David Brooks Rewrites Republican Obstruction on Payroll Tax Holiday Extension
From this Friday's PBS Newshour, David Brooks with a bit of revisionist history on what happened over the last year that led to the House Republicans eventually caving and passing the two month extension on the payroll tax bill that was passed overwhelmingly by the Senate.
Brooks conveniently forgot to mention that the only "stand on principle" we saw from Republicans is that they're not willing to raise taxes on the rich... ever, no matter who else suffers. Brooks also wants the PBS audience to believe that Republicans are actually concerned about preserving Social Security, when their party has been intent on either destroying it or privatizing it since the day it was enacted. They absolutely hate every social safety net we've got in this country and would like to see all of them destroyed and are to this day still using the politics of divide and conquer with the working class, demonizing "the welfare state" and trying to characterize the unemployed as lazy.
Brian Beutler did a nice summary of what actually happened over at TPM which you can read here -- How The Payroll Tax Fight Descended Into Chaos. Give that a read for a review and then take a look at Brooks' claptrap below the fold.
To his credit, Mark Shields who typically doesn't do a very good job at pushing back at Brooks' talking points at all, did do a good job of pointing out the hypocrisy by Republicans who never showed an iota of concern for how the Bush tax cuts or the invasion of Iraq were going to be paid for, but now they're demanding that any help for the working class or the unemployed is paid for because they suddenly found religion on budget deficits.
Transcript via PBS below the fold.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So,the standoff over the payroll tax cut, David, finally, yesterday, the Republicans gave in. Were they outmaneuvered? What happened here?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think they didn't understand politics.
I sort of sympathize with them in principle. We have got a number of national pastimes, baseball, motherhood, apple pie and raiding Social Security to pay for our own spending.
DAVID BROOKS: And that is what we decided to do, in part for stimulus.
And, in the Senate, they reached sort of a rushed temporary compromise on how to raid Social Security to pay for some stimulative spending. But it would only do it for two months. In the House, the Republicans said there's something squalid going on here. And they began to reject the idea.
Some of them rejected the idea of raiding it entirely, some of them just the two-month extension. They wanted the full year. Why do this two-month thing? And so they rebelled. They rebelled against their own speaker. They rebelled against the Senate.
But the country wanted the tax cuts. And sometimes, in politics, you don't get to choose what you want. There are other people in town. And so they tried to make a stand on principle without actually having a principle. And they basically got rolled. In politics, often you don't have a good option. You have six really squalid options, and you choose the least bad one.
And so this is their education that sometimes the circumstances are such just go with the least bad and get it over with. And maybe that will be the education for them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, how much damage has this done to the Republicans, or has it?
MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I will just add on that I think that the Republicans made a reactionary mistake, Judy, that there was -- in the Republican House caucus, there should have been - David's right.
They should have understood once House -- Senate -- Republican and Senate Democrats had overwhelmingly supported, Democrats in the House supported the two months, the president supported it, that they were outvoted. But I think there is in the Republican Caucus in the House, in the Congress, and in the party nationally, there is an anti-Obama reaction.
And if the president is for something -- if the president endorsed the Ten Commandments, they would say, can we cut it to seven? There really is sort of that reaction. And I think that was part of -- it was driven in part by ideology as well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So you're saying it was personal.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, the same party that will fight tooth and toenail to preserve $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that George Bush wrote into law that benefit the most wealthy among us, without ever wondering how they should be funded or financed, that never wondered how the Iraq war should be funded or financed, all of a sudden become punctilious and almost green eyeshade accountants and bookkeepers when it comes to funding this.
I agree with David that it's a very, very questionable public policy to take the revenue stream that is dedicated to Social Security...
JUDY WOODRUFF: For Social Security.
MARK SHIELDS: ... and to use it. And we have done it. This is not the first time it's been done. But it should not be done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So you're both saying that's a mistake, the whole premise behind this, whether it's two months or a year.
DAVID BROOKS: I think it's of dubious stimulative effect. And we are going to have to pay it. It's not like it's free money. We will have to pay it.
The ideological or the intellectual defense of what the Republicans were objecting to is that a permanent tax cut has long-term really economic effects. A temporary tax cut, nobody really changes their behavior. You don't hire people because of a two-month benefit. And so that's the intellectual thing. I agree there's also a large personal element involved.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, if it such a bad idea to take this money out of the Social Security fund, if you -- I don't know. Do you feel it stimulates the economy?
MARK SHIELDS: I do think it's the only federal stimulus that Republicans will vote for is this tax cut. So I can understand putting money into people's pockets in hopes that we will stimulate, we will spend.
I can understand certainly the economic theory behind it. And I think it's more than plausible.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So does it -- excuse me. Go ahead.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, no, so I think in that sense, you can make a case for it.
But it isn't like there's three other policies that the Republicans would back. The Republicans would back this. And I don't think anybody thought it was going to be for two months. The Republicans found themselves arguing process, Judy. It was terrible.
They were saying, what is the problem here is, we don't have regular order. Now they're appointing conferees. People's eyes are glazing over. And the Democrats have the wall poster argument to say, we're for preserving tax cuts.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, how much are the Democrats helped by this?
DAVID BROOKS: I think a little.
If we weren't talking about this, we would talking about how much the Democrats gave in to the Republicans. And they actually did give in a bunch of stuff.
DAVID BROOKS: And, instead, we are talking about, why are these guys so wild-eyed and crazy? Why they can't run an organization?
And so it helps. I don't think it's a huge story. I think most of the country is tuned out. We have had a whole series of budget fights. This is just another. People who care about politics mostly are focused on the presidential race. So I don't think it's a huge story.
Nonetheless, if you take a look at the polling, who do you trust on tax policy, the Republicans recently and historically have this huge advantage. That advantage is right now gone. And this must play a role in that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So...
MARK SHIELDS: David is absolutely right.
And I think it helps the president in this sense, that the reality is people look at Washington and they see hyper-partisanship, they see rancor, they see dysfunction, malfunction, however you want to put it. And I think it does two things. It makes the president look like the one grownup in the entire melodrama.
And, secondly, it hurts. It hurts Newt Gingrich, because it reminds people of what it was like when we were impeaching a president, closing down a government and stalking off Air Force One. I think, in a strange way, the only way you can account for Newt Gingrich's slipping nationally is not that commercials are being used against him in Iowa, because nobody is seeing them outside of Des Moines, Waterloo, Dubuque and Sioux City.
But I think there is a sense, do we really want to go back to those times? And this is a reminder of it.
DAVID BROOKS: The irony is that the Newt Gingrich-Bill Clinton relationship was a model of comity compared to what we have right now.
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