Boehner Saves the Day, Sort Of

A Freedom Caucus member reacts to the news. By steenslag (P1010533) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
We won’t have John Boehner to kick around much longer and it looks like he’ll succeed in doing the country a favor by kicking his party’s own Freedom Caucus in the teeth before he steps down as Speaker. I still hesitate to give much credit in a situation that involves Republican party leaders saving the country from their own party.

Boehner has negotiated a budget and debt ceiling deal with the White House that presumably will require Democratic votes to pass the House. Freedom Caucus types are already kicking and screaming, but Boehner doesn’t need them. They can’t chop his head off a second time. As long as the deal doesn’t deeply cut programs important to Democrats, they’ll probably be more than happy to vote for it and take one of the Freedom Caucus’ favorite hostages, the US debt ceiling, away. The deal is reported to extend the country’s borrowing authority through the 2016 elections, which means the Freedom Caucus would never again be able to take it hostage in a vain attempt to extract ridiculous concessions, such as total repeal of Obamacare, from President Obama. They’ll have to wait for President Clinton or Sanders.

I’d just like to note, though, that reporters really need to stop taking claims by Republicans that they care about the budget deficit seriously. Reading this Washington Post article about the deal, you’d think Republicans were the fiscally responsible party. It quotes conservatives unhappy about the deal because it claims savings in the future in order to offset spending increases now. These “budget hawks” would prefer to see concurrent cuts to offset any increases.

Paul Krugman recently reminded us that all of the Republican candidates for president have huge, deficit exploding tax cut plans. Sure, the candidates claim that they can cut away the difference, but they never seem willing to explain where they will cut. That’s because they’d have to drastically cut defense, Social Security, and Medicare to offset their tax cuts, and Republicans are smart enough to know that they can’t get elected promising to cut these things. They save that for private meetings with their donors.

Advice to reporters: ask lawmakers and candidates for president what they are willing to cut in order to offset their tax plans and rein in the budget deficit. If they hem and haw or make stuff up, report that, and stop calling them “fiscally responsible” or “deficit hawks.” If they explain in detail what needs to be cut, report that and make sure the ramifications are clear. This isn’t that hard and the country’s future is at stake. Do your jobs.


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