If this is ‘getting screwed’…

Sen. Lindsey Graham says about the Stimulus Bill: “If I may say, if this is going to be bipartisanship, the country’s screwed.” So what does that make jamming $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for Haliburton-types down the public’s throat and 20 of 28 years of the trickle-down economy trickling precious few dregs down the legs of the wealthy to everyone else?

Can’t blame the senator for his lack of perspective (even though his dramatics in flailing around the stimulus bill on the Senate floor last week ought to get him an Oscar bid). His party wants to emulate terrorists. Nice.

Look, of course you can disagree philosophically on economic approaches — I may not agree with Sen. McCain, for example (and he was disappointingly playing by the Lindsey Graham-Eric Cantor playbook last week), but he’s certainly entitled to advocate for his party’s economic approach.

But calling a new President’s initiative, less than a month into his presidency, a stinker — in the words of Rep. Eric Cantor — and getting screwed — in the words of Graham — strikes me as especially classless (check out that previous link for a story about a video from Cantor’s office; this is from the employees of a sitting U.S. Representative and the minority Whip, no matter how much he’s trying to distance himself from it. And regarding Rep. Cantor’s love of Newt Gingrich — How long before Rep. Cantor shuts down the government because he’s forced to sit in the back of a plane?).

It seems to me the GOP is taking advantage of the new President’s efforts to extend to extend a hand to an opponent’s clenched fist by responding with a mugging and then crying foul when the privilge is refused.

It’s sort of like trying to make peace with the class bully in middle school, and then getting punched in the face in response to your offer — with the bully next running to the principal’s office to claim it was all your fault (and you getting sent to detention because the bully got his story out first).

Of course, if that’s the definition of bipartisanship according to the GOP, then I suppose I have to agree with Sen. Graham after all.

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8 Comments on “If this is ‘getting screwed’…”

  1. JC says:

    I don’t know Icepick…for a Gen X, you seem to be drinking the Kool-Aid. Not including the GOP in drafting the bill and telling them “I won” isn’t really extending a hand—-just a extending a middle finger. And so the response is exactly what one would expect. Graham is right. The country is getting screwed. We’ll know we aren’t getting screwed when nobody’s happy. But when either side is happy, we are getting screwed.

  2. The Icepick says:

    By your definition of only one side being happy, we’ve been nothing but screwed, since, oh, John Adams was president (maybe sooner — his own cabinet’s bickering drove Washington bonkers).

    The biggest sin here, it seems, is Obama’s insistence on bipartisanship in the face of the GOP brilliantly playing it against him in Round 1 (golf clap). Imagine that, suggesting a chance to compromise, for peaceful adult discourse, and then getting nothing but inflexible dogma and theatrics in response.

    Still, just as the GOP’s senators are entitled to their opinions and votes, so too is the recently victorious president entitled to attempt to direct policy, especially considering a solid majority of Americans just voted for the guy. If Congress doesn’t like his policy-setting direction, in spite of the popular and electoral votes and public opinion, they’re entitled to vote or not vote for it, regardless of party.

    Of course, and even though they don’t, um, vote in Congress, it seems an awful lot of GOP Governors backed the President’s stimulus package — that hardly seems to be bipartisanship of the screwing kind.

    For an interesting take on the pitfalls (and unreality, and perhaps impossibility) of bipartisanship, the Times ran a great op-ed from a Brown U. prof earlier this week: One Side to Every Story

    Great presidents do manage to push past partisanship — not by reaching out to the other party, but by overwhelming it with a new vision. … Roosevelt and Reagan reveal the dirty rotten secret of bipartisanship. It happens only when one side is cowed, beaten or frightened. More competitive elections mean more ardent debates.

    And so it should be. Our government is designed that way. In the Federalist Papers, James Madison offered his bold solution to the problem of clashing interests: more clashing interests. “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition,” he declared.

    In that way, our partisan debates are no shame. The clash and bluster may not sound pretty, but they are how we choose between great principles.

    For the record, I liked the red Kool-Aid the best. Orange was good, too. Grape, not so much.

  3. JC says:

    “Roosevelt and Reagan reveal the dirty rotten secret of bipartisanship. It happens only when one side is cowed, beaten or frightened.” So basically, bipartisianship is when checks and balances are out of whack and when one party sticks it to the other. OK, if that’s the new definition of bipartisanship, then I guess you’ve made your point. Obama certainly is working toward that type of bipartisanship.

    I guess I’d prefer to see checks and balances vice “bipartisianship.”

  4. The Icepick says:

    Well, not quite what I meant. I said it was an interesting story, and the author makes a good point about the limits of bipartisanship — perhaps I worded it poorly. FDR and Reagan are consistently ranked near the top of all-time presidents, and I have no argument with that. Perhaps you disagree.

    No one’s saying to get rid of our system of checks and balances and the three branches of government — but what would you prefer? Co-presidents? Let me know how that works out. Or are you just not a fan of strong executives in government?

    This leads me to repeat: GOP governors seemed to be pretty happy with the Democratic President’s Stimulus, so I’m not sure this is completely without bipartisan support outside the hallowed halls of the Beltway (are there halls in the Beltway? I digress). Perhaps that’s the reality of executive branches vs. legislatures. With some exceptions, I tend to think legislators from both parties can often be out of touch with the reality of what their constituents go through; individually, they can sound fine, but get them together and you largely get a gang mentality, with some exceptions, and that’s the case on both sides of the aisle (how’s that for bipartisan criticism?). Blame it on a low rate of turnover; though, of course, that fault, dear JC, would lie in ourselves, the voters.

  5. JC says:

    I don’t think we need co-presidents, but maybe some legislation that requires bills over a certain amount–like say over a billion dollars–to get some percentage of support from both of parties, rather than the legislative body (house or senate) as a whole.

    If our legislators can’t put the country first and play nice together and the president despite his promises–be it this one or any other–can’t do more than pay lip service to the idea of bipartisianship and enforce it when imbalances occur, maybe we need to write it into the rules.

    And I do agree with you, the voters are to blame as much as anyone. The cost of running generally leads to poor choices, voters who are ill informed, and seniority system that creates a situation in which voting for incumbents can be beneficial. I’ll freely agree that anyone who would vote for Nancy Pelosi (who may just be the worst congressional leader of either the house or the senate throughout any point in our history) carries quite a bit of blame for the situation we are in. But voters vote their particular interests, not for the entire make-up for House or Senate as a whole. Perhaps we should create a community service requirement for them because you are right, they are both out of touch…

    I’m not sure I necessarily believe however that if recipients of pork are happy with it, it matters that much regardless of party. If all the Republicans who lost their jobs on Wall Street and can’t afford their mortgages anymore and want a bail out are happy, does that mean this is bipartisian? I’m sure there have to be at least a few of them who lost everything and will benefit from the welfare state we are creating and are quite happy.

    I have no problems with needed social programs but the direction we are moving is going to take years to undo and has wiped out all the gains we made in the 80s and 90s to stop people from taking advantage of the rest of us via welfare. What makes America great is that anyone can work their way into the American dream. We work harder than any other country and that’s why we’ve been so successful. Its why we are innovative and creative and why the brain drain works in our favor as talented people come here, rather than leaving. Or at least it used to, now…I think we may just be up a creek…

  6. The Icepick says:

    Think we’re going to need to largely agree to disagree, but that’s what makes democracy grand, no?

    Even though political parties are part of our system, they’re not part of the Constitution, so I would not be in favor of legislation requiring a percentage of support from both parties. Not sure of all the particulars, but there are votes that require a simple majority, some that require three-fifths, and some that require more, correct? Yes, that’s regardless of party but that brings me to my next point:

    Apart from the Constitutional concern, as a practical matter, there are factions in each party. So let’s say liberal Republicans or conservative Democrats go for a certain bill — do we need to make sub-concessions for them? What about lawmakers that switch parties altogether, or go independent like Lieberman or Bernie Sanders?

    Look, there are limits to bipartisanship, and I doubt we’ll agree on this. I will note that the GOP hardly voiced this much concern over bipartisanship when they were in power, but that’s how it goes.

    And here’s an incredibly simplistic argument about the practical limits of bipartisanship: let’s say the motor breaks down on your car. No matter how much your spouse argues with you to fix the tires, you know that’s not going get your car running again.

    I think we agree on the view of the voters and the system that protects incumbency, but short of term limits, which I’m not 100% in favor of, I’m not sure what do to. Senate races are usually more competitive, because you need to take into account an entire state’s voting pattern. Not foolproof, and you get some long-serving dudes in there, but that’s the deal. As far as the House, though, we need a much better system to avoid gerrymandered districts that virtually ensures incumbents win re-election — and that’s a problem created with a tacit you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours approach — talk about the problems of bipartisanship there! Sure, the 2010 census will re-appropriate seats, perhaps count some underrepresented urban areas, and certainly follow the population shift and move more votes to the South and West and out of the Northeast, but in the end, you’re still going to get awful looking districts that perpetuates lazy incumbency from both parties. I don’t have an answer, but I’d be much more in favor of re-districting reform that anything else. And if you think the House is bad, you ought to see some of the state legislative lines — it’s a wonder anyone votes with so many pre-ordained outcomes based on gerrymandering.

    I’m no fan of Pelosi, or Harry Reid in the Senate for that matter, but worst Speaker ever? I seem to remember Speaker Newt Gingrich, he of the Contract On America, was pretty partisan in his day. Didn’t he threaten to shut down the government because he had to sit in the back of a plane? Pelosi hasn’t even tried that (I know; give her time).

    Yes, welfare needs to be reformed — but can we please reform Corporate welfare first? And to paraphrase some news from this week, at this point, with the current economic crisis, we’re going to need to bail out (call it a form of welfare, if you like) some perhaps undeserving people and corporations for the good of everyone invested in the system — which means everyone in the country: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    A foreclosed house next door is still going to lessen the value of the neighboring home, no matter how good and righteous that neighbor might be, or how irresponsible the foreclosed home’s owner acted. Unless the Fire Dept. arrives, fires spread from one house to the next, even if it served the owner of the first house right because he got drunk and left a cigarette burning in bed.

    I don’t subscribe to theory that government is the problem. It’s part of the solution.

    I’d like to see the American Dream come back, but for large pockets of the population, the American Dream is a myth. For generations, we told urban blue-collar workers that if you worked hard, there’d be a place for you, and then we up and pulled all their jobs out. In the inner cities, the options are even more limited, from the educational system, to home life, to selective policing, to the war on drugs and between fellow young men (and women) on the streets and the innocents caught in the crossfire. The Dream is so far beyond the norm that it’s a fantasy. And ignoring these social issues, it brings me back to my first point — those blue-collar jobs aren’t there, even if you could pick yourself up by the proverbial bootstraps and get out of a failing situation. I’m not sure how the gains of the ’80s and ’90s apply to these populations; what gains? I’d recommend The Wire seasons 2 and 4, if you have the time, as examples of what I’m talking about here, with season 2 basically a story about the death of work and how, in the face of mounting job losses, fictional longshoremen found drug dealing a more sustainable industry. Season 4 is even more harrowing, about the loss of an entire generation of middle-school kids to the streets because of a crumbling social system, particularly the schools.

    I do agree with you that we’re up a creek, but despite my cynicism, I do think we can paddle back. I’m behind the President in his attempts to do that, but as you already noted, I like Kool-Aid. But that’s just how I see it.

  7. JC says:

    “A foreclosed house next door is still going to lessen the value of the neighboring home, no matter how good and righteous that neighbor might be, or how irresponsible the foreclosed home’s owner acted.”

    I think this again gets at the difference in where we see the problem. You are suggesting we need to keep an artificially high real estate situation and bail out the irresponsible ones who took on mortgages they couldn’t afford. I’d suggest we let the housing market drop and bail out the responsible ones who paid too much and got screwed by the spiraling prices of the last few years and create some relief for people who’ve lost their jobs and temporarily need help with their payments. Keeping housing prices high just keeps our youth perpetually in debt and/or unable to achieve home ownership. It doesn’t help the people who are going to need to start over either and just serves to reward bad behavior.

    We are going to need to figure out how to deal with corporations and make them pay back the help they are getting. Unlike the mortgage bailout, I have more confidence that we can make them buy back gov’t ownership and the public will get the money back or be able to liquidate something at the end.

    As for the American dream being a fantasy…I don’t believe that…we need to generate jobs, but most of the stimulus really isn’t about job creation. As we course correct our economy and retail shrinks some, there may be a need to reallocate where some of our jobs are and do some retraining. Add more teachers and more health care workers. Bring back “shop” class and not force everyone to go to college and get saddled with huge debts.

    I haven’t seen the Wire, but I have worked with Hollywood writers before and I can tell you, Hollywood really doesn’t understand the reality most people deal with… The fact that we’ve gotten away from local food production and need to improve education are serious issues, but I don’t see these being fundamentally fixed by most of the bill.

  8. The Icepick says:

    Well, you’ve got me thinking, so good on you. And I’m completely down with not screwing our generation with debt to pay in the future while bailing out the present. But without some help for the present, I don’t know what that future would look like.

    We’ve gotten away from the Stimulus bill discussion, which is OK with me. I’m ready to move on. Yes, a lot of the problems I’ve mentioned won’t directly be fixed with the stimulus package, but it’s a start, and there’s a long way to go. Plus, the guy’s only been President for a month. This won’t be his only card in the deck.

    Re: The Wire. Give it a chance, if you have time. It’s involving, and sort of demands you watch the entire series — sort of like reading a novel. It was not created by Hollywood — created by David Simon, former Baltimore Sun cop reporter, and Ed Burns, a former Baltimore cop and school teacher. Scripts written by some great “urban issues” novelists, including Richard Price of Clockers fame, and some other former reporters. I’m a big fan, if you can’t tell. I think the series “gets it” as far as the reality people deal with in modern cities.

    I have no doubt much of Hollywood’s material is fantasy, and it sounds like you have experience in this (work on anything good I might have seen?). Of course, I’m obsessed with Watchmen now, so go figure re: Hollywood fantasy. I suppose we all have our vices.


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