Sunday, August 14, 2011

Motivational Dysfunction

I have to give Republicans their due. Without a doubt, the GOP is the clear winner when it comes to playing the game of politics. While individual Democrats are skilled, the party as a whole often seems completely out of its depth. Mostly I think that comes from being much less unified than the GOP. The Democrats are far more inclusive of views that fall outside the core party platform, making unified movement challenging at times. A bigger tent, as some like to say.  The Republicans may snipe at each other around primary time, but when dealing with a Democratic challenge, they close ranks like an ancient Greek phalanx!

I don't know how much is follow-the-leader and how much is good old fashioned authoritarian decree, but ever since the Obama Administration took office the GOP has moved as a single entity. They recognized that the economic collapse of 2008 gave them a priceless opportunity to attack the new, popular President from day one. Despite not being sworn into office till after the financial bailout (TARP) had already been passed, the GOP immediately began laying full responsibility for everything related to the economic collapse at Obama's doorstep. Phrasing even TARP related criticism as if it was all Obama's idea and neatly sidestepping their own votes for the Bush era package. This would become the Republican model for everything that has come since.

Despite a stimulus package that economists have repeatedly claimed created or saved upwards of 2.7 million jobs, the GOP to this day continues to deride it as useless. They did this even as a number of them quietly submitted requests for stimulus money for projects they themselves explicitly claimed would create jobs! But publicly the Republicans maintained a solid front in claiming the stimulus did nothing and that this proved that government was powerless to do anything positive, thus making any attempt at passing a second stimulus a political impossibility. From the beginning, the GOP economic recovery plan has consisted of only a single refrain, cut taxes on the 'job creators'. These would be the same 'job creators' who were, and still are, laying off workers not because of high taxes, but because of limited demand. So there they were, proposing policies that would benefit them politically by buddying up to big business while ensuring that the economic status quo remained undisturbed. Put simply, the GOP claimed the President was at fault for the continuing economic trouble while simultaneously blocking any proposal he put forth that might have made a difference. I'd rate the GOP at one out of ten for job performance, but ten out of ten for political finesse!

The problem is that I don't think any of the men with a hand in framing our Constitution ever envisioned a situation where roughly half the legislature would see political advantage in maintaining a recession level economy. But that's where we are! I'm sure there are those who will read this and scream 'partisanship'! But think about it, who would benefit from a recovering economy? Sure the GOP could try and claim some hand in it, but it's pretty widely accepted that voters will judge a President on the state of the economy. If it's booming, he can claim credit, no matter which party controls the House or Senate. If it's a bust, he must also take the blame, no matter who controls the House or Senate. So the GOP has everything to gain and nothing to lose, politically anyway, by maintaining the current state of affairs. They know that if Obama goes into the 2012 election with unemployment at 9%, it will seriously hurt his chances for re-election. And, unfortunately for all those millions of Americans looking for work, this is all about elections. Senate Minority Leader McConnell has explicitly said, on several occasions, that preventing Obama from winning a second term is his primary political goal. I have to give him points for being honest, but this reminds me of a line from the movie Ocean's 11. Rusty is confronting Danny about trying to pull this huge casino heist while simultaneously winning back his ex-wife in the same operation. Rusty asks him, "So what happens if you can't have them both? Which one are you going to choose?" Senator McConnell, the most powerful Republican in the Senate, has clearly stated what his choice would be if forced to pick between improving the economy or defeating President Obama's re-election. The truth is that the GOP, as a whole, has long since made their choice and it's not looking good for the economy.