Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Elected Extortionists

GOP Speaker of the House John Banal

The House Republicans have outdone themselves.  Having taken the United States and the world to the brink of economic catastrophe in the debt ceiling crisis they created, and having made extortionist demands by threats of bodily harm against the nation and its institutions, House GOPers have now refused to pass the bill that continues the middle class tax cut and extends unemployment insurance, if only for two months.  This bill, which passed the Senate on an extremely rare bipartisan vote of 89-10, must pass the House or millions of Americans will see their paychecks decline starting January 1 (an average of $1000 a year, and for an income of $50,000, some $40 a week), while longterm unemployed will see their benefits end. This also withdraws millions of dollars from the economy and will increase unemployment.  Merry Christmas.  Happy New Year.

The most insidious element of this latest GOPer-created crisis is that if Speaker John Banal just allowed this bill to be voted on, it would most probably pass, because a majority of the House supports it.

This is the House version of the Senate system of extortion, which requires 60 votes rather than the simple majority of 51, because of their chronic misuse of the filibuster.  If the Senate GOPers hadn't used their form of extortion, this tax cut would have not only been extended for a year but broadened, so more Americans would see more of a tax cut, along with extending unemployment insurance.  It would all be paid for by a 3% surcharge on Americans making more than $1 million a year.  That bill passed the Senate with a majority.  But GOPers killed it by requiring a two-thirds vote to override their filibuster.

The filibuster and other such procedures seek to provide a minority with some check against excesses by the majority, but they are meant to be invoked rarely, not regularly.  Basically, legislation that passes by a majority vote is democracy.  Subverting this democracy to get your goodies is extortion.
The Senate GOPers succeeded in their extortion, by requiring that the tax surcharge for the very wealthy be dropped, and that an unrelated requirement be added to force President Obama to decide on the Keystone tar sands pipeline.  And that was simply to extend the tax cut and unemployment for 60 days.

That's not a big enough ransom for the House.  They want a long list of demands, including shortening unemployment benefits, means-testing and drug-testing, dropping some environmental regulations, etc.  So far the White House, the Democratic leadership in the Senate and House, and even Senate Republicans, are refusing to negotiate with these terrorists.

There is lots of talk in Washington about the fury of Senate GOPers directed at House GOPers, and about the hypocrisy of GOPers refusing to vote for a tax cut which they claim is what they want to be doing, as well as their specific hypocrisy in claiming to want to pass a year long extension when they've been publicly opposed to it.   But what no one is saying loudly enough is that congressional GOPers are subverting the Constitution, attempting to extort public officials, and undermining not only the economic recovery, the economy and the economic lives of millions of Americans, but the United States itself.    Merry Christmas.  Happy New Year.

President Obama in front of the counter that is counting down the days until the middle class tax cut expires.  At a press briefing on Tuesday he said: "I just got back from a ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, where we received the flag and the colors that our troops fought under in Iraq, and I met with some of the last men and women to return home from that war. And these Americans, and all Americans who serve, are the embodiment of courage and selflessness and patriotism, and when they fight together, and sometimes die together, they don’t know and they certainly don’t care who’s a Democrat and who’s a Republican and how somebody is doing in the polls and how this might play in the spin room. They work as a team, and they do their job. And they do it for something bigger than themselves."

"The people in this town need to learn something from them. We have more important things to worry about than politics right now. We have more important things to worry about than saving face, or figuring out internal caucus politics. We have people who are counting on us to make their lives just a little bit easier, to build an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded. And we owe it to them to come together right now and do the right thing."

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