Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 4, 2011

MERKLEY OFFERS DEMS A TEMPLATE.... When it comes to the budget fight, the Republican message is obvious. It's backwards, bogus, and blind, but it's also as clear as day, and every GOP official know how to repeat it.

As is too often the case, the Democratic message is all over the place. That said, if the party is looking for a rhetorical template, they could do a whole lot worse than Sen. Jeff Merkley's (D-Ore.) remarks yesterday.

"The GOP budget plan will destroy 700,000 jobs. The last thing our nation can afford right now is further job losses. We need to be creating jobs, not destroying jobs.

"There are common-sense budget cuts that could reduce our deficits without wrecking the economy or attacking working families. We can start by cutting back on the bonus tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires that Republican leaders insisted on just ten weeks ago. We could end tax subsidies for oil companies and save tens of billions of dollars in the process.

"Republican House Speaker John Boehner summarized his perspective on the Republican budget as follows: if people might lose their jobs, 'So be it.' You might think the House Republican leaders would show some humility after their failed agenda turned record surpluses into massive deficits in 2001, or after their policies reduced the wages of working Americans during the modest expansion in the middle of the decade, or after they burned down the economy with unregulated derivatives and predatory mortgage securities in 2008.

"Apparently not. Their proposals are exactly the same: give massive tax cuts to the wealthiest, shred the safety net, and eliminate investments that would help restore American economic leadership."

This certainly doesn't fit on a bumper sticker, and it's not a six-second soundbite, either. But it's a straightforward assessment, which is (a) true; (b) aggressive; and (c) easily repeated.

Greg Sargent is left to wonder what could be, but isn't.

It's tempting to imagine what would happen if Dems were united behind a hard hitting message emphasizing the charges Merkley leveled here: GOP budget cuts will destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs. Republicans are hacking away at programs that benefit working and middle-class Americans even as they preserve tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. And Republicans have no business lecturing America with pieties about the deficit, given that their policies played a major role in creating it.

But Dems are not united behind such a message. It's true that we've had some strong statements lately from Senate Dem leaders. But at the same time, we have Dem strategists privately counseling Dem officials that they face certain disaster if they aren't seen to be wholeheartedly embracing cuts. And some "centrist" Dems are worried that they will be political toast if they don't do everything in their power to shore up the conservative government-is-always-bad narrative.

I'd just add that recent polling should help bolster Democratic spines -- Republicans are on the offensive, issuing bold ultimatums, but this only masks what is fundamentally a weak GOP position. The American mainstream prioritizes economic growth over deficit reduction, but Republicans believe the opposite. The American mainstream supports tax increases on the wealthy, defense cuts, and an end to oil industry subsidies, but Republicans believe the opposite. The American mainstream doesn't want to see spending cuts in areas like education, medical research, infrastructure, job training, and national security, Republicans believe the opposite.

Merkley's argument is intended to put Republicans on the defensive for a change. The more Dems follow his lead, the better off they'll be.

Steve Benen 4:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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Comments

There's a bigger lesson to be learned here: ALWAYS be on offense. Dems can't seem to get into attack mode and stay there. We have facts and reason on our side. For the life of me, I don't understand their reluctance to attack.

Posted by: Chris on March 4, 2011 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

We need our own propaganda channel. Can you imagine if we had a channel that was as biased as theirs? They would scream and wring their hands like it was the end of the world.

Posted by: John R on March 4, 2011 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

"We have Dem strategists privately counseling Dem officials that they face certain disaster if they aren't seen to be wholeheartedly embracing cuts.

"And we have Dem officeholders angrily replying that it's about time Democrats started to shape the debate instead of responding to every last goddamn meaningless poll, and started acting like the majority party that, for the moment, they still are, and could yet be for a long time to come if they actually got off their butts and started fighting for something."

Sorry, daydreaming there for a moment.

Posted by: Basilisc on March 4, 2011 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

I dont belong to any organized political group. Im a democrat.

Forget who said that.

Posted by: Kill Bill on March 4, 2011 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Say it over and over, the shorter version of Merkley's true-that observation:

Republican policies have wrecked our nation!
Republican policies have wrecked our nation!
Republican policies have wrecked our nation!
Republican policies have wrecked our nation!

-Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 4, 2011 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats can't seem to hold their message together more than a few minutes at a time. Probably because they are working hard to actually govern the country. Still, they should get behind A message.

*KB-
Will Rogers is credited with the quip about unorganized Democrats. Don't know if he stole from somewhere else.

Posted by: Darsan54 on March 4, 2011 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Thx Darsan

Posted by: Kill Bill on March 4, 2011 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like it if Greg Sargent and others like him would name names. Which Dem strategists are privately counseling Dem officials to embrace cuts? Who are the "centrist" Democrats that are looking to embrace Reaganism?

We can't fight an enemy we can't see. Let's start naming names and then holding those responsible feet to the fire.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 4, 2011 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Democrats: "We want to meet the GOP halfway and destroy 350k jobs."

Posted by: square1 on March 4, 2011 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

This has always been my number one complaint of the Democratic Party: They compromise and concede ground while the Republicans go balls to the wall on every issue.

Posted by: Kiweagle on March 4, 2011 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans are on the offensive within the village and the halls of congress. As the Issa scandal proved the other day, that is the same place. They are not on the offensive outside the beltway. Where they have tried to advance their positions in the rest of the country they have seen their negatives go up.

The problem is many of our Democratic congress critters are in the tank for the big money corporations just like the Republicans. Most of them don't have the fire in their bellies to fight for the middle class. Our job as concerned Democrats is to stoke the fire. We should lobby them to support Democratic postions. If they don't they should be primaried. The Republicans claim to fear the Tea Party. The Democrats should feel the same kind of pressure.

Before I get response that I am mouthing the FDL line, I am not. I am just saying we need to let Congressional Democrats know that there really are people out here.

The other day Claire McCaskill sent out a fund raising letter. She made the "bold" announcement that she is going to oppose any effort to gut social security. She nearly broke her arm patting herself on the back. She apparently thinks that she was being bold. Several in the villager crowd reported her "bold" position.

We need to tell Claire that opposing gutting social security is not a bold position. It should be baseline for every Democrat in Congress. We need to tell all of our elected Democrats the same thing. If Claire wants to win she will come out breathing fire. If she wants to lose she will count not cutting social security as a bold stance.

The Koch boys have done Democrats a big favor. Right now we are ready to man the barricades. We need to make sure the people housed in the beltway are aware that we are ready to fight for the middle class and our rights.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 4, 2011 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

I am about to go home for the weekend. Since several weeks ago PA "banned" comments from my home, I won't be able to comment this weekend. I love you all. Fight the good fight. I will be following you and Steve all weekend.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 4, 2011 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

@Kill Bill: Will Rogers.

Posted by: Werewolf on March 4, 2011 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Morph- I was wondering the same thing. Who are these strategists? You, know the ones that are consistently hired, and yet can't read polls- the polls that have put the public firmly on the progressive side for year? For that mater, when we find the strategists, I want to know who the hell keeps hiring them, and what the hell makes them so qualified.

Posted by: Kevin Ray on March 4, 2011 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Merkeley: "There are common-sense budget cuts that could reduce our deficits without wrecking the economy or attacking working families. We can start by cutting back on the bonus tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires that Republican leaders insisted on just ten weeks ago. We could end tax subsidies for oil companies and save tens of billions of dollars in the process."

The problem is that neither of these proposals count as "budget cuts" for Republicans. Allowing a tax cut to expire is a revenue increaser, and so is a tax hike. Ending a subsidy will make someone pay more, and so is a tax hike. And there are many Republicans who won't countenance any tax increase on anyone for any reason, even if it's an unjustifiable subsidy or a ridiculous loophole.

Republicans have framed the discussion in terms of existing revenues, which can't be increased no matter what. It's hard to have discussions with ideologues.

Posted by: dsimon on March 4, 2011 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Can I say one more time how proud I am to be represented by Sen Merkley? He has been more constructive and accomplished more in the Senate just over two years than many others who have been in far longer, including the last Republican presidential candidate.

FYI, Sen Merkley is a policy wonk. We need more like him.

Posted by: Hannah on March 4, 2011 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

The other day Claire McCaskill sent out a fund raising letter. She made the "bold" announcement that she is going to oppose any effort to gut social security. She nearly broke her arm patting herself on the back. She apparently thinks that she was being bold. Several in the villager crowd reported her "bold" position.

For a conservadem, from a conservative state . . . that IS...a bold position . . .

Posted by: Michael on March 4, 2011 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Is anyone ever going to ask these turkeys to explain precisely the impact of their tax cuts and budget cuts? If we "need" to cut $X billion in expenses, shouldn't someone, perhaps an economist, explain how that number was calculated and why it is better than some other number? Are we all so inured to their fantasy reality that no one bothers anymore?

At home, you budget for the week by taking stock of how much money you have and how much you will need. If you have needs you can't pay for, you see whether that cost can be lowered and you might consider credit. If nothing will work, if there is no second job available, or other source of extra income, the last possible choice is to give up on the goal.

You still want to remodel the kitchen or put the kids through school, but only one of those can be easily postponed. But when Repugs do it, they decide it's easiest just to stop doing stuff than to find a way to pay for it. And somehow this is supposed to be what mainstream patriotic Americans all want.

Doesn't anybody ever ask these savages how they are going to handle the catastrophes their cuts will create? Do they even admit that there will BE catastrophes? Or will it be like thwarted transplant patients in Arizona, will they just be ignored?

It seems unlikely anyone believes or pretends that serious people have sat down together and calculated, "Well, if we cut this, then that will happen." But why not?

Has anyone ever asked? If not, why not? What DO they think will be the social consequences of destroying the social contract?

Posted by: Tomm Undergod on March 4, 2011 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Where the hell is Nancy Pelosi?

Steny Hoyer?

They fought so hard to retain leadership positions, why are neither of them leading?

Posted by: karen marie on March 4, 2011 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

If only there was a REAL and strong threat (60% chance)that elected leaders would lose their jobs, their medical care, their pensions, and their chance to get a new job (like other people face), if they don't support the middle class in this country! Then maybe they would get it.

Posted by: pea on March 4, 2011 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

President Obama should be using his bully pulpit to make Merkley's arguments. As usual, Obama is refusing to be a leader and instead is intent on mollifying the Republicans.

Posted by: Nequaine on March 4, 2011 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

If only there were a bumpersticker slogan the Dems could use to fight back against the Repub budget . . . Hmm, how about "Stop the republican's job killing budget!"

Posted by: DK on March 4, 2011 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

Yes DK you are on to something. May I add that cuts to Planned Parenthood should be addressed as; "Democrats want fewer teenaged pregnancies". And on the topic of cuts to the IRS; "Democrats do not support Tax Cheats". Short and positive ideas that frame the issue in a bi-directional manner. That is, if the Democrats "believe" these things then it follows that the Republicans don't.

Posted by: String on March 5, 2011 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

I do think the Republicans will come to regret taking on PBS, NPR, CPB, etc. Ads against the cuts are running all the time on them, and listeners/viewers are better educated, more successful, and influential than average.

Posted by: bob h on March 5, 2011 at 6:12 AM | PERMALINK

If a politician claiming to be a DEMOCRAT can't stand up for fixing education for primary, secondary and college education to make AMERICA ready for globalization.If a Democrat Cannot stand up for fiscal responsibility that makes America improve infrastructure; If a Democrat cannot stand up against Corporations, subsidy for Corporations and taxing the rich; Stopping credit card wars;standing up for worker's rights then that politician should not claim to be a DEMOCRAT!

Posted by: ML Johnston on March 6, 2011 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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