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May 08, 2005

The Republicans' Big Game

Guest: cntodd

Taking a page from the Bush War Manual, David Brooks uses his NYT column today to call the Democrats’ bluff...or so he says.

Brooks accuses Congressional Dems for continually blasting President Bush on his treatment of the poor and for catering to his corporate cronies but then refusing to support the President when he actually puts forward a plan to progressively reform Social Security in favor of low income workers. And since progressive reform must surely be something Democrats favor, Democrats thereby risk turning themselves into the perpetually bloviating opposition party with a whole lot of bark but a rather hollow inner core.

Trump; three strikes you’re out; do not pass Go; game over; Brooks 1, Democrats 0. Right?

Wrong. The fact is that in the last several years Republicans seem to have found a new amour: conveniently labeled or characterized legislation whose primary goal is to make Democrat opposition either otiose or counterproductive or both.

With environmental legislation it was the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 and the Clean Skies Initiative; the former actually gave a big handout to the logging industry and under the latter air pollution would actually become worse then under the already existing Clean Air Act.

Then Bush gave us the Medicare Modernization Act with the prescription drug benefit which was actually a big public subsidy to the health insurance industry without actually protecting the costs of prescription drugs. And as I mentioned yesterday, the American Jobs Creation Act was nothing more than a big tax break on foreign profit that didn’t even require companies to use that profit to create jobs.

It’s a very clever strategy, for what Senator or Representative wants to say that they oppose “Clean Skies” or “Job Creation”?

Apart from the snappy titles, Republicans have also mastered the art of characterizing legislation and what opposition to it means, and Bush’s Social Security proposal is just one in a string of such examples.

From now until the midterm elections, Republicans like Brooks will cry out that Democrats refuse to support poor working Americans by refusing to support progressive SS legislation. And this opposition supposedly makes them worse than "obstructionists," because it also makes them hypocrites.

But truth be told, Bush’s plan only counts as good progressive legislation if you think those who make $36,000 a year have it so well off that their retirement benefits should be slashed by 27%. It’s not progressive – its hanging hard working families out to dry.

Brooks and the other conservatives must know this, but they seem to find it more fun to back Democrats into a corner by making them choose between losing their next election vs. supporting bad legislation

I don’t particularly like this Washington game – its disingenuous and makes voters more distrustful of politicians in the end.

But I cannot help but wonder: What kinds of creative legislation titles could we come up with that would thoroughly shame Republicans into supporting them at the risk of losing votes? Any suggestions?

How about: The Keep Our Bedrooms Sacred Initiative. It could promise to protect the sanctity of marriages and families but actually institute privacy laws that keeps government out of our bedrooms and recognizes same sex couples and their children as legitimate families.

UPDATE: Many other great blogs commenting on Brooks today. Check out the following: Drum, Mahablog, DeLong.

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]


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Time to reread Orwell.

The Christian Protection Act: Makes it a crime to require that employees be Christians, to require that Judges be Christians, to allow Christian symbols on public property, etc.

The Marriage Protection Act: Makes it a crime for states to deny the rites and privileges of marriage to same sex couples.

The Reverence for Life Act: Makes it a crime for states to interfere in decisions by doctors and patients about abortion or end of life decisions. Makes stem cell research a national priority program, supported by tax revenue. Makes the legal definition of the beginning of life be the time of birth.

It's not like the American people support programs for the poor, though, and the Democrats showed they were willing to hang the poor out to dry, with welfare reform. Nor does Bush's plan increase benefits for the poor, it just doesn't cut them. I don't think this gambit of Bush's will work very well, in the end, though the media (except for the usual suspects, like my Op-Ed boyfriend Paul Krugman) seems to be falling for it.

Don't forget the "Patients' Bill of Rights," which reduced the rights of patients.

I never thought that Brooks was that great, but my theory is that when the Times hired him, he was sure to get worse, not better. Under certain circumstances he might have been a somewhat interesting or independent thinker, but on the Times he's the affirmative-action conservative whose job is to protect the Times's right flank. If he fails to be knee-jerk, the conservatives will feel cheated, and Powerline will go after him and the Times. From here on out, his ideas are in his job description.

When I read him, which is seldom, I watch to see how he tries to shape his obligatory knee-jerk content in such a way as not to seem like a complete idiot. My guess is that within a year or so he'll quit trying, and just crank out shit and cash his paychecks.

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