Why do Republicans hate art, the elderly and children?
Hint: Same reason parents hate their children when they say, "No." We could just leave it at that, but this is too much fun.
The demonizing of Republicans for trying to seriously address our desperately ailing economy surely begs for a new metaphor. The GOP has become the army of Mordor, fat-gobbed predators who feed on children while destroying all that is beautiful in their relentless pursuit of greed.
Or so one would infer from the fiery rants emanating from the bowels of Capitol Hill and Hollywood.
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"Why are the Republicans trying to kill the arts?" Chris Matthews on "Hardball" asked actor Kevin Spacey, who was in Washington to protest cuts to the arts. Elsewhere, actor Tim Robbins compared proposed cuts to an "old miserly man snatching a crayon out of a baby's hand."
He hoped that "more adult minds will prevail."
Everyone is calling for adults these days. President Barack Obama insisted that Congress "act like grown-ups," adding we don't have time for games. I'm not sure where these adults are going to come from since almost no one seems to want to be one. Meanwhile, the vocabulary of evil and apocalyptic imagery has punctuated criticism of the GOP's proposed 2012 budget, not to be confused with the 2011 budget.
It is helpful at this juncture to recall that Democrats failed to produce a budget last year, despite controlling the White House and both houses of the Congress. But back to the end times:
Jonathan Chait at The New Republic declared the proposed GOP budget "wildly cruel," while Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, projected a biblical "no room at the inn" scenario with "lights out, doors wide open and the drumbeat playing as people are being rolled out of nursing homes in wheelchairs, with crutches, some on beds."
In the midst of so much hysteria, even some Republicans seem to have lost sight of the big picture. They've been scrambling over relative peanuts -- a few billion in a $3.8 trillion budget -- while Democrats were setting the table for a feast. How delicious to blame Republicans for shutting down government.
At least some Republicans, perhaps over-caffeinated on tea, didn't seem to realize that they were winning the fiscal battle. They had succeeded in securing significant cuts to the 2011 budget and managed to produce a plan for 2012 that is widely regarded as visionary, if also very tough.
Rep. Paul Ryan's ambitious proposal is to cut $5.8 trillion from projected spending through the 2021 fiscal year. The budget also cuts individual and corporate income taxes by more than $4 trillion below current projections.
Even hard-right conservatives have been missing the point. As one observer close to the action put it: "John Boehner has been playing chess while these guys (armchair tea party strategists) have been playing checkers."
Although no one expects this 2012 budget to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, it is a blueprint for the debate that must take place about what role government should play in Americans' lives. We may not all agree on all its pieces -- what's new? -- but we can surely find our way to debate without summoning the devil to the table.
Meanwhile, Republicans may have made a strategic error by digging in their heels for so little. A hint for future reference: When your opponent resorts to taunting and mockery, you're winning. Oh, yeah? Says who?
Chuck Schumer for one. For the benefit of Republicans napping, the New York senator informed reporters of his party's panicked strategy when, not realizing that said reporters had already dialed in to a conference call, he revealed his instructions from the Democratic caucus to always use the word "extreme" when describing Boehner and Republicans as boxed in by the tea party.
Did someone say adults?
Gamesmanship can be entertaining when the stakes are small. But as the president correctly noted, the economy is not child's play. As painful as the truth is, we can't continue to live beyond our means. Every category of spending will have to take a hit, and we'll have to figure out how to make the sucker float with a minimum of suffering. In the meantime, we might relax our reflexes just a tad and give hysteria a rest.