Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Republicans


State commerce in the grip of the GOP

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The job’s not done yet, lawmakers. Now it’s highway time.

It’s great that the Legislature’s Republicans and Democrats finally settled on a state operating budget that reportedly directs an additional $1 billion to schools. We’re looking forward to seeing the details, where the devil often resides.

But the passage of an operating budget was always a foregone conclusion, despite the months of bickering over its specific provisions. The Washington Constitution requires the Legislature to approve one.

A genuine accomplishment of this Legislature – that includes you, Republican senators – would be passage of a transportation budget to unplug bottlenecked corridors where the state’s freight and traffic are now getting slowly strangled.

The $10 billion package – approved Thursday by the House of Representatives – is of paramount importance to the state’s economy.

Only one Republican – Puyallup’s Hans Zeiger – had the guts to support it. Most other lawmakers in his party appear willing to kill it for one reason: The highway improvements require new tax revenue. These legislators chatter about massive reforms in the Department of Transportation and other near-term impossibilities, but it really comes down to evading a tax vote.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, roads and bridges don’t grow on trees. Santa Claus doesn’t lug them down the chimney. You’ve got to buy them.

If you don’t need them, that’s one thing. But Washington sorely needs strategic investment in its infrastructure – in Spokane, at Snoqualmie Pass, on Interstate 405 and other places where cargo and cars are getting halted for lack of road capacity.

State Route 167 is the poster child of lost economic opportunity. That highway passes from I-405 through Renton, Kent and Auburn – only to get guillotined at Puyallup. A mere six miles separate it from the Port of Tacoma and the I-5 corridor.
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Will the Republican House please join this government?

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

In Congress, America needs a rational, functional Republican Party. As the fiscal cliff dispute is demonstrating, it doesn’t have one.

For years now, the bickering over the nation’s dangerous deficits has revolved around whether to keep Bush-era tax cuts in place for everyone – the official Republican position – or let them expire only for the wealthiest Americans, as most Democrats favor.

Marginal tax rates for the rich are only part of the nation’s overall deficit problem, but you’d never know it from the noise emanating from the capital. House Republicans and President Obama can’t agree on that question, so they haven’t been able to move on to other necessary action – including averting the “fiscal cliff” that threatens the economy if a slew of tax breaks all expire at once.

Many economists believe America’s increasingly healthy economy would be thrown into recession without at least a short-term budget deal. One number illustrates the threat: According to the respected Tax Policy Center, middle-class households with incomes running from $50,000 to $75,000 would see their taxes jump $2,399 next year, a severe loss of spending power.

Under sequestration – the mutual-assured-destruction pact Republicans and Democrats signed last year – the economy will also be slammed by a barrage of harsh spending cuts. The theory behind sequestration was that the cuts would be so intolerable to everyone, Congress would be forced to do something.

The Republican House majority has now done something. It has collapsed.

A deal appeared in the offing earlier this month. Obama had offered to let the tax cuts expire for Americans with incomes exceeding $400,000 a year (the earlier Democratic talking point had called for $250,000). Majority Leader Boehner countered with an offer to allow the increase to fall on people with incomes exceeding $1 million.

Both positions were drenched with partisan maneuvering and cynical calculation. But they were offers, and thus might have led to counter-offers.
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Supercommittee’s failure bodes ill for nation

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Supercommittee? More like Sad Sack committee.

Today was the deadline for the 12 members of Congress charged with charting a path toward national solvency. By Thanksgiving, they were supposed to have produced a package of measures to reduce the U.S. government’s debt – which just exceeded $15 trillion – by $1.2 trillion.

The total reduction they came up with: $0.

All their fumblings and failures played out against a truly alarming background: the crumbling of Europe’s economy under the weight of unsupportable debt and many years of unsustainable spending by southern European countries. That crisis threatens to kill America’s weak, flickering recovery and drag us right back into recession.

You would think that the cataclysmic unfolding of Europe’s folly – that’s our future, folks! – would persuade Republicans, Democrats, anybody, to throw out the old partisan talking points and reach a serious deficit-cutting agreement. Instead we get partisan gridlock in Congress, which led to the creation of the supercommittee, which promptly settled into its own partisan gridlock.

Republican and Democratic leaders are frantically blaming each other for the collapse, hoping the voters will punish the other party in the 2012 elections. That tells you where their hearts are.

Within the supercommittee, there actually were moves toward compromise. On the Republican side, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania abandoned the GOP’s no-taxes-or-the-lady-dies posture and suggested $300 billion in revenue measures. Some Democrats were willing to pare back Medicare, Social Security and other entitlements.

In the end, though, the supercommittee – like Congress – didn’t have enough statesmen or stateswomen willing to put the nation’s interests above their party’s – or their own careers, for that matter.
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Repeal ‘Obamacare’? Show us the alternative

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

OK, Republicans, let’s see your health care bill.

The new GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is poised today to repeal last year’s Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare” – take your pick). It’s an empty gesture as far as lawmaking goes: The Democratic majority in the Senate won’t second the motion, and President Obama certainly wouldn’t sign a repeal of his signature legislation.

But Republicans hope to follow up with piecemeal attacks on the 2010 package that might eventually gut it. The fattest target is the law’s requirement that most Americans carry health insurance. It’s unpopular; it’s also a way to prevent freeloaders from buying insurance after they get sick, then dropping it as soon as they’ve had their babies or their hip replacements.

The Affordable Care Act promises to do the job of extending medical coverage to most Americans, but it is not a work of art. A repeal would be fantastic – if the law were being replaced with something better. The problem is, congressional Republicans aren’t offering a better bill. In fact, they’re offering no bill at all.
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Obama didn’t get mugged in deal with Republicans

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

There’s a lot more to Obama’s tax-cut deal with Republicans than you’d imagine from the Democratic hand-wringing over it.

Symbolically, it seemed a huge GOP victory, because many liberal Democrats had framed the whole argument in terms of giveaways to the wealthy and Republican callousness toward the unemployed. They wanted to decouple the tax cuts given to high-income Americans in 2001 and 2003 from the cuts given to households of lower income.

Democrats wanted to renew the latter while letting the former to expire on schedule at the end of December. This would make the tax code more progressive – a Democratic dream and a nightmare of many Republicans.

In the current economic distress – huge deficits combined with deep recession – the Democrats had the better side of the argument. Renewal of tax relief for the most affluent would be a missed opportunity for whittling down the immense gap between federal revenue and spending. Letting rates suddenly rise in January for less wealthy Americans – who pump most of their discretionary income into the economy – would have been disastrous.

But on Monday, Republicans held the line, and Obama abandoned his previous demands to squeeze more from the affluent. Many Democrats are gnashing their teeth and accusing their president of spinelessness.

But a closer look at the deal – the actual deal, not the symbolic one – tells a different story.
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Election 2010: A backlash, not a broad mandate

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Tuesday’s rout of congressional Democrats sent some strong messages, especially to President Obama. But the triumphant Republicans should be cautious about claiming a sweeping partisan mandate.

For Obama, the politically catastrophic loss of more than 60 Democrats in House seats was a whack on the head with a two-by-four. There is no way to pretty up those returns: On the whole, Americans are thoroughly fed up with the Democrats’ stewardship of the White House and both House and Senate.

Americans didn’t reflexively vote against all incumbents. They kept Republican incumbents and picked off Democrats, including senior lawmakers in what seemed like safe seats. The elections saw a surge in self-identified conservatives, who have always outnumbered liberals in this country and now appear to have widened that advantage.

Many fiscal conservatives and suspicious populists were alarmed by the federal government’s bailout loans to major banks, General Motors and Chrysler; by the huge and expensive stimulus bill of 2009, and by this year’s health care reform package.

The price tag – many hundreds of billions of dollars – made these bills easy targets.
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Republican vs. Republican in the 25th District

Steve Vermillion, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the House in the 25th district, is breaking the GOP’s 11th commandment – “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” In this (condensed) email missive, he tells us why he’s endorsing the Democratic incumbent, Dawn Morrell, instead of the Republican who beat him in the August primary, Hans Zeiger:

In hopes that a “mystery box” of missing ballots would appear with sufficient votes to move me into second place, my hopes were extinguished with my wife’s reminder that we lived in Pierce not King County and the likelihood of missing votes appearing was slim to none.

Zeiger asked for my endorsement, which I declined to give him. Early on, I told the folks in the Pierce County GOP that I had no intention of supporting him should be win in the primary as I do not think he is remotely qualified to be in the Legislature.

I have been asked to at least remain neutral, which were my plans until Zeiger recently moved into his cover-up mode by working to delete many of his controversial writings. I expect that he is working on his “dishonorable” scout badge for the next level of his scouting adventures.
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A hanging jury for Republicans?

You can’t fault the King County Municipal League for lack of transparency. Below is a memo we got yesterday from state Sen. Pam Roach, a Republican running for re-election in the 31st District.

From the looks of it, this conservative Republican will be facing a panel of two conservatives, one centrist, three liberals, two “very liberal” liberals and two who describe themselves as “left of center.” Seven identify themselves as Democrats, none as Republicans.

I was contacted by the Muni League to set an interview date. In the past I have gone in with all the extraordinary things that I have done for constituents, district efforts led, my efforts in Honduras, local endorsements…etc. I spent hours gathering things up..driving to the interviews (sometimes as far north as Fircrest) and I was never the token Republican “superior than my opponent” candidate.

After they left several messages I decided to call them. I told the nice young-sounding lady that in the last interview there were two trial lawyers on the interview panel and my opponent was, in fact, a trial lawyer. That, I said, did not seem too fair to me. I asked if I could see this year’s panel members assigned to my race….. I can’t believe she actually sent it! 

Here’s the response from Brit Sojka of the Municipal League of King County:

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