frum details the circular firing squad:

Rationality is the ability to bring means into alignment with ends.

Let’s suppose for a moment that the two dozen Republicans who rejected Speaker Boehner’s Plan B are rational. What do their chosen means tell us about their desired ends?

Is the end: “Defeat the Obama tax increases”? No, that can’t be it. The rejection of Plan B means that taxes will go up more than if Plan B had somehow become law.

Is the end a more modest: “Protect Republicans from blame for the Obama tax increases?” No, that’s not it either. Protection of the party from blame was precisely John Boehner’s goal in devising Plan B. Plan B was never intended as a serious budget proposal. Plan B was intended only as a PR insurance policy if the country went over the fiscal cliff. Republicans could then say: “See we were prepared to tax millionaires if need be.”

The defeat of Plan B leaves Republicans – all Republicans utterly defenseless against the onslaught to come.

Boehner’s Plan B wasn’t going to pass, but it was good politics — as good as they could do under the circumstances. The Tea Party types just don’t care. They’ll gladly shoot themselves to prove their ideological purity. And this claim from the night before now looks a lot funnier:

“Tomorrow the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American — 99.81 percent of the American people. Then the President will have a decision to make. He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.”

Yep, you’ve got him right where you want him.

Comments

  1. machintelligence says

    The weird thing is that the Tea Party types are talking like they have won. Their relationship with reality is tenuous at best.
    They might have one thing to be said in their favor: We ultimately need to raise taxes and cut spending — so why not do it now? let’s take our lumps and get on with life.

  2. hunter says

    You don’t understand: they are, each and every one of them, the Messiah. They are going to save America from the forces of evil, which is everyone but them.

  3. says

    “The Tea Party types just don’t care. They’ll gladly shoot themselves to prove their ideological purity.”

    Look, they were sent to DC to do a job. They’re there to save the USA from the behemoth of chicanery, ignorance and incompetence called the federal government. You know, themselves.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    machintelligence #1: They might have one thing to be said in their favor: We ultimately need to raise taxes and cut spending — so why not do it now? let’s take our lumps and get on with life.

    Because unemployment is still barely under 8%. Cutting spending would certainly imcrease unemployment. This notion that the deficit is the economic issue of our time is very quaint.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    But even through a haze of morphine, it was fascinating…

    That may have made it even more facinating.

  6. azportsider says

    “[The teabaggers] are so extreme in their anti-tax views that they are willing to do great damage to the party country in the name of ideology.

    There! FTFY

  7. MikeMa says

    Boehner will go down in history as a terrible Speaker. Indecisive most of the time, ranting against the tide of history the rest of the time. His party is in shambles without any real leadership. Good in theory, really, really bad for our reality.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    I don’t place the blame on Boehner personally. I think the Tea Party is unleadable, and he just happens to be the leader in place at the wrong time and place to suffer the effects.

  9. John Hinkle says

    [The President] can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.

    What he really means is, he can be responsible for removing the tax cuts that were a major cause of the deficit we have now, and restoring some sense of sanity to our national balance sheet. Oh, and God Bless America.

  10. captainoblivious says

    Why are they pussyfooting around? Confiscate 100% of the Evil Rich’s money. Jeesh. We have Leviathan to fund– This is no time to be meek.

  11. raven says

    What he really means is, he can be responsible for removing the tax cuts that were a major cause of the deficit we have now,

    True.

    Bush really managed to destroy the US economy for a lost generation.

    The Bush tax cuts are starving the federal government and leading to huge deficits. His tax cuts coupled with increased spending and two wars were simply a disaster.

    Clinton left us with a humming economy and a budget surplus. Bush left us with a lost generation, an economic crisis, and no end in sight to a country stuck in neutral.

  12. raven says

    I haven’t paid too much attention to this. Watching the Tea Party is like watching a large, poisonous spider. It’s sort of interesting, but at the end of the day, a large, poisonous spider is just a large, poisonous spider.

    But it seems like Obama has most of the cards. At the end of the year, taxes rise and spending gets cut.

    This is undesirable because the economy is barely moving and tax cuts and spending are Keynesian stimulatory.

    But if it happens, all Obama has to do is propose some new tax cuts, ones not as extreme or inequitable as the Bush ones.

    Thisthen puts the Tea Party in the position of opposing….tax cuts.

  13. says

    When exactly did the automatic expiration of the Bush tax cuts become the “Obama tax increases”?

    No one could lead this clown car in Congress today, but Boehner hasn’t done himself any favors by publicly committing himself to a plan without any idea if his own coalition would support it. There’s a reason why both parties have whips.

  14. says

    Boehner’s Plan B wasn’t going to pass, but it was good politics — as good as they could do under the circumstances.

    Not sure about that. Yes, it was about as good as Boehner could do for himself under the circumstances, but surely better politics in terms of the long term future of the Republican Party was concerted would have been to accept Obama’s offer (already being characterized as unnecessarily generous to the Republicans).

    Perhaps it would have meant Boehner falling on his sword, but in the long run the Republicans could have trumpeted the deal as a victory on taxes (nobody outside the super-rich and Tea Party purists believes that taxing people earning over $400k is a terrible idea) and they could still attack the Democrats on weakening Social Security over the chained CPI part.

  15. says

    “I don’t place the blame on Boehner personally.”

    Why not? Boehner has had years to learn how to be something other than the lying fuckbag demogogue that he decided to be back when he came to Congress. Fuck him.

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