The Economist: Republicans Deserve To Get Clobbered

Add The Economist to the list of conservative publications hoping for a Democratic victory:

The vultures gather

Nov 2nd 2006
From The Economist print edition

“YOU have been sat here too long for any good you have been doing,” Oliver Cromwell famously declared, as he dissolved the Rump Parliament in 1653. If the polls are to be believed, American voters will say much the same to George Bush’s Republicans when they vote in the mid-term congressional elections on November 7th. Although the Republicans may hold on to the Senate, where only 33 of the 100 seats are at stake, almost everyone expects that they will lose the majority they have held in the House of Representatives for the past 12 years. The scent of Republican defeat is in the air (see article).

There are points, to be sure, in Mr Bush’s favour. The economy has done reasonably well; the Dow (though not other financial indices) recently hit a record high, inflation is modest and unemployment is at a level that most countries would envy. Despite everything that is going wrong in Iraq, Americans at home have been safe: no terrorist has landed a blow on American soil in the five years since September 11th 2001. Yet these achievements do not play as well for Mr Bush as they should. Growth is slowing, and most of the benefits of the recent boom have accrued to the wealthiest. Economic insecurity is perceived by many to be rising; and polls also suggest that voters increasingly see the Iraq misadventure as threatening their domestic security too. When you see Mr Bush featured in a political television ad, you can be pretty confident that a Democrat put him there.

Collective responsibility

Why should the Republicans in Congress take the blame for Donald Rumsfeld’s incompetence or Dick Cheney’s tolerance of “waterboarding” terrorist suspects? Because Congress was meant to be the first line of defence. The more an administration errs, the more essential it is that Congress—the first branch of government, according to the constitution—perform its appointed role of supervising the executive with rigour.

In fact the record of the 109th Congress has been terrible. First and foremost, it has failed in its duty of oversight. The conduct of the war, conditions at Guantánamo, the overspending: the administration has seldom had to face hostile questioning from either the House or the Senate. There have been a few honourable exceptions in the upper chamber, notably John McCain’s interventions on the use of torture. But in general the Republicans have smothered debate. Omnibus bills, thousands of pages long, have been voted through in the small hours on the nod. The number of days the House spent sitting in 2006 was the lowest in 60 years.

Then there is sleaze. The majority leader of the House, Tom DeLay, had to resign his post because he is facing charges over election-funding violations. Two other sitting Republican congressmen have been found guilty of corruption. The resignation last month of Mark Foley, a Republican congressman accused of sending salacious e-mails to young congressional pages, is merely the latest blow.

Worse than sleaze is pork. All Congresses like to vote money for pet projects, most recently using “earmarks” to tie a grant of federal money to a local scheme. But this one has been astonishing: the number of earmarks has shot up tenfold since the Republicans took the House in 1994. The party of small government has become the party of the absurd $223m “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska. Over the past six years the House Republicans have repeatedly snuffled up the sugar that had been meant to make the bitter pill of entitlement reform go down, without swallowing the hard stuff. Voters might reasonably have expected a degree of austerity from the conjunction of Republicans in the White House, Senate and House. Instead, the past six years have seen a $236 billion surplus transmogrified into a nearly equal and opposite deficit, with the prospect of much bigger deficits to come.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment