Political Animal


February 22, 2013 3:27 PM Return of the Squirrel Sex Study Meme

By Ed Kilgore

Just when you thought this week in politics could not get any dumber, Speaker John Boehner, in his flailing efforts to make his party’s fiscal position going into the sequester seem more reasonable, is resorting to the oldest idiocy of them all: the claim that government spending is mostly a bunch of crazy boondoggles. Here we go:

[N]o one should be talking about raising taxes when the government is still paying people to play videogames, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines.

Jonathan Chait went to the trouble of tracking down what Boehner was talking about, and of course, it’s mostly a shuck, like the ancient claims that everybody’s taxes were high because pointy-headed federal bureaucrats were paying egghead scientists to study the mating habits of squirrels. The amount of money involved in these anecdotal examples is, of course, next to nothing. And they are blatantly intended to distract attention from the bigger picture, as Chait notes:

Why have Republicans settled on this utterly inane talking point? A close look at the latest Pew poll shows it’s the only card they have to play in the fiscal showdown. The public opinion landscape is utterly bleak for Boehner. Congress is way less popular than Obama. The Republican Party is way less popular than the Democratic Party. People trust Obama more than Republicans to handle budget issues. They want a mix of revenue and spending cuts. (Even a majority of Republicans reject the cuts-only approach insisted on by GOP leaders.)
The lone bright spot on this desolate landscape is that Americans want spending cuts to account for a larger share of the deficit reduction. Now the question is framed in the most Republican-friendly way. The poll doesn’t ask about raising taxes just on the rich, which is much more popular than generalized tax hikes. It also doesn’t name specific programs like Medicare and Social Security, which Americans resolutely oppose cutting under any circumstances. What Boehner has going for him here is a generalized ignorance about the federal budget. Americans think there’s lots of waste and don’t grasp that balancing the budget through spending cuts would require cutting programs they don’t want to cut. Boehner’s best play is to keep the debate on the level of abstraction, focused on mythical waste….

So why are Republicans resorting to this very cheapest kind of demagoguery? It seems to be all they’ve got at this point:

Boehner doesn’t have an actual plan to balance the budget by making surly video-game players pay for their own damn World of Warcraft. He wants to force Obama to propose cuts to retirement programs without any revenue. He doesn’t have any apparent strategy to achieve this goal. He just has a talking point to try to wave it away.

So there’s budget-talk that exceeds the sequester in stupidity all right, and we’ll be hearing it a lot during the next week.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • MuddyLee on February 22, 2013 3:44 PM:

    Are there ANY intelligent, reasonable, sane adults who are both Republicans and members of Congress? If so, they should come out of hiding and make their presence known - as soon as possible.

  • Joe Friday on February 22, 2013 3:46 PM:

    Boehner: "[N]o one should be talking about raising taxes when the government is still paying people to play videogames, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines."

    Actually, nobody should be talking about cutting spending when the federal deficits are a result of the numerous rounds of tax cuts enacted by the Republicans that overwhelmingly benefited the Rich & Corporate. Not to mention, cutting spending slows the economy and increases unemployment.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 22, 2013 4:00 PM:

    Forget screwing squirrels, I'm mad that those congress critters are somehow still getting paid to simultaneously screw us over and wreak havoc on the political process.

  • c u n d gulag on February 22, 2013 4:14 PM:

    If we look at the coming sequestration, and placing blame as a "tail," then Republicans are playing "Pin the Tail on the Donkeys!"

    As for squirrel's schtupping, and other research, when you have nothing of substance to offer, you offer abstractions and distractions.

    Boehner is by far the weakest Speaker in my lifetime - and at this time, that's a dangerous person to have in that spot.
    Very, very dangerous.

    In these dangerous and stupid economic times, they need a very strong Ring Master to handle his parties clowns and freaks who are a part of their Circus.
    Instead, they've got a pathetic drunk.

  • Daddy Love on February 22, 2013 5:15 PM:

    ALso, he's pandering to the base by once again misrepresenting the Reagan-era "Obamaphone" program, which as we all know is a huge government giveaway to the wrong kind of people. Aherm.

  • T-Rex on February 22, 2013 5:28 PM:

    The other thing, of course, is that a lot of Republicans are absolutely convinced, as a matter of faith, that Romney would have won the election if Obama hadn't bribed people with cell phones. Of course, the program of providing cheap cell phones to unemployed people to help them find work goes back to the Bush era, but since that entire Presidency has been popped down the memory hole, Republicans can talk about "Obamaphones" with the requisite sneer, as an example of how the Democrats buy votes by giving money to THOSE PEOPLE.

  • weirdnoise on February 22, 2013 7:22 PM:

    Of course, given that squirrels overpopulation can be a genuine problem (e.g. disease, damage to crops and property), understanding their reproductive habits can be quite valuable. But given that these bozos are so ignorant that they'll use volcano monitoring as an example of government waste, why should we be surprised?

  • Alfonso Gonzalez on February 24, 2013 9:40 PM:

    How do you say I said it true that true because I like to live in Ronnie you never seem to be lying Questions or whatever I don't care another to home