Consider the plight of US Representative Don Manzullo, Republican from Illinois. Night before last he appeared on Rachel Maddow's increasingly popular evening program on MSNBC. He defended the Republican position on President Obama's stimulus plan. They oppose it. Maddow turned him inside out. At one point he insisted that hiring more people does not create jobs. And if government hires workers to repair infrastructure, they are no longer workers. They have become bureaucrats.
You have to have at least some grudging admiration for Congressman Manzullo. He was brave enough to show up on a television program where others fear to tread. He had an indefensible case to make. He, like all other Republicans in the lower house, wants to cut spending in the President's economic stimulus package and substitute tax cuts. They argue that cutting taxes on the very wealthy will stimulate the economy, because people with money will open businesses, thus providing employment.
It is not easy to be a national Republican these days. One poll shows about half of American voters approve of Democrats in Congress, while Republicans get 26%. On a generic ballot, congressional Republicans lose to Democrats by more than 2 to 1. Wow. Another poll, this one by Gallup, shows Republicans have a significant majority over Democrats in only five states, representing just 2% of America's population. 35 states are pretty solidly Democratic. 10 states are close enough to be tossups.
And the new President is phenomenally popular. Folks feel he is fighting for them, while Republicans are seen as unanimously obstructionist. Elected Republicans face a problem that fits in with what ails the economy. It is the Problem of the Commons. That's when it's to everyone's benefit to take actions that if only taken individually would be painful. Republicans in the House and Senate want to become a national party again. But if any one of them takes actions individually that will help the country at large, they commit suicide with a rabidly conservative base. Rock, meet hard place.
Rocks and hard places apply to the economy. If everyone together increased spending, the theory goes, jobs would be created and everything would be fine. But if my family alone increases spending, we put ourselves in danger. So we cut back, and so does everyone else. It makes us all worse off. Until the economy improves, nobody will invest more into businesses to serve a non-buying public. Tax cuts don't cut it. But with enough government spending, jobs get created, individuals also start spending, and the cycle gets healthy. The rock and the hard place go their separate ways. But Republicans know that if Democrats get the credit, the GOP will wither.
Life is filled with little trade offs. Getting along without elected Republicans is a price we can all learn to live with.
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