GOP still manages to frame crucial debates

Lots of mainstream media outlets, liberal bloggers and others have been talking about the Republican Party’s decline as a viable political force as fewer and fewer people self-identify as Republicans, yet it sure looks as if the GOP has succeeded in framing several crucial debates in the past few weeks.

Rather than the nation moving forward with probes of whether the Bush Administration used torture to shore up a weak case for the war in Iraq, and whether those who authorized torture should be held accountable, the GOP has framed the debate as being about what Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it.

Instead of focusing on President Obama’s promise to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror detainees – a move encouraged by human rights leaders, the international community and a fair number of U.S. military officials including Bush-appointed Defense Secretary Robert Gates – the GOP (with a handful of Democrats) has framed the debate so that it’s about imbuing U.S. communities with NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) fears that detainees brought stateside will somehow break out of a maximum-security prison to threaten your Main Street.

As debate begins this week on the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill – which advocates say would create new jobs, save consumers money, move the nation away from dependence on foreign oil and reduce global warming pollution – the GOP seeks to frame the debate as being about “a national energy tax on middle-class families and small businesses” despite evidence to the contrary.

And instead of having a serious debate about whether California needs more tax revenue to support the schools, universities, health programs, public safety and prisons it needs and deserves, the GOP has framed the debate as being about where next to make bone-deep cuts.

Seems like the GOP is getting its message out just fine.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Patty


  • ulno

    Are you a journalist or a paid member of the Democrat Party?

    “And instead of having a serious debate about whether California needs more tax revenue to” … “it needs and deserves”.

    My law school professors would have laughed aloud at the slant in your writing.

    The state spends about the same money on welfare ($37.98 BILLION) as on K-12 education ($40.74 BILLION).
    The state spends over half the $9.6 BILLION in law enforcement on COUNSELING programs. The state increased the number of employees by 60,000 employees over the past 4 years to 360,000. The state increased spending on all education (K-12/Higher Ed) from $40B to $53.8 BILLION.

    There is a serious debate going on. It’s whether or not this state continues to drive away business and workers through excessive taxation and control.

  • Josh Richman

    Easy there, Ulno: All I’m saying is that the Republican Party continues to wield substantial influence over how we frame the issues, despite being in the minority.

    The Public Policy Institute of California in January reported 72 percent of Californians favor raising the state income tax rate paid by the wealthiest residents and 60 percent favor raising the state taxes paid by corporations.

    More recently, PPIC found Californians are slightly more likely to prefer paying higher taxes and getting more services (48 percent) over lower taxes and fewer services (43 percent).

    And the Field Poll recently found that while most Californians favor more spending cuts over tax increases, there isn’t majority support for cutting in any areas other than prisons and parks.

    So I’m merely suggesting that if a Legislative minority is preventing discussion of what most Californians believe could be viable options, there’s something wrong with the system.

  • ulno

    Gosh, with such polling data, you’d think the tax hike propositions would pass easily!

    The Field Poll you mention shows a 63% support for spending cuts over 26% support for tax hikes. Among Democrats, that 49% support spending cuts to 26% support for tax hikes. It’s those pesky Democrats that stand in the way of discussing viable options?
    But instead of those facts, you frame this as “blame the Republicans”.

    Only a few years ago, the polls also showed support for more taxes and spending. Yet Gov. Davis was quickly recalled when the actual tax hikes arrived, in the form of higher car registration fees. It’s easy to tell a pollster that you support higher taxes for the rich. Yet when the rich no longer earn money under anti-business taxes, and when the rich move away to lower tax states as they have done in droves, then the state comes to you for your money.

    Just for the record, California has the second highest income tax in the country and it starts at 47k.

    — 6% on taxable income between $26,822 and $37,233
    — 8% on taxable income between $37,234 and $47,055
    — 9.3% on taxable income of $47,056 and above.

    The 2 states that raised income taxes most over the past 5 years (New Jersey and Connecticut) had the greatest decrease in wealthy citizens, and the highest state government deficits. The 4 states with the lowest income and business taxes created the most jobs, and had the highest increase in personal income.

    Facts rarely reported by this paper or the media. Perhaps something is wrong with the system.

  • Josh Richman

    A few things:

    There are problems with your “tax the rich and they’ll flee” theory.

    There were lots of reasons why Gray Davis was recalled, but there’s no question that Gov. Schwarzenegger’s rollback of the VLF blew a multibillion-dollar-per-year hole in the state budget that has contributed significantly to the hole we’re in now; Schwarzenegger and GOP Legislative leaders had little choice but to agree to re-raise it this year.

    As for income taxes, you didn’t mention that for income of $1,000,001 and over, the rate is 10.3 percent; under Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson, the top rate was at 11 percent. Some believe it’s not fair that someone making $47,056 a year is taxed at the same rate as someone making $1 million a year; Legislative Democrats last year proposed setting income taxes at 10 percent for taxpayers filing joint returns with taxable income above $321,000 and 11 percent for those with incomes above $642,000, but Republicans shot it down. I’d love to see some poll numbers specifically on a plan like that, rather than the more vague “tax increases vs. spending cuts” data we’ve got.

  • ulno

    If you want less of something, tax it.

    That’s the theory that your side pushes with cigarettes, no? With driving cars? With eating fast foods or soda? With using plastic bags?

    Now you claim that it doesn’t apply to businesses or the rich. You can’t have it both ways.

    Check out the U-Haul site. It costs $1495 to rent a truck one-way from the bay area to major cities in Texas. It only costs $685 to rent it in the other direction. The demand to move out of this area is strong.

    The thing that contributed to the “hole we’re in now” is increased spending, not a decrease in revenue. The state in 2004 received in taxes and fees $98.9 BILLION dollars. This year it will receive $134 BILLION dollars. Revenue (read “taxes”) increased by 35% the past 5 years, but spending increased 50%.
    Characterizing this situation as one of “little choice” is not accurate.

    There is a problem with taking a focus only on ever increasing ways to raise revenue. You don’t get your money’s worth. Instead, you get lower standards of living for all, larger and more intrusive government, and less freedom.

  • RR

    It is idiotic to speak of “fairness” and “taxation” in the same breath. Everyone thinks tax rates are too high on one’s own income.