As Mitch McConnell puts the finishing touches on his terms of surrender, here are some thoughts to ponder.
Republicans and conservatives have spent the past few years messaging their platform to the American people built upon budget-speak. It’s all about the debt and cutting spending.
In reality, we don’t have a spending problem per se, we have a big and harmful government problem. The two are not always the same.
All of us who follow policy issues very closely understand that debt in itself is not just a problem for the federal balance sheet, it will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren. However, most people don’t see it that way, at least not in a meaningful way. What people care about is loss of employment, lower/stagnant wages, the rising cost of living, and personal liberty. It is our job to prioritize an agenda both in substance and messaging that directly addresses the harmful effects of government on jobs, standard of living, and personal liberty. The federal budget is secondary, and will take care of itself once we restore government to its proper role.
For example, we spend roughly $8 billion in discretionary spending funding the EPA each year. Now, is that $8 billion in wasted spending contributing to our debt? You betcha. But the more serious problem with the EPA is not the $8 billion in discretionary spending, but the hundreds of billions that are removed from the private economy in the form of lost jobs and higher cost of living (not to mention personal liberty), as a result of the regulatory regime.
Hence, when we cut the operating budget of the EPA from $8.4 billion to $8 billion via the sequester, are we really limiting government? Not really. We are cutting spending, which slows the debt crisis ever so slightly, but we are not really providing relief to the American people in a way most people understand or feel in any tangible way.
Which brings me to the current showdown and Obamacare. Mitch McConnell is getting ready to completely surrender on Obamacare so long as the sequester is preserved.
Let’s lay some facts out on the table:
1) There is nothing that will destroy more jobs, lower wages, raise the cost of living, and disrupt personal liberty than Obamacare. Not to mention the fact that it’s costly to the federal budget.
2) Due to the new coverage of Obamacare over the past few years, the importance of healthcare, and the immediate deleterious effects of the law, this is something that is easily understood and vividly felt by the broad populace.
3) If we are resigned to letting go of the Obamacare fight in the budget, there is no way it will ever be repealed, even partially repealed. By 2017, the first possible opportunity for full GOP control of government, there will be over 30 million people either willingly or unwillingly dependent on Obamacare. Even if it is barely workable, it would be the only care they have. We cannot repeal it.
With this in mind, ask yourself the following question: who cares about a few billion in random discretionary cuts that will not fundamentally affect the average American if we are prepared to surrender on the most consequential (yet unpopular) law? What is better messaging for Republicans during the standoff – a rallying cry of “keep the sequester” or “save people from losing their health insurance?”
We shouldn’t leave that to the stupid party to decide.