Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lindsey Graham brings the crazy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Give Lindsey Graham some credit. In bringing so much of the crazy lately -- including just last week threatening to block the president's key national security appointments, Hagel for Defense and Brennan for the CIA -- he's finally emerging from his pal John McCain's shadow.

But let's get back to that first point: he's bringing the crazy. And while he continues to position himself as a pragmatic, bipartisan centrist, and while the Beltway media continue to let him get away with it by treating him as a voice of bipartisan reason, the substance beneath that thin veneer of spin is hardcore conservative. Maybe not Ted Cruz-style hardcore, and certainly softened by that southern drawl and a smile, but still conservative enough that not so long ago he would have been considered something of an extremist.

In any event, he was at it again today on the Sunday talk-show circuit, where he's always welcomed as that supposed voice of reason, arguing that the way to deal with the automatic defense cuts of the sequester is to cut $1.2 trillion from the Affordable Care Act:

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Graham suggested that the sequester's across-the-board cuts to federal spending, including about a roughly 7.5 percent reduction in military spending, would be "destroying the military." But rather than agree to President Obama's proposed alternatives to the sequester, the South Carolina Republican said we should save money by eliminating health care for the 30 million people covered by the Affordable Care Act.

Of course, another way to deal with it is to agree to a responsible combination of spending cuts and revenue increases of the kind that President Obama and the Democrats have been proposing. But for Republicans, including these supposed centrists, revenue increases are simply not acceptable, and so instead they go scrounging for cuts that directly impact people other than them and those like them, particularly low-income Americans and, as is the case here, those who, if it were up to Graham and his fellow Republicans, wouldn't have health insurance.

This is the politics of brutalization that we've come to expect from the cruel and unsual GOP, but it's also dangerously misguided in fiscal policy terms. As ThinkProgress notes:

The draconian cuts to vital programs Graham and other Republicans are demanding, including providing health insurance for the millions of Americans who otherwise would not have it, will hurt the economy and hurt real people.

But Graham's "solution" also misses a key reality: Obamacare actually reduced the deficit. His proposal to put its elimination on the table would mean increasing the budget deficit by an estimated $109 billion over the same 10-year period, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

But of course the CW of the Beltway is the conservative view that the best way to help a struggling economy is austerity, which is actually the opposite of the truth.

As usual, Lindsey Graham is just regurgitating that CW, appearing sensibly centrist to the fawning Beltway media while also solidifying himself, by setting himself up to be able to tout his right-wing bona fides, against a primary challenge in 2014. Having been censured in South Carolina a couple of years ago for breaking with right-wing orthodoxy, he'll no doubt continue to walk this tightrope as long as he can, no matter the damage he does along the way.

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