Framing the Issues
The Democrats are playing a strategic game to recover the House in 2014. They are playing to win, and they are playing well. They are keeping the Republicans constantly on defense, not allowing them to frame the issues in ways which are clearly understandable to the American people and that show that Republicans are acting in the best interest of the American people.
Obama had a big win with the so-called "fiscal cliff" issue. He got what he wanted. Higher taxes for everyone, not just the wealthy, and minimal decreases in spending. All Americans who earn a paycheck of any size had their taxes raised. Those who aren't working had their unemployment benefits increased. So the Obama policy of penalizing the productive and rewarding the unproductive continues.
He also managed to avoid making any significant spending cuts. For every $14 in tax increases in the Fiscal Cliff bill, there was $1 of spending cuts. The net effect of the bill is an increase in spending by the Federal Government of roughly $330 billion per year. Over the next ten years government spending will increase by four trillion dollars (four thousand billion dollars).
Obama positioned himself strategically so that if Republicans had stood solidly on principle and forced the country to go over the "fiscal cliff" because they couldn't get spending cuts and because they wanted no tax increases, Republicans would have received the blame for raising taxes on everyone and forcing huge cuts in defense spending. There was no possible outcome from that negotiation that would have positioned Republicans as being the "good guys."
Republicans were unable to frame the issue so as to be seen as protectors of the working public by preventing an increase in everyone's taxes. They were unable to position themselves as being the fiscally responsible party by refusing to agree to tax increases without commensurate spending cuts. Instead, they allowed Obama to position them as just interested in protecting the "wealthy." Why are Republicans not able to seize the initiative in public discourse?
In the next seven to eight weeks the debt ceiling issue will come to the fore. Obama is already positioning Republicans, who don't want the debt ceiling increased, as being obstructionists who won't let America "pay its debts on time" instead of a party that is protecting America by preventing our national debt from being increased to a level where a majority of our tax revenue is used to repay principal and interest on our debt and we have less and less available funds for other government services. In other words, Republicans are trying their best to prevent America from turning into Greece. Why are we not hearing on television ads and in newspaper ads the rationale of the Republican Party for insisting on no increase in the debt ceiling?
By increasing the debt limit we allow the Federal Government to borrow more and more money. The fiscally responsible action is to 1) have Congress make a budget (which has not happened in any year under the Obama administration but is required under the Constitution), 2) figure out what revenues there are, which would be the limit on spending and 3) make the spending cuts necessary to enable the country to "pay its bills" out of what existing revenue there is. Isn't that what businesses and families have to do to prevent bankruptcy? Republicans should already have articulate spokesmen out there framing the issue. Instead, they are once again allowing Obama to position Republicans as the "bad guys" who are preventing America from "paying its bills" instead of the "good guys" who are trying to be fiscally responsible and prevent another recession and runaway inflation.
Democrats are framing the issues in a way that will allow them to retake the House in 2014. Republicans need articulate strategic and tactical thinkers and spokesmen who can take the initiative and present the Republican message in a way that the public can clearly understand before the Democrats frame the issue, if they want to survive as a political party.
Gary Aminoff is Chairman of the Alliance for Liberty and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org