Is Moderation a Disability?

boblamarIn the sea of deep angry red that is Tennessee politics these days, a desperate thirst for moderation continues to distort coverage of some of our elected representatives. And so it is that The Tennessean paints positions taken by Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander on fiscal cliff negotiations as striking a more flexible pose than some of their GOP brethren:

While other Middle Tennessee Republicans in Congress expressly oppose raising tax rates as part of any solution to the looming “fiscal cliff,” the state’s two GOP senators appear to be leaving negotiating room. When asked specifically this week if they would rule out increasing tax rates for those making $250,000 and above — rather than just modifying deductions and exemptions — Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker stopped short of such a declaration.

Alexander says he’s “waiting for the president to do his job, which is to recommend a specific plan to restrain entitlement spending.” Corker echoes: “Until the discussion moves to entitlement reform, especially Medicare, it’s not a serious conversation.”

Earth to Bob and Lamar: Insisting that significant entitlement reform accompany the fiscal adjustments needed to avert the so-called cliff isn’t reasonable or moderate; it’s an alternative route to the great state of delusion. With just three and a half pre-cliff weeks on the calendar, the labyrinthine policy webs of Medicare and Medicaid are not going to be seriously pondered, much less reformed. The cliff is an unsavory and ill-advised combination of mandatory tax hikes and spending cuts, and the 24-day solution is to adjust tax hikes and spending cuts. Making high-minded but utterly meaningless demands for broad entitlement reform, as Corker and Alexander are, is no less a form of taxpayer hostage-taking than the rabid refusal of their mouth-foamier GOP colleagues who refuse to even consider letting Obama fulfill his campaign promise to raise top marginal rates.

Alexander and Corker did have a chance to show off some genuine moderation earlier in the week when the Senate failed to ratify an international treaty protecting the rights of people with disabilities. Eight Republicans found the microscopic quantity of backbone necessary to defy their right-wing overlords and cast a vote in favor of ratification. Alexander and Corker both voted against. In a stunning display of conviction, Roll Call reported, Alexander “would not say whether he supported the treaty, merely noting that the timing of the vote was bad.”

Moderation is one thing, sedation entirely another.

A version of this post appears on the Nashville Scene‘s Pith in the Wind blog.

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