Archive - Apr 7, 2011

Politics Seems Easy

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Memo to Barack Obama: WOULD YOU LIKE SOME HELP?

I must not understand politics. I don't practice it professionally. I just observe it from afar and criticize it on the Internet. There must be nuances that I'm missing that the savvy political operatives of the Obama administration are using as part of a deep, long-term strategy. Because from this layman's standpoint, there seem to be incredibly simple solutions to two of this week's biggest political problems.

As you know from watching the news, Democrats and Republicans are heading for a government shutdown if they don't reach an agreement by Friday. Neither side wants it, but neither side is willing to compromise. Or both sides have compromised, but not compromised enough. One of those. Doesn't matter really, as long as you understand that both sides are doing the exact same thing. Democrats have agreed to $33 billion in cuts, and Republicans are claiming that their $60 billion in demanded cuts is a concession from a $100 billion demand they just made up.

A government shutdown is bad for people who will be hurt by it, of course. But it's also bad for whoever's deemed responsible for causing all that pain. In the 90's, the Republicans were blamed, largely on account of it being the Republicans' fault. This year, though, a vastly different media landscape means blame is a tossup. A tossup that Democrats seem to be having a tough time swaying in their favor. LET ME HELP.

You see, earlier this week, Speaker of the House John Boehner* met with House Republicans to tell them to prepare for a government shutdown. And the House GOP, according to the Washington Post, cheered.

Now, it seems to me that if you're caught cheering for a government shutdown, the average guy on the street is going to think they like a government shutdown. And if they like it, odds are they want it. And if they want it, it's probably gonna be their fault. So here's what you do.

You get every Democrat, from Obama on down, to go on whatever TV show will have them, and you say that while you've been trying to negotiate in good faith, the Republicans have been CHEERING A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. In other words, tell people about this true thing that happened that makes you look really good and your opponents look really bad.

Tell me the downside to that, political strategists! Because I can't fucking see it. Go on TV, and tell everyone who will listen, and everyone who won't listen while you're at it, that the House GOP loves government shutdowns so much that they're going to make one so that they can marry it. Tell everyone that's why they're making ridiculous demands for spending cuts and defunding Planned Parenthood - so they can bring about the government shutdown they want so badly.

You do this, and it becomes much more likely that the Republicans won't be able to pin the shutdown on you. You do THAT, and it means they're less likely to come out of a shutdown smelling like heavily-Febrezed turds, and more like just regular turds. And then maybe they'll accept what they said they wanted in the first place and you've already offered them during Phase One of your fucking genius negotiation plan.

Now, keep in mind that this shutdown is just over the budget for the rest of this year. They'll also have to figure out how to pass next year's budget, and to that end, GOP budgetary wingnut Paul Ryan has unveiled a proposal that would cut taxes for the wealthy by a third, and pay for it in two ways. First, by making up a bunch of money that isn't actually there based on economic predictions acquired through rectal extraction so extreme it's closer to anal fracking. And second, by eliminating Medicare.

Officially, Ryan's plan is to replace Medicare with vouchers, but as we all know, "replace X with vouchers" is Republican code for "destroy X". For example, school vouchers. Unfortunately, the idea of vouchers has a certain appeal to people who don't think, which means it can gain a lot of traction in America.

For example, if I wanted a proper-sized TV to go in, say, a new house, and someone offered to give me one, that'd be great. But if someone offered to give me $1,000 towards one, then I'd get to go shopping and pick the TV I like best. This is the analogy Republicans like to use for vouchers, because people can relate to it, and it's a huge fucking lie.

It's a huge fucking lie because there's a big difference between picking between different televisions and trying to find health insurance coverage that will pay for the nursing home care you're already receiving at age 85, with all the pre-existing conditions private insurance companies love so much. And if nobody will give you coverage for the amount you're getting in the voucher? Well, then, at least you won't live long enough to vote out any Republicans.

But back to the main point. Paul Ryan wants to eliminate Medicare in order to cut the top marginal tax rate from 35% to 25%. This is different from the Simpson-Bowles plan, which wanted to mostly eliminate Social Security in order to cut the top marginal tax rate from 35% to 28%. Old people love Medicare. Old people vote. Rich people are assholes. DO THE FUCKING MATH.

Once you're done telling everyone how the Republicans can't wait for the government to be shut down, tell them that the Republicans, who have embraced Paul Ryan as their budget guy, want to take away old people's health care so that rich people can buy bigger yachts. Because that's exactly what Paul Ryan's plan is designed to do. They want to let disabled people suffer and poor people die so that billionaires can pay even less in taxes than they do now.

If people understand this, they won't like it. But for them to understand it, you have to tell it to them, and then you have to tell it to them again, and then you have to tell it to them a third time, probably slower, and with pictures, because most of them aren't that bright.

If you won't do these simple things, then I'm forced to wonder why. And the kindest answer is that you don't think it'll work. The second-kindest answer is that you're too dumb to think of it. And the least kind answer of all is that the fix is in, and you want the government to be shut down too, and you want to get big tax cuts at the expense of old people, poor people, and the disabled. And the entire Democratic Party is just playing the "good cop".

Does it still count as cynical the more it sounds like the truth?

*And don't think it doesn't fucking sting placing the honorific in front of the name of that pumpkin-hued lachrymaniac.