The Dangerous Hi-Jinks of the GOP’s Juveniles

countdown to deficitI’ve spent enough of my life in Washington to take its theatrics with as much seriousness as a Seinfeld episode.

A large portion of what passes for policy debate isn’t at all — it’s play-acting for various constituencies. The actors know they’re acting, as do their protagonists on the other side who are busily putting on their own plays for their own audiences.

Typically, though, back stage is different. When the costumes and grease paint come off, compromises are made, deals put together, legislation hammered out. Then at show time the players announce the results – spinning them to make it seem they’ve kept to their parts.

At least that’s the standard playbook.

But this time there’s no back stage. The kids in the GOP have trashed it. The GOP’s experienced actors – House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McDonnell – have been upstaged by juveniles like Eric Cantor and Michele Bachmann, who don’t know the difference between playacting and governing. Washington has gone from theater to reality TV – a game of hi-jinks chicken that could end in a crash.

So now the GOP’s adult actors are trying to retake the stage. They’ve set a vote Tuesday for a so-called “cut, cap, and balance” plan – featuring an immediate $100 billion-plus cut from next year’s budget and a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.

The plan would be a disaster for the nation, of course – a cut of that magnitude when the economy is still struggling to get out of recession would plunge it back in, and a balanced-budget amendment would make it impossible to counteract future recessions with extra spending and tax cuts.

But, hey, it’s all for show. The GOP’s adults know the President would veto their cuts and they couldn’t possibly muster the two-thirds of the Senate and House needed to override the veto. Nor, obviously, do they have the two-thirds necessary to pass a constitutional amendment.

The point is to give the kids more votes they can wave in the direction of their tea party constituents. It’s hoped that the “cut, cap, and balance” plan — along with Mitch McConnell’s proposed Republican vote disapproving the President’s move to raise the debt ceiling (which the President will then veto) — will be enough to get the juveniles to raise the debt ceiling before the August 2 deadline.

Robert Reich“The cut, cap and balance plan that the House will vote on next week is a solid plan for moving forward,” John Boehner told reporters Friday. Translated: I hope this will be enough playacting to get their votes on the debt ceiling.

But even if it’s enough, the bigger problem remains: There’s still no back stage where the real work of governing this country can occur. At best, the vote to raise the debt ceiling kicks the can down the road only until the end of 2012. By then, if we don’t elect adults, the kids will be in charge.

Robert Reich
Robert Reich’s Blog 

About Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine.

Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

Comments

  1. Yep, all those Dems who managed to increase the national debt by 50% in two years and can’t even muster enough initiative to pass a budget for TWO YEARS(!) are the real adults in DC. I see, the real adults think that increasing spending and raising taxes is the solution to over spending our capacity to pay for all the political giveaways. Makes sense, Bob. Funny how everyone is upset when some few in Congress stand up and say ENOUGH – they should just sit down, shut up and OK that increase in spending and the debt level – that’ll fix the situation.

    On what planet does that work on? Oh, and don’t mind the fact that Obama is anxious to make a deal as long as he gets what he wants and kicks the can down the road just far enough to get him past election day 2012. Real statesman like.

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