Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tea Parties Serving Up Denial 5/22/09

If I were the kind of person who worried for Republicans, my concern would be one simple thing: Republicans appear unable to accept any responsibility for the current state of our economy, leaving them looking out of touch with reality.
Tune in to FOX News and hear repeated explanations why our economic woes, from repossessions to the collapse of Wall Street banks, ware caused by something Democrats did.
Let me say up front that I think both Republicans and Democrats deserve blame for where we are. But I don’t meet many Republicans who agree. And that’s the problem. Until Republicans stop making excuses and pointing fingers, accept some hefty responsibility for our current troubles and explain to voters what they’ll do differently in the future, they may stay the opposition party for the foreseeable future.
Consider recent history.
In the summer of 2007, Countrywide, the nations biggest lender, announced it was in financial trouble. So began the collapse of the lending industry.
That summer of ’07 I negotiated the short sale of a Noblesville property that was nearing foreclosure. I needed the seller’s lender to approve the sale. After repeated attempts to speak with the lender, I finally got a live human on the phone and referred to documents I had faxed days earlier. An exasperated voice on the other end of the line sighed heavily, “Look buddy, we’re getting so many foreclosures and so many requests for short sales, we can’t keep paper in our fax machines.”
That’s just one example that there, in mid-’07, the building blocks of the mess President Obama is dealing with today were already beginning to crumble. Just months earlier, Republicans had lost control of the House and Senate, ending 12 years of legislative control of the federal government.* During those years, no Democrat could have passed any legislation unless Republicans agreed. What’s more, for the previous 6 years, Republicans also controlled the White House and during that time President Bush issued no vetoes. Meaning, elected Republicans were in complete control and in apparent agreement for the 6 years immediately preceding the onset of economic decline.
The overwhelming majority of bad loans that would fall into default up to this very moment were made during that 6-year period. Likewise, the majority of the credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities sales that crippled Wall Street were made during the 12-year period of Republican legislation control. The federal regulators charged with overseeing Wall Street (and businessmen like Bernie Madoff) during the past 8 years served at the pleasure of George W. Bush.
And though Clinton handed Bush the biggest annual budget surplus in U.S. history, it was turned into the largest annual budget deficit in just 4 years of complete GOP control. The federal debt would double during Bush’s 8 years.
Despite all this, after little more than 8 weeks in the White House, the gang at FOX News was calling this Obama’s economy. Conservative friends blame mortgage failures on Democratic Congressman Barney Frank. Others tell me unions caused it all. And even though most American’s are paying taxes at a rate similar to that paid 30 years ago, FOX followers showed up on bridges and piers last week to throw tea bags in the water, protesting Obama’s “high taxes.” Among the 35 protesters who showed up on Noblesville’s footbridge over White River, one held a sign reading, “Obama Lied, The Economy Died.”
That’s a big bowl full of hard-core denial. Enough to give you intellectual whiplash. If this is really all the Democrats’ fault, why didn’t Republicans do anything to redirect matters during their recent and extended total control of the federal government?
We do not hear Republicans answer that question. Instead, we’re told Obama is a fascist and a socialist. Many “tea bag” protesters across the country compared Obama to Hitler, Marx, and Mussolini. Others called for revolution and anarchy and openly hoped Obama would fail to turn around our economy.
This doesn’t strike me as a rational way to convince voters you should be back in power. It sounds to anyone who doesn’t drink the FOX News Kool-Aid like crazy talk from sore losers.
In 1994 when voters threw out the Democrats, handing the House and Senate to Republicans, it happened because the Democrats had behaved badly and led poorly. They deserved to lose. When voters picked Democrats to take control in January of 2007, they did so because Republicans behaved badly and led poorly. They deserved to lose.
The danger for Republicans is that there’s no self-evaluation, no contrition. Instead they offer go-for-broke, anti-Obama hysteria. This will look even more unforgivably out of touch with reality should Obama succeed in turning around our economy.
*The Senate briefly shifted to Democrat control (though in reality they were the plurality party, being one short of a majority) after Republican senator Jim Jeffords changed party registration to "Independent" in June of ‘01, but later returned to Republican control after the November ‘02 elections.

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