RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Robert Reich writes: "There's still no backstage where the real work of governing this country can occur. At best, the vote to raise the debt ceiling kicks the can down the road only until the end of 2012. By then, if we don't elect adults, the kids will be in charge."

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

The Dangerous Hi-Jinks of the GOP's Juveniles

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

18 July 11


've spent enough of my life in Washington to take its theatrics with as much seriousness as a Seinfeld episode. A large portion of what passes for policy debate isn't at all - it's play-acting for various constituencies. The actors know they're acting, as do their protagonists on the other side who are busily putting on their own plays for their own audiences.

Typically, though, back stage is different. When the costumes and grease paint come off, compromises are made, deals put together, legislation hammered out. Then at show time the players announce the results - spinning them to make it seem they've kept to their parts.

At least that's the standard playbook.

But this time there's no back stage. The kids in the GOP have trashed it. The GOP's experienced actors - House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McDonnell - have been upstaged by juveniles like Eric Cantor and Michele Bachmann, who don't know the difference between playacting and governing. They're in league with Tea Party fanatics who hate government so much they're willing to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States. Washington has gone from theater to reality TV - a game of hi-jinks chicken that could end in a crash.

So now the GOP's experienced actors are trying to retake the stage. They've set a vote Tuesday for a so-called "cut, cap, and balance" plan - featuring an immediate $100 billion-plus cut from next year's budget and a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.

The plan would be a disaster for the nation, of course - a cut of that magnitude when the economy is still struggling to get out of recession would plunge it back in, and a balanced-budget amendment would make it impossible to counteract future recessions with extra spending and tax cuts.

But, hey, it's all for show. The GOP's adults know the President would veto their cuts and they couldn't possibly muster the two-thirds of the Senate and House needed to override the veto. Nor, obviously, do they have the two-thirds necessary to pass a constitutional amendment.

The point is to give the kids more votes they can wave in the direction of their Tea Party constituents. It's hoped that the "cut, cap, and balance" plan - along with Mitch McConnell's proposed Republican vote disapproving the President's move to raise the debt ceiling (which the President will then veto) - will be enough to get the juveniles to raise the debt ceiling before the August 2 deadline.

"The cut, cap and balance plan that the House will vote on next week is a solid plan for moving forward," John Boehner told reporters Friday. Translated: I hope this will be enough playacting to get their votes on the debt ceiling.

But even if it's enough, the bigger problem remains: There's still no back stage where the real work of governing this country can occur. At best, the vote to raise the debt ceiling kicks the can down the road only until the end of 2012. By then, if we don't elect adults, the kids will be in charge.

Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including "The Work of Nations," "Locked in the Cabinet," "Supercapitalism" and his latest book, "AFTERSHOCK: The Next Economy and America's Future." His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on and iTunes. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+34 # DPM 2011-07-18 22:27
I fear for my country.
+24 # angelfish 2011-07-19 00:30
You know, DPM, THIS is what happens when Ignorance is voted in and Intelligence is vilified! Be careful of what you want, Tea Partiers, you have GOTTEN it in spades! These ReTHUG Newbies are TOO stupid to realize that they are literally, playing with FIRE! The sad thing is, that Americans will, once again, be made to bear the brunt of their ignorance and incompetence. It will be "Welcome to Hard Times" ALL over again but will be more devastating and last longer than our first Great Depression, if they don't STOP this game of Chicken they are playing! I believe that this kind of behavior is TREASONOUS and warrants investigation by the Justice Department. HOW can they be allowed to ARBITRARILY bring this Government DOWN just because they don't like our President? WE didn't care much for Bush and his Evil Cabal, but we bit the bullet, sadly we are now left to clean up his mess. His proteges are continuing his inane and insane policies, and won't be happy till they've destroyed us completely! So, DPM, you're not the only one who fears for this Country. The question remains, HOW do we STOP them?
+15 # Mellifluous 2011-07-19 05:06
It seems to me as though this is an opportune moment to review our Declaration of Independence: while many of the Founders' grievances against King George differ in details and intensity from the usurpations and perfidies we suffer under today, there are striking similarities to our current situation in the Preamble and the list of particular charges.

Many of these Republicans consider themselves to be 'originalists' in interpreting the United States Constitution. I wonder if they're capable of recognizing tyranny as described by the Founders in their current willfully and recklessly destructive and illegitimate actions and policies.
+16 # J.Lindsley 2011-07-19 05:51
It's sickening that the brats are willing to bring down the global economy along with the US G they hate.
Ignorance is curable
Stupidity is not.
And "the parent" of these brats should grow up with them and stop playing chicken.
We need to get the racists out of Government so The Man can do his job.
+10 # BradFromSalem 2011-07-19 06:11
The Democrats as a group must rally together and announce to America, even if it means buying time on the networks that they will only accept a lean debt ceiling bill.

This is what the President wanted, this will avert the likely financial crises. Reid needs to make clear that if a clean bill passes the House, the Senate will be prepared to enforce the requirement that a filibuster must be filibustered.

They should further explain that immediately after the clean bill passes, the Democrats will go into a party caucus (Sen. Sanders can come too) to develop a Democratic Budget plan that will detail a 10 year target of significant debt reduction, in 2 years significant job growth, and the potential of debt elimination in 20 years.

Then, they take the People's Budget, change a few paragraphs and rebrand it to "The American Plan".

Announce the plan on a paid TV broadcast. Don't expect the MSM to cover something just because it makes sense. Buying TV time will pay for itself in votes, lots of vote and lots more free TV.
+9 # todd williams 2011-07-19 06:50
The inmates have taken control of the asylum. Thus, hoarding cash may be the only way to survive. I have chickens, a big vegie patch and a .38. Screw the Rethugs!
+6 # Merschrod 2011-07-19 07:21
Gosh, I remember the day when you could not trust anyone over 30. Now the kids are in charge and you can't trust them not to put you on an ice flow!

Intergenerational responsibility needs to be restored. We educated you now you need to take care of us. (Perhaps we fouled up in the education department?)
+3 # Capn Canard 2011-07-19 07:51
I don't know what to say anymore. The GOP is owned and operated by the WEALTHY and most DEMS display a profound level of cowardice. After listening to them (or reading some Reich's blog) I always feel like I need to get the stink off with a drink and a shower .
+3 # humanmancalvin 2011-07-19 08:50
Can you say "Dog & Pony Show" performed for the voting audience? These roaring lions are all roar & no bite, they will capitulate behind closed doors but standing in the spotlight they spout inanities giving them the cred with the batshitcrazy crowd they are catering to.
Just like school yard bullies, once you get them alone behind closed doors all their bravado slinks away & the reality of life raises its compromising head. All bluster, no true commitment.
+8 # Elvee 2011-07-19 10:31
Unfortunately our celebrity society has gone to the heads of Congresspeople as well - everything if for show, no substance, only glitter, glam and dumbed down. Remember they want to cut state budgets for education - well, we see what we get with that. AND, does one now realize the ramifications of FOX and Rupert Murdoch's role in the dumbing down of America -
+5 # BradFromSalem 2011-07-19 11:23
Actually, I think the vast majority of Americans are much smarter than we on the left and certainly a lot smarter than the right.

What is and has been occurring since the Nixon era is with each financial crisis, the slack has been picked up by the middle class. If you now count the familes dependent on 2 incomes, the amount of time families spend at work or for the kids at supervised play; the con becomes obvious.
The con is that we have become too busy to pay close attention. Fox pours out easy answers that make sense until you think about it. And people are seeing that Fox and friends (pun intended) do not have any clue wehat they are talking about. They have conned us by splitting up families. Grandma and Grandpa don't live down the street, they live in protected elderly housing; kids can only visit. We have computers with us all the time, but wait! Make sure you have 823 unique passwords that you change regularly or else someone will virtually kill you. There is a power elite out there. They want us tired and scared. Even if you know you are being conned and your wealth and your freedom and your liberty are being stripped away; your exhaustion and fear keeps you from doing anything.

Most Americans do know what is going on, and they are very much not dumb.
+3 # jwb110 2011-07-19 11:33
Actually, if the President didn't veto the raising of the debt ceiling it would be the sorriest day of the Republican's lives. The backlash would be instantaneous.
+2 # Hawke17 2011-07-19 18:15
Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.