Only Two Ways Out

A new Politico story (“It’s all on Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell”) reports on the latest development in the Republican-created hostage crisis. The latest development is this: Republicans still refuse to release the two hostages they are holding—the government and the economy—until Democrats meet their latest demands, whatever they now are or soon will be.

I just wanted to note the language used in the Politico story:

McConnell, along with his close ally Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), quietly met with Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) early Saturday to find a way out of the first possible default in U.S. history when the Treasury Department begins to run out of money Oct. 17. 

“Find a way out”? Hmm. Let me quickly list the ways out:

1. Republicans release the hostages without a ransom.

2. Democrats pay a ransom.

It’s that simple.

18 Comments

  1. You summed it up well, Duane. It’s a damned shame the body politic doesn’t understand, however. Since you said you cancelled your Globe subscription I thought I would mention one letter to the editor in this morning’s paper. A man in Carthage, one Andy Andrews, directly blames Mr. Obama for:

    1. Closing down the War Memorial.
    2. Blocking the road to Mount Rushmore.
    3. Closing down private enterprises on federal property that are not federally funded.
    4. Moving elderly voters out of their homes because they sit on public government property.
    5. Refusing to permit a fishing tournament on a federal lake . . .

    That kind of ignorance is breathtaking. Also in today’s Globe was a cogent column by Herb Van Fleet, decrying the failure of Congress over the years to deal sensibly with the national debt. Although he declined to mention the two root causes I blame for that, the broken healthcare system and nation-building adventurism, he did discuss a more basic problem. He said,

    ” . . . during the 2012 election, 90 percent of House members and 91 percent of senators who sought reelection won. Yet the approval rating for Congress averaged 15 percent for 2012. More interesting, however, is a Gallup poll earlier this year that found that 62 percent of voters approved of the job their particular representative was doing but only 35 percent could name him or her.”

    Congress has been reflecting their constituencies, all too many of whom are like Mr. Andrews. I wish I knew what to do about it. Blogging and writing in the paper is a start, but so far, it isn’t working. Sigh.

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  2. Jim,

    First, thanks for a shout out to my Op-Ed in the Glob this a.m. On that, I was amused when David Gregory on Meet the Press this morning threw up the poll showing 60% of “Americans” what all members of Congress put out of office. But on the contrary, as I showed in the piece, 90% or more of them will be re-elected in 2014. No, those 60% want the OTHER guy out of office, not THEIR guy. even if they can’t name their guy.

    I picked on the debt, including unfunded liabilities, to illustrate how out of control the current and past presidents and Congresses have gotten over the years. You mentioned health care and imperialism. But there are more — education, infrastructure, immigration, the tax code, the military, out of control capitalism, globalization, foreign policy, elitism, and racism, among others, that illustrate the distortion of reality, the denial, and the hubris that has overtaken our elected officials.

    Our government, like our country, is way too diverse and complex for 536 people to manage, even if elections were truly democratic and the president and Congress did what they are supposed to do. We are just too damn big. And as the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder . . .

    And that gets me back to Wiley Coyote and his struggle with gravity. (This is a reference to my Op-Ed piece for those who haven’t read it.) We are in the midst of the fall, which is relatively calm except for all the screaming. But it’s the landing of course that causes the real pain. We know, however, that In next the scene, after Wiley has hit the ground, he’s seen working on some gadget from Acme to catch the Roadrunner — with no apparent damage from the fall. This is OK because we understand that this is a cartoon, a fantasy. Unfortunately, the Tea Party Cheerleaders, like your Andy Andrews, can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Now, if we could take him and his compatriots to a cliff . . .

    Herb

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  3. Sedate Me

     /  October 13, 2013

    All problems with Congress ultimately boil down to how people get into (and stay in) Congress.

    Just to get in the door, they have to appeal to their local party membership. Then (depending on the ideological purity gerrymandered into their district) they remodel themselves to be marketed to the 50% of their district that bothers to vote. Getting elected -and re-elected- requires a never ending stream of money to pay for advertising, most of which comes from Corporate Persons with very specific, self interested, demands.

    So, the system demands scads of money and the approval of both local and national Powers That Be. But it also demands politicians willing to continuously prostitute themselves and pimp out the US government at the same time…while appearing to be ideologically pure to the rubes back home. That requires a hell of a lot of high paid propagandists.

    Anything that makes getting elected cheaper is a good thing, even if it costs the country more. Some ideas:

    1) election spending caps, government subsidized elections, mandatory free campaign advertising provided by media outlets and shortening election periods to months rather than years.

    2) shortening WHEN campaign contributions can be made (ie during election periods, not during governance periods.

    3) eliminating of PACS and all non-REAL-person donations. This may require a Constitutional Amendment or at least a Supreme Court not dominated by utter shitheads.

    4) an end to gerrymandering would be great too. What also would be nice if a larger percentage of people voted, especially in party primaries. Currently, that’s the lab where imbeciles are manufactured.

    Of course, even though most of the above is simple, useful, and maybe even popular, the likelihood of monkeys flying out of my ass is probably much greater than any of the above happening.

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  4. King Beauregard

     /  October 13, 2013

    Third option: Republicans release the hostages, and an ancillary deal is struck between the Democrats and Republicans that allows both sides to return home with some kind of victory under their belt. I see a deal something like this:

    1) Republicans fund the government and leave the debt ceiling alone, in some fashion that prevents them from pulling this trick in the future. Not sure how that would work, but that’s the most essential component.

    2) Republicans gain some concession, say, that tax break on medical devices they eventually wanted.

    3) Democrats also gain some concession, say, expanded SNAP benefits or federally-mandated gay sex for everyone over the age of five.

    Remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? We avoided nuclear catastrophe by a deal where the Soviets withdrew their missiles but also gained an agreement that the US would never invade Cuba. (Also, a secret withdrawal of secret US weapons from Turkey.) Khrushchev was still able to tell his people he got something for his trouble, and that’s sometimes what it takes.

    I’d really, really like the Republicans to be humiliated in front of their base, but if you’re still a Republican supporter a good decade after you should have figured out what rubbish they are, it’s not like you’re capable of rational thought anyway.

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    • Sedate Me

       /  October 14, 2013

      But in the Cuban missile crisis, you weren’t dealing with a bunch of insane, ideological war mongers who hated America to the point where they were willing to battle to Mutually Assured Destruction in order to win a pile of radioactive ashes.

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      • King Beauregard

         /  October 14, 2013

        No, we’re dealing with some cowardly tools who are caught between placating their corporate masters (who, in the end, don’t actually want the economy to collapse) and appeasing their Teabagger voter base (who are too damn dumb to realize that economic collapse is bad).

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    • Some kind of compromise that affords the TP some face-saving sounds nice, King, but this is not normal politics, it is political war. This is a precedent-setting situation and “compromise” would mean government by extortion for the foreseeable future.

      Thursday approaches and there are signs not that damage will be done but that it already has been done. Banks have begun dumping T-bills and China, China for God’s sake, is looking to devalue its American investments. Our reputation for political and financial stability is tarnished. That being the case, it is time I submit that the president announce his intention to use the 14th amendment as authority to pay the nation’s bills if the GOP continues to insist on extortion. His principal reason for not doing so before now was that it would undermine confidence in the normal process. That shouldn’t be a concern any longer – confidence is pretty-much gone.

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      • King Beauregard

         /  October 14, 2013

        Yes yes, my very first bullet point was that something needs to be put into place to prevent this from ever happening again, i.e., prevent further extortion. For example, this weekend, HuffPo and other sites took notice of a rule that the Republicans added a little while back, which blocked Democrats from bringing these types of bills up for a vote … repeal that. And as for the debt ceiling, put something into law where the Executive and Legislative branches each have the power to raise the debt ceiling, or put that authority into the Fed’s hands, or something. (A formal recognition of the President’s authority to invoke the 14th Amendment would work too.)

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  October 14, 2013

    Herb,

    I considered a personal email or a LTTE praising your recent column in the Globe. I will instead praise it herein. You were on the mark and I agree with most of your points. We have a very long term mess on our hands and change will be hard if we are to recover from all those mistakes.

    Duane’s short blog summarizes the issue quite well. Stop holding the government hostage and pay the ransom. But the problem becomes that the ransom must be paid with borrowed money as we have done for over 50 years, year in and out for decades. Politicians are held hostage by voters wanting MORE from the federal government. They pay the ransom by borrowing onnerous sums of money “forever”.

    Duane and his supporters call for “throwing the bastards out”. Well the end result of such efforts is a one party government in America. Does anyone think that will work very well for the long term?

    No government can meet all the demands of all the people. Any government must prioritize matters, up to and including when to go to war, or not. We keep screaming right now of defaulting on our national debt payments if we cannot continue to borrow money. Well that is WRONG. WE CAN continue to pay our debts, each and every month. But a lot of other stuff must go much lower on that financial priority list.

    Greece on the other hand cannot even begin to pay its debts. What happens to the world when that happens to America? The only rebutal I ever hear to that possibility is that the possibility is impossible.

    Is that not what the ostrich always does, puts his head in the sand and ignores reality?

    Our federal government CANNOT function as demanded by we the people without borrowing a ton of money each month. As well NO ONE in the federal government has any idea how to confront the unfunded liablities often mentioned by conservatives. When some Democrat shows me a reasonable plan to reduce deficits over time and deal with unbelievable unfunded liabilities in the future then I will listen very carefully. But I have yet to see such an approach, actually by anyone, but particularly any democrat. Tax and spend until …. is the hall mark of that policy long promoted by democrats, like it or not. Bill Clinton made a slight and now forgotten attempt to deal with such matters. At least he said let’s “get rid of welfare as we know it” and he achieved it, with GOP help.

    Would you now consider viewing the “curves” that have skyrocketed AFTER Bill’s (and the GOPs) attempt to start controlling that monster?

    Anson

    Anson

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  6. Sedate Me

     /  October 14, 2013

    Let’s face it. America is dead meat in denial, like Bruce Willis in The 6th Sense.

    Civil war Syria hasn’t bounced a cheque yet, but America can’t even keep the Panda Cam up and running. It can no longer get into space without hitching a ride from KGB Russia. It can no longer function without borrowing from the “communist” Chinese who have all of America’s manufacturing jobs and an ever increasing amount of its debt. Meanwhile, America spends trillions to keep its Empire in a state of perpetual war. Americans themselves continue to line up to ring up their credit cards with stupid Chinese made tech-toys no different from last year’s model, toys they’ll throw away when next year’s model arrives.

    America is an incredibly wealthy nation, but squanders it all on weapons and trinkets. It has warped the economy for the benefit of the 1% and has slowly forced the rest to fight over table scraps and rely on ever diminishing social services.

    Unless some serious changes get made. What we see here is the New Normal. Worse yet, the American Oligarchs have rigged the political system to ensure that nothing will change, at least not for the positive.

    America is about to become the world’s newest 3rd world nation.

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    • Sedate Me,

      I think you are getting very close to the truth (although I hate that word, I can’t think of a better one) that’s staring us in the face. We just don’t have the courage to look at it.

      There is an article that came out this morning by Chris Hedges, “The Folly of Empire” (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_folly_of_empire_20131014) that amplifies and underscores your comments. Here is the second paragraph, which I think is most pertinent to this discussion:

      “The last days of empire are carnivals of folly. We are in the midst of our own, plunging forward as our leaders court willful economic and environmental self-destruction. Sumer and Rome went down like this. So did the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Men and women of stunning mediocrity and depravity led the monarchies of Europe and Russia on the eve of World War I. And America has, in its own decline, offered up its share of weaklings, dolts and morons to steer it to destruction. A nation that was still rooted in reality would never glorify charlatans such as Sen. Ted Cruz, House Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Newt Gingrich as they pollute the airwaves. If we had any idea what was really happening to us we would have turned in fury against Barack Obama, whose signature legacy will be utter capitulation to the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex and the security and surveillance state. We would have rallied behind those few, such as Ralph Nader, who denounced a monetary system based on gambling and the endless printing of money and condemned the willful wrecking of the ecosystem. We would have mutinied. We would have turned the ship back.”

      Sobering isn’t it?

      Herb

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  7. ansonburlingame

     /  October 14, 2013

    My goodness. Sedate Me and Herb sound like ME, in some respects.

    The only difference is those two blame it all, America’s decline, on empire building, or national “defense” which is a misnomer. So if we stop empire building they seem to think that we will do just fine, squatting behind the barriers of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as we did for about two centuries.

    Sorry folks, that won’t work either, not in a modern world where “things” can fly right over those ocean barriers, right into our collective faces, particularly repugnant ideas that many promote. They, those ideas now travel at the speed of light and many are innundanted with them every day, every hour if you will. It is the drumbeat of how bad America is in the eyes of many, including many Americans, now.

    Just zero the DOD buget and there we have a balanced budget, for a while at least, a short while if Dems are in control of all matters. Then after we recover from another Great Depression caused by massive loss of jobs, beginning with all soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, followed by a massive civilian work force layoff in millions upon millions, then we can just get on with feeding the poor at every turn so all have a Thanksgiving meal, three times a day and live in “equal” housing for all, not to mention equal HC for every soul in America as well, for a while at least.

    Get rid of the big bad wolf called National Defense, get rid of the top 10% in wealth (remember there will REMAIN a top 10% however, just at a lower level), etc., etc. and all will be well with America, right?

    Are you kidding me? How shallow can you get. And what kind of CHARACTER will prevail in America in such a new world of real equality in everything for all, no matter what their character might be!!!

    Anson

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    • Sedate Me

       /  October 16, 2013

      On final reading, this may come across as more hostile, less explanatory and more long winded than it was meant to be. Sorry.

      Come on, man! I already have enough trouble keeping my ramblings under 5,000 words! If you start demanding more context, more nuance and more complexity, you’ll die of old age (or boredom) before finishing any of them.

      In this case, I simply went for the fattest, most obvious, most destructive, targets because they suck up the most money and have distorted the economy & democracy more than anything. If America can’t address such obvious problems, then it can’t handle its other problems.

      The War Machine: Even in peacetime (Wat dat?) the Military-Industrial-Spy Complex burns as much money as anything else. The US spends more than all significant nations combined, yet nearly all of those countries are allies and the rest are no worse than Frenemies. The amount of waste, fraud and sheer overcapacity is stunning. For example, billions worth of vastly overpriced weaponry is built to just sit and rot in the desert. America has more tanks just sitting and collecting dust than many nations have in their entire arsenal. http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/09/army-to-congress-thanks-but-no-tanks/comment-page-4/ Ridiculously expensive jets, despite being built while America was fighting 2 wars, have yet to fly a mission. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/12/f-22-real-cost/ Not only that, the US pays billions to build weapons that sit unused in the deserts of OTHER nations. http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/08/08/209878158/egypt-may-not-need-fighter-jets-but-u-s-keeps-sending-them-anyway?ft=1&f=1001

      The US government is shelling out billions for weapons to just sit around and do nothing for their entire lives. I call it Weaponfare.

      And to what end? The biggest military “threat” to America currently comes from a bunch of angry goat herders living in tents and disgruntled American youth who don’t like marathons. I’m not sure how a stealth fighter or ICBM works to keep Americans safe from them and recording everything everyone says & does doesn’t seem to be that effective either. Yeah, I’m sure it’s quite an ego boost to know you can beat up all the kids at school with your powerful toys. But if you spend trillions on war making equipment, you gotta make war routine enough to justify the expense, right? Not only has America become more war prone, so too are the nations America GIVES $5.5 billion a year worth of weapons to…and the enemies of those nations. Ta-Da! A more dangerous world that justifies even more spending on even more weapons and more surveillance of enemies, friends and fellow citizens. If only one could harness this perpetual motion machine to generate electricity, Climate Change would be history!

      ”Just zero the DOD buget and there we have a balanced budget, for a while at least…Then after we recover from another Great Depression caused by massive loss of jobs, beginning with all soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, followed by a massive civilian work force layoff in millions upon millions…

      You’re right. And that’s part of my point. Despite its great PR, the military is just another government bureaucracy. But because the money spent goes -not to the weak- but to the politically & economically strong for macho, Patriotic, purposes, it’s untouchable. Because the Military Industrial Spy Complex employs so many people in so many conveniently distributed places, it’s the most sacred political cow there is. As such, they’re probably better at wasting money than any other government bureaucracy. http://www.salon.com/2012/12/12/7_absurd_ways_the_military_wastes_taxpayer_dollars/

      In short, military spending is really just a massive government subsidy to private enterprise to create an enormously profitable Workfare system of minimal strategic, social and economic utility. Are there really that many Nazis Communists left in Germany East Germany to justify keeping German bases open? Does America really have enough enemies that it needs to keep that many secret torture prisons open around the world? At some point, you might as well employ these millions to build ice sculptures in every town square.

      Like debt, military spending has hidden the economic truth from America for decades. America is flat ass broke and its people have nothing better than hard times to look forward to. Yet, trillions are still spent to kill a Nixonian level list of enemies. Meanwhile, even though Obamacare could theoretically break even, it’s called “the biggest waste of money in the history of the universe”. An overkill on killing is “good spending”. Keeping citizens alive and healthy is “bad spending”. Which is more productive? Which merits government money more? Which is less insane? You can’t afford everything. Government spending is about choosing priorities. America’s priorities are showing.

      Eisenhower was right. Every penny spent on the Military Industrial Complex is money diverted from more worthy causes and the more spent on it, the more permanent and irreversible it becomes. I have no doubt whatsoever America could get spend 1/3 of what it does on the military and only those sucking the bloated Military-Industrial-Spy Complex’s tit would ever notice. A smaller budget would certainly result in more bang for the buck. Hell, with less economic incentive for war, America might even wind up safer as the production & demand for enemies might shrink.

      By the way, anybody remember the hilarious phrase “Peace dividend”?

      The 1% and their fellators When 400 people have more money than HALF the nation combined, the economy has ceased to properly function. It’s terminally ill. That kind of massive swelling at the top needs to be removed to allow the economic lifeblood to circulate. Good circulation is how an economy is supposed to work. People of all classes buy stuff, which generates demand for products, which results in businesses paying people to make & sell them, which results in workers being able to afford to buy stuff… rinse, lather, repeat. If the bulk of people can’t afford to buy products, the whole thing crumbles. Debt can keep the mirage of prosperity going for a long time, but it only digs the whole deeper. Right now, the hole America and Americans have dug, ironically enough, extends all the way to China. That’s where all Americans’ jobs and money have gone.

      Since money now equals speech and legislators are bought & sold in public & secret auctions, democracy itself has been infected. That means the entire nation is being warped for the benefit of those at the top. Today’s rich are like a cancer. They absorb the lifeblood, grow ever bigger and destroy the rest of the body’s ability to function.

      “And what kind of CHARACTER will prevail in America in such a new world of real equality in everything for all, no matter what their character might be!!!”

      What you suggest is the stuff of Red Herrings on LSD. Real equality? Shit, America can’t even pretend it has equality of opportunity anymore. But you sure bring up a good point about character.

      Metaphorically speaking, America has lost its job, the kids are going hungry and it’s on the verge of having the house (and everything in it) repossessed. But instead of getting its act together, it spends all its time drinking to numb the pain and getting into fights. Springer Nation! That’s the character of America NOW!

      Meanwhile, the character of the rich goes completely unquestioned because our sick system ridiculously assumes that the rich are of superior character, proven merely by the economic scorecard. The truth is that the rich have decoupled themselves from the fate of their fellow man. They move jobs to places with no health, labour or environmental standards just because they can pay these workers less and get away with more. They’re callous to the fate of others and delusionally think they deserve EVEN MORE from a bankrupt nation that has already over-rewarded them, thanks to a system that no longer values actual work. That’s THEIR character. And, in our trickle down culture, it’s the DOMINANT character. The fish rots from the head down!

      And I don’t see it any of this changing until after a messy, violent, downfall that the rich will avoid by being raptured up to heaven. (The Caymens?) http://www.forbes.com/sites/dalearcher/2013/09/04/could-americas-wealth-gap-lead-to-a-revolt/

      I’m merely suggesting that, even though America is doomed, it starts showing REAL character, the kind of character it wants to be remembered for. It needs to start being that “kinder, gentler, nation” and a nation that values work & workers over the speculation & selfishness of the idle rich. I’d like to see America become a nation that evokes more sympathy than hatred. So that, when it hits rock bottom, other nations will be less inclined to cheer its demise and more inclined to help it back up. Right now, it’s the opposite. Even most of its friends catch themselves secretly egging on its fall, even though America’s fall will bring them down too.

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      • Sedate Me,

        Well, what you’ve got here is you’ve got one of them there, “I wish I’d said that” posts. Kudos for an excellent overview of the socio-political status of the U.S. of A in the fall of 2013!

        By the way, if you don’t have a blog, and if you have the time, I would like to see you put one up. You have a lot to say and you’re very good at saying it. I would certainly sign up as a follower.

        Herb

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        • I agree totally, Herb, even though there are things in there I don’t agree with, like, “America is flat ass broke and its people have nothing better than hard times to look forward to.” I just think that is fundamentally a wrong way of looking at our problems. Because I think the premise is mistaken, the conclusion necessarily is too. But I love the way the thing is written and the quality of analysis (even as mistaken as I believe parts of it is) that is behind it.

          Duane

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  8. Sorry, don’t know why this comment didn’t go through as “approved,” and I missed it in the unapproved queue. My bad.

    I like a lot of what you say (although I don’t agree we are “broke” and “bankrupt”; there’s plenty of wealth around but it is unevenly distributed; and I would quibble somewhat with your depiction of America’s military footprint around the world; in the right hands, meaning not in Republican hands, it can be a force for good around the world; problem is that in some cases we should be creatively billing other nations for essentially defending them), but, as you know, I don’t share your pessimism. I tend to look at things in relative terms, and when compared with the rest of the world, we aren’t doing as bad as it might seem.

    Duane

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