E.J. Dionne calls the game this morning in the Washington Post, saying quite plainly what voters have been thinking for months: The Republicans are out of ideas. The last 15 months have been a wildly veering ride from one intellectually bankrupt exercise to another, as conservatives trot out ideas that have no public support (like Social Security privatization), attempt to explain them to the public, and discover that no one is interested. Each idea distracts the nation from Iraq for a while, but in the end they all sink like stones.
Dionne is absolutely right: The Republicans are fresh out of ideas that actually solve problems as perceived by regular people. President Bush continues to try to sell Health Savings Accounts, another scam for the rich, as if they were some kind of healthcare panacea, while millions have no health coverage and millions more pay escalating prices for layers of unnecessary profit-seeking administration. The Congressional Republicans cannot pass a budget resolution because they cannot agree on spending cuts versus tax cuts, but refuse to contemplate the notion that maybe, just maybe, we can't cut either any further.
Our national debt is approaching $10 trillion. Congress is contemplating cuts that will jeopardize our nation's preeminent position in scientific research, pondering cuts to social programs that will further stratify an already dangerously stratified population, and attempting to fund a war that has no end in sight.
And Dionne is precisely right about why this is so infuriating:
The maddening aspect of our current stalemate is that it was entirely predictable. It took no great genius to see that cutting taxes in a time of war and other security threats would create large problems. The contradiction between the current majority's small-government rhetoric and heavy federal spending has been visible for years. For conservatives to be shocked at our big deficits suggests they were unwilling participants in government, forced to vote for one budget after another at gunpoint.Last night, they refused to vote at all. We are witnessing the dissolution of a coalition that has held firm for 12 years, sometimes to its detriment (as in the impeachment hearings and the government shutdown during the Clinton era) but mostly to its political benefit. And as this coalition dies, so too must die the we-can-have-it-every-which-way mentality that has driven the madness of the last half-decade. We cannot afford to lose our place as the intellectual engine of the world, or to allow our country to fall into the sort of have and have-not divide that can topple any system given enough time, or to squander our military might in a conflict without a plan. Yet we have been doing all of these things, and if we do them much longer we will reach a point beyond which there can be no easy return.
It is time for the inherent contradictions of our times to be considered and a side chosen, and we all know what that means: Taxes are going up. It's time for someone to stand up and admit that, explain why, and convince the American people that this is the best--indeed, the only--way to save our nation from itself. If the nation isn't ready to listen to that message at this point, after all we've seen and all we're about to see, we deserve whatever we get.