McConnell said it first: Congressional Republicans are extortionists.
The usual suspects are pretending to have their fee-fees hurt because Steny Hoyer compared the Republican debt-ceiling threats to hostage-taking. Two things to note here:
1. It was Mitch McConnell who originally made he comparison. The difference is that Hoyer disapproves of hostage-taking, while McConnell was bragging about it. As far as I can find, no wingnut complained about McConnell’s boast that the full faith and credit of the United States was “a hostage worth ransoming.”
2. If the GOP doesn’t want to be accused of extortionate tactics, perhaps it could consider not practicing extortion. And yes, I count threatening the nation’s credit and the national honor by forcing the federal government to default on obligations undertaken according to law as extortion. What do you call it?
Author: Mark Kleiman
Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out.
Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken)
When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist
Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993)
Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989)
View all posts by Mark Kleiman
40 thoughts on “Hoyer, McConnell, and hostage-taking”
Drowning the government in a bathtub.
Republicans are threatening America’s global financial strength and “centrists”, businesses, and the financial industry needs to start paying attention.
Republicans are traitors.
Could we please not adopt Ann Coulter’s approach to political discourse? And as for treason, it is explicitly defined in Article Three of a certain very famous document, and I think we should stick to that narrow definition when we use the term.
That’s only the definition of treason as a crime one can be convicted of. There are other dictionary definitions.
an inability to calculate risk/reward ratios?
There’s an inability to calculate because the Repubs rarely pay a political price for their shenanigans.
Wouldn’t the fact that Republicans rarely pay a political price suggest that they are actually skilled, efficient and successful at making political calculations that are beneficial for themselves (even if those choices are disastrous for the nation as a whole)? You know, a man from Mars looking at the “fiscal cliff” and “debt ceiling” negotiations would be forgiven in thinking that Republicans had swept into power, winning the White House and with hugely increased majorities in Congress. Obama has gotten slightly better but he still began by negotiating with himself to find an offer he thought Republicans would accept and then improved it at the first negotiating session.
Since then there have been nothing but leaks and trial balloons about what it might take to get the Republicans to sign on to a deal; what can Obama give them as sweeteners but not one word about Obama asking for concessions on Democratic priorities. Remember, Obama floated trial balloons on raising the Medicare age and cuts to Social Security—which he and future Democratic presidents will find difficult to take off the table—in return for exactly nothing from the Republicans except their agreement to a “fiscal cliff deal” embodying only Republican priorities and not even a future promise to renounce extortionate practices in the future.
You can laugh at them and call them stupid but unless the most rapid of the true-believer followers of Brother John Birch manage to force us off the fiscal cliff, the Republicans look like they’re going to do pretty well in terms of their priorities—certainly far, far better than one might have supposed simply by looking at the 2012 election returns. I call that pretty smart.
Wouldnâ€™t the fact that Republicans rarely pay a political price suggest that they are actually skilled, efficient and successful at making political calculations that are beneficial for themselves (even if those choices are disastrous for the nation as a whole)?
Four words describe America’s current political economy:
Repubs crazy, Dems incompetent.
Don’t forget the other two words that enable the four you mentioned:
I pretty much agree with Mark, but I believe in intellectual specialization. Atrios or Brad DeLong are far better R-bashers than Mark; Mark’s strength is policy analysis. Since these are the Intertubes, the switching barriers for us readers are very low.
Can’t we get back to taxes and drug policy and security theater and other good policy stuff? (I picked these three deliberately–the R’s may be the villains in taxes, but drug policy is a bipartisan mess and the security state is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Obama Administration.)
(Or maybe the Obama Administration is the wholly-owned subsidiary.)
Your scope is not wide enough. I’d assert the American Public is the wholly-owned subsidiary.
I’ll be happy to stop snarking at the GOP whenever they stop deserving it. But if we can’t solve the meta-problem of a lunatic-fringe faction with veto power, we can’t solve any of the real problems, either.
I don’t disagree with the thrust of this point, but I think it’s only fair to acknowledge that Steny did more than accuse Rs of generic hostage taking. He analogized to a parent taking his own child hostage and made somewhat extended comments about threatening to shoot children.
It’s not crazy for folks to feel like that was a bad choice of images for the moment in my opinion. Now, obvs the critics aren’t putting it quite that way . . .
Seems like a perfect image at the moment since it reminds the American people about the outsized responsibility the Republicans bear for the many recent massacres in this country and most especially the most recent massacre of schoolchildren and their teachers. Not at all inappropriate.
Steny Hoyer? Way too leaky a vessel for anyone’s hopes (anyone in the RBC, that is; h/t to Larry McMurtry/Augustus McRae).
Read something the other night that is truer now than when he said it 100 years ago:
Democrats and Republicans are wings on the same bird of prey.
â€“Eugene V. Debs
This will not end well.
What does the phrase ‘fee fee’ mean exactly? It certainly doesn’t seem to correspond to the 6 senses in the Urban Dictionary!
Feelings. But as a child would say it.
I agree with NickT that it is fiscal terrorism. It is clear that Republicans care far more about getting their way (regardless of whether their way is beneficial to the country) than they care about solving the crisis at hand. Lots of yammering about debt and deficit, without any acknowledgment of the source of the debt and deficit (hint: Congress already approved all those expenditures).
I think there is more to it, though. I think the Republicans want to retain the spotlight as “Very Important People” in a very egotistical way. They will draw this out to the bitter end (read: 2016) by creating faux crisis after faux crisis. After all, the fiscal cliff is a creature of their own creation that they could abolish without difficulty, if they chose to do so. But they pretend it is a real thing, that they have no choice in the matter, while in reality they are holding the entire country hostage to their demands, demands that are out of sync with what’s best for the country, to put it mildly.
It is clear they do not care if their actions bring our economy to its knees. They are so fixated on “sharing the pain” because that pain is their very goal, but pain only to those who can least survive it. How else to explain their demand that cuts be made to those receiving a pittance on Social Security to “balance” cuts made to multi-millionaires, as if there is any fiscal or moral equivalence whatsoever? It is a sick joke, that unfortunately, too many in this country have bought into.
The short version of the Republican demands is that the poor must be made to suffer, and they will not back down from that position even if it results in suffering for everyone else too. Yes, they are traitors.
Exactly. Remember Ryan’s “roadmap,” which the GOP House caucus overwhelmingly supported?
Trillions in tax cuts for the wealthy, paid for by cuts to Medicare, with some asterisks used to produce the claimed budget balance. Heavy asterisks.
Unfortunately, Obama has bought into it too (and now Pelosi apparently has too) by their support of shifting to the “Chained CPI” for calculation of Social Security benefits. This change is based on the claim that if steak is too expensive, a person will opt for something cheaper, thereby continuing to spend the same amount on food. And, while this may be a true statement, what happens when that person reaches the end of that chain of cheaper and cheaper and cheaper and at the end can’t even afford to buy bread? Chained CPI is merely a disingenuous scheme to cut benefits more and more over time, dishing out the severest cuts to the oldest of the old, who can least afford them.
I remain (perversely) amused by the lack of attention being paid to the other result of shifting to a Chained CPI and that is the “bracket creep” that will be dished out to taxpayers, effectively pushing them into higher tax brackets than would otherwise be the case. Gee, I wonder why this aspect of it is getting no attention, since I would guess that the taxpayers might be more upset over this if they saw that their ox is being gored (too). And clearly, by supporting this shift, Republicans themselves are supporting–GASP!–tax increases!
At the most basic level, it is just another battle in the class war, a war that is all too real and accelerating. When our leaders claim that cuts to those receiving less than $1,500/month are required in order to balance the budget, and in order to spare those making more than $20,000/month any cuts, it is obvious who matters in this country and who does not. Policy makers are so far removed from the realities of a person living on $1,500/month that they might as well live on another planet.
Holding the entire economy hostage in order to deal out cuts to the poorest among us qualifies as not just fiscal terrorism, but fiscal evil. It is beyond disgusting.
You realize that this whole line of argumentation has a couple basic premises which are NOT widely accepted?
1. Democrats are entitle to win, so any effort to defeat them is illegitimate.
2. Everybody agrees Democratic policies are best, so insisting on other policies is malign.
It is no less true that Democrats are obstructing the prefered Republican resolution to this conflict, than that Republicans are obstructing the prefered Democratic resolution. If we need an analogy here, the best one would be a game of chicken.
But I guess that’s inadmissible, as it doesn’t make you the automatic good guys.
And you wonder why people laugh at you, Brett. You really ought to be stuffed and mounted in the Strawman Museum For Failed Trolls.
In the first place, I don’t think Brett is a “troll”. He seems like a thoughtful and intelligent person who has gotten caught up in Libertarianism. Believe me, during my years on the Internet I’ve encountered some real trolls and Brett doesn’t remotely qualify, unless all members of the species Libertarian are definitionally trolls, which I’m beginning to think may be the case. (But, again, this has less to do with Brett as an individual than with the degree to which Libertarianism deserves to be treated as a serious political philosophy). I often comment at Kevin Drum’s site and several times he’s had posts attacking Ron Paul or on topics of interest to those people and we were invaded by very trollish commenters (many of whom would be and probably are) very much at home on Stormfront, which is certainly not the case with Brett. He’s simply a Libertarian seeking to defend the largely indefensible positions of his political philosophy. I think that’s why his responses often become progressively less coherent as the implications of his positions are explored.
Nevertheless, I would refer back to my earlier comments on this post in which I observed that Republicans were far more successful at getting what they want than many people here were willing to give them credit. Brett dominates and sets the parameters for nearly every comment thread he in which he participates with extreme conservative and/or Libertarian positions—which tends to shut down discussion of more liberal policies and moves the boundaries for the policy alternatives to be discussed here significantly to the right. People may laugh at Brett, but he’s still kind of driving the bus and there’s very few extreme left-wingers here to balance him and his policies out, so, as I’ve mentioned, we tend to focus more on the merits of Libertarianism and less on exploring how to organize to advocate for more liberal alternatives.
However, on the merits of this specific comment of Brett’s, I would just say that Brett’s ability to reason syllogistically wouldn’t get him a passing grade in Philosophy 101. His writing is practically the textbook example of the non sequitur.
Mitch, until Same Facts recognizes that Brett Bellmore is not remotely making a good faith effort to add to the discussion (and has, incidentally, been booted from a number of other blogs for trolling), the only sane response is to ridicule his trollery, rather than trying to come up with some unconvincing possible reason why Brett is the way he is i.e. an unregenerate hypocrite who just wants to drag things off-topic. Same Facts ought to be weeding its garden better and stopping this sort of trollery before it takes root.
Really? Here’s a link. Read through the entire comment section on that post, and the posts linked to by those who respond to Mr. Bellmore. Then get back to us.
Who won the election, Brett?
Oh, yea, it was Mitt von Rmoney, wasn’t it?
Who is playing obstruct-the-vote in the House and Senate?
Oh, yea, it was Pelosi and Reid who don’t want to have a vote, right?
Actually, neither party won “the” election. The Democrats won the presidential election and a majority in the Senate, the Republicans won the House election.
The reason why not raising the debt ceiling is lunacy would hold even if the Republicans had won the presidential election and/or the Senate. It’s the legislative equivalent of Lucy pulling the football away: Congress both tells the president to execute laws and not giving him the means to do that.
The Democrats had a majority of over half a million votes in the popular vote for the House, Katja. The GOP, despite gerrymandering everything in sight, still lost House seats. That’s not a victory by any sensible metric.
No, gerrymandering most likely was not the cause for the Republican win. They would have outperformed the popular vote without any gerrymandering (note that some Republican gerrymandering was also offset by Democratic gerrymandering). The primary reason why they won despite lagging slightly on the popular vote was the incumbency effect, i.e. the fact that voters favor incumbents, combined with their landslide victory in the 2010 election (which didn’t have a measurable gerrymandering effect for either side).
Sam Wang provides the gritty details, summarized concisely by Kevin Drum.
No, the Republicans did not win the popular vote, but we have a FPTP system, as Jonathan Zasloff pointed out a while ago (though, at that time, in favor of justifying Obama’s legitimacy in the hypothetical case of a popular/electoral vote split). Without a proportional system, it can always happen that a party garners a majority of the popular vote, but loses out in terms of seats. Note that we had that happen before, in the 1996 election. In fact, as soon as you have three parties in a FPTP system, you will routinely have parties winning a majority of seats with a minority of the popular vote (as in most UK elections for the past decades).
No, gerrymandering most likely was not the cause for the Republican win. They would have outperformed the popular vote without any gerrymandering (note that some Republican gerrymandering was also offset by Democratic gerrymandering). The primary reason why they won despite lagging slightly on the popular vote was the incumbency effect, i.e. the fact that voters favor incumbents, combined with their landslide victory in the 2010 election (which didn’t have a measurable gerrymandering effect).
Sam Wang provides the gritty details, as summarized concisely by Kevin Drum.
No, the Republicans did not win the popular vote, but since we have a FPTP system, this does not matter, as Jonathan Zasloff pointed out a while ago (though, at that time, in favor of justifying Obama’s legitimacy in the hypothetical case of a popular/electoral vote split). Without a proportional system, it can always happen that a party garners a majority of the popular vote, but loses out in terms of seats (e.g., in the 1874 UK general election, where Disraeli’s Conservatives had more than half the seats in the Commons, even though Gladstone’s Liberals had 52% of the vote). We had this before, too, in the 1996 House elections.
(Reposting with fewer links, because apparently my original post was eaten by the spam filter.)
You are also forgetting that Presidential elections generally (and the re-election campaign of an incumbent particularly) serve as national referenda on priorities. That they are a poor proxy for a real referendum is neither here nor there.
I initially included Nick’s point about the popular vote in the House elections, but edited it out for the sake of pithiness. In fact, the point is actually stronger: if precincts are reallocated to the House Districts as they existed in 2010, the GOP would be losing control of the House next week.
Unfortunately, we allow our politicians to shop for constituents rather than creating rational districts. As a result, the Republicans maintain control of the House.
You are absolutely correct that the refusal to raise the debt ceiling is lunacy, but I think Boehner, McConnell and Co like the triple bind they’ve put President Obama in with it.
seriously? that’s your argument? the republicans had offers from obama to toss the crown jewels of the new deal and the great society into the abyss in order to appeal to the republican party’s longstanding goal and thereby get them to agree to return the uppermost brackets to the rates we had during the 90s and that offer was turned down. indeed, if the republicans had taken them up on it they probably could have achieved another goal, limiting obama to a single term. paraphrasing john cole, reaching a compromise with the republican party is like trying to split the difference between an italian dinner and a meal of tire rims and anthrax.
are you sure you’re not a comic writer?
Are you talking about the debt ceiling?
I wasn’t aware there was a Republican proposal. What is it? To leave the ceiling where it is, force Obama to effectively issue line-item vetoes, and then impeach him for it if they don’t agree with his choices? Sorry, that’s a lousy proposal.
I think you are wrong that lots of people think Democratic policies are best. I certainly don’t. But I do think Republican policies, in general, are insane.
It is no less true that Democrats are obstructing the prefered Republican resolution to this conflict, than that Republicans are obstructing the prefered Democratic resolution.
Scenario: Husband and wife want to buy a new car, and are discussing how best to negotiate with the dealer.
W: Why don’t we offer him $X, based on what we know about what this kind of car usually sells for, and go elsewhere if he refuses?
H: Nah. Let’s take his kids hostage until he agrees to our price.
It is no less true that the wife is obstructing the husband’s preferred approach than that the husband is obstructing the wife’s suggestion.
No. The debt ceiling has nothing to do with either. It is not about any new policies.
Raising the debt ceiling would merely allow laws already passed to be implemented; these laws were supported by a Republican majority in Congress.
Both Dems and Repukes are Wall Street lickspittle. Capitalism is the tyranny of the financial elite, and must be destroyed root and branch. Expropriate the expropriators. All power to the Soviets.
This help any to balance B.B.?
Yes, much better. Thanks.
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