Rats and Repatriation

Author: David R. Kotok, Post Date: August 21, 2017

“Rats have been said to be the first to sense an impending disaster, such as a sinking ship or a gas leak in a mine – so if rats are leaving, it’s a good idea to follow!”

“Early records of the expression [‘like rats deserting a sinking ship’] go back all the way to Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (77 AD): ‘When a building is about to fall down, all the mice desert it.’” (Source: bookbrowse.com)

It also appears in a form closer to the modern usage in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act I, Scene II (1610):

“Prospero: In few, they hurried us aboard a bark,
Bore us some leagues to sea; where they prepar’d
A rotten carcass of a boat, not rigg’d,
Nor tackle, sail, nor mast; the very rats
Instinctively had quit it.”

The exodus of White House-related folks runs the gamut from arts to economics to religious leaders to business CEOs, to staff. The list is huge. When the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned en masse, they sent a letter to President Trump in which the first letter of each paragraph spells out the word resist. See cnn.com/2017/08/19/entertainment/white-house-arts-committee-letter-resist-trnd/. The head of New York City’s largest evangelical church resigned from the president’s panel of evangelical advisers. See voanews.com/a/religious-leader-digital-economy-advisers-sever-ties-with-trump/3992975.html.

My adult or near-adult political memory starts with President Eisenhower. I cannot personally recall chaos in governance as we now see it. Maybe the end of Nixon’s time is a close second place, but that is a subject of debate. And we observe that our president’s approval ratings now rival the lowest ever for a president who has held the office for 30 weeks.

The debt-ceiling fight approaches with Republicans in disarray and Democrats smelling blood and a possible takeover of the House in next year’s midterm elections. Pelosi’s censure motion is designed to embarrass Republican congressional members regardless of their vote. A “yes” vote or a “no” vote puts members on the defensive in their respective districts. The failure of Speaker Ryan and his Republican House majority to accomplish anything puts the Republican caucus on the defensive, as would an agreement to do something instead. The president has trapped House members in a lose-lose position, the classic political Hobson’s choice.

But Republican members of the House do have a way to recover.

The House can pass an infrastructure bill funded by a repatriation tax code change. They can dynamically score it. They can send it to the Senate as a clean bill without muddying the process. This bill would allow the House Republican majority to demonstrate leadership that is independent of the president. And it would enable Senate Republicans to show independent leadership, too. Trump might claim the credit for the bill in the end, but the country would know that the leadership to get the job done originated with the Congress.

Such an initiative puts Democrats on the defensive. Do they vote ‘no’ to repatriate stale cash abroad? Do they vote ‘no’ to rebuild roads or schools? Or do they join Republican majorities who take this leadership path?

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