by E.C. Fish on December 10, 2012

ERROR BALLOON: In response to the Obama administration’s highly detailed proposal in the fiscal bluff negotiations, which was presented November 30 by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the House Republican leadership on Monday presented their counter-offer in the form of a two-and-a-half-page letter to the president. It began with a flat-out denial that they actually lost the last election (to them, it was a “status quo election,” meaning a tie), ended with an exhortation from the Party of Bad Faith not to undermine their “good-faith efforts” in this “critical matter,” and offered no new thinking or detailed proposals in between. Instead, it spent a page criticizing the Obama proposal on political grounds, presented the existing House budget resolution (already rejected by the Senate, the administration, and the majority of voters in the November election) as their current plan, and cited year-old testimony by former Clinton chief of staff and Simpson-Bowles debacle co-perpetrator Erskine Bowles as the framework for what it dubbed “the Bowles plan.” Bowles dissociated himself from the effort that same day, stating, “While I’m flattered the Speaker would call something ‘the Bowles plan,’ the approach outlined in the letter Speaker Boehner sent to the president does not represent the Simpson-Bowles plan, nor is it the Bowles plan.”

Stripped of that crass attempt at branding — they consider their plan a “bipartisan framework” because it misrepresents the work and assumes without evidence the endorsement of a nominal Democrat — this represents nothing more than a bare reiteration of the Ryan budget ideas that Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, and more than a handful of congressional candidates lost on mere weeks ago, based on the premise that the election didn’t matter. The much-ballyhooed Republican acceptance of additional revenue here presents in truest colors as coming through “pro-growth tax reform” — the same closing of “special-interest loopholes and deductions” to be named later that would allow them to raise revenue while lowering tax rates. It’s no great surprise that they failed to offer any details on what such a package of loopholes and deductions would look like — mathematically speaking, there isn’t one, and figments of the imagination can be damn difficult to describe. All is conditional on Democratic acceptance of as much dismantling of the New Deal as the Republicans can get away with, and on the understanding that they get to do this all again by ransoming the upcoming debt-ceiling increase (a.k.a. “the full faith and credit of the United States of America”) for more items off the GOP wish list. None of it represents a particularly timely or appropriate response to current economic conditions.

As for bipartisanship, anyone still blinkered enough to think that this could all be resolved if they’d just sit down and hash it out and use their common sense to do the job we sent ’em there to do, gosh darn it, is invited to tell me in the comments section what constitutes the common ground between reality and fantasy. I will also suggest, as gently as I can, that in fact they are doing the job we sent them there to do — it’s just that we didn’t send a bunch of them, and the folks who did have a much different view of the general welfare than you and I.

By week’s end, Speaker Boehner was both huffily announcing “no progress” in negotiations and giving ground on a possible rate hike, with rumors of a possible uprising by members of his caucus hitting the whisper stage, and explicit calls for his ouster coming from the far right. None of this is likely to help his bargaining position.

FEARLESS 2016 PREDICTION #1: With travel plans to Iowa and New Hampshire already being closely scrutinized, the game of senseless, premature 2016 speculation has begun in earnest while most of us are still punchy from the last round. While a lot of it is solid crap, I thought it might be interesting to start with something that we can more or less sensibly assume about 2016 and see where it takes us. For example, while some atomization is inevitable over time given the retirement of their Fearless Leader, the Ron Paul wing of the Republican party — lately housed in state legislatures and state-level party positions — is unlikely to disappear completely, and by 2016 will certainly have to find someone to replace The Man Himself in their affections and on their ticket. And, despite his position as son and heir and his stated interest in a presidential run, that person is perishingly unlikely to be senator and 2012 Bono Award nominee Rand Paul (R-KY).

Dynastic succession, for one thing, isn’t exactly a libertarian concept. For another — as befits a nominee for an award we intend to give to the least astute member of Congress on an annual basis — Senator Paul is kind of dumb. This is something he amply proved again this week in remarks aimed at discrediting possible Kentucky Senate opponent Ashley Judd, whom he characterized as hating “our biggest industry, which is coal.” While it may be first in Senator Paul’s heart and high on his donor and to-do lists, it is actually the thirteenth largest industry in Kentucky. Whether he doesn’t know this or just doesn’t care is irrelevant; while either would be completely in keeping with his father’s legacy, neither makes him anything like a presentable candidate or speaks well of the likelihood of his “growing into the job.”

THIS WEEK IN TOO CUTE BY HALF: Those of you despairing that the year is drawing to a close with only one nominee for this year’s inaugural Bono award — a situation exacerbated by our policy of bestowing the award for mental impairment rather than mental illness — can take heart in a truly historic display of stupidity this week by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, where there must be something in the water). On the assumption that Democrats did not have enough votes to pass debt-ceiling legislation, McConnell moved for an up-or-down vote on just such a bill, hoping to lean back and watch the fun as Senate Democrats embarrassed themselves by either squelching or losing the vote. When Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced — in full confidence of passage by a united Democratic caucus — that the vote would take place, McConnell responded with a historically unique filibustering of his own bill. For his complete misreading of both his country and the body he serves in, we hereby nominate him for the 2012 Bono. Readers can vote in comments, with the winner announced December 30th in the last Wrap of the year.

“What just transpired deserves a word,” said an astonished Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and political satirist Veruca at the superlative Everlasting GOP Stoppers web site brilliantly coined the perfect one: filibusterbating. While I’ve always thought of McConnell as a bit of a two-handed wanker, the extent of the problem surprises even me.

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E. C. Fish is the editor and publisher of The Spleen.

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