Boehner and his hard-line antagonists differed over style, not substance

REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert
Speaker of the House John Boehner discussing his resignation in a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Friday.

It will be weeks or more before we can begin to understand whether Speaker John Boehner’s sudden decision to step down makes much difference in Washington.

Does it make a government shutdown more or less likely? I’ve seen arguments in both directions, but most of the seers say less likely, at least for a few weeks. Boehner will remain as speaker for another month, and now he doesn’t have to worry about what the hard-liners will do to him. If he (and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who also opposes a shutdown) can get a deal done before Boehner departs at the end of October, that will end the crisis until the next crisis.  And the hard-liners (according to some analysts) might be temporarily gratified by the feeling that they ran Boehner outta town. On the third hand (or whatever number I’m up to) Boehner, who came from the old school that compromise wasn’t a mortal sin, will soon be gone.

After watching Boehner’s press conference (during which he fought back tears several times but also sang a few bars of “Zippity Doo Dah,”) herewith a few highlights from the presser, a few reactions, an excellent analysis from someone who actually knows how Congress works, and a few biased thoughts of my own:

Boehner’s tale to the assembled D.C. media of how this came down was amazingly thin on substance. Many elements of his version are hard to accept at face value, but at such a moment he gets to put out the official version, according to him. So, according to him:

Boehner had planned to retire the speakership at the end of 2014, but when his second-in-command and heir apparent (former Majority Leader Eric Cantor) lost his 2014 reelection bid, Boehner decided to stay on to avoid a chaotic leadership fight.

But his new plan (until yesterday) was to announce his resignation on Nov. 17, which will be his 66th birthday. (This may indeed have been in his mind, but if so, no one else knew about it.)

Then, after his big day with the Pope yesterday (Boehner, weepily, told of a magic moment when Pope Francis put his arm around Boehner and said “pray for me,”) Boehner went to bed thinking about moving his announcement up to today.

He told his wife he was thinking about doing so. (This was my favorite part of his exchange with the press. Someone in the gaggle demanded to know what Boehner’s wife said when he told her he might announce his retirement the next day. He replied that her reply was: “Good.”)

He woke up the next day, said his prayers, and decided yup, today’s the day. And thus it was.

As you may know, Boehner was preparing for a challenge from the far right of the Republican caucus to his speakership, something called a motion to vacate the chair, which tests whether the sitting speaker has the support of a majority of the House.

Apparently, the Boehner critics had about 25 members House Republicans who would vote against him. If they got up to 29, Boehner would need some Democrats to vote for him to keep his gavel.

Boehner told the media gaggle that he had “no doubt that I could survive the vote,” but that a prolonged controversy over his tenure would not be helpful to the House doing its business. Boehner said several times that a speaker has responsibility not only to his party but to the institution of the House, which would be damaged by such a leadership controversy, especially in the midst of the difficult maneuvers surrounding the budget and the possibility of a government shutdown.

Above, I promised you someone who knows what she’s talking about. That would be University of Minnesota Political Scientist Kathryn Pearson, whose specialty is Congress.

Pearson said that it was unclear whether Boehner could win that challenge without Democratic votes. If he had to rely on Democrats to keep his gavel, that would embarrass and weaken him.

For Pearson, the irony of the Boehner leadership crisis is that Boehner and those who were plotting to dump him don’t disagree on most substantive policy questions. At the moment, the Republican hardliners are demanding that federal funds to Planned Parenthood be cut off. Boehner would also like to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. (Can I mention again that Planned Parenthood is already prohibited from using any federal funds for abortion services?)

“The difference between Boehner and those who are trying to get rid of him is not a difference over substance,” said Person. They agree on most issues of substance. The difference is over tactics. 

The difference is over whether it’s worth compromising on issues of substance to avoid shutting down the government. A small group of Republican hard-liners, whom Pearson said “have very little regard for the institution of the House,” is drawn to the tactic of shutting down the government. Boehner, by contrast, is “an institutional loyalist” who thinks it’s a mistake, politically and institutionally, to shut down the government.

The problems arising over this kind of difference wasn’t going to go away, Pearson said, and “despite the fact that Boehner had many tools at his disposal, the challenge of governing over a caucus that was so divided over strategy and institutional loyalty made his job nearly impossible. Boehner’s support had eroded to the point where he could no longer be an effective leader.”

Boehner was asked at his press conference whether he would support a candidate to take his place. He declined to make an explicit endorsement but mentioned only Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, whom he said would be a good choice.

Pearson said the odds are that McCarthy will likely seek and get the job. He’s a little more conservative than Boehner, she said, and he will start out without the baggage that Boehner has accumulated in past confrontations with the right-wing of the party. But McCarthy, like Boehner, is an institutionalist and it’s quite possible that he will have similar problems.

Washington’s three top Democrats all spoke about Boehner yesterday and their comments seemed consistent with Pearson’s analysis.

Harry Reid, the leader of Senate Democrats, said Boehner was “someone who understood the art of compromise,” and that Boehner’s demise is evidence that “the party of Eisenhower and Reagan is no more.”

House Democratic Leader (and previous speaker) Nancy Pelosi said that Boehner’s demise was a symptom of “the failure of the House Republicans to engage in dialogue for the good of the American people.”

President Obama said: “John Boehner’s a good man. He was someone who understood that in governing, you don’t get 100 percent of what you want, but you have to work with people whom you disagree with — sometimes strongly – in order to do the people’s business…

“My hope,” Obama said, “is that there’s a recognition on the part of the next speaker of something I think John understood — even though at times it was challenging to bring his caucus along — that we can have significant differences on issues but that doesn’t mean we have to shut down the government, it doesn’t mean you risk the full faith and credit of the United States.”

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Comments (57)

  1. Submitted by John Appelen on 09/25/2015 - 10:13 pm.


    I am more concerned that the Democrats will insist that the government be shutdown. They also seem very unwilling to meet the GOP half way. 🙂

    • Submitted by Howard Miller on 09/26/2015 - 02:20 pm.

      1/2 way, driving Republican way on highway

      Democrats are not insisting that sequestration be ended in government funding. They are willing to vote for a funding bill that stays on topic. But Republicans have claimed they’ll take the funding Planned Parenthood now receives, give it to “community clinics” who don’t do abortion … but that network of community clinics does not exist in the real world. And there is doubt that Republicans would fund them if they did, because many of the same Republicans do not believe in birth control in any form. There is no halfway, when Republicans have no alternative for poor women and children who access Medicaid through Planned Parenthood, when some of our most vulnerable citizens are stripped from medical care, because some conservatives don’t like the legal choices people make concerning reproduction, whether involving contraception or abortion.

      Half way? We’re hurtling down the highway on the Republican side, headed toward a fiscal brick wall. Republicans insist we crash into it, rather than give up trying to defund Planned Parenthood because they don’t have the votes in Congress to do it legitimately. When Republicans insist on taking away medical care from the poor, crashing government itself, because they don’t have the votes to get their way, that’s not an appeal for meeting half-way. It’s another Republican engineered highway crash, and lots more Americans will suffer as a result. Shame on Republicans. Shame on the false frame that Democrats won’t compromise. Nonsense. Quit tearing down effective governing, Republicans.

    • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 09/27/2015 - 08:15 am.

      Republican negotiating

      In negotiations the Republican’s always feel they are standing on the dividing line when they start. Oh don’t forget the guaranteed poison pill they always include in their proposals. They talk a lot about all they propose, but accomplish nothing. The GOP circus continues.

    • Submitted by Mike Davidson on 09/29/2015 - 04:46 pm.

      Democrats Are Not Insisting …

      Democrats aren’t insisting on a government shutdown. Have you watched any of the House hearings today with Cecile Richards, head of PP? Have you seen how unhinged many of the Republicans grilling her have become? Investigation after investigation after investigation has yielded no proof that PP misuses federal money in any way. Furthermore, that anyone is upset over videos that are clearly edited/doctored to illicit outrage from one side of this debate shows me that Republicans are more than willing to use this as a wedge issue.

      Name one Democrat in the last ten years that has stomped his/her feet, shouting “I will shut down the government if I don’t get my way!” POTUS has said he will veto any spending plan that defunds PP, and rightfully so because there is no real, non-cooked evidence of wrongdoing. Any shutdown that occurs will not end badly for Democrats, it will end badly for Republicans. Boehner is no idiot, he’s had to sit through this on more than one occasion. I personally don’t think his decision to retire early had anything to do with the Pope or even the threat of being removed from his Speakership. I think this is a man who finally decided he’s had enough of watching the crazies destroy a political party he’s devoted his life to serving.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/26/2015 - 07:26 am.


    I thought we met the GOP halfway when we agreed that government funds were not to spent on abortion. If we reopen deals, we reopen deals in all of their aspects.

    Personally, I am waiting for a substantive offer from Republicans. If they defund Planned Parenthood, how are they going to replace the services Planned Parenthood provides?

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/28/2015 - 12:52 pm.


      I think PP personnel talking openly about the fiscal compensation received for handling fetal body parts reopened the negotiations for many Americans. Accepting that 1+ million fetuses are aborted/killed each year is challenging enough for many citizens. Hearing people talking about their disposal in such a cold business like manner may have been too much.

      Since I am sure PP has many shared multi-purpose facilities and personnel, I am not sure how they ensure $0 go to supporting ot enabling abortions?

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/26/2015 - 08:54 am.

    Is this really about PP ?

    Everyone is aware than PP receives no abortion funding from the US government. Everone knows the the filmed “expose” shows nothing other than an opportunistic word salad and that Fiorini is hallucinating.n And fine, upstanding DR Carson should be in the forefront defending foetal cell research.

    But no, there is a shutdown in search of a cause that has been building for close to 7 years now. And as Rumsfeld so presciently said….. you go to war with the war you have…

    It’s an attempt to drive the President from office in sackcloth and ashes, finally broken by the righteousness of the right. Its the rage of the right, defeated repeatedly by the small-ball of the unqualified usurper. It’s the rage of the right, defeated by the fact that their votes did not add up to effective majorities, Its the rage of that portion of the right that do not care how appalling and unappealing their noxious nostrums within their “taking back America” are, because that’s what they, hence everyone, should want.

    And they do not see they are guaranteeing their future electoral losses.

  4. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/26/2015 - 09:04 am.

    eulogy from cantor

    Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is blasting the GOP’s conservative wing as unrealistic, a day after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced he would resign from Congress.

    “The tragedy here is that these voices have not been honest with our fellow conservatives. They have not been honest about what can be accomplished when your party controls Congress, but not the White House,” Cantor writes in a New York Times piece published Saturday.
    Cantor (R-Va.), who served as majority leader until his stunning defeat in a primary election last year, says conservatives blamed GOP leaders for failing to “enact into law a conservative vision for government, without compromise,” instead of President Obama.

    “As a result we missed chances to achieve important policies for the good of the country.”

    Boehner stunned Washington on Friday by announcing that he’ll resign from Congress in October. But for his 2014 primary loss, Cantor likely would have been a top contender to succeed Boehner for the speakership.

    Furious Boehner allies blame the caucus’ more conservative members for essentially forcing him out after years of putting their agenda above the party’s more realistic goals.

    Cantor says he agrees with conservative Republicans that the party should fight, but argues they should “fight smartly.”

    “I have never heard of a football team that won by throwing only Hail Mary passes, yet that is what is being demanded of Republican leaders today. Victory on the field is more often a result of three yards and a cloud of dust,” he writes.

    “In politics this means incremental progress, winning hearts and minds before winning the vote — the kind of governance Ronald Reagan perfected.”

    Instead of infighting over strategy, Cantor is calling for the party to come together ahead of the 2016 presidential race and “lay out a positive, honest governing platform to take the country forward.”

    “This is what my friend John Boehner fought for, and this is what we must continue to fight for to honor his dedication to Congress and the American people,” he says.


  5. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 09/26/2015 - 09:13 am.

    “you have to work with people whom you disagree with”

    “in order to do the people’s business…”
    1. Not your personal business
    2. Not your idealistic principles
    3. Not your party politics

    Boehner probably understood the objective:

    The Planned Parenthood issue is contrived, mostly lies creatively modeled on scraps of truth, similar tactics as used by most propaganda driven groups that have personal agendas, not a cause worthy of not: “doing the people’s business” .

  6. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/26/2015 - 09:28 am.

    A few observations …

    – Of course Boehner is “an institutional loyalist.” He’s been there for 25 years. That’s a big part of the problem.

    – Just to clarify, although it’s true that Planned Parenthood is already prohibited from using any federal funds for abortion services, most believe that there’s budget co-mingling going on in PP offices. Who’s going to know unless they’re audited and they’re not.

    Regardless, the push to defund Planned Parenthood isn’t about abortion funding per se, it’s about blocking federal funds to the institution in general for the despicable practice of the harvesting and selling of baby parts – some while the “donor” is still alive, apparently.

    – Republicans being blamed for shutting down the government. The last time they (kinda) shut down the government was in 2013. In 2014 they won 248 seats in the House, the most since the Truman era, and 8 more seats in the Senate giving them the majority there. So throw me in the briar patch. The problem is, they did nothing with those majorities.

    – McConnell’s next. 72% of republican primary voters said they are dissatisfied with the ability of Boehner and McConnell to achieve their party’s goals, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, proving that it’s republican voters who are primarily responsible for giving pollsters congress’ low approval ratings.

    – Regarding compromise. Our $18 trillion in debt is the result of “moderate republicans” compromising with democrats over the last few decades. That has to be stopped by people who are willing to just say no instead of settling for half of the proposed spending.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/26/2015 - 05:43 pm.

      ….the despicable practice of the harvesting and selling of baby parts – some while the “donor” is still alive, apparently…

      And that, dear friends is the heart of the matter.

      Willful, blind outrage over a patently untrue thing (keeping fetuses alive (and exactly how is that supposed to have been done !?!) to harvest their organs), and conflating that with what you didn’t know about standard practices and that is sufficient reason to shut things down.

      It’s the willingness to believe the unbelievable and illogical because those damn libruls are destroying america, doncha know and they are capable of all sorts of evil.

      I guess it’s OK to believe whatever nonsense your thought-leaders tell you to believe, but the expectation that same nonsense should be greeted as reasoned thought by everybody in the electorate is a bridge too far.

      Thank God for that.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 09/26/2015 - 06:34 pm.

      Lets try to stay on topic

      Institutional loyalist? Sorry: being a dedicated professional at something is bad?
      (1/2 on 1/2 Off topic)
      1. Planned Parent hood: Abortion is legal, so is gun ownership: killing 30,000 +/- fully developed fetuses of many ages with families friends etc. functioning people every year. (Some of them may donate body parts so others may live.
      (1/2 on 1/2 Off topic)
      2. Party goals? Sorry they may not Aline w/America’s goals, constitutional law. Just because there is a majority doesn’t mean there is cart blanch to do it all 1 way! “The people’s business” is all the people, not-just micro-minded idealism.
      (maybe Off Topic)
      3. Big deficit spending started with Ronny R. As most folks say, he couldn’t make first team on the republican debates now days. PS last balanced Budget (Clinton with divided government)
      PSS: GWB had all 3 branches back in 2005-2007! Deficit spending skyrocketed, W/O compromise!

      So go ahead “Shut it down”!

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 09/27/2015 - 06:04 pm.

      Great example of delusion at work

      “Regarding compromise. Our $18 trillion in debt is the result of ‘moderate republicans’ compromising with democrats over the last few decades.”

      A little more research than you appear to have done would show the national debt ballooned from $600 billion at the end of Gerald Ford’s term in 1976, to just over $TEN TRILLION by the end of G. B. Jr’s totally disastrous run in 2008, and that 80% of that 30-year increase is attributable to conservative Republican administration’s policies and actions that had nothing to do with “moderate Republicans compromising with Democrats.”

      Democratic administrations (Carter and Clinton) contributed just under $2 Trillion, while Republican administrations (Reagan, Bush and Bush) contributed just over $8 Trillion. Or, put another way: Democrats 20%; Republicans 80%.

      And yet, all of a sudden, within six months of Obama being elected, Republicans became “deeply concerned” over the suddenly monstrous national debt and started deMANding the new president DO something about it!

      Obama inherited a complete nightmare… A cratered economy hemorrhaging 750,000 jobs per month, banks on the brink of vaporizing themselves (along with almost all “other people’s money” they were gambling with); Americans losing their jobs and incomes, their health insurance, retirement plan contributions, life savings, homes, etc..

      And, of course, he was handed one fraudulently sold, totally unnecessary, hugely expensive war of (Bush administration) choice in full swing, and another that COULD have been handled much more quickly, cleanly and less expensively (see: Henry Crumpton on Afghanistan:, had the geniuses in the White House and Defense Department not opted to “put it on hold” while they invaded Iraq (which, we were told, would take “about six months” and cost no more than $50 billion which would be paid right back out of Iraqi oil receipts).

      And yes… The national debt has continued to grow under Obama, but when you’re fighting two wars (in which just keeping the military bases air conditioned costs $20 billion per year), and in the middle of a national and global financial meltdown handed to you by your predecessor, you don’t have the luxury of “calling a time out” to look for ways to continue waging war and keeping banks afloat while cutting wealthy people’s (capitol gains) taxes at the same time.

      And yet, somehow, you and a lot of other people have, yet again, found a way to convince yourselves that the Democrats (and “compromising moderate Republicans”) are responsible for the size of the national debt.

      That seems to say you think the solution is to compromise even less (if that’s possible) and stick to the backfiring guns of low taxes and getting that debt paid down by spending more on defense and cutting funding for health and human services-related programs like food stamps, general assistance, senior health care assistance, getting rid of MinnesotaCare and MNSure ASAP, not expanding but making cuts to early childhood, K-12 and higher education, etc..

      Sounds a lot like what the Pope hasn’t been saying. But then again, it sounds even more like a scenario in which the wealthiest people in Minnesota and America throw themselves a huge, 40-year long, “More and More Cash in MY Pocket!” party on the State and National Credit Cards while the middle class, working- and dirt-poor families of America just keep sucking it up and paying the bill.

  7. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/26/2015 - 05:47 pm.

    What we need

    is a constitutional amendment prohibiting adding amendments to bills that are not relevant to the original bill.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/29/2015 - 12:02 pm.

      Yes, many states have that in their state constitutions

      It keeps legislators from sneaking bad legislation into necessary and/or popular appropriations bills.

      The Republicans are trying to sneak the defunding of Planned Parenthood into the budget bill because they know that it would never pass as a separate bill, and even if it did pass, President Obama would veto it.

      Since the Democrats want to keep the health services funding for Planned Parenthood, they are refusing to pass any budget bill that does not include it. So now the Republicans are blaming the *Democrats* for “wanting to shut down the government,” even though it is they who are figuratively stamping their feet and threatening to hold their breath till they turn blue.

      They may end up turning the country blue instead.

  8. Submitted by John Appelen on 09/27/2015 - 03:29 pm.

    Seems to me there is a lot more happening here than just PP.

    Remember that Obama / Democrats are demanding some pretty larger budget increases.

    “That deal expires this year, and Democrats – backed by the promise of a presidential veto – have so far refused to allow Republicans to pass their spending bills, which feature deep cuts in domestic spending but use a workaround to raise funding for defense.”

    Seems to me that both sides are actively engaged in the game of chicken…

  9. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/28/2015 - 06:08 am.


    Seems to me Republicans are engaged in their usual back and forth about budget matters. I do read in the papers that Republicans want to shut down government over Planned Parenthood, but maybe Republicans aren’t telling us the truth about that.

  10. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 09/28/2015 - 07:15 am.

    easy to shut down a government you don’t believe in…

    People like Cruz and Huckabee and the 40% of Republican voters who can envision a reason to support a military coup don’t believe in democracy or the real ideals that help found the United States. They want a theocratic dictatorship with themselves in charge. Shutting down the government over every little complaint helps nudge America in that direction.

    • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 09/28/2015 - 09:09 am.

      Other side of the coin….

      It is not that the GOP do not believe in Government. It is they do not “worship” the government and it’s entrenched constituencies like the dems do.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/28/2015 - 12:33 pm.

        To Coin a Phrase

        First, Republicans have reveled in their reflexive anti-government talk for years. I think talk about “drowning” government in a bathtub is more than not worshiping government. Similarly, calling government the problem and not the solution speaks volumes about their attitude (or are the Republicans no longer venerating, if not worshiping, St. Ronald of Burbank?).

        Second, to use the hackneyed phrase, both sides have their entrenched constituencies whom they “worship.” I don’t think that point merits explication.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/28/2015 - 01:59 pm.


          One side wants more government mandated wealth transfer where individual citizens have less control over their earnings/wealth. (ie Government collects more and redistributes it back. Democratic Socialism like Norway.)

          One side wants less government mandated wealth transfer where individual citizens have more control over their earnings/wealth. (ie Government collects less so citizens can choose what to do with it, like 1950’s America)

          Those are the only primary differences I see between the parties with regard to economics / government. Both want to continue normal governmental services, defense, etc.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/28/2015 - 02:33 pm.

            Both want to continue normal governmental services

            While I agree with your conclusion , I would add that extremists from one party are willing, if not eager, to shut down most normal services in order to get their way. The other party has its extremists, too, but they don’t have near;y the clout that those of the first party.

            “(ie Government collects less so citizens can choose what to do with it, like 1950’s America)” I don’t doubt you’ve been told many times what the top income tax rates were in 1950s America.

          • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 09/28/2015 - 06:21 pm.

            JA (We agree but disagree)

            The disagreement is: The well to do, protected by the GOP, have written into law that they will accumulate more wealth faster and easier than Joe 6-pack middle class American. They have been extremely successful for 30 going on 40 years now, lots of statistics to show the trends. The truth she hurts.
            Please feel free to prove it wrong.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/28/2015 - 09:27 pm.

              2009 2010

              So the Democrats seemed to have no problem with this when they were in full control…

              • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 09/29/2015 - 07:22 pm.

                Point is?

                JA: Point is what, that no matter who is in power nothing turns on a dime? Got things like filibusters, and supreme courts etc. ya know. Takes time to turn this big boat.

  11. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/28/2015 - 07:58 am.


    I am very much of a poll skeptic for a number of reasons. But two of them are first, that the vast majority of people don’t respond to any pollster’s questions, and secondly those who do tend not to tell the truth. News organizations publich poll results not because they are true, but because they need them to be true, viewing them as an essential part of the story they want to tell. And secondarily, news organizations publish polling results because they paid for them and need to justify their investment, an accepted form of checkbook journalism.

  12. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 09/28/2015 - 04:24 pm.

    Half way…

    Hahahaha! Half way to the the GOP in Congress consists of handing the Democrats a revolver containing a single bullet. They say “We’ll meet you half way. Here, you start. Hold this up to your head and pull the trigger.” When the revolver simply clicks, the GOP says “Nothing happened. You NEED to meet us half way. Try again.” When the revolver simply clicks, they say “Nothing happened. We INSIST you meet us half way. Try again.” As you can imagine, half way gets awfully risky to one side after a while. Of course, what has many of the more engaged Dems frustrated is that the Dem leadership keeps “meeting half way.”

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/28/2015 - 09:37 pm.

      Ironic since that is what Liberals have been doing for almost a century.

      Each time the GOP agrees to tax /spend increases, the Liberals raise the number and accuse the GOP of not negotiating in good faith. I mean how else do you explain the ever increasing cost of government?

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/29/2015 - 06:03 am.


        Presumably after every deal is completed, each side asks for more, the next time negotiations come around. This goes to the nature of negotiations, and the making of deals.

        For me, it’s not so much that the GOP negotiates in good or bad faith, so much as it is that they can’t negotiate effectively at all. Quite simply, the GOP negotiators who come to the table, Boehner most specifically, aren’t authorized to make a deal by their caucus. This willingness to eat their own isn’t limited to Congressional negotiators. Just recently, a Republican senator sent a letter to Iran telling them, in effect, that the President of the United States wasn’t authorized to complete a deal. The object of this letter wasn’t so much to get a better deal, as it was to sabotage the possibility of a successful negotiation altogether, a tactic Republican legislators had learned in their own dealings with Democrats in Congress and the White House.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/29/2015 - 07:54 am.

          Seems Typical

          With only 2 parties in play, both parties have a very diverse group of people within their ranks. Remember all the Democrats who fought the President’s last trade deal authority measure… Was that “them eating their own” or just normal internal strife?

  13. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 09/28/2015 - 06:26 pm.

    Sorry JA

    “The average worker makes approximately $50,000 per year. The average annual compensation of the thirty highest paid CEOs is approximately $47 million per year. (I don’t believe this disparity was ever this great even in most dictatorships!) You will hear many politicians argue that government should not interfere with the ‘business judgment’, of our companies and, therefore they cannot pass laws to encourage ‘income equality.’ This is completely untrue – the sad fact is that the government has actually passed many laws that have brought about ‘income inequality.’””

    (Carl Ichan Quote) Billionaire

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/28/2015 - 09:53 pm.

      Apples and Oranges

      This would seem more valid if you compared average and average… Not average and the top 30…

      By the way, those folks making $50,000 may pay $10,000 in taxes. Whereas those folks making $47M likely pay $9.4M in taxes…(or give a lot to charity) And yet they use the same roads, courts, fire fighters, police, etc… I understand making the rich pay for our government, since you can not get money from those with little… But to say they are not paying their fair share always puzzles me.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 09/29/2015 - 06:43 pm.

        Apples : Apples

        Mr. Carl Ichan is cut from the same cloth. The quote is his: (argue with him and Buffet etc.) The market Icons are saying its corrupt.

        Not sure what is puzzling about a < 15% tax rate on long term capital gains vs 35% for a high middle income, plus S/S, Medicare etc. etc. on salary? W or W/O charitable contributions.

  14. Submitted by Bill Willy on 09/29/2015 - 11:29 am.

    Just in case…

    This sentence in RB Holbrook’s, “Both want to continue normal governmental services,” reply…

    “I don’t doubt you’ve been told many times what the top income tax rates were in 1950s America”

    … got me to wondering how many of today’s politically conscious, interested or active people have a general understanding of what the income tax rates have been over the past 100 or so years.

    For example, if the question was, “What has the approximate average tax rate been for people making $1,000,000+ since 1915?” what would your estimate be?

    So just in case anyone’s a little hazy and could use a refresher, here are the tax rates that were in effect from 1945 through 1963 (with dollar amounts adjusted for inflation to 2012 value).

    (And just so it’s clear, in terms of “tax brackets,” a person that made the 2012 equivalent of between $19,053 and $38,106 paid 22%; paid 26% if they earned $38,107 to $57,159; and so on, up the line.)

    22.0% = $19,053
    26.0% = $38,107
    30.0% = $57,160
    34.0% = $76,214
    38.0% = $95,267
    43.0% = $114,321
    47.0% = $133,374
    50.0% = $152,428
    53.0% = $171,481
    56.0% = $190,534
    59.0% = $209,588
    62.0% = $247,695
    65.0% = $304,855
    69.0% = $362,015
    72.0% = $419,176
    75.0% = $476,336
    78.0% = $571,603
    81.0% = $666,871
    84.0% = $762,138
    87.0% = $857,405
    89.0% = $952,672
    90.0% = $1,429,008
    91.0% = $1,905,344

    The top rate was lowered to 77% in 1964, and lowered again in 1965 to 70%, where it stayed until 1982 when Ronald Reagan lowered it to 50% for everyone making more than $184,000. The top rate stayed there until 1987 when it was lowered to 38.5% for anyone making more than $91,000.

    And then, in 1988, things were REALLY “simplified”: Married people, filing separately, that made over $28,900 paid 28%, while single people that made more than $34,000 paid the same 28%. And that was it… 28% for everyone that made that or more, whether they earned $40,000 or $40,000,000.

    As a further refresher, there’s this from the Atlantic web site:

    “60 Years of American Economic History, Told in 1 Graph

    “In the 60 years after World War II, the United States built the world’s greatest middle class economy, then unbuilt it. And if you want a single snapshot that captures the broad sweep of that transformation, you could do much worse than this graph from a new Pew report, which tracks how average family incomes have changed at each rung of the economic ladder from 1950 through 2010.

    “Here’s the arc it captures: In the immediate postwar period, America’s rapid growth favored the middle and lower classes. The poorest fifth of all households, in fact, fared best. Then, in the 1970s, amid two oil crises and awful inflation, things ground to a halt. The country backed off the postwar, center-left consensus — captured by Richard Nixon’s comment that “we’re all Keynesians now” — and tried Reaganism instead. We cut taxes…”

    In other words, the world’s greatest middle class economy was built during a time when the tax rate on the highest income earners was 91% for the 18 years following world war two, and then 70% until Ronald Reagan started sawing away at the rates. Since then, middle class (and lower) incomes have been stagnant (keeping up with, or barely staying ahead of inflation, at best), or falling, while top income earner incomes have grown 250% to 300%.

    And yet Republicans keep saying and running on the idea that Reagan was an economic genius “who showed us all that low tax rates and ‘the economic growth they create’ is the key to prosperity for all, so vote for me!” And, amazingly enough, despite the facts and proof in the 40 year pudding, a significant number of Americans still BELIEVE them.

    For further reference, the only other time in the past 100 years that the highest income tax rates were lowered to “Reagan Territory” levels (from their rough average of right around 70%) was during the years of Republican (“Supply Sider”) presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. These were the rates from 1925 to 1931, the years leading up to and into the teeth of the Great Depression (also adjusted for inflation):

    3.0% = $53,706
    5.0% = $107,412
    6.0% = $134,265
    7.0% = $187,972
    8.0% = $214,825
    9.0% = $241,678
    10.0% = $268,531
    11.0% = $295,384
    12.0% = $322,237
    13.0% = $375,943
    14.0% = $429,650
    15.0% = $483,356
    16.0% = $537,062
    17.0% = $590,768
    18.0% = $644,474
    19.0% = $698,181
    20.0% = $751,887
    21.0% = $805,593
    22.0% = $859,299
    23.0% = $939,858
    24.0% = $1,074,124
    25.0% = $1,342,655

    I’d be real interested in hearing what those that believe Ronald Reagan was right have to say, and why it is they think low taxes make good economic sense. It doesn’t look like that’s true. It LOOKS like the historic facts show that when income tax rates are lowered too much and left there too long it causes Big Economic Trouble for the majority of Americans (see: “income tax rates in years leading up to Great Depression and Great Recession”).

    But then, who knows? People who believe Ronald Reagan and Republicans in general know best about such things may be able to provide some facts that show and support the ways in which the low rates that have been in place for the past 40 years have made the economy and the majority of American people’s lives better and more prosperous.

    Or, put another way, I’d be extremely interested in an explanation of how it was possible that the world’s greatest middle class economy could have been created during a 40 year period in which the tax rate paid by people making a lot of money was as high as 91%, and never lower than 70%.

    If what Republicans say about the Negative Impact of High Taxes on the economy, “job creators,” etc., is true, it would have been imPOSSible for that to happen, right?

    Or, conversely, if what Republicans say about the Positive Impact of Low Taxes on the economy, “job creators,” etc., is true, why has the world’s greatest middle class economy been shrinking instead of growing, and why have 90% of Americans watched their incomes stagnate or go down, ever since those higher rates for higher earners were abandoned and replaced with the rates we’ve had since the 1980s?

    Enlighten me, please.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/30/2015 - 02:57 am.


      I really do not have the answer regarding what is the correct rate balance between work income and investment income, so I will avoid pretending that I do.

      However I think your analysis is flawed in that it implies that tax rates caused the problems/benefits. And because you are ignoring the changes in deductions and other tax law that accompanied these rate changes. And I am pretty sure Reagan did nothing by himself. (ie Democrats helped)

      The reality of the world had more to do with America’s strong middle class than did taxes or unions… After WWII, pretty much all of America’s competition was in disarray for decades. Therefore Americans and the rest of the world were buying American. And therefore our workers were paid much better than those in other countries.

      In the 1960’s and 70’s those other countries with lower cost workers and more hunger to be better… recovered and the world noticed. And on top of that buying from global low cost high quality suppliers became easier than ever. And the US consumers voted with their check book. They wanted great low cost stuff, and were unwilling to pay more for “Made in America”. Thus the jobs left and wages fell.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/30/2015 - 10:55 am.

        Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc?

        The causal link between the high tax rates and America’s postwar economic success is unclear. It is clear, however, that the high tax rates were not detrimental to economic growth (and note also the decline in the predominance of the American economy since cutting taxes became Gospel).

        The economy of western Europe had largely recovered from the Second World War by the mid-60s, at the latest.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 09/30/2015 - 11:53 am.

      Reagan Tax Cuts

      Just to be clear, Reagan did not cut taxes in the 1980s–in fact they went up. What he did was cut the tax rate, while at the same time eliminating a lot of tax loopholes. The net effect was to increase taxes while giving people the impression that their taxes were going down.

  15. Submitted by John Appelen on 09/30/2015 - 02:37 am.


    For those who think there is a magic bullet for avoiding taxes, and that the rich pay 15% on dividends / capital gains. This is an interesting if confusing read.,;frmtId=12,%20brf295

    I have never triggered this fun, however I get to hear my father vent about it often around tax time…

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/30/2015 - 08:48 am.


      2 more thoughts. Maybe we could fund SS and Medicare off some other tax, but profits and payroll is how it was set up. My wife is self employed and therefore pays the full 15.5% herself. Also, since one’s benefits are tied to one’s contribution it seems fair the way it is. These were supposed to be pay in and receive back programs, not welfare / wealth transfer programs.

      Often folks complain that long term capital gains and dividends are not taxed at a high enough rate. Yet as noted in the link the wealthy are paying ~23% which is much higher than most working people pay for an effective income tax rate.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 09/30/2015 - 09:44 am.

        Safety nets

        You are incorrect. SS and Medicare were not intended to be savings accounts, but safety nets. They were initially intended to reduce poverty of the aged as a result of savings being destroyed by the Great Depression. However, by the time they were implemented, they were warped into very racially and sexually discriminatory institutions. That’s somewhat changed, but one can argue that what SS and Medicare were intended to be and what they were originally enacted as are very different. I don’t think we should hang our hats on what we believe the original intent was. It’s more important that they provide social security. If they don’t, then they don’t work. And, if we keep assuming that they should be savings accounts, they won’t work. We live in a society, and we all rely on its stability, so we should all contribute to its stability. Whether or not we directly benefit from our contributions is irrelevant because we all directly benefit from a stable society.

        Also, 23% isn’t terribly high. I presume you’re talking about the effective tax rate on the top 1% of earners. Keep in mind that 23% is what they paid on taxable income, and does not consider tax-exempt income, like municipal bonds. You know, the things that poor people don’t have the spare cash to protect from taxes.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/30/2015 - 01:21 pm.


          If they are not supposed to be government forced savings / insurance programs, then I recommend we get rid of social security and medicare. Then we will not have to hear about how payroll taxes are too high for the low income folks, and the old / poor can use welfare / medicaid.

          23% is pretty high given that many citizens pay 0 income taxes, or get more back in credits / medicaid / welfare / food stamps / etc than they pay in income taxes. See this interesting link.

          • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/01/2015 - 01:35 pm.

            Old news

            I didn’t find that link all that interesting. I was well aware of the general numbers. But I can’t agree that 23% is a lot (I am at the lower end of those paying at that rate–I’m doing just fine, thanks). Nor can I agree that we should get rid of SS and Medicare. They have completely different purposes than welfare and medicaid, and just how would we fund the extra burden on welfare and medicaid if we got rid of SS and Medicare???? Oh, wait…is this how we get the death panels that the GOP actually wanted instead of the ones that never materialized out of Obamacare? Or are you claiming that magic will happen if we defund SS and Medicare? The magical thinking bit is the curtain behind which the real death panels exist.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/01/2015 - 08:56 pm.


              “They were initially intended to reduce poverty of the aged as a result of savings being destroyed by the Great Depression.” Isn’t that in essence the definition of welfare and medicaid? To help those who are experiencing poverty.

              If you don’t like 23%, what do you think is a good number that encourages people to invest their money in America while adequately charging them a surcharge for having been financially successful?

              As for how to fund the program without payroll taxes… Just like many liberals would like to do now, just make the wealthier pay more. (ie remove cap…)

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