Friday, August 5, 2011

An Intelligence Deficit

The past week or two we have been reluctant, unhappy witnesses to one of the worst displays of just how dysfunctional Congress is that I can ever remember. The whole garish, shameful scenario of extending the debt ceiling, something which happens fairly often and with hardly a whimper in the media, until now, was truly an extremely destructive and ultimately unnecessary abomination.

It's all the more galling because it was an artificial, completely manufactured crisis, instead of an actual crisis. And by "actual crisis" I mean things like the economic collapse of 2008, the bombing of Libya, or an earthquake or hurricane laying waste to a wide area. This "debt ceiling" is an man-made abstraction, a conceit of the pointy-headed economists of the nation and is about three degrees of separation away from anything most people can even understand, or care to understand.

As usual, the Republicans are at the bottom of this heinous, hell-spawned mess, and in particular this was the fault of the god-forsaken Tea Partiers in Congress. The gang of 85 representatives which presumably were elected through a wave of Tea Party support in the 2010 midterms, decided to take the entire country hostage and link the debt ceiling with lowering the deficit, something which has NEVER been done before and something which is completely invalid.

First of all, the debt ceiling represents money that has ALREADY been spent and debt which has ALREADY been incurred, not future debt. That's like saying, I'm not going to pay this month's electricity bill until I'm sure that next month's electricity bill will be lower. WTF is that supposed to mean? Sounds like idiotic crap, and it is. You're responsible for paying this month's electric bill NOW, for electricity you have already used, and it does NOT depend on what you do next month. But somehow, the pretzel logic of the Tea Baggers linked those two concepts and both political parties were powerless to change it. How on earth can it happen that a small minority of deadheaded legislators can pervert and twist around an economic concept like that?

As the clocked ticked down last week toward a credit default, which is what would have happened if the debt ceiling had not been raised and the U.S. had no available funds to repay its debts, the political theater and bickering was immense in its scale. The House of Representatives insisted on passing its own Tea Party-driven deficit reduction measure, which consisted mostly of shielding their wealthy sponsors from any kind of financial contribution to repaying this country's debt in the form of moderately increased taxes or tax loophole-closing, even though everybody and their uncle knew that such a measure would be dead-on-arrival at the Senate, but they had to waste time anyhow making a big "show" of it.

At the last minute a "compromise" bill was cobbled together which, according to orange-skinned Speaker of the House John Boner, I mean, Boehner, gave him "98% of everything" he wanted. Some f**king "compromise." Most people thought a "compromise" is when each side in an argument gives some concession to the other side in hopes of coming up with a mutually-agreeable solution. The only thing the Democrats and the Obama administration gave up is their integrity, and the confidence of their base supporters that they would stand their ground against the Republican onslaught. The Republicans railroaded and overran the Democrats, I have to give them credit for that, and the wealthy puppet-masters of the Republicans must be very proud of the investment they made in that party.

Once AGAIN, Obama caved to the demands of the other side. To try to deflect attention from him being Senate minority leader Mitch O'Connell's bottom bitch, Obama is now saying that since the debt ceiling problem is over, he's going to focus exclusively on jobs and putting America back to work. The problem with that is that the only way the government can put people back to work is by spending a bunch of money on badly-needed public works and infrastructure repair projects, but the Republicans have stated clearly that they would not support any such expenditures. So how is the administration supposed to create these new jobs which will bring sorely-needed tax revenues into the Treasury, without any money for these projects? Obama hasn't figured that out yet, but I'm sure he's thinking really hard about it. That, and $3, will buy you a grande house coffee at Starbucks, if you can afford it.

What's much more disturbing and dangerous is that the Republicans have learned that their hostage-taking style of negotiating works pretty well. They were ready to let the country go into default and risk a credit downgrade, which would have been catastrophic to the extreme to the national and the global economy, and they didn't give a crap how badly it hurt the country. This is what we're going to see from now on, this scorched-earth practice from the right wing, in which they will risk heaping much more pain and misery on the people of this country without any concern for the consequences. The ultra-wealthy are insulated and protected from such things, and that is all the Republicans care about. And that will surely have very dire results in both the short- and long-term.

Yesterday the stock market took a header into the shitter, dropping over 500 points in a single day. All the stock market gains for the year have been erased. Seven months and nothing to show for it. The market has dropped over 10% in the past two weeks. Many billions of dollars have been obliterated, and it will be difficult getting them back. And all for what? A manufactured crisis that didn't have to happen. After all, conservative idol Ronald Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times in his presidency, with nary a whisper of dissent from anyone. All of a sudden, now that we have a black man for President, raising the debt ceiling is a big deal. The Republicans in general and the Tea Party in particular have made it very clear that they will do anything and everything to destroy Obama's presidency. And apparently, if they destroy the economy of the country and the well-being of all its citizens in the process, well that is too damned bad.

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