Senate Majority Harry Reid, son of a hard-rock miner who was a crusty man of few words, this past week said bluntly that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor “has shown he shouldn’t be at the table, and Republicans agree he shouldn’t be at the [debt ceiling negotiations] table; even Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell seem to understand the seriousness of this situation. They are willing to negotiate in good faith, which I appreciate and the country appreciates.” Reid then went on to say why Cantor should be sent packing: He called Cantor “childish.”
Bullseye! Surely, I thought, we can find more serious stuff going on in the highest echelons of the Republican House caucus. After all, they hold the financial future of the world in their hands. Knowing that our own esteemed congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is the vice chair of the House Republican Caucus, I thought, let’s check to see what she’s up to. Surely Cathy isn’t so childish.
Well, judge for yourself. With her party threatening the country with economic catastrophe by refusing to budge from their no tax “principles” (aka, The Waltz of the Lemmings, produced and directed by Mr. Unaccountable, Grover Norquist), what is McMorris Rodgers up to?
Ah, she lists for us the major accomplishments of her House Republican Caucus since they took control last January. And right at the top of her accomplishments list? Direct from her web page, here is Numero Uno:
“Key Facts from 111th Congress: Republican House members sent out five times as many tweets as their Democratic counterparts.”
That’s it? That’s what tops her list of her party’s congressional accomplishments since January 2011? As the irrepressible John McEnroe, 30 years ago, would have shouted: YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!
Senator Reid actually understates the national disaster in the making. The Republicans’ churlish childishness is merely another symptom of the institutional ineptitude that characterizes the Republican-led 111th House of Representatives. Five times as many tweets? Dear God in Heaven.
Adults have now intervened and taken McMorris Rodgers and her tweeters to “come-to-Jesus meetings” for threatening not to raise the national debt ceiling and risking financial meltdown. The critics include: 1. The president; 2. the Federal Reserve; 3. Wall Street; 4. China; 5. Most living, Nobel-winning economists; and 6. corporate executives.
And the tweeters who run the House of Representatives? Well, as one put it, “We have been forced to take a sober look” at the situation. Now in retreat, they intend to hold a silly symbolic vote on a balanced budget amendment and then punt the debt problem to the president.
In the meantime, while wrangling and handwringing occupy the attention of the president and the congress, the employment crisis has dropped right off the political radar screen. The Republicans, busily out and about air-brushing the disastrous Bush years from history, show no concern.
The president, who is reported to have adopted the Clintonesque strategy of “triangulation,” appears strangely uninterested. Yet unemployment is directly related to the debt — no jobs, no customers, no taxes.
Perhaps more worrisome is the state of our civic morale. Seventeen percent of the under-30 set are demoralized — unemployed or underemployed. The president stopped talking to the younger generation about 24 hours after his 2009 inauguration. Now his campaign Brain Trusters are telling themselves that they’re doing better with independents and senior citizens, so why worry? Besides, the kids can stay on their parents’ health plans until the age of 26. (As one bright young person who registered voters for Obama put it to me, “What the president is really saying is that since you won’t get a decent job, don’t worry — you can stay on your parent’s plan for a couple more years.”).
But if Team Obama thinks that the young people who won states such as North Carolina for him aren’t smart enough to know that they have been used — well, I suggest that the president’s Brain Trust might want to reconsider.
Addressing the jobs issue is just as important as addressing the debt issue, a point that seems lost on the president. Robert Reich, former Clinton labor secretary, urges Obama to take on the issue:
“Tell the nation that income and wealth haven’t been this concentrated at the top since 1928, the year before the Great Crash,” Reich has written. “[Get] indignant about the secret money funneled into midterm campaigns. … Demand Congress pass the Disclose Act so the public would know where the money comes from.
“… Introduce legislation to curb Wall Street bonuses — exactly what European leaders are doing with their financial firms. … Demand that the big banks, now profitable after taxpayer bailouts, reorganize the mortgage debt of distressed homeowners. … Call for a new WPA to put the unemployed back to work, and pay for it with a tax surcharge on incomes over $1 million.
“… Insist on extended unemployment benefits for long-term jobless who are now exhausting their benefits. And … hang tough on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy — daring Republicans to vote against extending the cuts for everyone else.”
The President clearly has failed do what FDR did so well: He hasn’t controlled the narrative, hasn’t made clear to the American public the complexities presented by the twin problems of debt and jobs in the context of the structural global problems.
But this acknowledged, what the House Republicans have been up to — especially given the high stakes — has been unforgivable.