Thursday, February 28, 2013

Boehner's paradox of power

By Frank Moraes 

Jonathan Chait came out yesterday morning and said what we all know in our hearts: John Boehner's position on the Sequester is a teeny-tiny jobs program. Or to put it more bluntly: he doesn't care about 700,000 jobs that will be lost if the Sequester stays the law; he only cares about one job: his own as Speaker of the House. I don't think this is the only thing that is going on, but there is much to it. After all, a bipartisan plan could make it through the House; it is just that Boehner won't allow the vote. And that just makes the national brand of the GOP that much worse.

This is another example of the paradox of power. Boehner has basically taken his career hostage. He now has quite a lot of power. He could cut deals with the White House that are great for the Republicans and then, with the help of House Democrats, he could get them enacted. But if he does that, he will surely lose his speakership. And thus the paradox: he has power only so long as he doesn't use it.

Something like this goes on with every politician in the country. They make concessions for power. But they never really use the power (in the way they had wanted to when they started, anyway) because they are trying to get more power.

Or, as with Boehner, they are trying to hold onto their impotent power. Or, as with Obama, they've been so thoroughly assimilated into the system that they can't imagine doing anything other than perpetuating it. If you think about it though, there is a whole lot of assimilation at all levels of government. If there weren't, suicide rates among politicians would be very high because of the paradoxical position they place themselves in.

Chait thinks that Boehner will eventually accept a deal. I'm not keen to see this happen. I fear that Obama will be so eager for a deal that he will give away huge cuts in entitlement programs in exchange for rich people's tip money. And what will be even worse will be watching liberal pundits dance in the streets, "Obama made Boehner cave!" The actual deal won't matter. And then ten years from now, the loopholes will all be back, but the cuts will live on. So I'm almost hoping that Boehner continues to keep his power rather than use it.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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