When the going gets tough ... the tough get spinning


In his most recent column for The Daily Targum, "When the going gets tough…", Josh Baker makes several dubious claims with regards to the current state of politics in Washington. Baker, the Targum's consistent hardcore liberal voice, argues that the Republican Party has rudely and systematically rejected the bipartisan efforts of President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party coalition. According to the writer, members of the GOP should be repudiated for their consistent opposition to the liberal Democrat's agenda. Sen. John McCain might say I fundamentally disagree with these claims herein.

With regards to the writer's claim that the president's attempts at bipartisanship, or as he calls it, "post-partisanship," may "ultimately prove fruitless — at least in the short term." It is true the resident has recently made a number of symbolic moves, such as inviting Republican leaders to the White House and appointing a few GOP's to administration posts in an effort to make good on his campaign promises of a bipartisan Washington. But could we reasonably say these attempts are proving fruitless? Certainly there has been marked opposition to Obama's stimulus package from the conservative right. But this is not in any way to be unexpected. Nor is it, I would argue, undesirable. The Democrats currently control both the legislative and executive branches by a strong majority, much stronger in fact than the Republicans ever did during President George W. Bush's years. Their hold is so strong, in fact, that any legislation the Dems see fit to pass will pass, regardless of the fact that more than 40 percent of the American voting population stands with the GOP. Considering this, why would any Republicans choose to vote with the Democrats here? In posing an opposition to the stimulus package, Republicans do not realistically stand to prevent the passing of the bill. The failure of the Republican Party to stand for that oppositional voice would only serve to prove once and for all that it has lost touch with its constituency, which comprises very nearly half of the American public. This is a fact of which both Democrats and Republicans are certainly aware. As such, we cannot even assume that the near-unanimous opposition of the Republican Party to the stimulus package necessarily points to the fact that all Republicans are in fundamental disagreement with the widely accepted view of economists today that the stimulus is a necessary evil. After all, many Republican congressmen chose to vote for the much larger influxes of government spending in the Troubled Assets Relief Program and other bailout legislation prior to the Obama inauguration. You will notice, while Republicans may claim to be against the stimulus, they conspicuously chose not to invoke the power of the filibuster — perhaps the one great tool they have at their command at this point. The real story seems very different from the one the author is telling from where I'm sitting. Seeing a dire need to speedily pass the stimulus through Congress and rightly recognizing the ability of the Republicans — if not to stop the bill — at least slow its progress to a crawl, Obama took decisive, pragmatic, bipartisan action. Favoring speed to partisanship, Obama placated the Republicans with concessions, if not enough to convert them to his cause — which as we have said, would have been both an irrational and unnecessary hope — enough to allow its passing in a timely manner. Count it as an Obama success that the bill passed as quickly as it did.

The writer makes his second error in suggesting that because a slight majority of Americans are in support of the stimulus package, Republican opposition is somehow not warranted. I quote: "In contrast with the considerable political resistance it faces on Capitol Hill, the Obama plan is favored by a decisive majority of Americans." He cites a recent Gallup poll, according to which 59 percent of Americans polled support the plan. I have, I think, already shown how we must not necessarily take the Republican opposition at literal face value. What is more, I need not even mention except briefly that the contents of a poll, even one held in such high regard as the Gallup, should not be taken as factual evidence of, well, anything. Polls are often misleading and perhaps just as often blatantly false. But what struck me most about the writer's comment here was that he seems to have neglected the fact that 59 percent of the American public nearly exactly corresponds to its representation on Capitol Hill. According to the very poll Baker cites, about as many Americans support the Obama package as there are Democrats in Congress Actually, the Democrats' voting power is closer to 58.8 percent, but who wants to split hairs? Is it somehow shocking that Congress is reflecting nearly "to a T" the will of the people? Perhaps to a veteran Bush-basher it is, but if this is so, I would argue without any reservations that it is a step in the right direction. To say that the Republicans are somehow wrong for — finally — standing up in support of a fundamentally conservative view is only to reveal one's own personal partisan tendencies to the left and reject the very spirit of bipartisanship that the liberal savior Obama purports to embrace. The true bipartisan would count it as a success that the Republicans were able to salvage something for their side and their constituency, in the form of tax cuts and other revisions, which the writer bluntly repudiates. If anything, the bill was a bipartisan success, perhaps more favorable to the liberal end, but at least granting some concessions to the American conservative base. After all, why should the Democrats, or for that matter any political party, get everything they want? That sounds like tyranny to me, or at least Soviet-style, one-party politics.

The third and, for me at least, most offensive error the writer makes is in stating that "The [Republican] Party's leadership vacuum in Washington has essentially made the ineffably obnoxious and ill-informed political pundit Rush Limbaugh its de facto leader." What? It is quite clear that this is not the case, and in fact, there is strong evidence to the contrary. Consider only staunch Republican campaigner Pat Robertson's recent repudiation of Limbaugh in the national news. I will only say that anyone with half a brain can see that Limbaugh is both obnoxious and ill informed; why then should we make the same mistakes?

The fourth and final problem I have with the author's article is his apparent distaste for Sen. Lindsey Graham's comment that the country is "screwed." I suppose only time will tell whether Obama's plan will prove effective, but I would content that it will not, particularly in conjunction with the several more trillions of dollars in deficit the country has been stacking up of late. In truth, economics is largely the science of common sense. My common sense dictates this much debt and apparent inflation can only lead to only two things: a devalued dollar and a global depression. As to why Republicans have failed to voice an alternative to "Obamanomics," I would only point to veteran Congressman Ron Paul, perhaps the most honest politician left in Washington. In times like these, the market must undergo a correction, according to him, as painful and politically unacceptable that position may be. The answer could not and is not to spend more money, which can only prolong the problem and in the process engender further bureaucratic inefficiency in the marketplace. The only viable solution can be to dramatically cut taxes while simultaneously dramatically reducing government spending. The truth is, no matter how long we put off the inevitable — make no mistake — this correction will come, and it will be painful; all the more so the longer we wait and the more we spend and inflate. 

As I mentioned, I have known Baker for quite a long time, since we were first-year students in 2005. He is an active contributor to the Johnsonville Press, Rutgers' newest alternative source of opinions and news, where I myself am an editor. We are always grateful for his contributions to the Johnsonville Press, and I for my part read his Zeitgeist column religiously. Perhaps you will find it surprising that the two of us are longtime friends, considering the disparate nature of our political views. I feel I can accurately speak for both of us when I say that what we should all be striving for is the fullest expression of the diversity of opinions to be found within our community. It is this spirit that drove me to write this objection, this spirit that we encourage to see in the Targum, and this spirit that we strive to uphold in the Johnsonville Press.

Alex Giannattasio is a Rutgers College senior majoring in philosophy and history. He is also managing editor of the Johnsonville Press, where his column "As Of Yet Untitled" appears every Monday. He welcomes feedback at johnsonvillepress@gmail.com.


Alex Giannattasio

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