Republican Tim Scott on Thursday became a United States senator from South Carolina, 150 years to the week since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Democrats had between 1865 and 2013 to elect or designate a black southerner to the Senate, but they couldn’t be bothered. It took a Republican, specifically Palmetto State governor Nikki Haley, to accomplish this in the modern age. Haley named Scott to complete the term of the estimable Jim DeMint, who left the Senate to run the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Tim Scott is the first black southern senator since former slave Blanche Kelso Bruce (R., Miss.) departed in 1881, soon after Democrats torpedoed the Republican policy of Reconstruction and launched nearly 90 years of their party’s program: Jim Crow segregation. The fact that Haley, a tea-party Republican of Indian descent, appointed Scott, a tea partier, should bury like Jim Crow the relentless Democratic lie that the GOP is a racist institution, notwithstanding that Republicans include former secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, U.S. Senators (and tea partiers) Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, and governors Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada.
Senator Scott’s heightened prestige should make it easier for Republicans to carry their message to minority communities, especially among black Americans.
But the GOP faces one inescapable question: What is the Republican party’s message?
The fiscal-cliff fiasco has left the Grand Old Party in tatters. Dazed, confused, and fractured, Republican legislators very publicly have violated some of their most unshakable principles — in exchange for a tiny sack of broken marbles. Meanwhile, the party’s wobbly congressional leadership makes the Maginot Line look like the Great Wall of China. Senate GOP chief Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House speaker John Boehner of Ohio are neither strategic, nor tactical, nor able to negotiate without losing their shirts — plus their shoes, pants, and underwear.
With the admirable exceptions of Iowa’s Charles Grassley, Utah’s Mike Lee, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, Florida’s Marco Rubio, and Alabama’s Richard Shelby, GOP senators swallowed a cartoonishly inadequate deal. Conservatives were saddened when our sainted Ronald Reagan, mired in the 1982 recession, traded $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in higher taxes. In 1990, we were outraged when we read Daddy Bush’s lips as he endorsed $2 in budget cuts for each $1 in tax increases. Of course, those spending cuts evaporated, since Democrats always whine loudly enough to scare away the piper before he can get paid.
But those dark days are like a rainbow-sized Laffer curve compared to the “bargain” that passed Congress on New Year’s Day: This legislation cuts spending by $1 for every $41 in higher taxes. Yup: $1-to-$41. And that $1 likely won’t get cut.
Not even joints get rolled as easily as Republicans.
This legislation boosts net spending by $330 billion and increases the national debt by $3.9 trillion through 2022. This is how Washington defines “bipartisan debt reduction.”
Obama’s notion of “shared sacrifice” fuels an exemption on “employer-provided mass-transit and parking benefits retroactive to the beginning of 2012,” as Encima Global economist David Malpass explains. “The biggest beneficiaries will be federal employees, for whom free parking and public-transportation subsidies are common, but are not counted as income.” Cost: $220 million in extensions on a program already projected to cost $27.2 billion between 2011 and 2015.
This law also contains $7 million in special tax favors for electric scooters, $59 million for biofuel-algae growers, $78 million for NASCAR, $222 million for Puerto Rican rum producers, and $248 million for the motion-picture industry. Conversely, it offers no escape from the brand-new 2.3 percent Obamacare tax that already is killing jobs and innovation in the life-saving medical-device industry.