Friday, January 16, 2015

"Hostage-Taking" and "Comprehensive Legislation" Examples: 2012

EXAMPLES AND ANALYSIS: 2012 "Hostage-Taking" and "Comprehensive Legislation"
This is no time for a Grand Bargain, because the Republican Party, as now constituted, is just not an entity with which the president can make a serious deal. If we’re going to get a grip on our nation’s problems -- of which the budget deficit is a minor part -- the power of the G.O.P.’s extremists, and their willingness to hold the economy hostage if they don’t get their way, needs to be broken. And somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen in the next few days.
-- New York Times pundit Paul Krugman, December 21, 2012.

Comment: This is "extremists" and "hostage-taking" rhetoric.

Republicans in Congress like to find ways to hold the economy, and ordinary Americans, hostage to their ideological agenda. Just as they are once again threatening another phony debt ceiling crisis that will jeopardize the nation’s credit rating, they are, once again, threatening to withhold vital funds for Hurricane Sandy relief unless the Democrats agree to unrelated spending cuts.The White House has requested $60 billion in federal disaster relief to repair the damage caused by Sandy, but Republicans have balked. Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey called disaster relief “wasteful spending.” And four other right-wing Republicans told The Hill that they would demand cuts in other programs to offset the expense.
-- New York Times pundit Andrew Rosenthal, December 13, 2012, commenting on health care reform legislation being considered for passage by Congress.

Comment: This is demonizing -- describing Republicans as wanting to do what's wrong -- and "ideologues" and "hostage-taking" rhetoric.

The president takes reducing our country’s deficit very seriously. And he believes we must take a balanced approach to do it. That means building on the more than $1 trillion in spending cuts he’s already signed with more entitlement savings. But it also means asking the top 2 percent of Americans to pay a little more in higher tax rates. The truth is, there is no other way to reduce our deficit while keeping our economy growing and protecting the middle class. But some Republicans are dead set against asking the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share, and they’re willing to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage to get their way. … There are lots of areas where Democrats and Republicans disagree. But keeping middle-class taxes low isn’t on the list. So let’s extend the middle-class tax cuts right away.
-- Vice President Joe Biden, December 10, 2012.

"It’s easy to get confused about the fiscal thing, since everyone’s talking about the “fiscal cliff.” … The danger is that the deficit will come down too much, too fast. And the reasons that might happen are purely political; we may be about to slash spending and raise taxes not because markets demand it, but because Republicans have been using blackmail as a bargaining strategy, and the president seems ready to call their bluff."
-- Columnist Paul Krugman, December 6, 2012.

Comment: Krugman is indulging in "hostage-taking" rhetoric with his use of the term "blackmail". Also, he's claiming that Republicans are "politicizing" the issue of the so-called "fiscal cliff". How is that so? Republicans can't have any good policy reasons for the position they're taking?

"Everybody agrees in the country and in the Congress that we should have a middle income tax cut. The -- what is holding it up is the Republicans are holding it hostage for tax cuts for the wealthy. But left to it on its own, to stand alone, we think it would get a unanimous vote in the Congress."
-- House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), December 4, 2012, during an interview with TV pundit Ed Schultz.

Comment: First, this is "Americans want" rhetoric. Does literally everyone in the country believe there should be a middle-class tax cut? What's the evidence for that? Second, Pelosi is engaging in "hostage-taking" rhetoric. Perhaps the tax cut Pelosi describes would pass if it were considered on its own. Should nothing ever be attached to legislation that would pass on its own?

CARNEY: It's not good government for one party in Congress to refuse to acknowledge what a compromise has to include, a compromised position that is not just the President's position, is not just the Democratic Party's position, but it's the position of the majority of the American people. I mean, I think we've seen data again today that reinforced that fundamental fact. And it's certainly not good government -- the reference you made to our debt ceiling debacle -- to even hint at the possibility of holding the American economy hostage again to the ideological whims of one wing of one party in Congress. That’s unacceptable.

REPORTER [unidentified]: Jay, speaking of the debt ceiling, does an agreement to raise the debt ceiling have to be part of an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff?
CARNEY: We're not going to negotiate over what is a fundamental responsibility of Congress, which is to pay the bills that Congress incurred. It should be part of the deal. It should be done and it should be done without drama. We cannot allow our economy to be held hostage again to the whims of an ideological agenda.
-- White House briefing with Press Secretary Jay Carney, December 4, 2012.

Comment: Carney is making a claim about what Americans want (he seems to cite polling data to back up his assertion). Also, Carney is indulging in "hostage-taking" rhetoric. Related to that, why can't Republicans in Congress bargain in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling? If they asked for spending reductions in return for raising the debt ceiling, why couldn't that be cast as "comprehensive" legislation? Why must the two be unrelated? Hasn't unrelated legislation been attached to defense spending bills in the past? Was that "hostage-taking"?

"Mr. Speaker, as we all know, in the course of the election, the President made it very clear that he was supporting the extension of the middle income tax cuts and everyone, 100 percent of the American people, would benefit from it. One hundred percent of taxpayers, small businesses, wage earners, and the rest. The Republicans are saying that rather than passing that they want to hold it hostage to giving an additional tax cut to people making over $250,000 a year. That’s not negotiating. That’s hostage taking. "
-- House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), December 4, 2012, from the floor of the House of Representatives.

Comment: Pelosi is engaging in "hostage-taking" rhetoric. She is perhaps also implying that President Barack Obama has a mandate to pass his tax proposal, by virtue of his re-election. If so, do House Republicans have a mandate to block that tax proposal, since they clearly campaigned against it in their re-election?

"We should not raise these taxes, but we should enact comprehensive tax reform that will generate more revenue, create jobs, and increase our GDP by as much as 3.5 percent. We should find a solution to ensure the survival of the Medicare program. And the President should work with Republicans to bring down our country’s unsustainable debt."
-- Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-UT), December 1, 2012, during the weekly GOP address.

Comment: Hatch is engaging in "comprehensive" rhetoric. He wants to preserve tax cuts for the middle-class (which Democrats also want) while also preserving them for wealthier families. This would involve a compromise on the part of Democrats -- a compromise that Hatch advocates -- and so he describes the proposal as "comprehensive tax reform". This sounds far more lofty than "holding these tax cuts hostage for those tax cuts" -- which, of course, is how Democrats and President Barack Obama describe the very same bargain. One man's "comprehensive deal" is another man's "hostage-taking". If you like the deal, you praise it as "comprehensive, and if you don't like the deal, you excoriate it as "hostage-taking".

"So let’s begin by doing what we all agree on. Both parties say we should keep middle-class taxes low. The Senate has already passed a bill to keep income taxes from going up on middle-class families. Democrats in the House are ready to do the same thing. And if we can just get a few House Republicans on board, I’ll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way. But it’s unacceptable for some Republicans in Congress to hold middle class tax cuts hostage simply because they refuse to let tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans."
-- President Barack Obama, December 1, 2012, during the president's weekly address.

Comment: Obama is using "hostage-taking" rhetoric. Obama could preserve tax cuts for middle-class families if he would agree to preserve the tax cuts for wealthier families, as well, as Republicans are advocating. Does this mean Obama is "holding the middle-class tax cuts hostage" because he insists that tax rates go up on wealthy families? Why should the "hostage-taking" rhetoric be applicable only to Republicans, and not to Obama and Democrats? Or, why not instead describe Republicans as supporting "comprehensive" tax reform?

"And a lot is riding on this debate. This is too important to our economy, it’s too important for our families to not get it done. And it’s not acceptable to me, and I don’t think it’s acceptable to you, for just a handful of Republicans in Congress to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage simply because they don’t want tax rates on upper-income folks to go up. All right? That doesn’t make sense."
-- President Barack Obama, November 30, 2012.

Comment: Obama is indulging in "hostage-taking" rhetoric. Would it be acceptable to say that he and Democrats are "holding middle-class tax cuts hostage" because he and Democrats do want tax rates on upper-income earners to go up?

OBAMA: Now, we’ve got to make sure that we do it in a smart way and a comprehensive way and we make the legal system better. But when we make this into a divisive political issue, and when we don’t have bipartisan support -- I can deliver, Governor, a whole bunch of Democrats to get comprehensive immigration reform done. We have not seen Republicans serious about this issue at all. And it’s time for them to get serious on it. This used to be a bipartisan issue.
-- President Barack Obama, October 16, 2012, during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, NY, between Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: First, Obama frequently touts his immigration reform proposals as "comprehensive", though one man's "comprehensive legislation" is another man's "holding one thing hostage for another" legislation. Second, Obama is indulging in "unify the country" rhetoric by accusing others of turning immigration into a "divisive" issue. Third, Obama is indulging in "bipartisan" rhetoric. Bipartisan ideas aren't necessarily good ones, after all. Finally, what counts as being "serious" about immigration (or any other issue, for that matter)? What is the proof, for instance, that Obama has been serious about immigration?

BIDEN: "They’re pushing the continuation of a tax cut that will give an additional $500 billion in tax cuts to 120,000 families. And they’re holding hostage the middle class tax cut because they say we won’t pass -- we won’t continue the middle class tax cut unless you give the tax cut for the super wealthy. … They’re saying no. They’re holding hostage the middle class tax cut to the super wealthy."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, October 11, 2012, during the vice presidential debate in Danville, KY, between Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Comment: This is "hostage-taking" rhetoric. People describe compromises in different ways according to whether it's a compromise they like, and one man's "hostage-taking" is another man's "comprehensive legislation". When the Obama administration has offered compromises or suggested giving Republicans something they want in exchange for getting something Democrats want, is it fair to say they've been "holding it hostage"?

No comments: