11 October 2013

LL GOP - Why the Country Has Come to Loathe Republicans

Last night there was another poll and another drop in approval for Republicans.

LL Cool J was the rapper name adopted by James Smith. It means Ladies Love Cool James but of course the beauty of the name is that it still applies whether they love him, merely like him, or come to loathe him. In the last quarter century, the country has gone from loving to liking to loathing the GOP.

The simple reason is revealed in the latest poll that shows a 24% favorable view of Republicans. (By contrast, Obama's approval rating just went up 2 points, from 45% to 47%.) At the heart of this disapproval is this: 70% of Americans believe that the Republicans are putting politics ahead of what is best for the country. 

The Republicans have made it clear that they want to defund Obamacare, voting at least 42 times to defund the law. 42. Think about the time wasted, as if the House had given itself over to interpretative dance engaged in a series of symbolic gestures that make rain dances look like a good use of time.

One gets the sense that negotiations would go more quickly if Obama skipped talking to the middlemen and just sat down directly with the Koch brothers, who plotted this government shutdown immediately after Obama was re-elected. Yesterday the Koch brothers announced that they didn't want a shutdown and by day's end Boehner had made his first proposal to at least extend the debt limit. Boehner had previously ignored the public in his refusal to open government and even fellow House Republicans (refusing to let them vote to re-open government). While Boehner is unresponsive to the public and his fellow Republicans, he is responsive to the Koch brothers. And for good reason: they are now worth more than the federal government has left in cash. (As of yesterday, the government's dwindling supply of money was down to $32 billion, which works out to about $100 per American. By contrast, the Koch brothers are worth $72 billion, which works out to about $36 billion per Koch brother.)

But with 70% of Americans convinced that Republicans are more intent on playing politics than caring for the country, it is no wonder that Republican approval has dropped to an historic low. Because the perception is real: what Republicans are doing in a desperate bid to stop Obamacare would put the country back into recession.

Quite simply, if we don't extend the debt ceiling, government spending will stop. There will not be enough money to pay social security, medicare, government contractors ... well, essentially every beneficiary of government, including bond holders. The treasury department, faced with a shortage of funds, does not have the authority to decide which bills to pay and which to ignore. A default on bond payments will roil international markets and most likely result in a rise in the interest rate for future government bonds, raising the deficit by raising the cost of government. And this will clearly be the result of politicians who are so intent on keeping the country unsullied by universal healthcare that they're willing to plunge us back into recession. 

Now apparently 30% of the country do not believe that Republicans care more about politics than the country they wish to govern. They are the ones who think that default on our debt is something benign, like failing to leave a tip at a restaurant. This sort of dismissal of consequences doesn't just show a lack of understanding of the economy; it shows a real disconnect between their strategy and their understanding. The strategy of threatening not to extend the debt limit depends on that being a credible threat; if it really were not a threat it would not be a leverage point. It is illogical to simultaneously believe there will be no harm in failing to extend the debt limit and use the threat of it to coerce Obama.

Bottom line, the Republicans have taken the economy hostage and are threatening to hurt it if Obama does not give in to their demands. As it turns out, while only a portion of the American people readily identify with Obama or Republicans, a huge swath of us identify with the economy. This is our livelihood. If you threaten that, you threaten us. The fact that Republicans have shown such disregard for the American Dream in their pursuit of their conservative mirage is the simplest reason that Americans have come to loathe Republicans.

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