The New Johnson

I’m back from my “hiatus” and with that back to my version of live blogging. The biggest political story, (although some may dispute me on my choice), revolves around the election of Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House. As I began to formulate my thoughts on approaching this article an old comedy routine came to mind. Arguably it was made most popular in a 1978 Natural Light beer commercial in which comedian Raymond J. Johnson, Jr. offered several alternatives by which he could be addressed culminating in a slap stick/burlesque quality punchline “…but you doesn’t have to call me Johnson.”

Speaker Johnson was largely an unknown even to political junkies like me. In short, he is Jim Jordan without the bluster and (that we know of) the baggage. Politically he is about as far right as they get. Calling him a white Christian nationalist would be both succinct and accurate. Johnson is anti-democracy and pro-theocracy, that is as long as the theocracy in question meets his approval. Is there really that much difference between the far right wings in America and Afghanistan? Just one illustration of how dangerous and far out of the mainstream Johnson is that he voter against the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act.

The House was effectively closed for 22 days and Johnson was the best the GOP could do. For a political party that prides itself on being business like we didn’t get much “return on investment”! It did prove me incorrect in a previous analysis. It appears that if the chaos goes on long enough Donald Trump does have the juice in the current GOP to be a kingmaker. Trump killed the previous nominee in a matter of hours because he deemed him insufficiently loyal to him.

Within 24 hours of his election, I figured that with Johnson as speaker we would see what (at risk of my PG rating) I call legislative masturbation. Legislation that is so extreme as to be dead on arrival at the Senate. That proved correct before I could get back to my computer.

The House passed a Johnson version of Israel aid last week which totally ignored the war in Ukraine but was far from a standalone bill. (That could have possibly been justified.) While authorizing $14.3 billion in aid for Israel, it offsets it by cutting the same amount from the IRS budget. That may actually be somewhat popular with much of the GOP base. The useful idiots portion of their base has been fed so much misinformation about what the IRS would do with the additional funding that they actually believe armed IRS agents will show up at their door to do what I’m really not certain.

The real use the IRS would make of the additional funding is to go after big money tax cheats. (They are much more expensive to audit but, of course, the “rewards” are much, much larger. Keep in mind that the IRS is the only revenue positive department in the federal government. Why would you not invest in it?) That group represents a substantial portion of GOP financiers who are looking for a return on investment. The deal is that if you donate to the GOP, it will make sure you get tax breaks and/or the laws will not be sufficiently enforced to catch your cheating. It is simply a return-on-investment scheme. You may donate $20, $50 or a few hundred dollars because you believe in a cause or candidate. When we are talking six and seven figure donations it is an investment in anticipation of a return in most cases.

Unlike the old TV commercial this would be funny if it weren’t serious. Predictably with the banishment of Kevin McCarthy (who I am not a fan of!) it got worse, not better. For the near term the pattern appears that it will continue, with Johnson at the “helm” or not, as long as the Republicans control the House.

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