Political Animal


September 04, 2011 8:00 AM The worst possible idea at the worst possible time

By Steve Benen

Unemployment is at 9.1%; the jobs report released Friday was awful; economic growth is anemic, and Americans are desperate for policymakers to take this crisis seriously. Yesterday, just 24 hours after we learned the economy didn’t generate any jobs at all in August, the Republican Party delivered a weekly address on the message the GOP wants the public to hear.

Republicans want President Barack Obama to demand a balanced budget amendment in his upcoming jobs speech to Congress.

“This would ensure spending cuts made today don’t easily disappear tomorrow,” said Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte in the GOP weekly address Saturday. “That doesn’t just mean a fiscal house in order; it also means more certainty for the private sector and a better environment for job creation.”

Oh my.

If anyone was looking for a reminder as to why dealing with congressional Republicans on economic policy is practically impossible, the party’s weekly address certainly offered one.

Keep in mind, a month ago, the House GOP leadership told its members that “the best thing they could do during the August recess” was to sell their constituents on the idea of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

This is just madness. Even if we put aside the fact that there are real problems that require immediate attention, and even if we ignore the proposal’s legislative prospects, the Republicans’ Balanced Budget Amendment is one of the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas. That congressional Republicans managed to create a BBA this year that was even worse than the previous version is a testament to their creativity, but it also reflects a degree of economic illiteracy that should disqualify them from any adult conversation on public policy.

What sensible policymakers should be doing is dismissing this “pathetic joke” of a proposal as quickly as possible.

That this is at the top of the priority list for congressional Republicans is a reminder of just how far gone they really are.

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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  • Mark-NC on September 04, 2011 8:04 AM:

    "What sensible policymakers should be doing is dismissing this “pathetic joke” of a proposal as quickly as possible."

    But they won't. Neither will the SCLP.

    And whats FAR WORSE - I'm now betting that the idiot in the White House will cave to this as well.

  • hells littlest angel on September 04, 2011 8:07 AM:

    It's silly for Republicans to be focused on the balanced budget amendment. Everyone know that in order to pass such an amendment, they must first pass one that restricts voting to white male property-owners. Priorities, right-wingers!

  • Ron Byers on September 04, 2011 8:11 AM:

    I am happy Republicans are demanding something be in the jobs program. What about Democrats, are we demanding anything, or are we just doing as we are told.

  • c u n d gulag on September 04, 2011 8:17 AM:

    I can see it, years from now, after the BBA has been passed, one spouse (heterosexual, of course) saying to the other one:
    "Gosh darn it!

    Honey, we can't afford to keep living like this!

    We need to run our family like our government. So, no credit cards, no home improvement loans, no car loans, and Junior and Missy will have to pay for their own college, because we can't let them get in debt with college loans! If it ain't in our pocket, the seat cushions, or in the bank, we can't buy it!!!"

    Cue frying pan in 3... 2... 1...

  • DAY on September 04, 2011 8:19 AM:

    The BBA is one of those things that sound like a good idea in the abstract, and appeal to simple minded folks who have no concept of what it actually involves- or what the consequences would be.

    Ditto a Flat Tax, a national sales tax, and abolishing the corporate income tax. (The latter works for me; since corporations are people, and I am a people, I wouldn't have to pay any tax. . .)

  • Domage on September 04, 2011 8:27 AM:

    Yep, Republicans are demanding a balanced budget amendment.

    So I can only assume that Obama's opening negotiating position will be to push for a balanced budget amendment and abolish both Social Security and Medicare in order to achieve that goal while keeping all the corporate tax breaks and eliminating the Estate Tax, the Capital Gains tax, and any levies whatever on hedge-fund managers' incomes.

  • delNorte on September 04, 2011 8:30 AM:

    Obama is supposed to deliver a speech on jobs, and I hope he sticks tightly to that topic.

    Don't let the Republicans write the speech for you, Mr President. It's time to hear your ideas, not theirs.

  • berttheclock on September 04, 2011 8:42 AM:

    Once again, I plead with you, Mr Benen, to write a thread about the power of ALEC (American Learning Exchange Council). At least, you directed us to a link by Ari Berman in the "Voting Rights Suppression" thread which mentioned, prominently, the work of ALEC in denying rights to vote. But, at their recent Annual Conference, which was their 38th, held in NOLA, this BBA was front and center in discussions. Guv Jindal of LA spoke, passionately, of the need for passing BBA. BTW, Dick Armey joined in, but, concentrated more on telling ALEC members to keep up the anti-union fight in Wisconsin. ALEC holds conferences across the nation to keep their bought and paid for state legislators informed on the Talking Points of the Koch brothers. Please, Steve, write a thread about this insidious group.

  • Snowbird42 on September 04, 2011 8:48 AM:

    If we could start with respect of our President and not let "idiot"describe him,we,d have a good start. Please take a look at all he has done in spite of these Reps.
    My Rep keeps sending me emails about the BBA so I knew this was coming. She wouldn't have any town halls either.
    I just don't see how we can win insulting our leader.

  • c4Logic on September 04, 2011 8:51 AM:

    The fact that there is ANY elected Republican sitting in a public office is evidence of a certain percentage of cretinous imbeciles who are willing to vote for brain dead zombies who act and speak as if they have been taken over by Alien Overlords from Tau Ceti. How else to explain the bizzarre interpretation of reality offered up by Republicans every time they open their mouths? How else to explain the fact that someone votes for them. Of course, the fact that they are destroying American in the process doesn't seem to trouble very many powerful people in the corridors of commerce, which is the 3rd mystery.

  • pol on September 04, 2011 8:54 AM:

    To continue, Snowbird, I'd like to add... Let's don't project what the President will say -- just because Republicans say it first.

  • Josef K on September 04, 2011 9:19 AM:

    Stupidity like this is what leads to riots in the streets and the local aristocracy executed en masse.

    We humans are such an idiotic, suicidal species.

  • Alli on September 04, 2011 12:19 PM:

    I think Obama should support it. And as soon as he does, the GOP will disown it. Then we'll never hear about the BBA again.

    problem solved.

  • bardgal on September 04, 2011 3:35 PM:


    @Mark-NC - That "idiot" has passed more progressive legislation than any POTUS in history, taken out Somali Pirates, Bin Laden, the new #1 & #2 AQ dudes, saved GM, averted Great Depression II, created 2.9 million jobs with the stimulus, started the Arab Spring, ended combat in Iraq, the list goes on. All in the face of record, well funded opposition who own the goddam media.

    If that qualifies as an "idiot", sign me up.

    A BBA is ridiculous, which anyone with a functioning brain stem would see, and if we had a functioning MEDIA NO ONE would be stupid enough to even mention it, since you can't legislate HURRICANES, EARTHQUAKES, TERROR ATTACKS, and WARS.

    This is purely about MONEY.

    Obama has pissed off pretty much ALL of BIG CORPS and is costing the Health Insurance Cartels, Finance, Banks, and PHARMA millions since he's outlawed their shady practices and legalized embezzlement by actually protecting PEOPLE with new regulations and laws..

    Too bad we have a media who can legally LIE.

  • davej on September 04, 2011 7:25 PM:

    Steve - This is far from economic illiteracy. It's a perfectly sound, well thought out economic policy. That is, if you are a party of corrupt scum bags and their mindless followers who see economic Armageddon as the ticket to the White House, and years of war, enrichment, crony capitalism, encroaching theocracy, voter disenfranchisement and finally, the permanent repub reich, I mean majority. If unemployment greater than 6% is one of the key determinants of reelection, then a BBA makes perfect sense if you're a repub.

  • Jim213 on September 04, 2011 8:46 PM:

    What they need to do is raise interest rates lay-off 30% of federal and state workers !!! That will set the stage for a much smaller government

  • toowearyforoutrage on September 04, 2011 10:19 PM:

    The BBA is a symptom of the GOP's utter lack of foresight.

    I see bumper stickers that say "Impeach Obama!". I always want to scream at them, "Right on, man! President Biden would be AWESOME!" Republicans don't think to step 2.

    A BBA means we can't borrow money. That means one of two things. I'm sure the GOP thinks it puts the last nails in the coffin of Maynard Keynes and that deflationary spirals will anoint those with the most cash today's demi-gods.

    What they DON'T foresee at all is how a country under BBA executes Keynesian stimulus: confiscatory taxation policy that would make Mao nod with approval. When 1% of the country owns everything and the lowest 10% starve in the streets, do they feel the 89% in the middle will protect them from the proletariat army that outnumbers them 10:1?

    Or is it more likely the 89% will agree to "soak the rich"?

    BBA is plausibly a recipe for the return of 1950's era tax rates.

    Unless they impeach Obama. Then everything will be fine, I'm sure.

  • GreenInCA on September 06, 2011 3:31 PM:

    I beg to differ with BardGal.  Obama and the Republicans are playing the old "good cop/bad cop" game in behalf of the moneyed interests.  ObamaCare is a handout to Big Pharma and the health-insurance industry.  Whatever became of the public option?

    As for regulations, look what just happened to the proposed EPA tightening of rules on ozone emissions.  That was not forced by the right-wing media, the Tea Party or any other Republican looney bin; it is all Obama's dirty work, and dirty it is.  Note that the regs he killed would have forced the energy industry to create American jobs retrofitting better stack cleaners onto their polluting plants.  Now "green jobs" seem to have gone the way of carbon emissions controls.  Gotta keep those corporate campaign contributions flowing, regardless of how many kids get emphysema downwind of power plants.

    Obama won't propose a BBA, but he will propose a feeble "bipartisan compromise" which would appear idiotic if the GOP's insane BBA weren't on the table to remind us how much worse things could get.  Good cop/bad cop, like I said.