In June 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that included a line that became the title of his address when he sought a seat as a United States Senator. Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and although he was referring to the slavery issue, his comment is apropos to today’s Congressional Republicans, and by extension America itself. At the rate they are proceeding, and with Congress’s approval ratings at record lows (11%), it appears the GOP is fracturing into a dysfunctional group that is doing everything in their power to destroy itself, the middle class, and tens-of-millions of Americans living in poverty. The latest split between different factions within the GOP in Congress is over extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefit extensions.
The temporary deal worked out between Senate Republicans and Democrats faces rejection by House Republicans because John Boehner is an ineffective leader and staunch protector of the richest 1% of Americans. Boehner had insisted earlier that Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell work out a compromise to extend the payroll tax cut so the House could vote and pass it before the Christmas recess. Although the Senate deal only extended the extension for two months, at least it gives 160 million hardworking Americans relief until Republicans can hold the extensions hostage again in February. However, a deal to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefit extensions could have been resolved in short order had the House and Senate passed a clean bill paid for with a minute surtax on millionaires and billionaires.
It seems that now, the sticking point for House Republicans is that the extension is only for two months and not an entire year as the President requested in the first place. Boehner has decided that after the House defeats the Senate extensions, the two houses should meet and iron out a full year extension that should take any proposed deal right up to the last minute. On Saturday, Boehner called the Senate compromise a “good deal” and a “victory,” but changed his mind on Sunday after his caucus reminded him that as Speaker, his job was to obey and not lead. The problem now is that the “House divided” runs the risk of failing to give 160 million Americans much needed payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefit relief as any bicameral conference compromise will take too much time and lose the opportunity to reach agreement before the end of the year.
The Senate deal was not perfect by any means, but with House Republicans panting to add conservative policy riders to a full year extension, at least 160 million Americans will not lose their tax cut; if only for two months. House Republicans did pass a version of their own to extend the tax cuts and unemployment benefits but Democrats rejected the Republican’s offsets; as they should have. To pay for the extensions, House Republicans added reductions in unemployment benefits, cut billions from healthcare, a pay freeze for federal employees, eliminating federal jobs, and a requirement for taxpayers to include Social Security numbers to collect child tax credit refunds. Every tax filer already has to include the child’s Social Security number on their tax forms regardless if they take the child tax credit or not.
The reduction in unemployment benefits, federal workforce, and pay freeze all amount to stealing from the middle class to give the middle class a payroll tax cut. Throughout all of the Republican’s wheeling and dealing with the middle class’s tax cut, the wealthy escape unscathed from any sacrifice unlike the poor and middle class. Senate and House Republicans could have avoided any of the chaos if they had just passed a clean bill and funded it with a tiny surtax on the richest Americans. In case there is any confusion, the proposed surtax was on income over one million dollars and keeps Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy in place. It is also remarkable that business owners overwhelmingly claim any tax increase on their personal income does not affect their ability to hire new workers like Republicans claim as a matter-of-course. Business owners have consistently claimed that the impediment to hiring is the lack of consumer spending and not taxes or regulations. It is noteworthy that the great majority of small business owners that drive hiring and the economy are not millionaires or billionaires, so the Republican claim that the 3.25% surtax hurts the so-called “job creators” is fallacious.
America is a house divided and the culprits are Congressional Republicans who are themselves as divided as the country. This deplorable economy could be on the repair if Republicans had helped pass President Obama’s jobs plan that helped 99% of Americans, but they chose to help the wealthy and further widen the income gap between the rich and the peasants. It seems credible that Republicans in the House and Senate are working to take the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits extension legislation to the very last minute for more Democratic concessions and if they fail, then so be it. It is important to remember there are Republicans who opposed extending the middle class tax cuts and unemployment extensions, so the notion that they are deliberately sabotaging 160 million Americans’ tax cut is plausible, if not a certainty.
The division within the Republican Party is their fault for supporting teabaggers who are causing discord within the party. There is plenty of fault that lies with Americans who either sat out the 2010 midterm elections or voted for teabaggers out of racial hatred for President Obama. The Republicans fractious relationship within their own ranks is helping devastate the economy and causing untold amounts of damage to the American people. Americans’ economic security is in peril because different Republican factions have obstructed economic recovery and they are not close to being finished. All the while, the rich continue accumulating wealth at the expense of the rest of the country while Republicans bicker among themselves over which plan is best to economically rape the 99% into poverty.
Lincoln was right; a house divided against itself cannot stand and as Republicans fight over how to help the wealthy, the economy and 160 million Americans will suffer. It is curious though, that when it comes to protecting the wealthy, Republicans are in full accord leading suspicious Americans to wonder just how divided Republicans really are.