Monday, November 28, 2011

Tripping on Tryptophan

Charles Krauthammer can be forgiven for producing one of his laziest, most intellectually dishonest pieces of the season on Friday, November 25th.  After all, it was the day after Thanksgiving, and he was probably still under the influence of the legal drug, tryptophan.  He must have slept through the editing process, but in fairness, aren’t we all a little tired the day after the Big Feast?

Charlie spend 739 words explaining to his glassy-eyed Black Friday readership that Grover Norquist, inventor or the No New Tax pledge that has defined GOP orthodoxy for well over a decade now, isn’t really that important.  Pay no attention, citizens, and go back to sleep.  The only Grover of note is starring in the new Muppets movie, not holding lawmakers hostage with his strict pledge.  Unfortunately for Charlie, I pay attention, and his arguments throughout the op-ed are filled with as much fantasy and whimsy as a full length feature film of life-sized puppets.

Krauthammer begins by downplaying Norquist’s actual, documented significance to GOP policy with his dismissive line that Norquist in Democratic circles “replaces the Koch brothers as the great malevolent manipulator that controls the republic by pulling unseen strings on behalf of the plutocracy.”  Cute...except the strings Norquist pulls are not “unseen”.  277 active Republican members of Congress have signed his No New Taxes pledge (along with a handful of Democrats).  That’s pretty visible.  His influence is not a matter of liberal conspiracy theory.  It is a matter of public record.

·         He goes on to lists the facts that support his theory that Norquist is not a factor in GOP thinking.  He mentions that Rep. Tom Coburn supported some tax increases (by supporting Simpson-Bowles).  That’s one Republican, and once he announced that support, he was immediately chastised in the pages of the conservative National Review and across the right-wing blogosphere.  One member of the GOP out of 277 does not represent a trend.  By the way, he has announced that he will not seek reelection.  Some bravery. 
·         Next, Charlie trots out Speaker Boehner’s support of revenue increase during his grand bargain discussions with President Obama.  If you recall during the debt ceiling debate, it was leaked that Boehner was offering $800 billion in additional revenue in exchange for trillions in spending cuts (about a 4:1 ratio of cuts to revenue increases).  What Charlie forgot to mention in his post-turkey banquet haze was that this deal was shouted down by Boehner’s caucus.  Boehner was forced to walk away from that offer because he had no support in the House for any tax increases.  Why?  Perhaps because there was that pesky pledge. 
·         Finally, he tells the sleepy readers that Supercommittee member Pat Toomey graciously offered to raise $300 billion in revenue in exchange for massive cuts to entitlements that primarily benefit the poor.  See how Toomey isn’t beholden to Norquist?  He offered to raise taxes!  I am not sure why Krauthammer left off the minor detail that Toomey offered to increase taxes by $300 billion, but only if the Bush tax cuts were made permanent across the board – a tax break of $3.7 trillion over 10 years.  I know that an extra helping of gravy and stuffing clouds mental acuity, but even through the fog, I recognize that a positive revenue of $300 billion in exchange for a negative revenue of $3.7 trillion is not a tax increase.  It’s a huge cut that carries the disadvantage of increasing the deficit, something the Right pretends to care about.

Krauthammer neglects to mention it, but does he think we forgot that a tax loophole for oil companies, that both Democrats and Republicans saw as no longer necessary, was allowed to remain in place because Grover Norquist publicly stated that closing this unnecessary loophole equated to a tax increase, and would not be ‘sanctioned’ under his pledge?  That’s not “unseen” influence, Charlie.  That’s “seen” and heard, loud and clear.

Krauthammer rambles on with grandiose statements of conservative ideology, citing no study, no research, no factual basis for any of his claims, except I suppose his own “unseen” expertise in matters of economics.  Methinks the Job Creators might be “the great malevolent manipulator that controls the republic by pulling unseen strings on behalf of the plutocracy”, but that’s just me.

He further diminishes himself by parroting a ridiculous right wing talking point that Obama was AWOL from the Supercommittee deliberations.  Once again, Charlie reaches a conclusion without any context and with a deliberate omission of facts.  Obama was specifically and publicly asked not to inject himself into the Supercommittee debate process so as to not unduly politicize its functioning.  He was asked to remain outside of these discussions by both the Republican and Democratic members.  Apparently, in Krauthammer’s world view, Obama should have politicized the process, been involved while the GOP refused to negotiate in good faith, and then said thank you while the GOP pinned the failure to reach consensus around his neck.  Sorry, Barry didn’t fall for this trick, at least this time.

He ends his piece with a dare to the Democrats to actually do something about debt.  OK, how about passing tax cuts that are paid for (which the GOP didn’t do)?  How about paying for a war of choice as you go instead of putting it on the national credit card for our kids to handle?  How about deciding how to pay for a new Medicare entitlement before signing it into law?  How about supporting the Affordable Care Act that reduces the national debt (according to the CBO scoring demanded by the GOP before final passage)?  How about explaining why the Bush tax cut for the top 1% “pays for itself”?

Next time you get the urge to write after a big meal, Charlie, just grab your Snuggie, curl up and watch some football.  Come back to political writing once the narcotic effects of your Thanksgiving meal have subsided.  

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