Thursday, November 11, 2010


Thoughts about John Boehner as Speaker

The presumed accession of Representative John Boehner to the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives has stimulated me to think several things.  First, about Boehner himself, he comes across as a blowhard, spouting Republican orthodoxy.  There will be no tax increases on his watch.  Republicans will become paragons of virtue and thrift and save the Republic by trimming waste and unnecessary programs from the federal budget.

If you think only about what he says and about the dangerous situation this country is falling into, you may conclude that he is a complete jackass.  There is no way that any party, any administration, is going to save us from ultimate ruin simply by trimming waste and unnecessary programs.  The gap between services that the public demands and the revenue available to pay for these services is too great.  However, many Republicans, especially those who are political activists and vote in primary elections and raise money for election campaigns actually believe such nonsense.  It was the great and revered Saint Ronald Reagan that told them that. In spite of plenty of evidence to the contrary they still believe it.

I think that Mr. Boehner is a reasonable and intelligent man.  He must know that he is uttering nonsense.  Why?  He has a coalition, a political movement to lead.  If he is to continue as leader, he mustn't get too far away from the doctrine of his followers.  In his present position, or the position to which he aspires, he can not solve the nation's deficit problem.  He will need help.

David Stockman, St. Reagan's advisor on the budget, has laid out a program for the solution.  First, let the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of December.  Let them expire for everyone, including Mr. Obama's beloved middle class.  There still won't be enough money to pay all the bills.  Make some cuts in entitlements for everyone, even the rich.  Defense spending must be cut.  It is unrealistic to think that we can be perfectly and completely secure against foreign aggression if only we spend enough on fancy weapons and a great Defense department.  We live in a dangerous world and we have to accept some risk.  We must reform the practice of medicine so that our health care costs are reduced to a level closer to those of Canada and other developed countries.  We must stop coddling the rich by keeping the Reagan tax rates.  We should go back to the rates in effect during the Kennedy and Nixon administrations.  We should raise the age of retirement from 65 to, say, 68.  We should reduce subsidies to farmers.  I can go on and on with this list.  If there is pain, it must be shared by all, not just the retirees living on their meager Social Security benefit.  The rich, the wealthy corporation farmers, the bankers, the security speculators, the military-industrial comples, and all the rest must share in the pain.

Boehner can not accomplish this difficult task.  We need to help by insisting on getting wealthy contributors out of the business of financing elections.  It will probably take a constitutional amendment to limit the spending by candidates and their supporters to a level that allows their opposing candidates the same access to the public as that provided by their money.  Money equals talk and excess money drowns out the opposing opinion.

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