Friday, December 23, 2011

GOPCons: Governing by Hostage Taking

The Legislative Path to Keystone XL
What it would look like if we weren't in denial about the US House

The most recent -- and most convenient -- example presenting the point of this posting can be seen in the "poison pill" inclusion of the Canadian pipeline authorization which is added to the House proposal.  By insinuating this otherwise un-associated provision into the legislation as a condition for the extension of the middle class tax cuts and unemployment insurance benefits, we can hardly miss another glaring repetition of similar, past, bad behavior.

We've seen it before.

And, we have not only seen it before, we have seen it quite recently and quite frequently from both the tea bags and the even more grotesque "nova Republicans" who are now imitating their bad example.

["Nova Republicans?"  These would be the latest, opportunistic, hybrid spawn of traditional "old school" GOPCons, a heavily soiled mix of the old corporate "bite and grab" crooks with the more modern,  truly thuggy tea bag ideological gangsters.].

A bill like the one authorizing the pipeline would normally be authored by sympathetic Congressmen with constituent districts which could, presumably, benefit from the project.  Also, some of the "forward defensive tackling" would have been handled well before such a bill took its final shape.

For example, US agency opinions would have been investigated.  The domestic market would have been analyzed.  Price impacts would have been calculated.  Environmental impact difficulties would have been anticipated.  Perhaps, a few of the farmers with fields which would have suffered when the thing plowed its Juggernaut style easement would have been interviewed.

MeanMesa calls such a process a "causal vector swarm."  To visualize such a concept, just imagine a cork with thousands of needles stuck into it.  Each needle is another one of the predictable "multiple constraints" inherent in such an undertaking, that is, each needle amounts to another "ox to be gored." The final conclusion about the workability of such a project would amount to totalling up all the "pro's and con's" to see how many -- and whose -- oxen were still standing.

When one has the ambition to create a gigantic, multi-billion dollar result, it's usually a good idea to have hammered out a "good idea" before one begins spending the money, much less, pissing off voters.

However, when political realism is added to the mix, you have to make sure you have enough needles, that you have examined each one carefully and that you are ready to hand over all the dead oxen to your election opponent.  More and more gaseous, essentially irrelevant tests will be added as you watch in horror, yet, in a Republic like ours, this torturous route remains the map of the journey.

In the end, the final product will be far from the purity of its engineers' original dream, but it will make sense.  This highly modified new design will have successfully merged individual interests with corporate interests in a way which, more or less, satisfies both parties.  Lyndon Johnson famously said that if a bill passed with more than one vote, too much had been negotiated away during the process.

The Nature of GOPCon Hostage Taking

The American people have spoken. The legislation has wide popular support. (image source)

The Keystone XL pipeline project is only the latest "burning question of the day" so far as hostage taking examples go.  Let's look at a conveniently short list of other recent examples.

A well-informed MeanMesa visitor might, at this point, simply sigh and lament "So, what's new?"  However, let's try to glimpse the "big picture" of what's actually going on here.

Normal governance would suggest that each of these expenditures would be debated, run through the process of Congressional "ox goring" and, finally, either fail or be passed.  Part of each plan adopted would be figuring out a way to pay for the expenditure without further increases to the national debt.

Americans understand that we have to pay for things we need or things we want.

Paying for things which we need or want includes collecting the taxes when necessary.  Raising taxes is part of the package -- unless you can slip by this step by holding something desirable or necessary hostage.  When the "hostage" course is taken, the "ransom will be paid" by lowering the expenditures on something else

The scheme can best be described as watching a kidnapper "holding a knife to your daughter's throat" while demanding that you turn over your house's heater.  At the moment, saving your daughter is paramount, but after she is returned, both of you are sitting through the winter in a cold house.

Why not just govern the regular way?  Collect taxes for what is needed and then buy it?  

If you are a Congressman, this would make perfect sense if raising taxes were a choice you could actually make.  However, when that prospect is "off the table," you have to take the heater in payment.

Americans are getting close to a point where they have no more heaters to sacrifice.  1/6 of the population is now below the poverty line.  1/5 of the population is unemployed.  1/4 of American children are food challenged.

Meanwhile, there is the matter of debt coming due.  To avoid taxes during the Bush autocracy, more and more money was borrowed -- from anyone stupid enough to lend it to us.  The daughter was returned, but, since the parents borrowed the ransom money, the house's heater remained in place.

This worked great for a little while, but plans like this one have a habit of falling apart as time runs along.

Obama, again in the "big picture" view, is now trying to lead the nation back to the regular scheme.  His proposals connect the revenue derived from increased taxes to the urgent necessities now facing the nation, urgent necessities such as jobs, infrastructure challenges and economic recovery.

Where Do Spending Cuts Go
When They "Grow Up?"
Okay then, where does the hostage ransom go 
after the daughter comes back home?

Spending cuts, according to the prevailing myth, become tax cuts.  Spending cuts mean, ridiculously, that less money will need to be borrowed.  The "ridiculously" part enters the equation due to the very, very flimsy reasons that most money is borrowed in the first place.  These reasons become flimsy when they are joined with comments and pledges about not "wanting to drown our children in debt."

The more the national debt is reduced in this way, the lower the interest payments required to service that debt will become.  If the flow of tax money is sustained at the same levels it flowed before the spending cuts, the debt is repaid with the surplus.  The "foot of brass" foundation of the entire Spending Cuts - Lower Debt - Lower Interest - Lower Taxes scam might have actually worked, theoretically, at some point in the distant past, but those days are long gone now.

The tax reductions which are the constant, atmospheric promise of modern spending cuts are. of course, mostly described by the old adage: "To the victor go the spoils."

Further, all spending cuts are not exactly the same.  In fact the motivation behind any specific tax cut separates them into categories.  Needless to say, the motivation in many cases is sheer opportunistic looting, but the other choices are also interesting.

As we look at the design of the spending cuts now being offered in the legislative process, the  distinctive differences are usually disguised as a "blend" of two or more of the varieties shown in the diagram (above).  However, there are a few fundamental questions about spending cut proposals which "sort them out," making the picture a little clearer.

1.  Will the benefits of spending cuts be benefits to all the tax paying base?

2.  Do the spending cuts actually make any sort of sense when it comes to hard numbers in the budget?

3. Do spending cuts target the relaxation of regulations which have been previously generally accepted by the electorate?

4. Can the spending cuts be classed as either "demand side" or "supply side" benefits?

5.  Are the increased "profits" made possible by spending cuts actually taxable themselves?

A Reminder About Exactly Who
Is An "Expert" On Spending

A Reminder About Job Creation

A MeanMesa Christmas Gift Suggestion
For Your Republican Relatives

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.

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