Thursday, October 17, 2013

Did Ted Cruz just take one for the team?

The typical take on the last-minute deal reached by the Senate, passed by the House, and signed into law by President Obama: "Democrats win, Republicans lose!" Administration sycophant Jamelle Bouie's fanboy-esque editorial is as a good a piece as any to cite in this regard. After opening with a pointless reference to The Dark Knight Rises--thus proving he's hip--Bouie writes the following:
There’s nothing in here for Democrats, but that doesn’t matter: It’s a complete capitulation by Republicans, made worse by the beating they’ve taken in the court of public opinion. Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the GOP and its handling of the budget. It’s too early to make predictions about the 2014 midterm elections, but for now, we can say that the shutdown has destroyed Republican chances in New York City—where mayoral candidate Joe Lhota is running away from the national brand—and in Virginia, where gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is running against the shutdown, and desperately trying to distance himself from the Tea Party movement he used to embrace...

By holding firm and refusing to bend to Republican demands for capitulation, Obama has broken the Republican Party.
There you have it. The mighty savior Barack Obama has broken the Republican Party. The deal was a complete capitulation. Well okay then. Nothing left to do but sweep up the pieces and pass every initiative on Obama's wish list, from climate change to gun control. After all, there is no longer a functioning opposition party. Should be simple enough. Alas (for the hard-core ideologues and technocrats out there), things are not so simple.

True enough, the Republican Party has some serious rifts in it. And true enough, this fourteen day government shutdown didn't stop the Obamacare implementation (though that train wreck is successfully screwing itself). All it did was make Republicans look petty and foolish in the eyes of the many, particularly those in the mainstream media.

What it also did was to set up yet another special committee tasked with reaching some sort of deal on cutting spending. What it didn't do is take sequestration off the table. The previous sequester-induced cuts remain, the spectre of more waits in the wings, and for the next several months this will be the real issue in Washington, D.C. That's exactly not what the Democrats wanted, just a few months ago, while it's pretty much what the Republicans were then seeking. As Peter Beinart notes:
For their part, Democrats bristled at the prospect of a “clean” CR. Four days after Cantor’s memo, the Democratic-aligned Center for American Progress warned that by extending the sequester, Republicans were “trying to lock these additional spending cuts into place and create a new baseline from which future negotiations must begin.” CAP added that “It’s easy to see why this approach would be attractive to Speaker Boehner; it is much harder to understand why any progressive or centrist would support such an approach.”

Let’s pause for a moment to underscore the point. In early September, a “clean” CR—including sequester cuts—that funded the government into 2014 was considered a Republican victory by both the Republican House Majority Leader and Washington’s most prominent Democratic think tank. Now, just over a month later, the media is describing the exact same deal as Republican “surrender.”
Surrender. Complete capitulation. That's how the Republicans getting exactly what the Democrats would never supposedly give is being termed. Though by no means should we call it a Republican victory, per the reasons I noted above. But calling this result a surrender or a complete capitulation by the Republicans is every bit as imbecilic (or at least it would be, if the nation wasn't full of so many imbeciles). For the political discourse in Washington, D.C. and the nation as a whole has shifted drastically since the end of the last Bush Administration. Government debt is now an issue, in every election and in every session of Congress. The citizenry--regardless of their stance on the issue--is far more aware of government debt than at possibly any time in the nation's history.

And this shift has been brought about by the Tea Party movement, by and large. Ignore the punditry and the self-serving politicos walking the halls of Congress who are trying--yet again--to declare the Tea Party movement dead or at least wildly unpopular. It's neither. For it continues to wield strong influence on matters fiscal; it has largely shaped the current debate and is wholly responsible for a shrinking deficit--despite what the Administration is claiming--via these forced negotiations at critical moments. Let's be clear on the last: the Obama Administration is not getting what it wants when it comes to domestic spending, it's very nearly getting the opposite of what it wants in many cases. And that's why the deficit might drop below $1 trillion for 2013. If the Administration were to get the things on its agenda, the deficit would sky past such a mark with ease.

That said, the Federal Government is still spending too much money--like a trillion dollars a year too much-- and Obamacare is going to cost taxpayers even more while it simultaneously provides yet another drag on the economy. But--and this is the critical point--these issues are front and center in Washington, D.C. Democrats and the Administration have to address them and defend their positions on them as a matter of course. And that is again because of the Tea Party crowd.

If anyone is winning, it's them. Ted Cruz is quiet now. The media is happily pointing out how low his approval numbers are. To be honest, I've never been much of a Ted Cruz fan. Yet now I can't help wondering, did Cruz put himself in the crosshairs to get exactly this kind of outcome, to insure that the sequester cuts would get locked in, no matter what else happened? Because if he did, I need to rethink my opinion of him. For stepping up and choosing to take the kind of hit he's currently taking, just to make this happen, would be beyond gutsy. In the words of Barnabus "Barney" Stinson, it would be "legen--wait for it--dary" (see how I did that, how I included a reference to popular culture to prove how "hip" I am?)

With the debt ceiling issue "resolved" for the next couple of months, Cruz can sit back and watch the fireworks, as Obamacare continues to fracture and buckle and the Left is forced to defend it, as various other Administration failures (like Syria) and scandals (hello, IRS?) are revived in Congressional committees leading up to the end of the year. But all the while, people are still looking at government debt, still wondering if it might actually be the huge problem the Right keeps saying it is.

Once upon a time not all that long ago, every spending initiative was debated largely under the rubric of  "do we actually need this?" (with the "yes, we do" side winning far too often, to be fair). Now, thanks to people like Cruz and the Tea Party, it's "can we actually afford this?" And that a win for the limited government crowd, the actual conservatives and libertarians in the room. There's no way around it.

Cheers, all.

No comments:

Post a Comment