Republicans talk a lot about patriotism, but the "R's" in Congress don't practice it these days -- which happen to be the 400 or so days since President Obama took the oath of office.
Patriotism is putting your country before your own interests. Patriotism is doing what needs to be done to make the United States stronger economically, militarily, culturally. Patriotism is asking "how can I help to make things better?" not "what's the best way to stop Obama and the Dems from passing any significant legislation?"
Fortunately, people are becoming increasingly aware of the dangerous game Republicans have been playing. As a new name for them, Republicants, indicates, refusing to do anything about our serious national problems is a recipe for disaster.
Paul Krugman's column today was titled "America is Not Yet Lost." I hope he's right. But we're on the edge.
We’ve always known that America’s reign as the world’s greatest nation would eventually end. But most of us imagined that our downfall, when it came, would be something grand and tragic.
What we’re getting instead is less a tragedy than a deadly farce. Instead of fraying under the strain of imperial overstretch, we’re paralyzed by procedure. Instead of re-enacting the decline and fall of Rome, we’re re-enacting the dissolution of 18th-century Poland.
Krugman is referring to a policy of the Polish legislature that allowed any member to block legislation by shouting "I do not allow!" It wasn't long before the country was weakened by being ungovernable. In 1795 Poland disappeared as an independent nation for a century.
The Senate Republicans seem determined to follow the same course. They've been taking advantage of arcane (and ridiculous) rules that allow any member to hold up appointments, and require a super-majority of 60 to pass any bill.
I'm old enough to remember when a filibuster was a rare event. It really grabbed your attention, some old white guy reading the phone book on the Senate floor for hours on end to block civil rights legislation, or whatever.
The GOP has changed from being a "Grand" Old Party to a "Grumpy" Old Party. Joe Klein has observed this metamorphosis and doesn't like what he sees. In "Obama Calls Out GOP, but Nobody's Home" he says:
I've been a fan of a great many Republican policy initiatives in the past. I supported the Republican universal health care plan in 1993 (which Obama's current proposal resembles). I've supported lots of Republican urban-policy ideas, especially when it comes to education. I think the realism deployed overseas by Presidents like Eisenhower, Nixon (except for Vietnam) and Bush the Elder is the wisest foreign policy on offer. But the current Republican Party is about none of these. It is about tactical political gain to the exclusion of all else.
...absent a responsible opposition party, we'll still be left with a crippled democracy, lacking all ability to address our most serious problems. That is not a recipe for continued success in a competitive world.
A recent issue of TIME magazine has one of the best, and scariest, analyses of our deficit problem that I've ever read. The print version's title and subtitle is: "How to Tame the Deficit. With our economy on the brink, Americans need to cut spending and raise taxes. Sound impossible? Here's a way to forge a grand compromise between two warring parties."
The article says, "About half the national debt is financed by borrowing from the rest of the world, especially China." And, "The total tax intake on federal and state levels is around 28-30% of GDP -- at least 10 percentage points lower than total revenue collections in Europe."
So we can raise taxes. We also can lower spending.
But members of both political parties need to put their country first and short-term political gain second for this to happen. Jeffrey Sachs writes:
Countless countries have gone through fiscal adjustments involving politically painful tax increases and spending cuts. Ireland and the U.K. are now raising taxes to reduce gaping budget deficits. Canada adopted a VAT-type tax in the 1990s. The U.S. has often pushed the International Monetary Fund to tell countries much poorer and more fragile than our own that painful fiscal adjustments are needed. Now the U.S. is acting with the same irresponsibility we've so often bemoaned elsewhere.
So here are the key questions. Will we kill our economic future by shortchanging the public on investments needed to modernize the economy and train the workforce? Will we borrow heavily from China and other countries to cover today's spending while racking up massive bills for our children? Or might we just decide to protect the future of our country through a judicious mix of tax increases and spending cuts that will bring honor to this generation and prosperity to the next?
It'll be interesting to see how the congressional Republicans respond to Obama's bipartisan overtures on health care legislation. At the moment they've agreed to work together.
But I'm skeptical that the Grumpy Old Party is going to be able to cast off it's No, No, No fussy face and play nice with Obama and the Democrats. Hopefully they'll prove me wrong.
For everybody's sake. Including their own.
A Washington Post poll shows that two-thirds of Americans say they want Congress to keep working to pass comprehensive health-care reform.
Further, more (58%) blame Republicans for doing too little to
compromise with Obama on important issues than blame Obama for doing
too little to compromise with Republicans (44%).
Voters don't like elected officials who put party above country, politics above compromise. We could be headed for a surprisingly strong Democratic showing in November if Republicans continue to play their petty partisan games.