The Red Dog ransom note

Pray that the voters who gave the Democrats a "shellacking" this last election are closely watching the current morality play unfolding in Washington, for if there is any doubt that the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt has shamelessly morphed into a mean-spirited party of plutocrats, well, this is the moment.

Clearly the Red Dogs' obstructionist strategy continues: Its latest incarnation is that if they don't get a continuation of the tax cuts for those wealthy Americans who earn more than $250,000, they will stonewall all legislation, thus shutting down the White House agenda during this lame-duck Congress. Recall that this tax cut has been in effect since 2001, costing the nation some $1.35 trillion, money that we borrowed from China and Saudi Arabia and money that has been added to the nation's debt. The absence of those tax revenues has, in great part, resulted in the bleak economic situation we now face as a debtor nation.

To lobby strenuously for an extension of the tax cuts for wealthy Americans while righteously claiming to be deficit hawks requires chutzpah that is beyond the pale. It is outrageous and stunningly hypocritical. Yet that is what the Red Dogs have been shamelessly selling.

The Republicans, in effect, sent the White House a ransom note saying:

"We're holding hostage a continuation of unemployment benefits for some 2 million Americans, which will expire in December; the ratification of the New START treaty with Russia; the extension of the middle class tax cuts; the Dream Act; and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We're holding them in an old Washington, D.C., warehouse, safe for now. Here are our demands: We want the tax break for the wealthy to go forward. Do that and nobody gets hurt, and we can begin talking about the rest of your agenda."

Of course, upon receiving this note, the Dems looked at each other and grimly shook their heads. "Hey, if we go along with this deal it'll cost $900 billion over the next two years, added to the deficit. Meanwhile we're in a financial ditch, driven there by the hostage-takers who used a credit card to finance two wars, the prescription drug plan and across-the-board tax cuts. Who gives tax cuts when you're at war? Who passes a prescription plan that isn't paid for? It's the height of irresponsibility."

"You think they're serious?" asked a Dem. "Would they really let the unemployed sink and let the middle class cuts expire, tank DADT and New START — which is vital to our national security?

"Let's call their bluff. Don't pay the ransom. Tell them if they want to be so callously Machiavellian, so party-first and country-second, well, fine. This is assault and battery, perpetrated against the least among us, meaning those whose wages have stagnated over the past 10 years while the wealthy have prospered beyond their wildest dreams. The facts are on our side. Income disparity is growing, threatening our democracy. From 1993 to 2007, the top 1 percent captured one half of the overall economic growth. And the top 10 percent now holds 57 percent of the nation's net wealth. Let's tell them to stuff it. They'll blink.

"Any chance of finding the warehouse where they're being held?

"Not a chance. These guys have done this before; they are very, very good. Sadly, our choices are narrowed down to two responses: pay the ransom and tack on some other stuff, then ride out the reaction from our progressive base. I've already heard Neville Chamberlain's name mentioned, followed by 'capitulation.'

"This is so over the top. In any other period, the behavior of this egregious stand of the Red Dogs should be the gift that keeps on giving, taking us to the 2012 election. But after the 2010 election, who knows if anyone is paying attention? It's still a mystery why the electorate so eagerly returned these people to power. I mean, how do you solve a crisis 10 years in the making in less than two years?

"You don't. In any case, we pay the ransom. Maybe get some other stuff in the bargain, knowing it will cost some $800 billion. In the alternative, we take the case to the American people, pointing out that tax cuts for the wealthy is a line in the sand we will not cross. No matter that we don't have the votes to override the Republican filibusters. No matter that the unemployment insurance expires this month. No matter that the lame-duck agenda tanks. This is our chance to present to the electorate a glaring contrast between our party and the Red Dogs. Let's draw that distinction. Let's fight. Better that than sending the hostage-takers $800 billion in Chinese Renminbi.

"Or not. I'm still worried about the hostages."

Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.

Share This Story