Animal House

In a case of life imitating art, Congressman Steny Hoyer protested the acting House Speaker’s failure to recognize him before adjournment of the House to prevent his call to take up the payroll tax holiday bill. 

Sounding suspiciously like Dean Vernon Wormer from the cult classic Animal House, Hoyer launched into an eerily similar monologue reminiscent of the fraternity hearing scene as Republicans streamed out of the House chamber. Hoyer’s protests went unheeded by House Republicans intent on forcing the Senate into conference to address their objections over the two-month time frame of the payroll tax holiday.

As the House Minority Whip, Democrat Hoyer suffered the same experience House Republicans endured back in 2008 under Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she adjourned the House to prevent new energy legislation from being taken up. Hoyer has little ground to complain given the precedent set under Nancy Pelosi.

It is no wonder that gridlock prevails in Washington as partisan politics is the order for the day. Democrats like Hoyer portray the two-month payroll tax holiday as necessary for getting employers to hire while Republicans argue that two months is not enough time to change employer behavior and that a year is needed. The fact is that neither scenario is sufficient to prod employers into hiring as both are temporary tax respites that employers know full well will be allowed to expire at a more convenient political time.

If decreasing taxes is needed to stimulate hiring, why aren’t Democrats clamoring for making the Bush tax cuts permanent? At least this would provide employers with some stability in accessing their future hiring costs. Democrats are aware of Reagan’s success in using tax cuts to reverse the economic quagmire created under Jimmy Carter, but are reluctant to go against Obama’s radical progressive agenda, even if it means being voted out of office by an angry electorate. They privately grouse at Obama’s incompetence while publicly supporting his policies. All of this is for the sake of scoring political points to increase their power on Capitol Hill at the expense of Americans unable to find employment or provide for their families.

Republicans are no less guilty of playing politics for the sake of scoring points. They understand that temporary tax holidays are useless in stimulating the economy as Americans are not so stupid as to undertake large purchases using temporary funds. It would have been far better for House Republicans under Speaker Boehner to quickly pass the two-month payroll tax holiday than to allow Obama to position himself as the supporter of tax cuts. With their inept behavior, Republicans surrendered their bread-and-butter tax cut issue to the most progressive tax-and-spend president since Lyndon Johnson.

Americans see the gridlock in Washington and rightly wonder why their elected representatives can’t just come together to pass sensible legislation that gets the country back to work. The answer lies in who is defining sensible legislation. Business requires a climate of stable tax and regulatory policies in order to expand and add jobs. President Obama is pursuing his radical progressive agenda at full speed to hobble the economy with unprecedented regulations such as those just announced by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson requiring coal-fired power plants to install expensive new scrubbing equipment or shut down. It is the threat of such new regulations that cause businesses to hoard their scarce resources in anticipation of the expensive future that awaits them.

Americans enjoy a much cleaner environment free of hazardous pollution thanks to the Clean Air Act passed in 1970 under President Nixon. No one argues that we should return to the days when companies routinely discharged harmful pollutants directly into rivers and released toxic gases into the atmosphere. However, the original intent of the Clean Air Act to reduce harmful pollutants and restore our environment to its pristine condition has largely been accomplished. Responsible companies seek to avoid the negative publicity resulting from even an accidental release of pollution.

The Obama Administration remains convinced that businesses are waiting in anticipation of the time when they can once again freely dump the waste resulting from their manufacturing processes without regard for the environment in order to improve their profit margins. Hence, they perceive the need for ever increasing regulation without regard to the cost-benefit ratio or the increased costs to consumers of such wacky ideas as regulating farm dust. I’m not making this up.

Democrats subscribe to the theory that big government is necessary to micromanage all aspects of life in a vain attempt to remove risk. They believe that government intervention on a massive scale is capable of removing the risk of failure and allowing a stable, stress-free existence. Their agenda is intended to remove risk, but ends up removing individual freedom of choice and the requirement for individual responsibility. Society is reduced to an elite group charged with managing the affairs of everyone else to keep this Utopian paradise running smoothly. Their failure to achieve this condition is explained as not having the power and resources needed to bring their ideas into fruition. Always what is needed is a little more.

Conservatives believe that individuals make the best decisions on allocating their scarce resources without the overhead of government micromanagement. Government involvement decreases the scarce resources available to individuals and businesses in the form of taxes to support a bloated bureaucracy with scant knowledge of individual circumstances. Conservatives realize that individual responsibility, coupled with the freedom to succeed or fail, is the basis for American exceptionalism as expressed by the Founding Fathers. Yes, you may fail, but you also may succeed beyond your wildest expectations. Either way, the individual is free to choose his own path and reap the reward of his choice.

Businesses have decided to withdraw from the marketplace and hoard their capital in anticipation of a future without Barack Obama as president. Obama is unable to force their investment in the marketplace, and is unable to persuade their engagement given the uncertainty of his tax and regulatory intentions. Business requires a stable tax and regulatory climate to remove as much uncertainty as possible from future events in their pursuit of revenues to ensure the continued existence of their organization. Their failure to properly account for the stability of future revenue can easily doom the organization to failure and thrust their employees out on the street without income and the ability to support their families. Conservatives understand this while progressive Democrats demonstrate a profound lack of understanding on this point.

While politicians from both parties squabble over political points most Americans couldn’t care less about, they risk the wrath of an electorate tired of waiting for solutions. Democrats risk being seen as beholden to special interests at odds with average Americans. Republicans risk being seen as little different from their counterparts. The Democrats have firmly planted their flag in the progressive camp of special interests and elitist oversight. Republicans need to present a clear choice to Americans and resist the temptation to play at the Democrats’ game. They need to embrace conservative values and patiently explain how their agenda of personal freedom and responsibility will benefit the voters and the country.

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