“We’ve got to do something.
“We’ve got to do something.
“Before Mother Earth gets anymore hurt, we’ve got to do something.” -- Aldous Snow (played by Russell Brand) and Infant Sorrow, 2008.
Fans of the 2000’s era satirical comedy classic Forgetting Sarah Marshall will recognize the lyrics from the above spoof melody crooned by a fictional singer who introduces his character into the movie’s plot without the audience even realizing it. The song itself is a parody of a real-life leftist do-gooder social justice and climate activism-type music genre that implores the stoic and spoiled generation of idealistic waifs to “do something” about the world’s problems rather than just sit around and complain about them. In other words, the theme’s not intended to be taken seriously. This was “woke” a decade before I ever recall hearing the contemporary term applied to all things politically correct and racially sensitive. But Kumbaya social consciousness has been around for a long time, hasn’t it?
The tune came to mind last week as news reports emerged of the growing schism in the Republican senate caucus between Florida conservative senator Rick Scott and the body’s longtime GOP leader, the always immovable and never excitable but supremely protective of the status quo “Murder Turtle”, Mitch McConnell. It turns out that Scott had the audacity to introduce a memo that laid out his vision for the party’s agenda should the polls prove salient and Republicans are swept into power on Capitol Hill after November’s midterm elections.
In essence, Scott was attempting to “do something” about the GOP’s well-earned reputation for not standing for a whole heck of a lot, and by airing his thoughts to the public, drew disapproving glances and comments from McConnell and anyone else in the establishment leader’s circle who believes that it’s better to keep quiet and “do nothing” than risk standing for a set of policies that might stir some element of the voting public to disfavor you.
Adding more flavor to the brew was the fact that Scott was willing to put himself out there -- to “do something” -- whereas most Republicans seem content to rest on their haunches and ignore the harder public relations dilemmas until they’re installed safely on the majority’s side.
Naturally, the spat drew cheers from the always hungry for a Republican feud establishment media. Jordain Carney reported at The Hill:
“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his top allies are publicly distancing themselves from Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) decision to release a memo laying out his vision for the party’s agenda...
“But the split came after Scott’s plan dominated a closed-door GOP leadership meeting on Monday night, sources confirmed to The Hill, with top GOP senators privately warning Scott that the plan opened the party up to Democratic attacks. McConnell didn’t point to specific parts of Scott’s plan but appeared to be making veiled jabs at two pieces of it that have sparked criticism from both Democrats and some GOP Senate campaigns.
“One section of Scott’s 11-point plan says that ‘All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount.’ Another part says that, ‘All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.’ Beyond the policy specifics, Scott’s decision to release an agenda raised eyebrows because McConnell has made it clear he doesn’t believe the caucus should get into what its plans would be in 2023 ahead of the November election, which he wants to be a referendum on Democratic control of Washington.”
Alas, this amounts to a split between the “We’ve got to do something” branch of the Republican Party embodied by Scott, the one that wears principles and values on their sleeves and supposes leveling with the American public about where the party stands on real issues will pay off in votes at election time. The other side, better understood as McConnell’s establishment faction, thinks dumbing the campaign down to an us vs. them proposition is more prudent, in essence offering a choice between the bumbling and evil dictatorial Democrats and Republicans who promise to be more capable and responsible.
Such a strategy is prefaced on the notion that the Republican brand is more highly regarded than the other party’s -- or Democrats are so reviled that citizens will select the “anyone but them” option when the time arrives. For their part, Democrats usually settle for accusing Republicans of being heartless big business sheltering stooges who would just as soon take food out of the mouths of children as spend an extra dime on the downtrodden. Or, as in the case of one very enterprising liberal group a decade ago, show Republicans pushing a wheelchair bound granny off a cliff.
I don’t know the exact details of Scott’s GOP agenda memo, but I like the sound of the two ideas that Carney included in his description above. With the back-and-forth battle over tax rates raging as strongly as it’s ever been, there must be guiding reform principles to eventually push through legislatively.
(Scott more thoroughly explains his thinking in this Wall Street Journal op-ed.) Asking that all Americans have “skin in the game” when it comes to paying taxes is essential for grasping who pays what to Uncle Sam, and also serves to shine accountability onto the politicians in Congress who spend and spend and spend without any hesitation.
Senile president Joe Biden, during his State of the Union address last week, raised the issue again. Biden argued the wealthy need to “pay their fair share” and insinuated that the exploding federal budget deficit and national debt wouldn’t be as big of a problem if the Trump tax cuts had never been passed. It was a naked political pander to ignorant people -- and is utterly false -- but what else would you expect from Joe Biden?
Anyone who’s been around Washington long enough knows there isn’t a revenue problem with the federal government. Uncle Sam’s coffers get replenished and boosted with each passing year, but the red ink accumulates because Congress appropriates too much and the president signs the bills.
The budgetary process has completely broken down. There’s no such thing as “regular order” in budgeting any longer. Regardless of which party holds the majority, the Congress passes continuing resolutions which basically lump everything into enormous omnibus bills containing program renewals from the previous year, typically with an increase. The late senator Tom Coburn published his annual “pig book” which detailed wasteful programs that were automatically given another year in each budget. Unfortunately, Coburn’s was like a voice crying in the wilderness on spending and waste. Senator Rand Paul also regularly brings up spending and reform, but he’s always ignored by McConnell and the Washington establishment.
If Rick Scott wants to have everyone pay taxes -- even if it’s only $1 per year -- I think it’s a great start, and would be popular.
So would Scott’s idea to sunset every federal program after five years. Technically it means huge entitlements like Social Security and Medicare would need to be renewed or face elimination each half decade, but forcing politicians to work on bills isn’t a bad thing, is it? As it is, the major entitlement programs are going bankrupt; they need to be redone to keep them solvent. Someone, somewhere, needs to make hard decisions on what stays and what gets cut. Former president Donald Trump indicated his second term would address the budget issues. Instead of a hard conversation on the federal government’s spending, however, we got senile Joe Biden and his phony “Build Back (More) Better” payoff to liberal Democrat constituencies and a war in Ukraine spurred on because of misdirected energy policies that emboldened Emperor Vladimus Puntinus to invade a weaker neighbor. Which now brings us to, “We’ve got to do something.”
It’s understandable how McConnell wants to say as little as possible about what the GOP intends to do if and when the party is in power again next year, but the voters must be informed of the broader outlines of the party’s big policy wish list. Instead of chastising responsible men like Sen. Rick Scott for tossing out his proposals to tackle the largest issues, McConnell should lead the way in doing so himself.
For far too long Republicans have settled for an “Elect us and we’ll tell you what we’re going to do” position, which isn’t all that different from Nancy Pelosi’s famous “We need to pass the bill for you to find out what’s in it” statement regarding Obamacare. Voters want something to hold onto. Voting against the Democrats is a good thing, but Americans need more.
Saying “We’ve got to do something” isn’t the same thing as doing it, however. Republicans won’t get anywhere in advancing policy until they’re willing to change leadership philosophy and adopt a more aggressive posture in reforming the federal government. They need to get a little dirty and not worry about the political optics.
“We’ve got to do something,” and that time is now.
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