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Friday, December 17, 2010

Why Pulling The Omnibus Bill Was A Disaster

Dec 17th, 2010

By F. Grey Parker

In my final post yesterday, I stated bluntly that Sen. Harry Reid's (D-NV) sudden surrender on the omnibus spending bill was a "disaster." To me, this statement was as simple as saying the world is round, the Sun rises in the East and the only sure things are death and taxes. I took it to be a truism. There was more than a little disagreement over this. I was surprised at the number of contrarian e-mails that awaited me this morning. Some of the commentary so strongly opposed my position, including that of arguably my most devoted reader, that it is necessary to plead my case in some detail.

The bill should have been finished, as proscribed by law, before October. Democrats had failed to start moving effectively in either side of the Capital over the Summer and that just plain smells bad. It is the first time since 1974 that the House of Representatives didn't at least meet their requirements. The Senate is another matter, as recent history shows. With 2010 coming to a close, the failure to fund the operations of government well into the current fiscal year represents a genuine crisis. The conservatives and Tea Party rabble began to attack the 11th hour effort towards getting it done, their usual whines of "waste" and "fraud" now coupled with the flat-out absurd "anti-earmarks" movement. 

In spite of this fringe-right foolishness, the only coherently uniform message elected Republicans have made over the last few months was one of acquiescence to the super rich. They were so focused on this mission that it was the perfect opportunity for the left and center-left to frame all other business with it.  Democrats, at last, had staked a defensible high ground. The polls show a clear majority of the electorate against continuing tax breaks for the wealthiest citizens. Conversely, the so-called "Obama-GOP" tax compromise has wide support outside of the left and right extremes because of the middle class component and it's extension of federal unemployment funding. This is not because of what has been derisively portrayed as self interest alone. It is also a wildly rare moment of majority realism and even pragmatism.

There is no shortage of irony here. It is this tax bill we progressives hate so much that was opening the window for a more effective dialog with the mainstream. Until yesterday evening's capitulation by Sen. Reid, it was providing a way to make the case for other spending. It was time for a teachable moment to demonstrate the difference between "spending is bad" and "we need to invest in America's future by spending money on some things."

After failing for so long to communicate outside the beltway, I think Democrats were beginning to penetrate the national consciousness successfully. A great number of Americans are truly perplexed at the GOP's increasingly unseemly crying problem. Even casual observers of Washington had just been witness to one of the most brazen "Casablanca gambling-winnings" moments in recent history ensaring Republican Senators Thune and Cornyn. 

Over the last few days, the far-right wing of the Senate was slipping. They had tried to borrow from The Murdoch Device's phony "War on Christmas" rhetoric to stipulate that the mere possibility Sen. Reid might keep them at work through the holiday season to finish the omnibus bill was "un-Christian." America is a very sentimental country, it is true. Even our religiously casual or agnostic citizens tend to get the warm fuzzies at this time of year. But modern Americans outside of the Religious Right don't exactly approve of debates framed with the "your less pious than I" argument. The public was watching Republican Senators hold a collective tantrum in the highest legislative hall in the land during a time of unparalleled crisis to complain that they might not get a vacation longer than the average 1st grader. Would any honest observer argue that ordinary Americans can relate to that? 

Heading into yesterday afternoon, the Democratic Party literally had everything going for it for the first time in months. The Republicans were steadily overplaying their hand. It was time to fight. Perhaps, it was a fight we were destined to lose to another round of filibuster abuse. But we didn't have to win. We just had to fight. It was the ideal opportunity to expose the modern filibuster as an outright threat to The Republic. It was the perfect time to remind Americans of what is at stake when the next congress, overrun by crazies, is sworn in. And, it was the ultimate chance to prove to a far broader swath of America what most liberals and progressives have been saying for a century; We don't need less spending. We need smarter spending.

Then, for whatever reason, at the precise moment when the people were more attuned to workaday-Washington than they have been in a very long time, Sen. Harry Reid just gave up. He threw away the last chance we will have for years to coherently explain to the whole country why the government does what it does and that what it does needs to be done.

There is only one thing America hates above all else and that is a quitter. America has a long and established history of rooting for an underdog. We love a comeback. But we almost never forgive a quitter. It is this fundamental characteristic that dooms Palin, for example, thus protecting us from her ever capturing the Presidency barring her outright theft of an election. Now, the face of the Democratic Senate is a quitter. Quitter-Reid. It is flabbergasting. It may well have set back liberal efforts so badly that we actually are closer to economic ruin than we were before. 

Funding through a short term stop-gap without having this battle for all to see means that the Tea Party House is going to have dramatically less push-back. This was the time to lay the groundwork for us to stop the radical right from possibly shattering what has been the accepted social contract between our government and our citizenry for almost 80 years. The voice that was supposed to speak for us has gone willfully silent just when our very future depended on it. The shot that should have been fired before the next Tea Party assault on our country never rang out because Quitter-Reid decided to submerge the powder.

However organized, dishonest and vicious our opposition may be, this victory has not been won by our foes. It has been surrendered to them. Enemies of the progressive philosophy like the Heritage foundation will not be forced to defend their smears of smart spending. Their will be no national and public rebuttal of statements like these:

"This is exactly the kind of secretive, pork-laden, massive spending bill that induced a voter revolt last month."

Here are some of what they call "ugly details:"

$3.5 million to research Formosan Subterranean Termites in New Orleans.
More bugs?! You know how ridiculous bug research is. The Republicans and the Tea Party types always love to cite the wasteful spending on bugs. 
Did you know that New Orleans alone suffers almost 300 million dollars in residential and infrastructural damage annually from the Formosan Subterranean Termite? A 1% investment in prevention doesn't sound so bad if you do. Perhaps more Americans might have learned this if Quitter-Reid had stood his ground, held the Senate and said this on the floor.

$500,000 for oyster safety in Florida.
More wildlife, right? You know how us tree-hugger liberals are always trying to act like do-gooders with wildlife. 
The Florida oyster represents a 1 billion dollar industry in terrible peril following this Summer's Gulf oil spill. A .0005% investment in emergency protection that might well make the difference between it's survival and it's demise sounds like a smart investment to me. Perhaps more Americans might have learned this if Quitter-Reid had stood his ground, held the Senate and said this on the floor.

$100,000 for YouthCare of Seattle.
More socialist hand-outs to homeless drug addict wastrels!? For shame, you liberals! 
Not really. More like a game changer for an average of 1000 homeless adolescents annually who are screened through rigorous means-testing and subsequently become productive citizens with jobs, homes, educations and contributors to the national purse. Perhaps more Americans might have learned this if Quitter-Reid had stood his ground, held the Senate and said this on the floor.

But this, above all other examples, is my personal favorite. That's because I know first hand who it would effect and what it will be used for:
$500,000 for streetscaping in Porter County, Indiana.
"Streetscaping!?" Some totally unnecessary, sissified beautification scheme, right?
Well, no. I ran two lovely restaurants in Porter County, Indiana. This is a financially strained but relatively stable business region. Among other things, Porter County is trying to sustain it's existence as a tourist and dining destination. The problem is that there are two cars for every spot in the commercial zones and connecting roads are literally crumbling between them. Incidentally, it is an overwhelmingly Republican area. I wonder how my old patron, Valparaiso, IN Mayor Jon Costas, now feels having hosted all those fundraisers for his party, the Republican Party.

Instead of an open reading of the bill, Quitter-Reid is going to go home and have the Christmas of a millionaire. Rather than using his power for good, he has chosen not to use it at all. There will be no public refutation of obscene claims of "taxpayer funded abortions." The public land system will remain "safe for off-roaders" in their ATVs and no one will discuss in front of the nation the damage they do on the taxpayer's dime. Ron Paul will continue to make dupes and patsies of incredibly bright people who just simply won't hear about his being one of only 4 house GOP members to insert these hated earmarks. It goes on and on and on. Not having the debate is the equivalent of promoting thousands of lies and acting as an agent of decline.

Now, we must suffer through the triumphalism of a Rightist movement that has won by default rather than effort. The degree to which this act of stunning stupidity has further galvanized the enemies of change and progress is already apparent.

Trish Turner writes with dripping, smarmy glee over at The Murdoch Device's web presence:
"Sen. GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has long been known as an effective whip, and Thursday night he showed his prowess... killing the measure for good."

Hey, Trish, it's not so hard to kill a thing that's already dead.

1 comment:

  1. If it stays timely, I hope you’ll post this essay in Daily Kos. Their readers would love it.

    The history is soundly analyzed, except for one thing -- the utter timing of this bill.

    The Omnibus budget bill was 11th hour for several reasons, but Reid’s official scheduling was not one of them. The context of this llth hour drive was the previous nine months of Republican obstruction on countless previous bill passing priorities -- especially their downright unethical behavior in pulling every bad faith committee and floor maneuver.

    Republicans’ refusal for the last nine months to do their jobs, along with their poor legislative behavior contaminated this latest bill, when nine people outright lied to Reid by saying they'd support the bill and then, Lucy-with-football style, changed their minds. He dropped the bill entirely because he couldn't get the votes before Christmas, even with a two-day reading of the bill, debate, cloture vote and floor vote under current Senate rules' turnaround time.

    Tea partiers who want to drag down the country over their earmark issues want to chirp away at the bill's supposed weaknesses, while purists of the other party say that Reid could just put up more fight. The incontrovertible reality is that Harry Reid has, right and left, out-maneuvered and end-run around obstructionists throughout the whole nine months of this sorry legislative session, passing more of the people's business than any Congress in three administrations. He's worked this spiteful minority so much that their frat boy leaders are now crying to have a school child’s vacation out of sheer exhaustion. There will still be time before January 5 to revisit this bill.

    A budget has been passed to get skeletal services working. If Republicans want to "starve the beast," during the next session, even shut the government down, it might be the only way to wake Republican and tea party supporters up to how damaging their leadership is. As an election issue, their future budget priorities will lose votes.

    I, for one, look forward to the rock bottom beat down that both old and young voters get for their stupidity in 2012. They will see Obama as the only entity standing between them and their legalized ruin by careless elitists.

    Finally, for two years, Obama will become the President Of No toward the Party of No. Sorry. We're entitled.