To understand Washington today, here’s what you’ve got to keep in mind: Republicans mean to kill any federal action that might generate jobs or produce an early economic recovery.
They like this economic slump. They’ve a robust interest in keeping it alive — at least through next year’s presidential election. Which explains why they ruled President Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill DOA, even though many Republicans have voted in the past for some of its key parts.
Why would they do a mean thing like that? Well, for starters, God created the Republican Party to oppose spending and taxes; but, the more immediate cause is that blocking Obama’s agenda serves the GOP goal of making him is a one-term president.
A stubbornly sour economy is a dose of hemlock for any incumbent president seeking re-election. Ask Jimmy Carter.
Hog-tying the other party’s president is fairly conventional political strategy. Both sides have done it to one degree or another. But to jeopardize the nation’s economic welfare at this critical moment for partisan advantage — with an estimated 15 million Americans, maybe more, unemployed and full recovery some ways off — is a moral as well as economic stain on the Grand Old Party.
In fairness, it must be said the stain is confined to the GOP in Washington and its miscreants in Congress. It’s ironic but true that the party’s national interest in savaging Obama actually could damage the GOP outside Washington.
If prolonged, the jobless economy could jeopardize the future stars of the Republican Party, its newly minted young governors, including Bob McDonnell, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Chris Christie and Tom Corbett of Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, respectively — all big states, electorally significant and financially strapped.
Republican governors, many of whom face re-election in two or three years, are acutely aware of the need for a quick economic upturn. They live, most of them, in the merciless world of balanced budget requirements, falling state revenues, employee layoffs — and, worst of all, the threat of tax, fee or toll increases, or some combination, if things don’t improve ASAP.
A year ago, as the scale of the recession became clear, more than 40 governors, including some Republicans, petitioned Washington for an infusion of cash — a bailout, you could call it.
Several Republicans made a show of denouncing such federal programs, but most, in an all too familiar display of hypocrisy, kept the cash. In South Carolina, for example, Republicans insisted the bailout was federal, not state spending — and used it to patch up a debt-swollen state budget.
And in Virginia this year, a spokeswoman for the state education department told the Huffington Post that Obama’s original recovery money saved or created 7,715 teaching jobs in the state. Who, reading a Wall Street Journal editorial, would have believed it?
Not Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican minority leader, who has used the filibuster “more than any other legislative leader in recent history,” Politico has written. His filibuster-of-the-week strategy has blocked presidential nominations to key economic and regulatory posts as well as Obama’s latest $447 billion infrastructure and tax cuts proposal.
McConnell is the Dr. No of Washington. Last week he even put the kibosh on $40 billion in federal funds to help states save the jobs of teachers, firemen and policemen. He’s not in the business of sending money to “bail out the states,” McConnell told CNN, giving him a leg up on this year’s Ebenezer Scrooge award.
McConnell and his House counterpart, Speaker John Boehner, surely know that the lack of a Washington fix for the economy hurts Republicans as well as Obama. They’re betting, however, that the burden of the blame, as it has historically, will fall on the president.
They’re probably right. But it’s still a risky roll of the dice. Recent polls show broad public support for Obama’s jobs plan and for tax increases, especially for the very wealthy, less so for corporations. And Obama’s personal ratings have jumped up a tick while the numbers for Congress in general and the GOP in particular are down there with those for bankers, bail bondsmen and the media.
Something like a warning shot was fired across the Republican bow the other day. It consisted of a by a Page 1 headline in the Cincinnati Enquirer — “GOP KILLS JOBS BILL,” it read. The Enquirer, which is Boehner’s local paper, really knows how to hurt a guy.