Fundamentalist Politics

“Faith is…the evidence of things not seen.”

—Hebrews 11:1

Paul Krugman’s latest column is very kind to conservative Republicans, calling them,

The Ignorance Caucus

Ignorance, you know, is curable. And some of us think that what ails the Republican Party these days is not so curable. Krugman was sort of taking it easy on them.

In any case, he pointed out a few things that should scare all thinking people:

Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach “critical thinking skills,” because, it said, such efforts “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

On Eric Cantor’s “major policy speech” last week, Krugman said,

when giving a speech intended to demonstrate his openness to new ideas, Mr. Cantor felt obliged to give that caucus a shout-out, calling for a complete end to federal funding of social science research. Because it’s surely a waste of money seeking to understand the society we’re trying to change.

Krugman adds:

the entire National Science Foundation budget for social and economic sciences amounts to a whopping 0.01 percent of the budget deficit.

In his speech, Cantor said he supported medical research, but Krugman points out that,

he and his colleagues have adamantly opposed “comparative effectiveness research,” which seeks to determine how well such treatments work.

The federal government, since it runs a rather large health insurance program—Medicare—and since it partners with the states to run another rather large insurance program—Medicaid—and since it operates a rather large health care system—the Veterans Health Administration—might be interested in the comparative effectiveness of health care treatments. But Republicans, preferring ignorance and thus incompetence, want to keep government in the dark.

On climate research, Krugman notes the usual attempts by Republicans to kill it. And even when they don’t kill it, even when they consent to some meager research, they still can’t help themselves from asserting their fondness for ignorance:

Republicans in the State Legislature have specifically prohibited the use of the words “sea-level rise.

That would be like trying to assess the dangers of playing football but prohibiting the use of the words “brain damage.”

Here’s more conservative-embraced ignorance via Krugman:

House Republicans tried to suppress a Congressional Research Service report casting doubt on claims about the magical growth effects of tax cuts for the wealthy.

On guns and violence:

…back in the 1990s conservative politicians, acting on behalf of the National Rifle Association, bullied federal agencies into ceasing just about all research into the issue.

Why should Republicans fear knowing things? Because knowing things is often an enemy of fixed beliefs. And the GOP has a lot invested in those fixed beliefs. Related to that, Krugman hits on something of fundamental importance that all Americans need to make an attempt to understand because it is responsible for much of the lack of progress we see:

The truth is that America’s partisan divide runs much deeper than even pessimists are usually willing to admit; the parties aren’t just divided on values and policy views, they’re divided over epistemology. One side believes, at least in principle, in letting its policy views be shaped by facts; the other believes in suppressing the facts if they contradict its fixed beliefs.

Epistemology is a big but necessary word because it is critical to our advancement as individuals and society. Epistemology comes to us from philosophy, and all philosophers by the nature of their discipline have, or should have, something to say about it. In short it is “the theory of knowledge,” which involves thinking about what “knowledge” is, how we get it, how we know it is genuine—heck, if even there is such a thing as “genuine” knowledge.

Krugman referenced the Texas Republican Party’s rejection of critical thinking skills. He wasn’t kidding. Here is the original language in the party’s 2012 platform:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

What Texas Republicans did was advance their own theory of knowledge, their own epistemology, which has “fixed beliefs.” And their theory of knowledge is based on the following, also part of their platform:

Traditional Principles in Education – We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems. 

This Republican epistemology—which has authoritarianism and inerrant biblical religion at its core—is not limited to Texas Republicans, although they feel free enough in that state to unabashedly share it with the rest of us. The theory of knowledge that says there are fixed beliefs that critical thinking should not explore is a feature of all fundamentalist religion, and, sadly, it is today a feature of what we can confidently call fundamentalist politics.

And whether we call it ignorance or something else, we have to recognize that fundamentalist politics represents a threat to our progress and our national well-being.

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Dreams

I saw a Tweet last night from Eric Cantor, who, along with Mitch McConnell, is one of the Chief Obstructors of the Republican Party, obstructors who have helped keep economic growth sluggish under President Obama and thereby hurt folks who haven’t achieved the dream that, say, Mitt Romney has achieved.

Cantor’s message is one, ironically, that pretty much sums up the purpose of the Republican Party and the reason Mittens wants to be prez:

Mitt Romney is the candidate for people…who dream big dreams and achieve them, he said.  “And achieve them.”

Hmm. If you are a person who dreams big dreams but doesn’t quite achieve them, Mitt Romney’s not your guy.

I think Cantor got that just about right.

TOM Romney Versus TIM Romney

Just when Eric Cantor and John Ashcroft decided to jump on The Inflatable Mitt (TIM), the GOP’s eventual nominee, out comes The Old Mitt (TOM), courtesy of an ancient—and by ancient I mean July of 2009USA Today opinion piece TOM wrote:

During the summer of 2009 the health care reform debate was heating up and TOM had some advice for Mr. Obama and the Congress:

There’s a better way. And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it…

Thanks Mitt—I mean, TOM! Why didn’t Democrats think of that?

TOM said the president’s first act should be this:

For health care reform to succeed in Washington, the president must finally do what he promised during the campaign: Work with Republicans as well as Democrats.

We all know now that Obama tried that. He and some Senate Democrats bent and shaped the bill to appeal to so-called moderates like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of whom gave Democrats the legislative finger when it came time to vote.

TOM’s next advice:

To find common ground with skeptical Republicans and conservative Democrats, the president will have to jettison left-wing ideology for practicality and dump the public option.

He did that, too, of course. A public option was never seriously considered by the White House mainly because of Republican opposition. And guess what? No “skeptical” Republicans joined him anyway, so impenetrable was,and remains, their skepticism.

So, without a public option what did TOM propose as a way to get folks to purchase insurance, since they can otherwise just go into a hospital emergency room and get free treatment?

Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn’t have to break the bank. First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages “free riders” to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This doesn’t cost the government a single dollar.

Whoops! He can’t mean the dreaded mandate, can he?  You mean TOM favored—as late as 2009—the mandate that TIM now opposes? The mandate that the Republican Party is staking its reelection chances on, now that the economy seems to be turning toward the light?

Just like other naughty novelties, The Inflatable Mitt Romney may bring some conservative Republicans a kind of perverse pleasure for the moment—they have, after all, been able to squeeze him into submission. But The Old Mitt will keep popping up now and then, making their fantasy go limp, the fantasy that Romney is their champion, the one who can beat The One.

Alan Greenspan And The Un-American Mob

“For who hath despised the day of small things?”

—Zechariah 4:10

Herman Cain will never be president. 

But he does serve to represent something important—at least in terms of temperament and values, if not in complexion—about a rather large constituency in the Republican Party.  He famously remarked to the Associated Press that the Occupy Wall Street protesters were “un-American” and anti-capitalist, and, naturally, it’s all Obama’s fault:

I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration. Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself! It is not a person’s fault if they succeeded, it is a person’s fault if they failed.

I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe…”  That introductory clause represents a terrifying peek into the Republican mind these days.  Beliefs need not be supported by facts.

But beyond what Cain’s remarks reveal about the quality of analysis of the average GOP presidential candidate and the average GOP primary voter, Cain essentially voices what a lot of Rightists believe about the 99% of folks who don’t enjoy the best of the best in American society: If you aren’t scarfing down the majority of Grandma Margie’s Magic Pie, then it’s because your fork is too small.

Either get a bigger fork or get up from the table.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor says he is “increasingly concerned about the growing mobs,” and Glenn Beck, hiding somewhere on the Internet, said:

Capitalists, if you think that you can play footsies with these people, you’re wrong. They will come for you and drag you into the streets and kill you.

But believe it or not, most revealing and disturbing of all  is what Republican Congressman Peter King of New York said:

It’s really important for us not to give any legitimacy to these people in the streets. I remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets, and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy. We can’t allow that to happen.

No legitimacy.  That’s why Fox “News” ridicules the Wall Street protesters, whose diverse faces look like the America to come, not the America that was.  After months and months of promoting the pale-faced Tea Party movement with orgasmic fervor, suddenly Fox goes limp over the sudden appearance of a leftish backlash against greed and inequality.

The Right must not, as King pointed out, allow the media to “glorify” the Wall Street protesters, lest they end up “shaping policy.”

Well, notwithstanding the remonstrations of Mr. King and Mr. Cantor and Mr. Beck and other voices of the moneyed class, the mostly young and diverse folks that make up the Occupy Wall Street movement—whose unfocused demands are rooted in a very focused moral outrage about what greedy banksters have done to the country—will play a role in shaping policy.

Whether it will be through this current fire of protests, or whether it will be through a fire to come, frustrated young folks will do what they have done throughout American history: help clear the social forest of underbrush in this tall-tree democracy.

Forget Peter King’s fear of the protest movements in the streets of the 1960s. The best analogy to what is happening now is from the 1930s. Robert Cohen wrote of the great student movements at that time:

During its peak years, from spring 1936 to spring 1939, the movement mobilized at least 500,000 collegians (about half of the American student body) in annual one-hour strikes against war. The movement also organized students on behalf of an extensive reform agenda, which included federal aid to education, government job programs for youth, abolition of the compulsory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), academic freedom, racial equality, and collective bargaining rights.

The impetus, of course, for this youthful activity was the Great Depression:

Undergraduates in the early 1930s faced hard times, with the collapse of the job market and the exhaustion of student loan funds and parental financial support. In 1932 and 1933 even the student body itself began to diminish because of the sinking economy; some eighty thousand youths who in more prosperous times would have attended college were in these years unable to enroll. The economic crisis and its growing impact on campus led students to start questioning both the logic and value of American capitalism.

Sounds eerily familiar today, doesn’t it?

Young folks should question “both the logic and value of American capitalism.” And sober adults should be able to answer their questions, not with a knee-jerk response like Herman Cain’s or a stupid assertion like Glenn Beck’s or with expressions of fear from Republican congressmen, but with an acknowledgement that American capitalism is sick and it needs a regimen of life-saving treatment.

Some of us want to save it and have been arguing accordingly.

In the late 1990s, Alan Greenspan—who is to laissez-faire capitalism what Herman Cain is to pizza—was worrying about the uneven distribution of America’s wealth and income, and none other than The Wall Street Journal would jump his Randian behind for “blathering about income inequality.”

In 2002 Greenspan said of the increasing compensation for corporate executives:

It is not that humans have become any more greedy than in generations past. It is that the avenues to express greed had grown so enormously.

And in 2005 he dared to say:

In a democratic society, a stark bifurcation of wealth and income trends among large segments of the population can fuel resentment and political polarization. These social developments can lead to political clashes and misguided economic policies that work to the detriment of the economy and society as a whole.

About the widely divergent outcomes of people in the labor market, Greenspan told a Joint Economic Committee in 2005:

As I’ve often said, this is not the type of thing which a democratic society – a capitalist democratic society – can really accept without addressing.

The way Republicans these days have chosen to address the fruit of Alan Greenspan’s fears—the Wall Street protesters around the country—is by calling them an un-American mob who must be delegitimized and ridiculed at all costs.

A sure sign that the protesters are having an effect.

“Chaos”

Last week, I gave kudos to Sen. Roy Blunt for supporting disaster relief without strings attached.  In case you forgot, Blunt actually was one of 10 Republicans who voted with Democrats to approve a $7 billion funding bill for FEMA, which has been critical for our recovery here in Joplin and elsewhere.

My Blunt kudos may have been a case of premature ejaculation (don’t panic: “a short sudden emotional utterance“).

Discussing the possibility of the Senate voting on an amended version of the House temporary budget resolution—which failed to pass, but more on that later—Fox “News” reported:

The House is scheduled to pass it’s [sic] bill Wednesday and head out of town Thursday. Reid has said he intends to try to amend that bill to plus up disaster aid to $6.9 billion. Whether or not he will have the votes, again, remains to be seen. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who’s state was ravaged by a tornado in May, would not commit Tuesday to supporting Reid’s move, as he did previously.

So, my premature kudos for Blunt I officially, uh, withdraw.

Now to the House: With the end of the fiscal year fast approaching, House teapartiers, in an unholy alliance with Democrats, put a political chiv in the back of Speaker Boehner by not voting for the Continuing Resolution to fund the government through November 18. 

Boehner, who has never really been in operational control of the House, was understandably upset over the kids in the House Tea Party letting him down, even after he threatened them. But he promised there would not be another fiasco over the budget, like the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that.

In any case, here’s how Roll Call reported Boehner’s shallacking:

The House threw the appropriations process into chaos today, voting down a stopgap funding resolution that conservative Republicans and virtually all Democrats opposed.

Chaos.”  And what is at the heart of that chaos?  Disaster funding.  FEMA.  Offsets.  

Republicans have played games with disaster funding and Democrats refuse to join them. Democrats in the House oppose the inadequate funding of FEMA in the CR and refuse to support the budget offsets that involve cutting off funds for a valuable loan program for advanced technology vehicles that has been a real job creator.

For his part, Boehner only needed 18 more Republicans to pass his CR, but 48 Republicans, mostly extremists, voted against the resolution because it followed the discretionary spending levels of the infamous debt-ceiling deal instead of a slightly lower amount previously passed in a separate House budget resolution.

By requiring FEMA funding to be subject to a debate about offsets, as Tea Party Republicans and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have done, we are in chaos.  This is exactly why from the beginning of the disaster recovery in Joplin I tried to ask my congressman, Ozark Billy Long, what his position on offsets and disaster funding was. 

And of those few who have tried, nobody has been able to get him to answer definitively. He voted for Boehner’s CR, with its stingy funding for FEMA and its offsets for disaster relief, and unfortunately that doesn’t tell us whether he will vote for a resolution that does not contain offsets.

I guess we’re just supposed to wait and find out, because I still have not had a response from Long’s office to my question.

And, too, I suppose we’re going to have to wait and see how Roy Blunt will vote on disaster relief.

In the mean time, no more premature short and sudden emotional utterances from me.

Blunt And McCaskill Team Up

Kudos to Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, who voted on Thursday for federal disaster relief for Missouri and elsewhere without strings attached.  

They rejected the view, first put forward by House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor just after the EF-5+ tornado hit Joplin, that such relief can only be provided if other cuts are made to the budget. That idea has no precedent in FEMA history.  Money for such disasters has never been the center of a political fight.

On Monday, a Senate Republican filibuster—I repeat: a Republican filibuster—temporarily defeated the disaster aid bill, but Majority Leader and Democrat Harry Reid brought it up again on Tuesday—I repeat: a Democrat brought it back up—and the filibuster was broken, thanks to a handful of Republicans, including Blunt.

The final vote on Thursday for the $7 billion aid bill was 62-37.  And noteworthy is the fact that not one single Republican senatorial neighbor of Missouri voted for disaster relief.  Not one. 

Also noteworthy is the stunning fact that neither Republican senator from Mississippi voted for the bill—despite the fact that Mississippi received around $10 billion in FEMA money after Hurricane Katrina, all of it provided without a fight over the budget. 

Now, we find that on Wednesday, House Republicans introduced a continuing resolution that would temporarily fund the entire government through the middle of November—the fiscal year ends on September 30—and in that resolution they not only propose insufficient disaster relief funds ($3.65 billion), they also propose paying for part of it by cutting a successful loan program that has helped the U.S. auto industry hold on to jobs here at home.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, whose state is trying to come back from its own economic disaster, said:

It’s outrageous that House Republicans are pushing a plan that would drive advanced technology jobs overseas, and that they are trying to ram it through by attaching it to disaster relief. These loans have helped businesses in Michigan and around the country build the products of the future here at home.

Michigan congressman Gary Peters said:

…House Republicans have shown that they don’t care about manufacturing jobs in places like the Greater Detroit Area.

Whether one agrees with Stabenow or Peters or others who object to cutting the loan program for the auto industry, the point is that we shouldn’t be fighting over the budget when it comes to federal aid for recovery from events like the Joplin tornado, horrific flooding around the country, earthquakes, or hurricanes.

If there is one thing we should be able to agree on, it is helping each other through emergencies.  And picking a fight over how to fund FEMA just further divides us.

Ozark Billy Long: The Invisible Man

Sometimes you get what you ask for.

Here in Joplin, here in Southwest Missouri, we have voted time and again for right-wing politicians who tell us that government is the problem not the solution, who tell us that government is sucking the life out of the country, making everyone wards of a socialist state, taking our liberty, and killing our spirit.

In short, folks around here have said they are “fed up” with Big Daddy government, which is why Colonel Ozark Billy Long, who was “fed up” before Rick Perry stole his thunder, can belly-up to D.C. bars and rake in the cash on behalf of his constituents here at home.

As everyone around here knows by now, FEMA is running out of dough:

WASHINGTON — After a devastating hurricane swept across several East Coast states this weekend, the federal government has announced it will divert some of the long-term funding promised to rebuild roads, schools and other buildings destroyed by tornadoes in Joplin and other states.

Oh, don’t worry anti-government Joplinites.  FEMA says this only affects long-term funding and the short-term cash will still keep flowing into the area and into the bank accounts of many fed-up anti-government voters.

The Joplin Globe editorialized on the matter this morning:

Both Missouri Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt responded to the announcement with statements of reassurance that the needs of Joplin and other areas of the state would be met.  We’re still not sure where freshman Rep. Billy Long, a Republican from Springfield, stands because his office didn’t return our calls.  That’s troubling because Joplin needs to know the philosophy of all its legislators on funding for disasters.

Way back on May 24—two days after the tornado—I asked Ozark Billy the same question.  That was just after Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, had started all the nonsense about budget offsets for disaster relief and the implication that budget battles over such relief would be part of the mix.

Long refused to answer me even though I looked him right in the eyes and asked him about Cantor’s remarks and about funding for Joplin.  His handler told me, rudely, that they would “look into it.”  Well, I called Long’s office the next day and ask the question again and was told that I would be receiving a response from Long’s press guy via email. 

I’m still waiting for that response, even after repeated attempts at the time to reach him.

It turns out that Long has responded to the recent FEMA announcement, courtesy of a statement released on his normally dormant website:

Rep. Billy Long, a Springfield Republican whose district includes Joplin, said he, too, would work to make sure Joplin gets what was promised.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to those on the East Coast that were affected by this hurricane. Those of us in southwest Missouri know just how devastating a natural disaster can be,” Long said. “My staff and I have been in constant contact with FEMA to ensure that FEMA keeps its promise that they would see the rebuilding of Joplin through.”

That response doesn’t exactly address the problem, does it?  The problem, as the Globe stated it quite accurately this morning is this:

Remember, FEMA isn’t driving the train on long-term funding, but Congress is.  Typically, Congress appropriates more money for FEMA when one disaster piles onto another.

But times are different in Washington, D.C., and we can no longer count on business as usual…

In the end, it will be up to Congress to make sure disaster promises are kept.

Yes, it is up to Congress, and Billy Long, contrary to the Globe‘s suggestion that we don’t know his philosophy on things like federal funding for disasters, obviously is trying to have it both ways. 

Long doesn’t want to cross Eric Cantor and the Tea Party in Congress on budget issues—remember Long’s philosophy: He is “fed up” with all the government spending—but he wants to come across as one who is fighting for his constituents here in Joplin.

Well, honestly, local media have allowed Long to have it both ways.  Colonel Billy, during his month-long hiatus from his demanding work in Congress—passing worthless bills that never become law is hard work, you know—as far as I know hasn’t had any town hall meetings anywhere in the district, except maybe Metropolitan Grill in Springfield, nor has he given any extensive interviews to reporters.

He has been invisible for the most part, and that’s no easy task for our capacious congressman.

Perhaps, just perhaps, if the disaster funding issue comes to a head this fall, we may have local reporters demanding some access to and some answers from Mr. Long, instead of merely accepting—as the Springfield News-Leader did in its story on this issue this morning—a short statement from Long’s website.

They’re Just Sayin’

Here is a sample of recent right-wing quotes in the news:

As the stock market falls, starting just before and continuing after the Republican-created debt-ceiling crisis ended, we all should remember this:

John Boehner, from CBS News:

When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.

Since the market has dropped 10.7 % in ten days, Mr. Boehner is claiming 98% of the drop as his very own.  How nice of him.

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If anyone thought the Republican plan to kill Medicare was dead, think again:

Eric Cantor, from The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) on Wednesday suggested that Republicans will continue a push to overhaul programs such as Medicare, saying in an interview that “promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many” and that younger Americans will have to adjust.

“What we have to be, I think, focused on is truth in budgeting here,” Cantor told The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal. He said “the better way” for Americans is to “get the fiscal house in order” and “come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many.”

As many have pointed out, Mr. Cantor has absolutely no trouble keeping his promises to Grover Norquist and the moneyed class, no matter the cost to the country.

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If anyone thought the Republican strategy to stick a gun to the temple of the economy and threaten to pull the trigger was a one-time deal, think again:

Mitch McConnell, from Think Progress:

It set the template for the future. In the future…no president — in the near future, maybe in the distant future — is going to be able to get the debt ceiling increased without a re-ignition of the same discussion of how do we cut spending and get America headed in the right direction. I expect the next president, whoever that is, is going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again in 2013, so we’ll be doing it all over.

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If anyone thought the head of the public relations department of the Republican Party has lost his racist charm, think again:

Rush Limbaugh, from his radio show, discussing the stock market drop:

People are losing their life savings.  This is not new.  This has been going on ever since Obama was immaculated… He’s not even halfway done killing the economy.  I don’t want to think about what this country will look like when he’s all the way there.  This guy obviously has a new role model, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe.  The next thing to look out for is for Obama to take the farms.  Well, that’s what Mugabe did.  He took the white people’s farms, the only place that had any money.

For the record, Robert Mugabe was ranked Number 1 on Parade’s The World’s 10 Worst Dictators.

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Rush Limbaugh bonus quote:

CALLER: Thank you, Rush. As a Tea Party conservative, I’ve noticed how the names we’ve been called are getting worse and worse, and I think it’s time we turn the table, and the “tax-and-spend liberal” no longer really meets the requirement because they’re taxing me. They’re gonna tax my daughters, they’re gonna tax my yet unborn grandchildren. They’re going after their birthday money, they’re going after their piggy banks, they’re going after them. They’re financial pedophiles.

RUSH: They are!

CALLER: That’s what we’re talking about: Financial pedophiles.

RUSH: “Financial pedophiles,” addicts, criminals, sticking us up. I like it. Exactly right. These people are sick. They are sick.

Obama’s Choice

“This is no way to run the greatest country on Earth.  It’s a dangerous game that we’ve never played before, and we can’t afford to play it now.  Not when the jobs and livelihoods of so many families are at stake.  We can’t allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington’s political warfare.”

—Barack Obama, July 25, 2011

 

Mr. Obama is frustratingly rational.

What frustrates is his ongoing assumption that he is dealing with people who will respond to reasonable arguments like, say, when he quoted Jefferson last night:

“Every man cannot have his way in all things — without this mutual disposition, we are disjointed individuals, but not a society.”

Thomas Jefferson never met Grover Norquist.

Or John Boehner.

Last night, during this moment of national import, the Speaker of the House took the opportunity to trash the President and tell monstrous lies, beginning with this one:

Millions are looking for work, have been for some time, and the spending binge going on in Washington is a big part of the reason why.

Who would write such a shockingly dishonest sentence, let alone stand before America as a leader of a once-great political party and utter it?

John Boehner.

He has now officially become the leader of the extremists in the GOP, those unreasonable souls whom George Will, Tea Party intellectual, praised this way in today’s Joplin Globe:

Their inflexibility astonishes and scandalizes Washington because it reflects the rarity of serene fidelity to campaign promises.

Leaving aside the false suggestion that the debt ceiling formed any part of the campaign in 2010, consider the fact that Will is praising inflexibility when the only way our country can be governed is by flexibility, by compromise. There is no other way to govern 300 million people.

Mr. Will can extol teapartiers’ “serene fidelity”—I’m sure all extremists possess it—but many of us see people who not only won’t bend in the slightest to the will of the other side, they won’t even bend to the will of the country, whose people want—by a substantial majority—a compromise that includes revenue increases.

Tea Party zealots, as President Obama surely realizes by now, are giddy over the idea that they have a rather dear hostage tied up in their ideological basement: The economic health of the United States and by extension the working class and the most vulnerable of Americans.

And what all of us need to remember is that these zealots, far from any known region of rationality, are willing to shoot that hostage right between the eyes and proudly and defiantly walk into the 2012 elections with blood spatters on their hands.

Boehner fibbed too when he said about the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act that it was passed “with bipartisan support,” knowing that only five Democrats supported it. As I have previously suggested, it is nearly twice as accurate to characterize it as having bipartisan opposition, since nine Republicans sensibly voted against it.  But such dishonesty is trivial compared to the deceit involved in the conservative insistence that the budget can be balanced without additional revenues.

The Speaker also said this:

I want you to know I made a sincere effort to work with the president to identify a path forward that would implement the principles of Cut, Cap, & Balance in a manner that could secure bipartisan support and be signed into law. I gave it my all.

His all?  No one, including the Speaker himself, believed that that extremist piece of legislation—its radical “principles” dreamed up just a few months ago by inflexible ideologues—ever had a chance to get through the Senate, let alone get to the President, since it would have ripped gaping holes in America’s social safety net.

And dubious is Mr. Boehner’s suggestion that the latest scheme he and Eric Cantor have dreamed up—the two-step approach designed as a political instrument to bludgeon the President in six months with the same kind of foamy-mouth zealotry we have seen the last six months—”can and will pass the Senate.”

Hell, he’s not even sure he can get most of the foamy-mouth zealots in his own caucus to vote for it. 

In any case, President Obama’s address last night was obviously a way of urging the people most affected by a debt default—the hostages—to get involved in the process and try to talk the hostage-takers into releasing them.

Unfortunately, that won’t happen.

The hammer is cocked.  In their zealotry, the perpetrators of this crime believe that pulling the trigger may be the only way of getting the larger job done: a revolutionary retreat into pre-New Deal America, where the moneyed class will enjoy the bounty while the rest of us eat their scraps.

As for President Obama, he will have to decide whether he will play it safe and pay the ransom to political fanatics in Congress or be the champion of the following point of view, which he described last night:

Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask a corporate jet owner or the oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get.  How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries?  How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for?  

That’s not right.  It’s not fair. 

No, it’s not right and it’s not fair, Mr. Obama. So how can you put your name on it?

 

Remarks And Asides, Debt Ceiling Edition

Obama still insists on a debt ceiling deal that goes beyond the 2012 election and Speaker John Boehner has newly offered a deal to, what else, raise the debt ceiling for only six months, so as to embarrass the President and gain political advantage later on during the 2012 election cycle. 

Now, that’s responsible governing.

And Tea Party spokesman Eric Cantor is in favor of the short-term proposal, apparently saying to the GOP House caucus that Obama’s insistence on a long-term deal is “purely political and indefensible, ” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Problem is, as Think Progress points out,  Eric Cantor opposed such a short-term deal just a short term ago, saying, “Putting off tough decisions is not what people want in this town.”

The Keystone Kops were more competent than this bunch of GOP “leaders.”  By the way, it has now been more than 200 days since the House Republicans took over, promising jobs, jobs, jobs.  They haven’t even offered a jobs bill, let alone produced a single job outside of Grover Norquist’s TV-booking secretary.

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Meanwhile, feeling left out, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi)—who agree that Boehner’s short-term offering is a “non-starter“—offered yet another proposal:

In an effort to reach a bipartisan compromise, we are putting together a $2.7 trillion deficit reduction package that meets Republicans’ two major criteria: it will include enough spending cuts to meet or exceed the amount of a debt ceiling raise through the end of 2012, and it will not include revenues. We hope Speaker Boehner will abandon his ‘my way or the highway’ approach, and join us in forging a bipartisan compromise along these lines.”

There you have it. In order to protect Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries from ravenous Republicans, as well as preserve the turtlish economic recovery, if not the economy itself, Democrats are willing to concede game, set, and match to the Republicans.

Except that the game, set, and match in which Republicans in the House appear to be interested involves the very social programs that Democrats vow to protect—with support from large majorities of the American people.

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Related to all this is Teresa Tritch’s post on Saturday in The New York Times, which featured these two graphs, a study of which will reveal “How the Deficit Got This Big,” the title of Tritch’s piece:

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Finally, as the world turns, foreign markets were down as the U.S. appears to be ungovernable, gold—the currency of uncertainty—hits  a record high, and the so-called safe haven paper currency of choice is decidedly not the U.S dollar, at least today, for obvious reasons.  

Once upon at time, before the advent of the Tea Party, the following was true:

When the world is in turmoil, investors have usually had one automatic response: Put money into dollars, viewed as the global safe harbor.

What does the world do when the turmoil is in the home of the ultimate safe haven for investors?

Well, no one is panicking yet, but the clock is ticking.  Either today, after trading in the U.S. begins, or sometimes this week, Wall Street will send a message to the GOP: Stop the madness.

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