Boehner’s U-turn

Over the past two weeks Republicans of all stripes have tripped over themselves rushing to microphones and cameras seeking credit and vindication for what they say is the indisputable role President George W. Bush’s torture policies had in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Yet these same lawmakers have spent the past two-plus years running away from their role implementing Bush’s economic policies, crying foul at even the suggestion that those decisions had anything to do with the massive debt President Obama inherited in January 2009. No, in their world, there is no need to connect those dots — and none of the sometimes unpopular decisions made by Obama and Democrats, which have been largely responsible for turning things around, deserve any recognition at all.  

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Instead, we’ve been bombarded with GOP rhetoric about the size of government and “immorality of runaway spending,” disconnected from the morality of budget proposals that end Medicare, cut funds for women’s healthcare, make it harder for kids to go to college and return America to failed trickle-down economics where oil companies can enjoy record profits and keep their taxpayer subsidies.

The hypocrisy started when the GOP ended Democrats’ “pay-go” rules requiring that any tax cut or entitlement increase be offset by a tax increase or entitlement cut, implementing new ideologically driven “cut-go” rules requiring increases in entitlement spending to be paid for, but not tax cuts. Further, an entitlement increase cannot be offset with revenue-generating measures like closing a special-interest tax loophole. Even after introducing a budget that actually requires an increase in America’s debt limit, Boehner, Ryan, McConnell et al have stuck to the GOP mantra that Washington only has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Choosing to hold hostage the credit of the United States of America without acknowledging the Main Street reality that Treasury securities actually set the benchmark interest rates for products like mortgages, car loans and small businesses means failing to increase the debt limit will actually make it harder for people seeking these credit products.

Just a few days before bin Laden was killed, Speaker Boehner publicly agreed with Democrats and numerous economists across the political spectrum, admitting that we must address both sides of the equation — spending and revenue. He further agreed that sacrifice must be shared.  In response to a question from ABC News’s Jonathan Karl, he said, “We’re in a time when — when the federal government is short on revenues. We need to control spending, but we need to have revenues to keep the government moving. And they ought to be paying their fair share.” 

Shamefully, his comments went largely underreported by far too many in the media and Democratic Party.

Back in Washington, Boehner of course reverted to the GOP talking points, restated last week by Mitch McConnell — saying his caucus won’t agree to or even consider revenue-raising measures as part of the debt-ceiling discussions: “We are talking here about spending reductions … There will be no tax increases [aka revenue increases] in connection with raising the debt ceiling.”

Now, if Boehner recognizes that in order to deal with our debt America needs revenues and shared sacrifice, are he and the GOP leadership incompetent, or knowingly lying to the country in the service of their ideological and political goals?

Karen Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and a Democratic consultant.