Ideas have a way of taking hold. Extremism also creates a counter reaction and brings out qualities of decency and firmness that otherwise remain silent. That marks the resiliency of our democracy. It encourages me, especially in our current political situation.
Let’s face it the House Republicans have given us a clear picture of 2013 if they win the Presidency and the Congress. Their extremism has no limits.
Here are a few examples among many:
- An extreme defense bill that constrains and seeks to block the Pentagon from implementing the New Start Treaty.
- Thirty one efforts to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and never with even the inkling of a comprehensive alternative.
- Subsidize large farm producers while crippling the Food Stamp program. Food stamps are America’s successful effort to fight hunger.
That is a preview of 2013 with elected majorities that will certainly march in lock step if the worst happens.
After the 2011 debt ceiling agreement Congress established a deficit reduction agreement with future consequences if it failed to reach a deficit reduction agreement. That agreement stated that the budget will be reduced by $1.2 trillion. These would be automatic cuts in non-defense and defense spending.
The ink had not dried on the agreement when dogged defense spenders started fighting for a defense spending exemption. Their idea of America is to make defense spending an entitlement, inscribed in holy writ.
Those of us outside of government argued instead for ending the Bush tax cuts except for those families earning under $250,000 and individuals earning under $200,000. That action would stimulate the economy.In theory Republicans also agree with that proposition. Alas, it is too constructive for them to step up and embrace it.
At the same time all other Bush tax cuts must expire. The increased revenues would set the stage for working out how to cut non-defense and defense spending. At first this was not an easy sale. Democratic office holders were defensive and tentative.
Republican extremism helped clarify the issue. Republicans stood, as the equivalent of George Wallace in the school yard door, determined to resist all tax increases even on the wealthiest of Americans. The only leverage, that we in the non-governmental community had, is to stand firm with the deficit reduction agreement. Without revenue increases, the sequester must be enforced. It represents the best chance to reduce defense spending so that the new defense spending will meet our security needs instead of recklessly increasing spending on nuclear programs and national missile defense as House Republicans insist that we do.
Our job was to give Democratic office holders an infusion of spine and then work to stiffen their spine. President Obama also stepped in by saying he will veto any tax legislation that extends the Bush tax cuts.
Of course the fight is far from over. Richard Cheney has been called in from the bull pen to come to the rescue of defense spending’s “entitlement brigade”. The Aerospace Industries Association, and countless defense contractors, are lobbying and using the milk of politics, campaign contributions, and contributions to Super Pacs and so-called independent spending groups to stop a sequester. Even honest conservatives say that the Republican defense of the defense budget is misguided because it is not different from Mayors or rural residents saying that cuts will devastate their quality of life in cities and rural areas. Now defense spending entitlement skates on thin ice. Even so, the fight is far from over.
What has happened is that Republican extremism has strengthened the alliance between Democratic Congressional leadership, and non-profit groups. Either have fair deficit reduction, with wealthy Americans paying their fair share of taxes, or learn to live with a sequestration.
Sequestration is prudent absent a fair and balanced deficit agreement That requires electing people to office who will stand against extremism . On that score there is no better list than the Council for Livable World list of endorsed candidates. Click here to see that group of candidates.