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Third Parties, Third Ways, the Tea Party, and the GOP

From RedState:

This morning I wrote, “If the Republican Party will not aggressively fight for real cuts and real reform in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, if at all, it very much will be time for a third party in this country.”

The level of hand wringing and disgust from some was predictable. From others, it was downright humorous, if not a bit annoying. For seven years now I have written that third parties are not the way to shift this country. In fact, there is a whole chapter in my book about how third parties are not the answer.

So, I’m advocating a third party and not advocating a third party? It presents a WTF moment and I don’t mean “winning the future.”

Jim Pethokoukis, who is one of my must reads every day, I think probably got the point in this tweet.

From my book:

Remember that 300 Spartans held off the Persian Army. Small numbers compared to the thousands of well armed Persians. Small numbers working well together can be powerful numbers. It just takes some dedication.

Because of ballot access laws in the several states, it is virtually impossible to organize and operate a third party. Look at the Libertarians. They have been around for years and have zero nationally elected politicians and very, very few at the local level. Same with the Greens. And remember 1992? The Reform Party stormed onto the scene only to rain out.

If we are to fundamentally change this country, we will do so through the existing party apparatus. And it is damn easy if you work at it with some friends.

That’s one reason the tea party became so prominent in 2010. It worked as a third party within the existing party apparatus. It did not succumb to the charms of the establishment. It sought to slay the establishment and in many places it worked.

Unfortunately, since the election, we’ve seen a collapse of the national tea party movement, which has become much more fixated on lawsuits and fundraising, and local tea party activists have become very focused on local matters.

If the GOP will not stand and fight on the issue of the debt ceiling and reform, the tea party is going to have to become resurgent in a way we have not seen since the height of the Obamacare debate. During that debate, however, the energy was focused on Democrats. Now that energy must be brought to bear against Republicans, many of whom are even now plotting tax increases and insignificant cuts and structuring of the federal government.

The base needs to work now, within the party, to force the establishment to pay attention. The energy to create a third party and make it viable would distract from the present fight. Instead, the tea party movement needs to act like a third party within the GOP — separate itself from those presently in power if they are not true friends of the tea party movement and then seek to beat them from within.

Along the way, the tea party movement ought to start examining the laws of the several states and see which of them will allow nominations by party convention instead of primaries. Find those states — Georgia is a good example — and start working to force conventions. Then do in those states what happened in Utah to Bob Bennett.

If the Republican Party does not perceive and understand that it is under threat from within by its own base, it will continue surrendering when it should be fighting.

The Compromise

From RedState:

Friday night the Republicans and Democrats reached a deal to avoid a government shutdown. The Republicans had promised $100 billion in cuts. They back pedaled to $61 billion in cuts. They have actually agreed to $38.5 billion in cuts, or about four days worth of spending by the federal government.

Many of the conservatives who booed them for going from $100 billion to $61 billion are now ready to dip John Boehner in bronze and champion him as the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

The most depressing bit of all of this is how quickly conservative pundits who promised they were to going to throw off the shackles of fidelity to the Republican Party after Bush and become again true conservative warriors for freedom have descended, automaton like, into guttural cheerleading for a Republican Party that just went from $100 billion in promised cuts to a third of that in actual cuts while selling out the unborn for roughly $1000 per murdered child assuming reports are true that they got the Democrats to increase cuts $1 billion in exchange for dropping the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

God knows if there is one lesson for the Republican leaders in this, it is that they can promise the moon, deliver dirt, and the sycophantic conservative media will pop fireworks, fly American flags, and proclaim that dirt the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Read the rest at RedState.

GOP going after AARP?

From Hot Air:

The era of transparency has been taking some tricky twists and turns lately, and not all of the focus has been on the federal government. Unions, public broadcasting and others have come under scrutiny. The next subject of investigation, if certain Republicans have their way at least, will be AARP.

House Republican tax-writers want the IRS to investigate whether AARP should lose its tax-exempt status.

In a letter sent to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman Friday, Reps. Wally Herger (R-Calif.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Charles Boustany (R-La.) say a recent congressional probe “gave rise to a number of serious concerns regarding AARP’s organizational structure and activities, and it raised questions about whether AARP continues to qualify as a tax-exempt organization under Internal Revenue Service Code (IRC) 501(c)4.”

A 40-page report recently released by the trio of lawmakers accuses AARP of refusing to provide information about its practices.

We can either dance around what we’re supposed to say when politicians get up to activities such as this or we can refuse to pull any punches and just tell it like it is. On the surface, every organization in the nation has to follow the existing rules regarding taxation. If you find tax exempt groups skirting those regulations they need to be brought into line or have their status changed.

But that’s not what’s really going on here, is it?

AARP is huge, with nearly 36 million members, and they’ve been around for so long they’re practically an institution. (Full disclosure: Yes, I’m a member. Yes, I think they provide some terrific services and programs.) And they’re operating pretty much as they always have. But a number of prominent Republican leaders are still upset that AARP supported Obamacare. And it’s been made clear already that AARP isn’t going to sign on for any major cuts or restructuring in Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security if seniors view it as endangering the benefits they receive or those still to come to their grandchildren. So now the GOP is considering taking the whip to them.

AARP is probably a lot more leery of playing ball on any entitlement changes this year. The last time they endorsed a move to make changes to one of the programs nearly 50,000 of their members quit in protest and they were left to deal with the backlash. It’s not just a “third rail” for politicians.

This is one tactic which the Republicans should look long and hard at before moving forward. If they wish to ride the white stallion of purity and say they simply want all non-profits to follow the law, then fine. It’s a noble sentiment, but they had better be ready to pay the price. Politically it looks like a suicide play. In case the leadership needs reminding, seniors vote at a more consistent rate than any other age group, and they are also the demographic group most likely to skew conservative and vote Republican. And for the most part, they like AARP.

A Republican attack on AARP for blatantly obvious partisan, political reasons could blow up in their faces. And doing this would probably just open the door for their opponents to begin calling for similar “purity driven” investigations of other non-profit groups who Republicans might not be so excited to go after, such as the Chamber of Commerce. Oh, wait… it’s already happening.

When Will the Real Fight Finally Commence?

From RedState:

Over the weekend, Speaker John Boehner showed that he is even more conservative than the Tea Party.  While the petulant rubes in the Tea Party were credulously focusing on the ’small potatoes’ of the 2011 budget, Boehner wisely decided to proceed to the real fight; the debt ceiling and the FY 2012 budget.  In the process, he even secured $38 billion, or 1%, in cuts from this year’s budget, along with the funding for a D.C. voucher program.

In addition to being an intrepid conservative and a tenacious negotiator, Boehner is also a skilled mathematician.  He knew from the very beginning that 38 billion is more than half way between 0 and 61 billion.  Game over, Democrats lose!  Even though half of the alleged cuts might comprise of Democrat cuts in mandatory spending, and another $10 billion might include the previous CR cuts, those are just minor points.

At this point, you may ask, what happened to those pesky little riders, like defunding Obamacare and EPA regulations; those little things that will cost the taxpayer, consumer, businesses, and healthcare providers trillions – if not billions – in expenditures over the next decade?  You might wonder, what happened to the defunding of Planned Parenthood, preventing our tax money from killing babies?  You might be perplexed concerning the absence of the NPR rider, preventing our tax money from servicing Democrats’ public relations effort.

Fear not, simpletons.  This is where Boehner really beguiled Reid and the Democrats.  He forced Reid to bring two of four riders – Obamacare and Planned Parenthood – to an actual vote on the Democrat-controlled Senate floor!  Besides, Boehner is presciently saving his firepower for the real battle, the debt ceiling fight.

Read the rest at RedState.

Rep. Ryan on ‘Grave Danger’: Spending Crisis Still Looms

From The Blaze:

Hello. I’m Congressman Paul Ryan from Janesville, Wisconsin – and Chairman here at the House Budget Committee. It’s no secret our government has a spending problem –- and the problem has gotten so bad it’s threatening our future and hurting our nation’s ability to create jobs.

Republicans made a pledge that we would work to change this if given the opportunity to lead. Since January, we’ve been urging President Obama to listen to the people and work with us to reduce spending. The president started this year by proposing a freeze that would make no cuts at all.

But now bipartisan legislation is in sight to enact the largest spending cut in American history.

Full transcript here.

Who Won the Shutdown Showdown? It Wasn’t Even Close

From Fox News:

by Carl Cameron | April 09, 2011

While Republicans wanted to cut more spending in Saturday’s early morning compromise to keep the government open, they think they got the better of the deal.

Here’s why: HR1 was originally to seek spending cuts of $32 billion until Tea Party conservatives insisted on more than $ 60 billion. House Speaker John Boehner won more cuts than he originally sought and got the Senate to agree to votes to defund the health care reform law and groups like the nation’s largest abortion provider Planned Parenthood – once votes Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said he’d never allow to come to the floor.Back on February 3, Reid called $32 billion in cuts “extreme” and “draconian.”

At a news conference New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., agreed, “I happen to think some of their cuts are extreme and go overboard. But every week they keep upping the ante and proposing extreme cuts.”

Over the next decade the cuts are expected to save hundreds of billions of dollars.

The deal mandates a host of studies and audits of Obama administration policies. It also blocks additional funds for the IRS sought by the Obama administration and bans federal funding of abortion in Washington, D.C.

The history of offers on this bill goes something like this. Democrats first offered no cuts, then $4 billion, then $6.5 billion, then $33 billion, then settled at $38.5 billion.

Boehner made numerous adjustments to his offer in recent days too, but started at $32 billion, then with a Tea Party push went to $62 billion, then dropped to $40 billion, then $38.5 billion.

Democrats claimed they met Republicans halfway after the $10 billion in cuts that already passed this year were approved. They settled late Friday night at three and a half times more.

Boehner came in $8.5 billion higher than the halfway point between his high offer of $61 billion in cuts and the Democrats opening bid of zero cuts.

It was not a totally lopsided bargain. Dems have some silver linings. There were no votes on defunding the EPA or PBS and NPR. Democrats fought for and won a $2 billion cut from the Department of Defense, knocking the military appropriation for the rest of the year down to $513 billion.

But the GOP had to be able to see this as a win in the end, because it is puny compared to what they want to do next.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget resolution proposes cuts of $5 TRILLION in the next 10 yrs.

But the resolution is a non-binding roadmap for the committees to use as they approve tax and spending bills for next year, the resolution will never be signed into law by the president.

The next battle with consequences begins in a matter of two short weeks when the accumulated U.S. debt will be nearing it’s $14 trillion legal limit.  So Congress will have to vote to raise the ceiling so Uncle Sam can borrow still more money.

The administration has said it will need to be raised between April 15 and May 31 or the U.S. could default and create a new fiscal crisis of unknowable magnitude. Fiscal hawks plan to demand strict, enforceable spending caps, triggers for across the board cuts, and austerity measures in exchange for raising the debt limit.

This short-term agreement was just a beginning.

Not a Big Enough Fight

From RedState:

Posted by Rep. Michele Bachmann

Since Republicans took the House majority in January I have been calling for our leadership to fight. We must answer the bell that was rung last November when the American people called us to fight for deep cuts in spending, for the full repeal of ObamaCare, for an end to taxpayer funding of abortion, and for a government that will live within its Constitutional boundaries. Those would be the kind of large-scale fights that could change the arc of history. Unfortunately, the fight that’s happening today in Washington is not even close to being on the same scale.

Our federal government spent $3.5 trillion last year, and is on a similar pace this year. On average, our spending adds about $30 billion to the deficit every week. Yet Washington is now embroiled in a pitched battle – that could lead to a government slowdown – over possible spending cuts of just $40 billion. Even the best case scenario would be cuts of $61 billion.


Don’t get me wrong, cuts in spending are a move in the right direction. House Republicans have brought about a change from the spending binge of the last two years. But it’s time to face the facts. This is the “small ball” battle that House leadership has chosen to engage. The current battle has devolved to an agenda that is almost too limited to warrant the kind of fighting that we’re now seeing in Washington.

Democrats only want to cut $33 billion of spending, while some reports say Republicans might settle for $40 billion. Either way, it’s not enough. We should be playing “big ball.” We should be fighting over trillions, not billions. We should be defunding ObamaCare, but we’re not.

I made a commitment to vote “no” on any Continuing Resolution that does not defund ObamaCare. That pledge to the American people remains unchanged. I believe that’s a battle we cannot walk away from. But, it’s not been an option in the recent government funding bills that House leaders have put up for a vote.

I am ready for a big fight, the kind that will change the arc of history. And, I’m hoping that when it comes to issues like the debt ceiling, ObamaCare, and the 2012 budget, House Republicans will take the lead, draw a line in the sand and not back down from the fight.


Republican “Austerity”

From RedState:

So, let me get this straight…

After all the back and forth, pledges, promises, tough fiscal talk and discussions of shutdown… Republicans have agreed to pass another short term CR with a few billion dollars in cuts – all being jammed through tonight by voice vote and basically sight-unseen (classic Washington transparency). This to get us to next week.

Then, Republicans are likely going to cut a deal for something around $40 billion max (likely upper-30’s) of cuts, and not uphold their own pledge to cut $100 billion (much less the smaller amount of $61 billion originally offered), and then fail to draw even the faintest line in the sand on policies (so-called “riders”) of any significance, such as federal funding of Planned Parenthood (i.e. tax dollars used to support the death of hundreds of thousands of babies annually) or Obamacare.

Oh sure, Republican leadership will hide behind some symbolic votes in the Senate (which can easily be gained through any real effort anyway) and behind supposedly “significant” cuts of $39 billion, or some such.

Keep in mind that our national deficit – not debt, mind you, but annual deficit – this year alone will surpass $1.5 Trillion, and thus, the $39 billion in cuts represents well less than 3% of the hole we are digging…

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan is praised as the Second Coming for writing a budget that adds $6-9 trillion in debt, fails to touch social security, and is still well out of balance and hemorrhaging hundreds of billions of dollars in 10 years… and more importantly, the Ryan budget won’t even ever be implemented – at least not until 2013, that is if Republicans can find a candidate worth running, much less capable of winning.

So now we move to raising the federal debt ceiling for the umpteenth time without any significant structural change toward fiscal responsibility. Should we expect anything other than cutting a “deal” for a vote on the BBA or some other gesture as opposed to passage of the BBA (with a spending limit)?

Republicans clearly run scared from the 1995 Government shutdown despite the fact 1) Republicans gained 2 Senate seats and lost only 9 (if memory serves) House seats in a year when Bob Dole was acting as dead weight, 2) a shutdown only shuts down a portion of the federal government, 3) any shutdown saves at least some money and means less Washington interference in our lives, and 4) polls today indicate Americans would generally not be terribly bothered by such a shut down.

So instead of pushing hard for any real policy changes or truly significant, game-changing spending cuts – Republicans cut a deal for fear of being seen as obstructionist.

Leadership and fiscal austerity, Republican-style.


Nine Points About the Republican Budget

From National Review:

There’s been an avalanche of commentary on Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity,” and rightly so. Ryan’s proposal, which would reform entitlement spending, balance the budget, and begin paying off the debt, is the most important legislative proposal of my lifetime. It may not pass in its current form. But there is a much better chance than you’d think that it will pass in modified form, perhaps under another president. Either way, it will change the way we talk about the deficit and the debt for a very long time.

The plan is quite comprehensive, encompassing discretionary spending, defense spending, financial regulation, Fannie and Freddie, tax reform, welfare programs, and Medicare and Medicaid. (As David Brooks puts it, PTP “dodges Social Security,” which is acceptable, given Social Security’s lesser impact on our long-term fiscal problems.)

As for getting debt under control, here’s what the Congressional Budget Office had to say about the “Path to Prosperity”:

The resulting budget deficits under the proposal would be around 2 percent of GDP in the 2020s [down from 9 percent in 2010] and would decline during the 2030s. The budget would be in surplus by 2040 and show growing surpluses in the following decade. Federal debt would equal about 48 percent of GDP by 2040 and 10 percent by 2050.

And Yuval Levin has put together some nice charts, based on the CBO numbers, that show how dramatically PTP changes our country’s fiscal trajectory, relative to both current law and the Obama budget.

Much of the criticism — some of which came even before anyone knew the proposal’s details — has been plainly dishonest. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo described the “Path to Prosperity” as “getting rid of Medicare.” Incoming DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called it a “death trap for seniors.”

That’s not to say that Representative Ryan’s plan is perfect. No proposal of its scope and ambition could ever be, and Ezra Klein has a good bullet-pointed summary of the “Path to Prosperity” from the liberal perspective. So let’s sift through the most controversial aspects of the plan: those related to health-care entitlements. It’s going to be a rather wonky exercise, though I’ve done my best to make it readable by breaking it up into bite-sized chunks.

But first, I have three words for those who disapprove of Ryan’s approach: Where’s your plan? If you think that slowing the growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending is a bad thing, which taxes would you raise instead? If you actually favor Medicare and Medicaid cuts, but using government-dictated rationing instead of individual choice, could you please explain why? And this is, at heart, why Ryan’s bold stroke just may work: by forcing his critics to produce an honest alternative.

To see the nine points, go to the National Review.

The Left’s Reactions to the Paul Ryan Budget

From Ricochet:

Best I can tell, there are two reactions to the Paul Ryan budget proposal emerging from the Left.

The first is a smug overconfidence that the proposal is dead on arrival and an underlying assumption that Ryan’s plan will fail to resonate with the American people.  This response is typified here by politico J.B. Poersch:

“It was a good day for Democrats,” said J.B. Poersch, former executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee who is heading an independent expenditure effort for Democrats in 2012. “It’s going to sting [Republicans]. This is a news flash for seniors. It’s probably an overreach, and they are likely to pay politically.”

And the second reaction is an acknowledgment of the seriousness of the Ryan plan and of the dramatic contrast that the president’s lack of seriousness provides.  Says Andrew Sullivan:

Here’s why [referring to J.B. Poersch] I can’t stand the Democrats…This is the kind of politics Obama swore to avoid in the campaign. We have a serious and flawed plan to get the debt under control – and the Democrats’ immediate response is to go into total opposition. The president has been more muted in his response. But the onus is on him now to provide a plan that matches the impact on the budget that Ryans’ does, with different emphases.

So where is that plan? Or does the president have none?

Sullivan’s right.  President Obama will need to produce his own plan that matches the spending cuts and deficit reductions of the Ryan plan if he wants to maintain any semblance of credibility.  Not that credibility seems to be all that important to him these days…

God Bless America

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