A Debt Ceiling Tale

Once upon a time, a tugboat captain, let’s call him Captain Cruz, had a plan to pull a very large and disabled ship, let’s call it the U.S.S. Government, toward Niagara Falls. The plan was to get an admiral aboard the large ship, let’s call him Admiral Obama, to pay the tugboat crew a ransom or else the large ship would go over the falls and crash into the rocks below.

The captain’s plan, bewildering to people on the large ship, nevertheless sounded good to the tugboat’s small crew, and the captain presented it with such confidence and swagger that the whole crew went along with it, even though some of them had their doubts about how the plan might work and some of them had suspicions about the captain’s motives.

The odd thing about Captain Cruz was that he really wasn’t the captain of the tugboat at all. He sort of took over for the real captain, who was a poor leader and wasn’t highly respected by the crew. But the real captain, let’s call him Captain Boehner, didn’t want to completely lose face with his crew, so he pretended he had wanted to pull the U.S.S. Government toward Niagara Falls all along and pretended that he was still in command of the tugboat.

Now, it came to pass that Admiral Obama was in no mood to pay a ransom to the tugboat crew. After all, he recognized that if he did so, if he gave the tugboat crew what it wanted, they would come back time after time, like Somali pirates, until the entire U.S.S. Government was looted of its treasure. Admiral Obama stood firm and told Captain Cruz, Captain Boehner, and the entire tugboat crew that he would not give into their demands. Ever.gop tugboat

It soon became clear to the tugboat crew that the plan that Captain Cruz had devised wasn’t working very well. In fact, some of the crew realized that the closer the tugboat pulled the U.S.S. Government to the falls, the harder it would be to push it back, since the waters leading to the falls were very turbulent. Besides that, some among the crew began to realize that if they were pulling the U.S.S. Government toward the falls, that would mean they and their tugboat would go over first! One among the crew, getting anxious, said after lunch one day,

It was very evident to everyone in the room that Cruz doesn’t have a strategy – he never had a strategy, and could never answer a question about what the end-game was.

Ahh. The crew was beginning to understand just how foolish the plan was and some were looking for a way out of the trouble they had created. They wanted Admiral Obama to offer them something they could call a victory so they could turn the ship around and get back to calmer waters. One among the crew, a devilishly proud sailor, was overheard saying,

We’re not going to be disrespected. We’ve got to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.

And here is where the telling of this tale must now stop. Because the ending has yet to be written.


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  1. Personally, I’m hoping for a tugboat mutiny, the sooner the better, and both Captains should be shown the plank.


    • Mutiny? That would take courage. So far, I don’t see any. I just heard Rep. Tom Cole from Oklahoma, who gets a ton of credit for being reasonable, say on TV that he would never vote for a clean debt ceiling bill while also saying that using the debt ceiling threat is not “an appropriate political tactic.” Go figure that one out.


  2. John

     /  October 3, 2013

    Captain “Kamikaze” Cruz?


    • Ah, that seems appropriate until you think about it. A Kamikaze attack meant suicide for the pilot. He didn’t survive the effort. In the insane world of right-wing reactionary politics, a Kamikaze attack by Cruz means the pilot is welcomed home as a hero! Strange stuff.


  3. Something is missing. Actually, some locos of the crew promised some other locos of the public a fantastic spectacle before they left the absurdness asylum.


  4. henrygmorgan

     /  October 3, 2013


    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

    T.S Eliot (a fellow Missourian)


    • Henry,

      Ah, yes, he was a Missourian, but due to his conservative-reactionary sensibilities, oddly enough he preferred England. Perhaps if he were alive today, he’d move back to a conservative-friendly, if not Eliot-friendly, Missouri!

      By the way, there’s an excellent article on The New York Times site that you of all people may find interesting, “Young Obama’s Poetic Politics.” The article reports on a very young O discussing Eliot’s conservatism in “classic undergraduatese.”.

      Oh, yeah:

      I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

      I do not think that they will sing to me. 125

      I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
      Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
      When the wind blows the water white and black.

      We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
      By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown 130
      Till human voices wake us, and we drown.


  5. ansonburlingame

     /  October 4, 2013

    I heard on TV yesterday that in the 16 states now implementing ACA that the cost of private HC insurance went up 24% in just those 16 states. Now who exactly pays for that increased cost for HC insurance premiumns I wonder?



  6. henrygmorgan

     /  October 5, 2013

    Duane: Thanks greatly for the link. I had no idea that Obama had been an Eliot “fan” at such an early age, or at all, for that matter. I agree with your views of Eliot, but his conservatism in his age would represent the most liberal of views in the modern Republican Party. I think that we need to bear in mind the age in which he wrote before we conclude an assessment of his work. For example, Prufrock, one of the early poems, was written in the midst of the aftershock of WW I, and many of the later works, Four Quartets, for example, were written during WW II. He was by this time a British citizen living in London during the blitz. I have often wondered to what degree his political views were formed by that fact. I was surprised at the Times’ dismissive tone at the views expressed in his letter. I wish that I had had more students with such perception.


    • Henry,

      I was also surprised at the wisecracking commentary surrounding the young Obama’s take on Eliot, especially the comments by Professor Hart of Columbia when he said:

      You get this a lot when students try too hard. Still, I think that’s the point here. This isn’t so much literary criticism as flirtation. He’s performing the role of young intellectual.

      Maybe it is that professors at prestigious places like Columbia have the luxury of having entire rooms full of students who “try too hard” to perform “the role of young intellectual.” What a luxury that must be.

      Or maybe it is that the professor (“who specializes in 20th- and 21st-century Anglophone culture with an emphasis on modernist poetry,” for God’s sake) himself is trying too hard to play the role of professor at Columbia?



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