By: Thomas J. Basile
Originally Appeared in Forbes.
Well, they did it. After weeks of political gamesmanship manifested by lame press conferences, thinly veiled threats and meaningless rhetoric, the Congress has passed a bill to ostensibly avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.” When I say avoid the “fiscal cliff,” I mean in so far as this particular political shell game which has fueled hyperbolic, newspaper, cable news and conservative talk radio coverage for more than a month. Of course, the real fiscal crisis remains with us and now that the GOP has capitulated to most of the White House’s demands they have just one more chance to sell real reform to the American people. They better start quick.
True, had there been no agreement, the Republicans would have borne the brunt of the blame for tax increases on an already struggling middle class. The compromise was purely political self-preservation. It was inevitable and it didn’t address the real problem.
The White House never expected to get their tax hike at the $250,000 level. The President came in low and gave himself plenty of breathing room to adjust. The class warfare rhetoric which has been the hallmark of the Obama Presidency was too powerful for the clumsy GOP leadership to overcome, making the pointless tax increases on the 1% a virtual certainty. The compromise adds more than $3 trillion to the deficit, increases rather than cuts the size of government, and still fails to prevent tax hikes for the vast majority of Americans in one way or another.
This fiasco has all been about what I’ve dubbed “Press Release Politics” or PRP. It’s a disease that pervades a Washington or anywhere there is a dearth of political courage. PRP is a simple strategy: do something so you can tell constituents that you did something and hope they don’t realize or understand that you actually did nothing. Progressives are great at this when they throw big money at problems, create programs and commissions. Allegedly fiscally-conservative members of Congress have also been perfecting their PRP skills for years.
For example: Congress proposes a bill raising taxes on the wealthy by billions and cutting government spending by a trillion all in the name of reducing the deficit, then hoping that people don’t realize the cuts are meaningless because they’re spread out over 10 years. The bill includes massive new spending, plus the taxes could pay down only a small portion of the deficit while risking adverse economic impacts. Sound familiar?
This “fiscal cliff” fight may be ending but a new one is beginning over the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling that was reached over the weekend. In February, Congress will take up arms again purportedly to avoid another fiscal calamity. Most observers agree that the GOP will have more leverage in that fight to push through the spending cuts that were missing in the New Year’s deal. But time is short. Without the specter of an election hanging over Congress, these next few months may be the last chance for the GOP to regain some credibility and fight for real reform.
The GOP needs a discernible, salable plan not for Harry Reid or the President but for the American people. They need to start hitting singles and doubles and getting on base. It’s the only way for them to stay in a game they are presently losing badly.
Progressives believe that when people earn money, government should decide how much of those earnings they are allowed to keep. Conservatives believe that when people earn money they should decide how much government should be allowed to have. This is a key distinction between the two competing forces in American politics. Unfortunately for too long, both parties have adopted the Progressive view of the relationship between government and the taxpayer. The latest fiscal cliff deal is evidence of that. This generation of Republican leadership has one last chance to reframe the debate about the size, scope and impact of government.
That campaign needs to begin today. The Democrats are ready to accuse Republicans of slashing and burning every entitlement program and agency. So be it. The GOP must be ready to respond with town halls in every Congressional district, with television advertising, targeted mail, roundtable discussions, conferences and a robust digital strategy including social media to educate Americans about the need for reducing the size and burden of government on all of us.
To Continue Reading: http://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbasile/2013/01/03/the-republicans-have-one-last-chance-to-define-the-role-of-government/