Political Animal


July 06, 2011 1:20 PM Cantor points to a process going backwards

By Steve Benen

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), talking to reporters two weeks ago:

“We are not opposed to revenues.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), talking to reporters this morning:

“We’re not for increasing revenue.”

Putting aside the fact that oft-confused Majority Leader doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about, what this shift also tells us is that House Republicans appear to be moving backwards. Whereas the GOP was open to accepting some additional revenue as part of a debt-reduction deal, Cantor is now say Republicans expect a 100-0 agreement in their favor.

As for Democrats seeking the elimination of unnecessary (and unpopular) government handouts — oil industry subsidies, an acceleration of the depreciation on private jets, etc. — Cantor said the tax breaks are “talking points” and “not substantive.”

I’m not sure what that means. Democrats want to scrap these giveaways in order to save a few billion dollars, all of which would be used to reduce the deficit — the goal Republicans pretend to care about. What makes this “not substantive”?

Echoing Paul Ryan’s comments from yesterday, Cantor added, “Any discussion about loopholes must be offset by tax cuts.”

Got that? Policymakers can end unnecessary tax subsidies, but if they do, the money has to go to more tax cuts, not towards reducing the debt Republicans pretend to find important.

I’ve run out of synonyms for “ridiculous.” Instead, I’ll just quote David Brooks, who explained yesterday that Cantor’s Republican Party “has separated itself from normal governance” and may no longer be “fit to govern.”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • martin on July 06, 2011 1:26 PM:

    Time for Obama to announce there is no deal, that everything is off the table until everything is on the table. The Repubs can pass a clean debt bill or they can crash the economy.

    Time for the public to see who are really being dicks.

  • Perspecticus on July 06, 2011 1:29 PM:

    "Cantor said the tax breaks are “talking points” and “not substantive.”

    I’m not sure what that means."

    Excuse me, I can translate. I speak "Jackass." Cantor says that, because ending ludicrous tax breaks and closing obscene loopholes will not result in the complete elimination of the nation's debt, they are not serious proposals and are only being used to score political points.

  • dj spellchecka on July 06, 2011 1:31 PM:

    steve: "I’ve run out of synonyms for 'ridiculous.'"

    i can think of one word that sums this all up.....calvinball

    as wiki explains: "calvinball is a game played by calvin and hobbes. the only consistent rule states that calvinball may never be played with the same rules twice. scoring is also arbitrary. when asked how to play, creator bill watterson states, 'it's pretty simple: you make up the rules as you go.'"

    paul krugman recently cited a mid-june piece by mike konczal, where in response to a particularly incoherent conservative economic argument from raghuram rajan wrote "it's calvinball - making up new rules on the fly to justify whatever you want."

    i think this applies to most everything the gop is doing these days, from the 4/1 deficit reduction formula being a-ok in january to doa now, or their inexplicable 180 on the three fair trade agreements...


  • mr. irony on July 06, 2011 1:31 PM:

    "Since day one, House Republicans have been focused on jobs and the economy."

    - GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor 5/27/11


    its day 183

  • Stephen Stralka on July 06, 2011 1:32 PM:

    Here's a new synonym for "ridiculous": Republican.

  • bigtuna on July 06, 2011 1:33 PM:

    What Martin said. Stand up and walk away from the table. Immediately, and tell the press in clear, simple language that the Rs are a buct of fucking idiots.

  • Chris on July 06, 2011 1:36 PM:

    Eric Cantor: "Any discussion about loopholes must be offset by tax cuts."

    I read the same thing in an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal. I've also seen other right-wing columnists make the same assertion...close loopholes only in exchange for rate cuts.

    More evidence that these guys don't care about reducing deficits. They only care about enriching the rich. Period. Full stop.

  • zeitgeist on July 06, 2011 1:37 PM:

    Obama needs to risk not being liked by everyone (because what he's been doing has worked so well at that, after all) and do what Martin said.

    It is past time to walk away, but this provides yet another opportunity to get this right, to get the focus back on a clean bill.

    He needs to forcefully, with blow-ups of quotes from key Repubs like Cantor, show the public that Republicans are deeply unserious -- that is, their lying -- when they claim to be concernde about the debt. All they are really concerned about is tax breaks for the rich.

    Play that card and be done with it. Dare them to crash the entire economy to preserve oil profits and private jets, and let the public take it from here. Just like we keep saying about Iraq and Afghanistan, at some point citizens have to take responsibility for their own country.

  • Josef K on July 06, 2011 1:47 PM:

    Wasn't Cantor the one who walked out of these discussions first?

    And why do I get the sinking feeling that even if Boehner, McConnell, Reid and the President do reach some kind of accord, Cantor and Kyl won't vote for it (and will ensure enough freshmen don't either that it dies)?

    I know its dangerous to speculate about what's going on in someone's head, but I seriously have to wonder if Cantor really doesn't understand what's at stake, and that he honestly believes that a default will be a good thing for the country. I actually prefer that possibility to thinking that he's doing all this with malice of forethought.

  • KC on July 06, 2011 1:50 PM:

    Our tough president has the Republicans right where he wants them. The other day, when he announced, "if the Republicans force me to choose spending priorties after August 2nd, their priviledged contractor friends can make the first sacrifices," that really spoke to how hard a bargain he is willing to drive.

    Some people like to compare President Obama to President Buchanan, a man without bearing, continually looking to be the great compromiser when compromise is not what the other side wants. I think this is totally wrong. Obama is like Lincoln, strong, honest, and proud.

  • Taylor on July 06, 2011 1:53 PM:

    This is THE MOST DANGEROUS moment of these negotiations for Obama, and therefore the nation. Up till now, he's tended to cave when pressured, sacrificing the interests of his constituents in order to gain something that looks like "consensus."

    If this pattern holds and Obama caves yet again, the Republicans will be proven (politically) right in their brinksmanship and the nation will continue its slide toward becoming the world's newest banana republic.

    Worse, the Dems will be left with a quasi-popular incumbent who has no ability to enact and implement the LIBERAL policies his constituents voted for. A spineless Dem like that is worse than another G.W. Bush because the country will continue to unravel but the Dems will be blamed instead.

    However, maybe a miracle will happen and Obama will finally reach his not-breaking point and actually insist that, yeah, corporations should pay their fair share of taxes, too.

    Maybe he'll even indicate that the Republicans are indeed fucking nutbags who aren't fit to govern. And then maybe he'll legalize weed and bring the troops home from Afghanistan and offer to employ a million people in a new WPA charged with rebuilding the roads, bridges and waste treatment infrastructure that are currently crumbling around us. That would be nice.

  • square1 on July 06, 2011 2:00 PM:

    People need to stop acting as if Obama is not part of the problem. Obama actually believes that the debt is a serious short-to-medium term problem that deserves as much attention as job creation, if not more.

    A "clean" bill raising the debt limit? Don't make me laugh. Reports are that Obama opposes any deal that would "kick the can" down the road.

    Most sane people would recognize the teabaggers for what they are: extremist clowns. Most sane people would avoid any long term budget agreements with the GOP and spend the next 17 months trying to restore a Democratic majority in the House.

    Instead, Obama seems to relish the opportunity to treat the most insane members of the GOP as good-faith actors.

    And then, day after day, we are subjected to endless numbers of posts from steve benen in which he cannot figure out why the GOP is being treated seriously. Too bad Benen can't put 2 and 2 together and figure out that nobody treats the GOP nutballs with more respect than the President. I cannot recall a single instance in which Obama referred to GOP obstructionism as anything other than principled disagreement that makes America stronger.

  • c u n d gulag on July 06, 2011 2:00 PM:

    I'm with you, but who's going to show the public?
    Ok, yeah, the 5-11 shift on MSNBC - but then, Cup O' Schmoe gets 3 hours the following morning to twist the argument back.
    Talk radio, with it's 93-7% rightie to lefty breakdown?
    The newspapers, when most of the newspapers, like almost all MSM outlets, are corporate owned, and tend to side with Republicans no matter how deeply f*cking insane they keep showing themselves to be, and getting crazier by the day?

    If we had a reponsible and rational media, we might stand a chance.
    But now, no matter what happens, it'll be Obama and the Democrats fault if they gives up too much, and it'll be Obama and the Democrats fault if our country looks like Haiti after the debt ceiling catastrophe brought on by Republicans.

    Also too, depending on the public, the same public that after Bush left the country in flames put in Obama to stop the fire, and then, the very same public 2 years later voted in arsonists, is a faint hope.
    They finally got a couple right in '92 and '96, and in '08. Otherwise, this public is stupid, ignorant and gullible. Those three look to be the outlyers, not a sign of things to come.

  • JW on July 06, 2011 2:00 PM:

    "No longer fit to govern"?

    Aside from the fact that was coined by The Human Corkscrew, it lacks both the power and pith of referring to the GOP as, "The Party Of Rule Or Ruin".

  • FRP on July 06, 2011 2:06 PM:

    The long history of success is all Eric Cantor and his stout friends need . Why from what I understand Trickle down is making a comeback , not because of its record , but because the engineers of talk no think policy are tired of loudly saying tax cuts . Who needs anything else from the party that took their envy of universities policy creating engines , professors and students , and created Madison avenue's little imaginative idea of universities the ubiquitous right wink crank 'em up think tanks .

  • zeitgeist on July 06, 2011 2:14 PM:

    c u n d gulag on July 06, 2011 2:00 PM:
    I'm with you, but who's going to show the public?

    1) Obama. He still has the bully pulpit. If he says he's tired of this and has some things to say about it, I assure you the networks will go live and put it on the air. That is the one perk he always has available, and the slightest tease that he may come out swinging insures it.

    2. The DNC and 527s. The Republican side of the economic argument is being broadcast in paid spots by Romney, T-Paw, and American Crossroads. There is no reasons our side can't or shouldn't get the message out in paid spots. Ross Perot paid a fortune for an hour-long block of time to use foam-core boards with colored charts on them to make his economic point and it got tons of attention. This is worth the investment.

    3. The DNC and 527s, and Labor, Part 2. Direct mail. Obama, Organizing for America, etc. have combined mailing lists in the tens of millions. Use them to get the correct talking points our.

    4. Elected Dems. One advantage of saying "enough!" is that it gets Congress on break sooner. Local media - small town newspapers, local TV news - need low-cost content. Dems need to have a reasonably unified message, a few salient points, and go work the locals - meet edit boards, write op-eds. Also, do town halls, soap boxes at local events, whatever it takes.

    I'm sure the legions who get paid big bucks for these things can come up with even more. But the lack of an MSM microphone cannot be used as an excuse.

    Ob. CAPTCHA humor: "farmers efeara" - and the rest of us should, too!

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 06, 2011 2:19 PM:

    Obama will be the man that gives the store away. Clear as day.

  • c u n d gulag on July 06, 2011 2:22 PM:

    "But the lack of an MSM microphone cannot be used as an excuse."


    And I don't think Obama is using his bully pulpit enough.

    IMHO, he needs to do a prime time speech about this. SOON!
    Explaining what he may do with the 14th Amendment and why may go a long way to making people understand that this is no longer their parents or grandparents Republican Party.

  • ManOutOfTime on July 06, 2011 2:36 PM:

    Seconding and thudding Martin and BigTuna: the debt limit is too important of an issue to hold up action, and these negotiations can certainly form the basis of the 2012 budget resolution so why rush into such an important decision over an arbitrary deadline. We tried to be good sports about it but geez, we certainly don't want Repugs to feel like they've been blackmailed into accepting cuts when they are deeply, philosophically averse to them.

  • T2 on July 06, 2011 2:39 PM:

    Time after time, Obama has let the GOP dictate the playing field. He's won some, anyway. When he publicaly scolded them a week or so ago, they whined like the little bullies they are. If he thought one dose would be the cure, he's sadly mistaken and we're screwed. He is going to be opposed on everything, and the second term won't be any different. Bully Pulpit - use it.

  • Stephen Stralka on July 06, 2011 3:02 PM:

    I certainly agree with those that say Obama needs to be way more outspoken here, take his case to the public, but I don't think he's going to cave.

    The thing is, the Democrats have already caved, offering a deal that is heavily slanted (5 to 1) in the Republicans' favor to address a problem that shouldn't even be our top priority right now. Like Steve has said before, the Republicans won't take yes for an answer.

    Whatever his other shortcomings, Obama is smart and perceptive enough to understand what exactly the Republicans are demanding here: they want him to gut the federal government. Since that's just as unacceptable an outcome as letting the nation default on its debts, he can't agree to it any more than he can agree not to raise the debt ceiling.

  • Perspecticus on July 06, 2011 3:21 PM:

    Breaking News from Your Liberal Media (tm)

    This morning during one of the NPR top-of-the-hour news breaks (yes, that NPR), they were airing a brief story on attempts at compromise during the debt ceiling debate. The reporter began his final sentence by saying, "The main sticking point has been...". As we are all aware, one of the many ways this sentence could have concluded would have been to say something along the lines of "The main sticking point has been the Republicans' refusal to negotiate any increased revenues whatsoever." Rather, Your Liberal Media (tm) said:

    "The main sticking point has been Obama's insistence on increased taxes."

  • bdop4 on July 06, 2011 3:27 PM:

    I am also with Martin/Zeitgeist/Square1.

    They never should have ceded ground on a debt limit vote. Clean or no bill.

    As for the MSM, they have NEVER shied away from a knock-down, drag-out political fight when it comes their way.

    If Obama came down on them HARD, it will get covered. Even negative coverage would bring needed attention to the problem.

  • Ron Byers on July 06, 2011 3:56 PM:

    I am beginning to hear a lot of talk from regular folks that the Republicans are losing their way. I think the Brooks column is having a real impact in the Village. I am glad he works for the rich and powerful.

  • jim filyaw on July 06, 2011 4:02 PM:

    perhaps its time for a new theme. something like, 'america is worth paying for'. if our soldiers have done it with blood these past two hundred years, our pampered rich can do it with their money.

  • Four Legsgood on July 06, 2011 4:12 PM:

    they haven't been fit to govern in at least 10 years. Period.

    You know what the media ought to be doing? running a "Nightline" type nightly hostage deal on how the GOP is trying to wreck the USA over ideology.

    Cuz really, how different are they from the crazy students who took over the US embassy in Tehran?

  • T. Ramey on July 06, 2011 4:23 PM:

    Additional synonyms for ridiculous -- it appears you will be needing them for some time to come. (sigh)

    absurd, beyond all reason, bizarre, cockeyed, derisory, farcical, fatuous, foolhardy, foolish, goofy, grotesque, half-baked, harebrained, idiotic, ill-conceived, inane, insane, irrational, irresponsible, laughable, loony, ludicrous, nonsensical, outrageous, preposterous, puerile, sappy, senseless, short-sighted, strange, stupid, unworkable, wacked-out, wild

  • bigtuna on July 06, 2011 5:30 PM:

    Ladies and gentlemen of the press. Thank you for taking the time on such short notice to listen to a few prepared remarks I have regarding the various discussions we have had regarding the upcoming vote on extending our authority to add to the deficit. I wanted to clear up a few points, and add my voice, in consultation with my party’s leadership, to this issue as forecfully as possible. I will not be taking any questions, as immediately after this, I need to deal with xx, and meet with Timothy Geitner, Ben Bernacke, and the chairs of the House and Senate committees, along with our legal advisors and constitutional scholars, and their ranking minority members, to discuss the flight path to the scenario that by Aug 2., the US govt will be in default.
    As this chart shows, approximately 60% of the budget deficit was accumulated under republican administrations and leadership in the 8 years before my presidency. The three components of the debt agrregation – unpaid for wars, unpaid for expansion of the Medicare drug benefit, and the tax breaks for the very wealthy, have been the cause. Recent increases in the deficit have bee due to trying to pay for wars, and to ameliorate the worst excesses of the financial meltdown of 2008 – before I was elected.
    Now, on this slide, are a serious of quotes, mostly from your papers and shows, in chronological order, that shows the evolution of the republican thinking on the subject of debt reduction and its being tied to our ability to issue more debt beyod Aug 2 – the so-called debt ceiling. As you can see, while the senate democrats and my office have met in good faith, our friends across the aisle seem to with to move the posts. As of April, republican plan was and 85/15 plan, in which 85% budget cuts an 15% revenue increases would provide 2 – 3 trillion of projected savings in 10 years. My office, and the group of senate democrats, have reached a point, not happily, of 83/17.
    Today I was informed that our good friends in the republican part now want – a balanced budget amendment, all closures of tax loopholes to be offset by reduction in tax rates, and little in the way of real hard decisions regarding military spending. Each day brings new demands. SO as democrats and the executive branch move toward an agreement, the house republicans continue to back away.
    We have come to a difficult point in the road. In keeping our end of the negotiation process, we will keep on the table, for the next 3 days, our 83/17 proposal. If, at that point, the republicans reject this proposal, I will ask house democrats to offer a new counter measure – a “clean” bill, in which the only proposal is to extend the debt ceiling to xxxx.
    The full faith and credit of the US Govt provides its citizens with some of the greatest financial benefits every accrued to a government. The maintenance and responsible management of the federal budget is import to all Americans, and is one of the greatest duties of the office of the presidency. I have instructed the Sec. of Treasurey, and other offices, to develop a clear set of outcomes, and plans, should the ceiling not be lifted. Each one of these will be clearly stated, and real. There will be no smoke and mirrors. These impacts will affect all Americans, almost all negatively, and the house repubs. Inability to shoulder their responsibility will result in permanent damage to the US Govt and its finances.
    Thus: 83/17 is on the table now. It will be off next week, and we will then discuss only a debt ceiling bill.

    Thank you.

  • N.Wells on July 06, 2011 6:25 PM:

    Sorry in advance for a long post.

    The US has bad structural deficits that eventually need to be fixed, and there are a lot of things that we should manage much better. The way grazing rights, timber rights, and mineral rights are handled on public lands is ridiculous. Timber is given away for nearly nothing, and I'd guess that BLM land is given away for mining for less than the cost of doing the paperwork. Corporate welfare is insidious, and the way we don't prioritize a large chunk of research and infrastructure spending but leave it up to the machinations of congressional and senatorial pork is insane. The amount of pork and fat in the defense industry is ridiculous - we spend more on our military than the rest of the world put together, and most of the really expensive weapons systems are pointless in a post-Soviet world, and many weren't of demonstrable use or function even beforehand (Reagan's star wars, anti-ballistic missile systems), but such things are essentially unkillable. Steve's point has been that we need more government debt in order to stimulate the economy. This is true, and the stuff I mentioned all acts as stimulus spending, helps support middle class and upper middle class jobs, keeps some manufacturing going in the US, and contributes to national security. Nonetheless, it is not a productive way to use money or manpower.

    We were finally doing something about the annual deficit when the voters decided they preferred to squander the surplus via Bush's tax breaks for everyone plus huge tax breaks for the rich rather than using Gore's lock box. Obama's Affordable Care act, while very far from ideal, represents another path to fighting the debt, if it can survive. Overall, however, the US has shown little stomach or ability for fixing the worst of the problems, whether times are good or bad.

    Although more government spending is desirable, the republicans have made this impossible. So if we cannot get past the political pressure built up by republican mischief, we could at least put the pressure to good use . The economy is sort of starting to stagger to a recovery, and may continue to improve despite the republicans� worst efforts. Since the R's have made everyone (except them) frantic about the national debt, this lemon of political nonsense could potentially be turned into lemonade by being used to justify hacking away at the military-industrial complex, corporate welfare, and recent R tax cuts for the wealthy. This will at least strip away the crap that wastes money and manpower, so that when the politics finally improve we will be able to afford to restart investing in education, medicine, research, commercial infrastructure, high-speed rail, automated highways, new energy sources, and so on, rather than being locked into spending all our revenue on servicing the national debt.

    Regarding letting the economy crash: attractive though it seems, it's a very bad idea. Primarily, defaulting will cause interest on the national debt to balloon unimaginably. The R's have long wanted to starve government to the point where it can't afford any social or discretionary spending. They have pursued this by wasting money, giving money to the rich, failing to collect money from the rich, and running up unpaid bills that get transformed into treasury notes that get paid off plus interest to the rich people that own them. If they can get the US to default, particularly in a way they can blame on the Democrats, this will exceed their wildest dreams, by cutting off new loans, forcing the US to pay much greater interest, soaking up huge amounts of money (and not incidentally eventually transferring a lot of national wealth to the holders of the debt), and forcing the government to cut down on social spending, which are all good things from their point of view. Forcing them to force the US into default is throwing them into the briar patch, helping them achieve their goals, while killing the rest of us.

  • TheBullyPulpitisaMyth on July 06, 2011 7:27 PM:

    I think all these comments about the bully pulpit are so hilarious and just shows how decrepit the left in this country has become. The left no longer sees itself as protesters but people watching a gladiator (the president) who they expect to do all the fighting for them, while they sit back and criticize. Thank God the freedom riders or the people of the civil rights movement continually cussed out LBJ, Kennedy and FDR..Oh wait, they didn't. They actually got off their butts and convinced the country Jim Crow was wrong, giving these presidents space to legislate what they wanted or I'd still be sitting in the back of the bus.

    Maybe people like zeitgeist should actually run for office, or participate in the Democratic party by doing some community organizing or writing their congresspeople or holding a protests to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan's life hard. But, that would be too much like work to actually help Obama be more of a leftist; we can all sit down and complain and feel satisfied with the purity of our position. So glad we have that magic negro in the White House to do it all.

  • Doug on July 06, 2011 9:42 PM:

    zeitgeist, your insistance on a "bully pulpit" that is only as effective as its use is rare is beyond me. The State of the Union speech tends to be well-watched, solely because it happens ONCE a year. Just how many millions of citizens gather around their radios evey Saturday to hear the President's weekly speech? Or do they wait for a recap?
    Sure, President Obama can request air time night after night to inform the public just how dire the consequences will be if the debt ceiling isn't raised. Should he do so, I trust all your assets are NOT in the Stock Market, because it will be the first to go under when the panic selling starts.
    Or, should he spend his time actually "naming names"; ie, Republican names, as several here would like that would immediately place his speech in the "political" vice "national" category and require someone to pay for it. So, tell me, how're the Democrats supposed to pay for political ads during an election if they've already spent their money making you feel better?
    This "smug prick" would like to know...

  • zeitgeist on July 06, 2011 9:56 PM:

    the panic selling will start soon whether Obama uses the tools at his disposal or not. there really are not many good choices here: the kidnappers are going to kill the hostage one way or another. either Obama gives them what they want and it kills the economy, or he doesn't and we default and it kills the economy. the only chance is to generate massive political force to convince them to let the hostage go. (by the way, which option would you choose? cave to the Republicans shifting demands? just allow the default without taking the fight to the public first?)

    i agree the power of presidential speech is inversely related to how often it is used (i'm not sure the Afghanistan draw-down announcement, which he'd discussed previously, needed to use prime time). but i think this issue is worth it - it is complex and the right has been able to drive the debate. it is one of the few tools for redirecting it. and Obama is a good enough orator that he doesn't get overexposed as quickly as soom others would.

    and I don't agree with the distinction you make between paid spots on this issue and paid spots on the election -- the Republicans are in partisan campaign mode 24/7/365. the economy is the key issue in the election. running spots on the debt ceiling is not cannibalizing campaign spending, it is campaign spending. if the economy tanks, all the saved up money for official campaign spots next fall wont matter one bit.