We have less than five months to go until the 2012 Presidential election and, big surprise, our economy still stinks. The difference now is Americans are beginning to point the blame in the right place.
Partisan railroading has always been an integral part of U.S. politics, but Congressional Republicans have managed to take the concept to brave new frontiers. Several years ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell famously said “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” You have to hand it to him: he’s been true to his word.
By their own admissions, Republicans have sabotaged the Presidential administration during the worst recession in modern American history. They’ve deliberately engaged in a coordinated, collusive effort to undermine any progress made by the current administration, bulldozing over bi-partisan policy that would add jobs for a chance to turn a political screw against the man in the White House. It’s a plan that’s practically criminal in its contempt, one that goes far beyond the pale of partisan politics. Today’s Congressional Republicans are an economic goon squad, busting the wheels of the carriage and then blaming the driver for not going fast enough. They don’t want more jobs for Americans. At least not until after November (The Guardian writer Michael Cohen analyzed this very issue particularly well, in a June editorial that can be found here).
In the course of doing so, Congressional Republicans have revealed astounding hypocrisy. They derided the effectiveness of the recent stimulus, while they proposed their own stimulus a decade ago. They voted down every piece of job-creating legislation that’s come their way — even quintessentially conservative legislation like payroll tax cuts for the middle class. They derailed the “Buffett Rule” that would force the nation’s biggest earners to pay 30% of their income in taxes. They blocked a bill that would prevent interest rates on subsidized federal college loans from effectively doubling, from their current 3.4% interest rate to a whopping 6.8%. They stalled a bill to increase Federal transportation funding, which would have given thousands of Americans high-paying construction jobs. They shot down bi-partisan legislation that would have given states much-needed tax relief, resulting instead with hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, librarians and police officers being laid off. Now they’re crying foul over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — a bill that was engineered after the current Republican nominee’s healthcare re-haul in Massachusetts. The takeaway from these behaviors? Republicans are growing desperate.
Any victories under this rubric will be Pyrrhic. It’s akin to burning down your house because you don’t like the property taxes. They might not realize it now, but Republicans’ monkey wrenching will come back to haunt them. The fact is, the American people are becoming painfully aware of all this. A June Public Policy poll asked Americans if they thought Republicans were intentionally stalling the economy. About half — 49% — said yes. Among moderates and independents the numbers were much higher — at 61%. A similar November poll in Florida by Suffolk University found that even 34% of conservatives now believe Republicans are intentionally stalling efforts to revive the economy. A June Daily Kos/SEIU poll found 55% of those polled now view the Republican Party negatively. Amazingly, Republicans have managed to amass an even worse reputation for themselves in 2012 than they had at the end of 2008.
These behaviors have sent a clear message to the American public: Republicans want what’s best for Republicans, not what’s best for Americans. Besides the fact that holding our economy hostage is an insidious idea, the very notion that there are politicians who believe the “broken window fallacy” that the best way to improve our country is by destroying it will not be a concept forgotten in November.