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Out of Left Field | Commentary by Charlie Vignola
| Monday, Dec 17, 2012

charlievignolaElections have consequences.  We’ve all heard that axiom countless times before.  Republicans were fond of saying it when George W. Bush was president, and Democrats bemoaned the choices he made during his eight calamitous years in office.

But apparently the GOP thinks elections no longer have consequences, based on how they’re dealing with the upcoming fiscal cliff.

To hear them talk, you’d think John Boehner and Mitch McConnell weren’t even aware we had an election more than a month ago and their side got destroyed.

Look. When you lose, you have to accept certain realities.  Like, the deal you thought you could get on spending cuts last year is off the table now.  You gambled that your side would win, so you punted on all of the tough choices, and you blew it in spades.  Time to lick your wounds, buck up and face the cold, stark reality.

But Republicans evidently believe that if they just deny reality long enough, it’ll go away.  Never mind that this pathological willingness to ignore the truth is what blindsided them on election night when their warm, comfy bubble of “skewed polling” was so rudely popped.

What’s really shocking is that Republicans refuse to accept responsibility for the fact that the fiscal cliff is a nightmare of their own party’s making.  After all, they’re the ones who refused to let the Bush tax cuts expire when they were scheduled to, despite a decade of failing to create the jobs and prosperity we were promised. And they’re the ones who held the debt ceiling hostage to extreme spending cuts in the summer of 2011, resulting in the ominous sequestration we’re now facing.

Republicans have been demanding that the only rational way to deal with the fiscal cliff is to make brutal spending cuts in programs like Medicare and Social Security to help reduce the deficit and the debt.  But here’s the dirty little secret no one is talking about: Those programs have nothing – repeat, nothing – to do with the fiscal cliff.

What the Republicans are trying to do is conflate these issues, making the public believe they are somehow connected – you know, similar to how they suggested there were connections between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks to justify the Iraq War.  Some people even think these social programs are the whole reason we’re facing a fiscal cliff in the first place.  News flash: they’re not.

For the record, Social Security is fully solvent through 2035, according to the Congressional Budget Office and the Social Security trustees, and it has its own dedicated funding through payroll taxes.  Is Social Security an impending disaster in the short term?  Not by a long shot.  So why in the world should it be on the table for spending cuts at this particular time?  Because the GOP philosophically hates the program and feels this is a prime opportunity to start whittling it down. That’s why.

Is Medicare a long-term problem?  Yeah, sure it is – just like all health care costs in America are a long-term problem.  In the last 10 years alone, health insurance costs have nearly doubled, while the income of average Americans has actually dropped by 7 percent.  Anyone who’s been paying any attention to the issue knows America pays more for health care than any other nation but gets worse outcomes in a number of important areas.

What this means is that we need to discuss long-term solutions to America’s health care challenges in a more thoughtful and comprehensive way.  Making rash decisions because of some self-inflicted deadline that involves unrelated matters is a ridiculous way to handle the problem.

The other interesting thing is that the Republicans keep expecting the Democrats to be the first ones to put controversial spending cuts on the table.  Sorry, gang.  You lost the election; you’re the ones whose political gamesmanship backfired big-time, so you’re the ones who get to blink first and clearly state what entitlement cuts should be put on the table.  It’s not campaign season anymore, where you can continue to be evasive about what loopholes you’d close to justify cutting taxes again.

The truth is that Republicans are scared of the political costs of telling sick, poor and elderly voters they’re going to suffer because they refuse to ask rich people to pay a little bit more in taxes.  And they should be scared.  But you know what?  Tough.  You want to embrace Ayn Randian economics?  Man up and own it.

Republicans were hoping to take a meat cleaver to these popular programs in response to the “chicken little” frenzy they’ve ginned up over the past few years about the national debt and the deficit.  It’s all part of a long-term conservative strategy known as “starve the beast”: If you deprive the government of revenue, it can’t spend it on social programs, so it’ll be forced to cut them.  It’s a clever gambit, but Americans aren’t stupid.  If they were, we’d be looking forward to the inauguration of President Michelle Bachmann next month.

Instead, America re-elected President Obama, and not by a little but by a lot.  It was a decisive rebuke of Republican policies and philosophies.  As a result, Republicans have lost the opportunity to have their ideas dominate the political landscape for the foreseeable future.

It’s time for the loyal opposition to throw away the sour grapes, accept the inevitable and do the one thing they’ve consistently rejected for the last four years: Compromise for the good of the American people.  It’s what the voters want, and it’s the GOP’s best chance to get back in the game and restore the luster of its damaged brand before it’s too late.


Charlie Vignola describes himself as a former College Republican turned liberal Democrat.  A resident of the Santa Clarita Valley since 1999, he works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.



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  1. CVS says:

    Such tripe. The tax revenues are high, even in this recession. It seems an impossible task to get liberals to admit that spending is the issue. We’ve proven beyond all possible doubt that revenues aren’t a problem – we have some of the highest tax revenues in history.

    Oh sure, liberals *love* to tell us about two unfunded wars. Wake up, babycakes: over the course of ten years these two wars have amounted to an estimated cost of $1.4 Trillion … and that’s a CRAPLOAD of money – or one year of Obama deficit spending. http://costofwar.com/

    So cut the crap, liberals. You don’t *really* care about the cost of these wars, do you? You care to make political points, score jabs, and hope that no one looks up the info for themselves. Yep – the wars cost a lot of money, but not as much as having a Trillion+ dollar-a-year president spending like trust-fund kid on permanent vacation.

    Speaking of vacation … isn’t our president spending about $5 million US tax dollars on his next one?

    Yeah – tell me again how he’s a man of the people.

    Rubes …

  2. JFD says:

    Really? Pretty sad and biased take on reality. The ‘no compromise’ attitude from both sides is what will bring all discourse to a halt.
    Thanks for your smug assessment of where the blame should shift to.
    That’s really going to help.

  3. Reason says:

    Appropriately Mr Vignola’s column is called “Out in Left Field” – but to be more true to life it should be “Way Out in Left Field”. Our government is running $1 trillion+ deficits as far as the eye can see, our outstanding debt now exceeds the GDP of our country, our AAA credit rating was lost last year, our Fed has been printing money to buy our own debt with their Quantitative Easing and we are being
    forced to increase our debt ceiling by trillions on an all to frequent basis at shorter intervals yet Mr Vignola fails to acknowledge we have a spending problem. In fact he just vilifies the GOP for trying to address our spending issues for the childish reason that “they lost the election” as Mr Vignola puts it. He should be reminded that our government was designed to have separation of powers. The House of Representatives, our body of government where all tax and spending legislation originates remained firmly in the hands of Republicans while the Senate remains split. Anyone who cannot see that we need to seriously address our spending, and fast or we will be facing a world that will look all too much like what Greece is going through cannot be taken seriously. Obviously Mr Vignola can’t. His blind ignorance to the fact that spending is our problem and his false rhetoric that the GOP is to blame does nothing to help get our country back on a sustainable path. And that goes likewise for Obama and his fellow Democrats who also are in denial of their egregious spending.

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