Friday, December 09, 2011

Romney, Gingrich and a Constipated Congress

This is the week Barack Obama declared political war on an obstructionist GOP, invoking Theodore Roosevelt.

In Osawatomie, Kansas, the President cited TR who came there in 1910 and “was called a radical...a socialist—-even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight-hour work day and a minimum wage for women—-insurance for the unemployed and for the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax...

“Just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. ‘The market will take care of everything,’ they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and taxes—-especially for the wealthy—-our economy will grow stronger...

"Now, it’s a simple that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government...And fits well on a bumper sticker. But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ‘50s and ‘60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.”

Barack Obama is no Teddy Roosevelt or even a Harry Truman who slugged it out against a “do-nothing, good-for-nothing” Congress and won reelection in 1948. But, regardless of whether he faces Romney or Gingrich, the 2012 issue is the same, and the question is: Will he fire himself up enough to meet the challenge of rallying voters.

As Republicans treat the payroll tax cut extension as just another occasion to hack away at social programs, GOP Sen. Susan Collins, who supports taxing high earners to finance it, is discouraged about how a bill could appeal to enough members to pass.

“It’s going to be pointless if the House sends over bills that the Senate cannot or will not pass,” Sen. Collins says, assuming leaders are negotiating behind the scenes.

That’s a generous assumption, given her party’s constipated failure to move on any issue all year, bringing Congressional approval ratings to new lows.

If this President is going to be a Teddy or Truman next year, he has a long way to go in turning up the heat before year’s end and girding himself for even more of the same in an election year.

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