Current Affairs: Worrisome
I wish I had thoughts that were perceptive, intelligent and useful. But my level of incomprehension increases daily. I can't be sure of anything.
Here is what I suspect (but do not know) is happening. We have a school yard full of gangs/clubs in Congress (and I mean that literally). In groups (as opposed to individual members) we are dealing with adolescent behavior. (Psychologists know well that "group" and "individual" behaviors are governed by different rules.)
The Tea Party was never seen as a threat by the moneybags that put them in power because it is a well known phenomenon by all Washingtno insiders that freshman congressmen are quickly absorbed into a world of anonymity and powerlessness. In short they are usually neutered by the old hands who control the two parties.
This time, mutual re-inforcement among this new freshman class gave them a sense of childish zeal and collective power and they are loving it. Of course they defend their actions on principle. Doesn't everybody? But in reality they are "getting off" on the power that comes with acting like a congealed group. Make no mistake. Their coherence gives them real negative power similar to the veto power or the "man made" filibuster.
It is well understood that it is easy to wield negative power. You don't have to have a plan, a blue-print or a diagram. You just say "no". They are saying "no" to everything that comes their way in order to continue this orgasm of power. Boehner and McConnell are new to this phenomenon. They have never in their lives had to deal with group behavior which wouldn't fall into line with anointed leadership.
Obama is inexperienced at the use of Presidential power. He has plenty of it but he grew up in a grey world where the secret to success in a white world for a black man with aspirations was compromise and going along with the flow.
Groups (as opposed to individuals) have no brain. Literally! Thus they are capable of walking off cliffs because without a leader they are willing to follow they are blind to reality. Remember the cults. Jim Jones in Guyana and numerous others gained a position of leadership in groups that were desperate for some guidance. The Tea Party has no such leader. Boehner is not "the Man". Nobody else in the Tea Party has been able to establish him/herself as a leader to be followed. Thus they have joined hands to walk the country off a cliff.
Democracy can be dangerous. The founding fathers knew that! The Bill of Rights was written and appended to the Constitution to avoid majoritarian rule in matters of vital importance like speech, religion, press, search and seizure etc. But the founding fathers did not anticipate a runaway group of feisty adolescents elected to Congress who could put a screeching halt to intelligent and prudent government. They also considered banning political parties. In retrospect that might have been a wise move.
We will probably avoid the fall over the cliff because the moneybags that put the Tea Party in power will now begin to whisper in their ears: "Play ball or your time in Washington may end in a year". Nobody expected this to happen and now the moneymen are uncertain of their footing but just beginning to realize that their puppets are out of control and threatening their wealth with economic collapse.
If I were President I would identify all government projects or contracts in the district of every Tea Party "patriot" and terminate those government facilities and programs without warning or threat. That would start a grass roots revolution from which the Tea Party would not recover. But Obama doesn't have the balls. (And to be candid, I'm not sure that's what I'd do.)
I wish I had more optimistic thoughts. Our form of democracy with its hydra-headed Congress with one house having "one man-one vote" has proven that it is not the best form of government on earth. This could not happen in a parliamentary democracy; something I have favored all my life in anticipation of the day when the lunatics would take over the asylum.
If anyone is to be blamed it is Obama and Boehner. Obama for his lack of Washingtonian balls and Boehner for his mediocrity, blow dried hair and artificial tan. He is an ordinary superficial man who could easily anchor a news broadcast. Sadly, he can't lead a rebellion in the House of Representatives. Just think back. If LBJ were President today and Tip O'Neill were Speaker, would this be happening?
On the merits of the dispute, logic and reason, dictate that we dramatically increase government spending to get people back to work, buying houses and paying lots more tax dollars. The deficit is of secondary importance. If the country is productive it will wipe out the deficit even without closing tax loopholes (which should, in any event, be closed because they aren't fair and they force you and me to pay higher taxes). But logic will not prevail against ideology.
Republicans have had most of the last century since Eisenhower to prove that lower taxes create jobs and prosperity. Why then do we have a lingering recession after eight years of Republican rule which was preceded by 20 additional years of Republican rule (with only two minor interruptions for Democratic leadership--one of which produced a balanced budget)? The Republican Party has had a quarter of a century to experiment with its policies of lower taxes and brought the country to the edge of ruination. But the blame is on the voters. Half the three hundred million Americans are still disposed to vote Republican. Go figure!
In conclusion permit me to give an example of the schizophrenia that we, the electorate, have permitted to fester in Washington. In a sense, it can be a metaphor for all that we now fear.
We have something in our tax code called the "oil depletion allowance". It gives tax deductions and credits to oil companies because they are producing a product of national importance which cannot be replaced. It was lobbied into our tax laws generations ago by the very same people who support capitalism and free enterprise vociferously. Why should we subsidize gigantic corporations (the most profitable in the world) simply because they chose to be in a business which requires them to deplete the resource they sell for a profit. The public has no interest whatsoever in avoiding depletion of oil. Indeed, the sooner it is depleted the sooner we will develop green energy.
The oil depletion allowance is actually retarding our ability to become independent of hydrocarbons and their pollution by rewarding companies who drill for more oil. They are joined in this comic opera by the automakers who have been fighting for decades to keep the miles per gallon standards (called "CAFE" standards) low so as to increase their ability to produce cheaper cars which use more fuel. So, we subsidize oil companies because they are depleting our oil reserves (and in some odd way feel that they need to be compensated for the "risks" they take") and we subsidize auto-manufacturers by not forcing more fuel efficient cars and they are increasing our consumption of oil. The more oil we burn in our cars the higher the depletion allowance for the oil companies. Could there be any better example of the failure of our system of governance? I am not a fan of Ralph Nader because I find his personality 'un-charming'. But he was always right. Unbridled and unregulated capitalism got us here. Now we may not be able to get out. De-regulation of the financial industry brought us to this recession along with lower taxes and corporate favoritism by the White House. There are many other reasons as well. But those are the inescapably important ones. (It is best to avoid the "wrong" war in Iraq lest we inflame our readers.)
Yet, we must face the stark reality that, of all people, Obama will be taking the fall for the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II bankrupt policies. Remember when Reagan took Dave Stockman "to the woodshed" for calling into question the theory of "trickle down" economics? That's now Republican religious doctrine!
If the insurance company statisticians are right, I will die in the next twenty years. I hate the thought of leaving this nation much worse off than I found it in 1939. The land of the free and the home of the brave is now nostalgic. I am saddened.