“But make no mistake, the President will find in our new majority the voice of the American people as they’ve expressed it tonight: standing on principle, checking Washington’s power and leading the drive for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government.” – John Boehner, Speaker of the House
John Boehner is an epic failure. I’m not sure just how best to unpack that statement or express the depth of it … he is a failure. Perhaps I should say he is “thus far a failure – and has only a little time to snap out of it.”
In the budget flail, Republicans proposed cutting a paltry $61 billion from the spending plan. In addition, they proposed eliminating funds for Planned Parenthood, NPR, and ObamaCare … you know, “standing on principle” and all. In the recent agreement, they got $38 billion (meaningless … as was the $61 billion), and NONE of the principled funding cuts. Epic Fail.
Beohner and the Republicans utterly lost. They lost in every conceivable way. Not only that, but Reid and Obama now know that bluster and the threat of a shutdown will win the day against Republicans. Epic Fail.
Consider the chart below, which gives federal spending (and revenue) as a percentage of GDP. It does not paint a pretty picture.
Things were nearly manageable in the 60s, and started to get out of whack in the 70s. In the 80s, Reagan stepped on the gas – to defeat Communism, which he did. After the cold war, and the election of some conservatives in 1994, spending came down. This, coupled with the baby-boomers reaching an increasingly productive phase of their careers, and higher taxes in the Clinton era, led to actual surpluses. Seems like president Bush and the Republicans in the House and Senate just couldn’t help themselves though – raising spending and cutting taxes. This was nothing compared to what would follow.
The Great Recession, coupled with drunken-sailor spending on the part of president Obama and his corporate sponsors, have led to deficits measured in trillions of dollars; annual spending deficits set to exceed 10% of the entire economy this year. (Imagine spending 10% more than you make. How long could you stay afloat? How long can the country?)
Realizing just how stupid the whole thing was becoming, the country lashed out and sent the Democrats in the House packing, giving Republicans a significant majority. The situation in the Senate was a bit different – this was a difficult year for Republicans to pick up seats because of how well they had done in 2004 (conversely, 2006 and 2008 were fantastic years for Democrats – meaning 2012 and 2014 will present ample opportunities for Republicans to pick up seats). I suppose the hope was that the Republicans, spurred on by the Tea Party, would stop the insanity and bring spending under control.
Enter Speaker Boehner … Epic Fail.
It is wrong, I think, to look at the 2010 elections as a move toward moderation and balance of power. Barack Obama was not up for reelection, as were very few Senate Democrats. The Democrats who were in elections found the sledding very difficult. (This is not to say that Obama is an easy target. Incumbents pursuant to a White House transition rarely lose … Jimmy Carter is the only one who has in the last 100 years.)
So, what do the Republicans do with this new-found power and overwhelming support amongst the populace for spending cuts? They fail – in epic proportions.
I don’t know what’s next for the Congress. I’m willing to give Boehner another chance. The 2012 budget negotiations will be upon us soon. My hope is that we see something like $500 billion in cuts for 2012.
If not, then I must say that I hope for a “revolt from the right” to oust Boehner. I’m not sure who would take his place – but the country cannot afford more of the same. If John Boehner is not serious about cutting the deficit, then he need not be in power.
As for the Tea Party and disaffected conservatives, I say “stay the course.” Keep pressing the issue and run from the right against progressive Republicans. Run at the right against senators and congressmen who will not manage the finances of the republic responsibly. Run at the right against folks like Mitt Romney, John McCain, and it pains me to say it, Mike Huckabee. These guys have not the guts or the gumption to do what really needs to be done to rescue this country and this economy. It will take somebody with real principled conservatism. Ron Paul is obviously my favorite, though I have had nice things to say about Chris Christie (on financial management). There are others too, but the pool has yet to form up.