by Jules Witcover

House Minority Leader John Boehner, a chief spokesman in the Republican drive to take control of one or both houses of Congress in November, has just offered up his solution to the nation's ailing economy.

In a speech to the Cleveland City Club, Boehner presented a preview of how things will be run in Washington if he replaces Democrat Nancy Pelosi as speaker. And, despite his denials, it sounded an awful lot like going back to the good old days of George W. Bush, starting with retaining his tax cuts for the richest Americans, due to lapse at the end of this year.

In the meantime, Boehner said, President Obama should fire Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, chief economic adviser Larry Summers, and the rest of his economic advisory team. It was a catnip gesture to an audience of businessmen from the perpetually tanned poster boy for country club America.

Boehner offered little explanation, however, of how life would be different from what it was under Bush if he and his band of merry obstructionists were back in the saddle on Capitol Hill. With Obama himself still running the country for at least two more years, Boehner's pitch for running Congress would merely guarantee more of the Party of No in his hands and those of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Without direct reference to the principal beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts -- the best-heeled 5 percent of Americans -- Boehner continued his party's line of casting ending the preferential cuts as imposing "job-killing tax hikes on families and small business."

At a time many large corporations are hoarding huge profits as they squeeze higher productivity out of reduced work forces, Boehner blamed the failure to resume hiring on the Obama economic recovery stimulus.

"Right now," he said, "American employers are afraid to invest in an economy stalled by 'stimulus' spending and hamstrung by uncertainty. The prospect of higher taxes, stricter rules, and more regulations has employers sitting on their hands. And after the pummeling they've taken from Washington over the last 18 months, who can blame them?"

While he was at it, Boehner took a whack at the $26 billion emergency stimulus bill passed over GOP opposition to help state and local governments keep teachers, police and other first-responders on the job. He dismissed it as "Washington politicians talking about wanting to create jobs as a ploy to get themselves reelected while doing everything to prevent creating jobs" in the private sector. "Washington has kept the private sector in bust," he said, "while manufacturing a boom for the public sector."

One of the chief congressional obstructionists also said Obama "should call on Democratic leaders in Congress to stop obstructing Republicans' attempts to repeal the new health care law's job-killing ... mandate" requiring "small businesses to report any total purchases that run more than $600."

This from a GOP leader who wants to repeal and rewrite the whole health-care reform act.

While thus reciting from the Republican handbook, Boehner assured his audience if he became speaker "I would run the House differently. And I don't just mean differently than the way Democrats are running it now. I mean differently than it's been run in the past under Democrats or Republicans. That means challenging the old ways in Washington, getting to the bottom of what drives people crazy, and then fixing it once and for all."

For a minute there, Boehner sounded like presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008, promising "change you can believe in," including breaking the partisan stalemate and bickering in Washington. But what he was talking about, Boehner quickly added, was government spending.

"We don't just need to stop spending so much, we need to stop spending so irrationally," said the man whose party, after winning the White House in 2000, quickly spent through the large surplus left by departing President Bill Clinton, turning it into a huge deficit.

That, to be sure, was before John Boehner became the House minority leader. At the time, he was lower in the House GOP hierarchy but preaching against government spending even then.


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John Boehner's Economic Prescription | Politics

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