Feb 27 2013

A pattern of caves?

Published by at 8:49 am under Trahant

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

This is not a headline that any political party wants to read: “House GOP Caves: Violence Against Women Act Impasse Finally Broken.” The shape of a new deal is simple, according to Talking Points Memo. “The Rules Committee instead sent the House GOP’s version of the Violence Against Women Act to the floor with a key caveat: if that legislation fails, then the Senate-passed version will get an up-or-down vote.”

In other words, the majority of the House, a combination of reasonable Republicans and Democrats will have the final say. Thus the Senate bill, including expanded jurisdiction for tribal governments, is much more likely to pass. As I have written before, the Violence Against Women Act makes sense in this era of austerity because it reflects an efficient tool for Domestic Violence prosecution. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, the House still must vote for the Senate bill.

But the bigger picture is that conservatives are losing across the board right now.

Look at this week’s action list:

Conservative governors across the United States are buying into the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care act. Most recently Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Gov. Chris Christie signed their states up for the program.

In the Senate, conservatives could not hold their own members on a filibuster against Chuck Hagel. He’s now the Secretary of Defense.

And, yesterday, a congressional candidate in Illinois won her primary (essentially, the election in a district that is heavily Democratic) running against the National Rifle Association.

And two days before the sequester begins, there is growing evidence that the American public is siding with the president. A Washington Post-ABC news poll found that “67 percent of those tested disapproving of the way Republicans in Congress are handling federal spending.”

So how are Republicans responding? Will they fold on the sequester sooner or later?

The conservative blog Red State says “conservatives, not liberals” are now the problem. It calls for Republicans to oppose their own leadership more often and block bills by voting against their leader’s proposed rules. Erick Erickson writes: “So why do House conservatives support the rules on bad bills? Because leadership tells them to. And they fear that they will get punished for crossing leadership. But our allies need to be made aware that saving our country strongly outweighs preserving allegiance to leadership hacks. And we will be there to support them if they choose to fight.”

And, in the Senate, Erickson says, conservatives “need to filibuster everything in order to leverage the opportunity to amend bills and engage in extended debate.”

The very notion of obstruction as a governing philosophy shows a movement in retreat. If you don’t have the votes, or the facts, then try to use every congressional trick to block action. That may score a few votes, but it ultimately loses the argument. For the Democrats, it’s a recipe for winning the House of Representatives in 2014.

Perhaps after all of this back and forth about the budget and the sequester, the word is finally getting out that the fight has been about the wrong problem. The budget challenge of the United States is not this year’s budget, or even a spending problem. It’s a longterm demographic challenge that’s based on two simple trends: People live longer and there are more elderly than ever before in history. The solution should fit that problem, not an across-the-board attack on government.

Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told the Senate yesterday that “deficit reduction be secured through well-designed, balanced policies that don’t impede the economic recovery, jeopardize future productivity growth, increase poverty and inequality, or sacrifice access to health care or health care quality.

The deep cuts proposed by conservatives undermine that long term challenge.

“Enacting a larger amount of deficit reduction now would be desirable if policymakers can secure it without doing harm in other areas — that is, if policymakers can achieve it through policies that: do not impede the economic recovery or jeopardize future productivity growth by providing inadequate resources for areas like education, infrastructure, and basic research; don’t increase poverty and inequality, which already are higher here than in many other Western nations, or raise the number of Americans who are uninsured; and don’t sacrifice health care quality or increase overall U.S. health care costs,” Greenstein.

In other words: Solve the real problem, not the imaginary one.

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He lives in Fort Hall, Idaho, and is a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Join the discussion about austerity. A new Facebook page has been set up at:

https://www.facebook.com/IndianCountryAusterity

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