Yet, in two recent examples from Washington, that appears to be happening.
First, there was the Republican posture on avoiding the fiscal cliff deadline. President Barack Obama proposed a deal that includes raising income taxes on the wealthiest Americans. It’s not just the president, however. A majority of Americans favor that policy. Likewise, a bipartisan deficit commission saw raising some taxes as a key component in a mixed plan to put the nation’s budget in a better position.
Congressional Republicans found themselves in a bind this month. Loathe to raise taxes on even millionaires, they began negotiations in the hole. After all, the president has offered spending reductions. It’s expected they would have to bend, as well.
So, House Speaker John Boehner did the best he could with the tools he had left. He proposed closing tax loopholes and limiting deductions as a way to raise an estimated $800 billion for the treasury. It’s not a bad idea on its face; however, closing enough loopholes to reach hundreds of billions of dollars will very likely land in the laps of more than millionaires. The middle class might pay a high price for Boehner’s offer, which appears to be going nowhere regardless.
It’s what we’d expect from policymakers in a self-constricted posture.
Speaking of constraints, the National Rifle Association publicly responded last week to the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, called for a dialogue at a Friday news conference and then promptly refused to take questions. That’s a bad start, no?
The presentation was no better. LaPierre ticked off a list of culprits to blame for the nation’s shoot-first culture. We should blame the media, movies, videogames and just about everything else so long it does not involve the letters “N,” “R” or “A,” LaPierre said.
As far as policy directly connected to the deaths of 20 schoolchildren and six adults in Newtown, LaPierre called for sending an armed guard into every U.S. school. If a full-time police officer can’t be found, he said, perhaps we can enlist the ranks of the retired. The whole exercise might cost $5 billion annually.
That notion is so off-the-cuff that we have to wonder if the NRA’s policymaking effort has been outsourced to retirees with a full pot of coffee and lots of time on their hand.
Here again, the NRA started from a bind. Present a solution to offer to Americans growing concerned that gun violence is out of control. Wait, wait, not so fast, say the powers at the NRA. Avoid at all costs any solutions that we have previously derided as “gun control.” Limits on firepower are out. Tighter scrutiny on who can purchase firearms is out.
So, with one arm behind their backs, representatives from the NRA did what they could to offer ideas. The result was a plan so insufficient that it would have better for LaPierre to have remained silent.