I voted Democratic in the recent elections and am something less than thrilled with the new team of Republicans who will take control of the House. As I mentioned in a recent column, I still do not understand what the "Tea Party" stands for. I have my doubts about John Boehner but will try to give him the chance the Republicans still haven't given Barack Obama.
I turned the TV to "Real Time with Bill Maher" recently and saw a Republican who I don't think is all that bad and who seems fairly bright. His name is Darrell Issa of California's 49th House District and he will head the House Oversight Committee starting in January.
Issa, Maher and Fareed Zakaria had an interesting exchange that shows I may want to hold on to my concerns. Here was the gist of their discussion:
Zakaria pointed out that if Congress refuses to extend the Bush tax cuts, they will save about $700 billion. Many Republicans have contended that this will be a tax raise. So be it. It would certainly help us to reduce the debt.
Maher kept asking Issa if he supported the extension of the tax cuts or not. The question was relevant and simple. But Issa never answered it.
Issa responded by saying he wants a "fairer, flatter tax with less loopholes." It was a typical politician response, except that the election is over!
Zakaria prodded Issa in a way that few in the media seem capable or willing to do. He simply pointed out that cutting out loopholes would lead to a tax increase on someone.
When Issa balked, Zakaria called the talk of "less loopholes" a euphemism. And euphemisms, he said, were really no better than lies.
When the conversation changed to budget cuts, Maher asked Issa where the budget should be reduced, pointing out that a very small percentage of the budget, about 15%, accounts for non-defense discretionary spending.
Issa bravely shifted the conversation to the issue of entitlements, saying that Congress should use a means test for those on unemployment benefits and those on Medicare and Social Security. Maher responded by saying that his ideas meant cutting two popular programs.
Issa used phrases that probably fool the typical voter into thinking that he does not favor tax increases and that he will not cut Medicare or Social Security. Of course, politicians have done this type of double-talk for years and Issa seems pretty good at it.
But if Issa really is among the brightest and most competent of the new Republican team, I simply do not see a whole lot of change ahead of us. Instead, I see the recent election "sweep" by Republicans as a euphemism for "only the names have changed."