On Tuesday, I noted that Republicans who remember the mid-1990s have reason to fear a government shutdown could once again be blamed on Republicans. (It was later reported that House Speaker John Boehner, in fact, agrees.)
(I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not experience has made politicians like Rep. Boehner wiser than their less experienced comrades — or if they are simply gun-shy and carrying around leftover baggage from their days of being outmaneuvered by Bill Clinton.)
It’s fair to note that things have changed a lot since the mid-90s. In 1995, the deficit was just $226 billion. Today, the deficit is $1.6 trillion. As the Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) recently noted, “There are so many people giving the speeches they gave 20 years ago. The world has changed …”
Nevertheless, based on Tuesday’s predictable attacks against Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget (you know, the budget some Democrats are currently labeling as “drastic” and worse) — many Democrats are clearly seeking to demagogue Ryan’s budget using recycled tactics that have worked in the past.
(At this point some conservative readers are probably thinking: ‘But everyone knows the Democrats are to blame!’ The truth is that when it comes to public relations battles, the facts don’t matter much. Perception is reality — and emotion almost always trumps logic. And don’t forget that the president has the bully pulpit.)
Following are some quotes from the infamous 1995-96 budget battle which ultimately led to the government shutdown. I post these simply as a warning of what Republicans can expect to come:
“The [Republican] plan . . . assaults the elderly that depend on Medicaid to help them defray the cost of nursing home expenses . . . . Will they be forced to move in with their children?” — Rep. Pomeroy (D-N.D.), May 11, 1995.
“The biggest bite from that budget provides the only hope most of us will have of keeping our mothers and fathers in nursing homes without our families going bankrupt.” — Rep. Pallone (D-N.J.), May 15, 1995.
“By taking this position, [Republicans] are continuing to exhibit a callous disregard for those most vulnerable in our society – those in the dawn of life, our children; those in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadow of life – the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” — Rep. Stokes (D-Ohio), May 11, 1995.
“Here the Republicans are cutting the dollars that the Association for Retired Citizens are about to use to help seniors find jobs. . . . This is not a budget; this is punishment.” — Rep. Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), May 17, 1995
Again, it is unclear whether or not the predictable and transparent attempts to blame Republicans and scare senior citizens will work as it did in the mid-90s. Nevertheless, you can bet it will be tried…