“The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” is an aphorism attributed to Abba Eban, Israel’s foreign minister in the 1960s and 1970s.
(For proof of this assertion, just look at a map indicating the proposed contours of a Palestinian state in 1948 and another showing the division of the West Bank today.)
Eban’s dictum applies to the Republican Party, whose ideological rigidity repeatedly forces it to settle for worse and worse deals.
With fiscal cliff negotiations in their final stages, it’s apparent that the deal which is reached will include tax hikes for the wealthy with the cutoff in the range of $400,000 to $450,000 and no spending cuts.
That’s a far cry from the Grand Bargain President Obama and Speaker John Boehner almost reached in the summer of 2011. According to reports at the time, the deal would have raised taxes by $1 trillion and cut spending by $3 trillion, a three to one ratio favoring spending over revenue. What’s more, much of the increased revenue would have come from closing loopholes, rather than raising marginal rates.
Three to one spending over revenue is, if you are a Republican, a far better deal than tax hikes without spending cuts.
Even a few weeks ago the GOP could have secured a better deal than it will get now. In talks with the speaker, the president — in a much stronger position after his electoral victory than he was in 2011 — offered a nearly one-to-one deal on revenue hikes and spending cuts. Obama sweetened the proposal by offers on entitlement reform, including the chained CPI for Social Security increases, a proposal anathema to most Democrats. The chained CPI is now off the table.
On deficit reduction, the Republican Party never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
The same goes for healthcare reform. I have argued on this blog many times that Obamacare is a conservative solution to the nation’s serious healthcare problem because it uses market mechanisms, working through private insurance, to encourage all Americans to buy coverage, either through their employers, privately, or in government-created exchanges.
The idea of linking an individual mandate, requiring everyone to buy health insurance, to exchanges reflects long-standing conservative dogma, first proposed by the consevative Heritage Foundation in 1989. Senate Republicans wrote it into a bill in 1993 as a counter to the proposals of the Clinton administration, Newt Gingrich supported it for many years, and it was the basis of the Massachusetts law enacted under Governor Mitt Romney in 2005.
Progressives prefer a single-payer system, but bowed to the president’s wish for the individual mandate as a way to appeal to the GOP. In the end, Republicans refused to support Obamacare.
And they still refuse, even though Democrats crafted the exchanges to appeal to Republicans. Liberals preferred a national exchange, reflected in the original House version of the bill, but the final Senate version opted for state-level exchanges in deference to Republican sensibilities on states’ rights.
It was a nice try, but doomed to failure as Republican governors across the country refuse to create state exchanges. It’s a situation full of irony, since conservative governors are undermining states’ rights — a core conservative principle — and allowing the federal government to step in and set up exchanges. The result will be a national system far closer to the original hope of liberals.
As Robert Laszewski, a longtime critic of Obamacare points out, “There’s a lot of cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face going on.”
Why Republicans continue to miss opportunities is a mystery. No doubt much of it can be traced to their hatred of the president, some of which is based on his race. Many conservatives just can’t say yes to anything that bears the name Obama.
The increasingly homogenous congressional districts of today, resulting in representatives pushed to the extremes, is also a factor.
But whatever the cause, the result is clear: Republicans, like Arabs, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.