Friday, December 21, 2007

This Is The Capitulation Congress -- But All The More Reason The Right-Wing Rascals Must Be Thrown Out

By Manifesto Joe

As though they hadn't caved in on so many other things like SCHIP and the war budget, our Democratic Congress tucked tail and backed down yet again Wednesday, this time on the issue of adding $51 billion to the national debt by indexing the Alternative Minimum Tax with no deficit-proofing.

But even though it's been a discouraging year, it's important not to lose sight of this: What's needed is a 60-vote Senate majority, and a Democrat in the Oval Office. Hell, even a Republicrat might do, if the stiff would be willing to sign some key bills.

The House leadership initially talked tough about the AMT issue. Steny Hoyer called the Republican measure fiscally irresponsible, which it is. But I can understand what probably went on in closed-door sessions: If we go on fighting this, the reasoning would go, the Republicans will hit us with it over and over next year, and more than 20 million families are affected if we don't pass some kind of indexing.

But surely they understand what it looks like for the public to see congressional Dems running like whipped dogs, over and over. The leaders either aren't picking their battles wisely, or they just lack the stomach for a rumble. Maybe it's some of both.

Many of the major news outlets, including The New York Times, apparently didn't even bother to report the roll-call numbers. I finally found something on The Associated Press site. The vote was 352-64 once the Dems decided to cave. Democrats for: 157. Republicans: All 195 who were present voted for. I am happy to say that from my home state of Texas, Democrats Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Lloyd Doggett of Austin and Gene Green of Baytown voted no.

A major aggravation is that the Democrats weren't generally opposed to some kind of indexing. It's the way it is going to be done, with no compensatory action such as closing a loophole on offshore tax havens. And, the indexing probably goes further than it should. It's a little hard for me to get worked up about a household making between $100,000 and $200,000 a year -- that is an estimated 12 million of the filers -- facing a higher tax bill.

But the bigger long-term problem is that corporations and extremely wealthy individuals pay a fraction of the federal income tax they once paid. That is, when they pay anything at all. It hasn't been unusual for them, in recent decades, to get a complete pass. Upper-middle-class taxpayers have largely persisted in voting Republican, not realizing that they have made themselves one more group of ineffectual dupes blaming the wrong people for their difficulties.

Back to the congressional Democrats: What this year's "leaders" have reminded me of is a blast from the Republicans' past, Sen. William E. Borah of Idaho (1865-1940). Borah held one of Idaho's Senate seats from 1907 until his death. He was widely regarded as a "progressive" Republican back in the days when there was such an animal. And he was a thunderer, highly admired for his oratorical powers.

But there was a big chapter in the book on Borah that did not escape observers' attention. When a tough issue for progressivism came to the Senate floor, he would start out applying all his skills as a speechmaker for the cause. But as the fight went on, he would start bending to the GOP leadership's pressure. And often, in the end, he would capitulate and vote the conservative party line.

Our current Dems don't even have the rhetorical muscle of a William Borah, so it's easy to grow even more disgusted with them.

But progressives fighting among ourselves aren't going to change anything -- unless one subscribes to the idea that if misgovernment and economic mismanagement grow much worse, there will be general insurrection, eventually to good effect. I would like to see such suffering averted if it can be.

I concur with some other bloggers that it's time to focus the vast bulk of blame on the Republicans. This year they have been the most obstructionist congressional minority in recent memory. It may be that Democrats need different leaders, but we'd better stick with the same party. It's time to put those who have so egregiously misgoverned the republic in the crosshairs, and (figuratively, of course) send them out on platters. Elephant steaks, anyone?

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

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