I’d like to have a talk with the 12 percent of Americans who still have a favorable view of the U.S. Congress.
Unfortunately, I suspect most Americans split the difference, blaming both parties equally for the gridlock that may shut down the government this coming weekend and for the obstinance that seems increasingly likely to lead to a Social Security tax hike for everyone come January and a curtailment of longterm unemployment insurance. That’s unfair. As today’s lead editorial in The New York Times makes crystal clear, the lion’s share of blame rests squarely with the House Republican caucus.
This goes way beyond the refusal of Republicans to so much as consider a slight tax increase on millionaires to extent last year’s cut in Social Security taxes for everyone else. No, that’s one of the more benign actions of the Party of the .1 Percent. The Times editorial, titled ‘The Insidious Fine Print,” talks about much more devious shenanigans.
Try these on for size, just a few of the measures that, The Times reports, are larded onto a 2012 spending bill needed to keep the government running:
- A proposal to eliminate public financing of presidential elections.
- One that would ban the president from hiring an aide on climate change issues.
- Another that would forbid the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from buying NPR programs.
- And one that would limit visits of Cuban-Americans to their families in Cuba (presumably just in time for Christmas).
The Times notes that this kind of garbage, more formally called riders to the bill, must, “like pieces of shrapnel, …. be extracted one at a time, but a few always seem to remain, doing a great deal of damage.”
Among the more serious, the editorial notes, are efforts to roll back environmental regulation on interstate air pollution and to kill a needle-exchange program in the city Washington D.C. They range in short from the sweeping to the nastiest micro-managing of the U.S. capital’s urban population.
But a key point should not get lost in the squabbles ahead this week, picking and posturing that generally leaves the public equally frustrated with both parties. This argument should not be about ideological positioning in the first place. This is an omnibus spending bill. It’s point is to keep the government operating.
And yet, once again, it is being used as an ideological purity test by the Right. When all governance is driven by ideological righteousness, no governance can take place. I’m convinced that this is and has been the goal of many in the Republican Party for some time now as we move toward the presidential 2012 elections.