“ ‘Do-Nothing’ Label May Haunt Republicans in Congressional Races,” reads the headline on the Brian Faler story that moved on the Bloomberg wire July 12. “Republicans head into the final stretch of what Democrats are calling a ‘do-nothing Congress’ that has achieved none of the key items of President George W. Bush’s agenda.
“Just a year and a half after Republicans increased their majorities in the 2004 elections, Bush’s Social Security overhaul plan has been shelved, his vow to restructure the tax code postponed indefinitely and his calls for reshaping medical malpractice long-forgotten,” intones Mr. Faler. Meantime, “The administration’s current major initiative, an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, is hanging by a thread on Capitol Hill.”
The likely ramifications?
“Republicans may pay a price for their inaction in this November’s election, said David Mayhew, a congressional scholar at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. ‘If they get into September and they still have not done anything on immigration, then they are heavily subject to the charge that they can’t tie their shoes,’ he said.”
Goodness. And to what does Mr. Faler attribute this catalog of woe?
“Analysts offer several reasons for the trickle of legislative output this year: the war in Iraq, the president’s reduced standing in the polls, election-year politics that make passing far-reaching measures difficult, budget deficits that have left little money for new initiatives, and the ‘curse’ that historically has left many second-term presidents struggling to match first-term accomplishments.”
First, let us give thanks for some comic relief, whether intended or not. The notion that it’s due to a “a shortage of money” that the same Congress that has frittered away billions -- billions -- larding up every spending bill till it looks like Christmas morning from Goose Knob to Dogpatch, has failed to privatize Social Security, simplify the Byzantine tax code, and institute a “loser-pays” system in the courts -- all of which would SAVE the government money, at the same time they would help Americans generate more wealth by disentangling us from a redistributionist welfare state -- surely qualifies Mr. Faler and his unnamed “analysts” as worthy successors to Lewis Carroll.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada confirms for the author that “do-nothing Congress” is a current talking point of congressional Democrats (hoping to gain 16 seats in the House and six in the Senate), who remember that President Harry Truman managed to hang that label on the Republican-dominated 80th Congress, helping propel him to a 1948 victory that is widely considered the greatest upset in American political history.
It’s true enough that Republicans have failed to enact much of President Bush’s bureaucracy-slashing agenda (which, in truth, he pretty much dumped on their doorstep like James Cagney’s body at the end of “The Public Enemy”) -- more’s the pity. The question is whether Democrats would really be applauding them if they had, and to what extent the very Democrats who now wipe away the tears that “more hasn’t been done” haven’t been fighting tooth and nail for five years to make sure it stayed that way.
What was the Republican Congress doing, back before it decided to “do nothing”?
In President Bush’s first two years, Congress seriously eroded the First Amendment by enacting the McCain-Feingold limits on campaign fund-raising, and then passed the “No Child Left Behind” law, further centralizing and bureaucratizing a failed and vastly expensive system of ultra-left government youth propaganda camps (“public schools”) that ought to be devolved back to local communities, if not disbanded entirely.
During the second half of Bush’s first term, Republicans then added a prescription-drug benefit to Medicaid, an actuarially bankrupt Great Society-era socialized medicine scheme which the party of Barry Goldwater should be burying, not expanding.
Of course this is what Democrats want Republicans to “do” more of. We don’t need to wonder whether the electorate wants more of this “done”: the only way Democrats have been able to win much of anything since 1980 is to lie, contending they’re “New Democrats” who no longer want to expand the socialist welfare state (wink wink, nudge nudge.)
Which works out pretty well for them, if Republicans are willing to do it in their stead.
Other than that, the major accomplishments of the Congress in the first five years of the Bush presidency have been approximately $2 trillion in tax cuts. Is that’s what Sen. Reid and the Democrats want the GOP to “do” more of?
If so, the majority should “do” just that -- and then “do” them one or two better. Why not repeal the Endangered Species Act, order Immigration to enforce existing law by rounding up and deporting every illegal alien they can find (as Dwight Eisenhower successfully did in 1953, with a force of only 1,075 Border Patrol agents), and zero out all funding for the departments of Energy and Education ... as well as the Environmental Protection Agency?
It would be a good start.