Government Shutdown or Showdown?

Hello, did I call this or what?  “Is the GOP dropping Obamacare in shutdown debate?” Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman, and the party’s vice presidential nominee last year, argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Here’s How We can End this Stalemate, that Democrats and Republicans should focus on “modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code.”  Yet, Ryan’s column never mentioned Obamacare, focusing instead on  spending cuts to domestic and military programs, as well as Medicare reforms.

Of course this elicited rage from the dogmatic wing. Amanda Carpenter, a communications adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted: “There is one big word missing from this op-ed. It’s start(s) with an O and ends with BAMACARE …” Those who want to keep up the game of chicken, despite all reason or sense, will threaten any House GOP member who drifts toward Ryan’s position, with a challenge in his or her district’s Republican primary, next spring.  This is no small cudgel, because of the radicalism engendered by gerrymandering. A disaster that has a surprisingly simple solution that I’ll post about soon.  But first, back to the desperate search by Republican leaders for a way out

With the Ryan proposal savaged by Tea Partiers, Speaker Boehner stepped up on Thursday, reiterating Ryan’s position, suddenly dropping all mention of Obamacare, and making aggressive noises as if this retreat were an ultimatum.

SHUTDOWNAs I predicted, saner elements of the GOP are now desperately seeking a face-saving way out. Especially now that the Koch brothers and others in the Republican money establishment see a gaping gulf gulf between the neo-confederate radicalism they engendered with billions in political meddling vs the damage that their own self-interest will suffer if the mania takes our economy over a cliff.

So let me repeat my forecast. Under orders from above, just enough House GOP members will threaten to break with the House Republican Caucus to force the others to free up Boehner. He, in turn, will accept the offer the Senate has made twenty times since March, to hold the constitutionally mandated House-Senate Budget Conference Committee — which is the proper place to discuss a deal that was already mostly worked out last year. A deal for moderate efficiency reforms in entitlements plus elimination of some fat cat tax write-offs.  Boehner and his co-leaders will accept the invitation at last…

…but declare it as a great victory!  That Obama and Sen. Reid had “caved” under pressure from Speaker Boehner’s tactics, playing extortion-chicken with the shut-down and default cliffs.  And the President will let them crow for a week or so.  His only real concession, after the dust settles, will be letting them have a week of face-saving “we won!” chanting.  Then, after all the drama and puerile posturing has finally ended, grownups may gather in the proper place — the House Senate Budget Reconciliation Conference, where these things have been worked out for 230 years, where they will strike a deal that the dems have offered for a year.

The problem with the deal, if it is made, is that – like Obamacare – it might actually work.  With the right mix of reforms in entitlements and taxes, the budget deficit — already vastly improving — might swing back toward Clintonian balance. If Obamacare also works, then where will the GOP stand in the 2014 elections?

I could not care less.  As we’ll see below, the asymptote for all of their momentum and orbits leads to insanity.

== The real aim of the Shut-down ==

SCIENCECUTBACKSThe National Radio Astronomy Observatory has gone out of business for the duration.  Already hampered by the sequester, it is now closed by the government shut down. So have all research activities for the entire season in Antarctica.  NASA says 97% of its personnel are furloughed. Certainly my colleagues at NASA NIAC have been. Perhaps that’s why no one answered George Clooney’s calls in GRAVITY?

In fact, the shut down has shuttered most of the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, The National Academy, research divisions of the Energy Department, the EPA and the Weather Service. Moreover these interruptions do far more harm than at first appears, as some experiments and observations are completely ruined. If they continue, they’ll divert graduate students and research fellows who must eat to survive.

Now the kicker… this is not something that the currently dominant brand of conservatism (as opposed to the older, and deeply-missed brand of Goldwater and Buckley) deems regrettable collateral damage.  It is not a “flaw” in the GOP tactics. To the madmen now running the asylum — who for two decades actively have waged the War on Science —  this latest hampering is a silver lining.  It is a Feature.

Take this additional example:   “In 1996, Congress passed a law requiring the U.S. government to sell off our entire helium stockpile by 2015. This has forced the price of the gas way, way lower than it should be, considering how little of the stuff is actually left in the world. (Some estimate that a balloon’s worth would cost $100 if the market were allowed to set the price.”)  The US currently owns 80% of the world’s supply and given the ever-widening range of uses for Helium, it might offer leverage against – say – the Chinese near monopoly on rare earth minerals. At minimum, every scientist alive cringes at what the GOP has done on just this one (of countless many ) area of deliberate destruction.

Indeed, if anyone out there can think of a non-criminal reason why the GOP made this fire sale selloff such a high priority, I’d love to hear your theory.

== And finally… ==

TeaPartyLunacyThis harsh rumination by Josh Eidelson on SALON ponders why the Republican elites of Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce, who have so much to lose if a U.S. default trashes the American credit and economy, have not laid down the law upon the unruly House GOP, the way they have in every past crisis.  After all, they were the ones – not average Red Americans – who gained the benefits from every past Republican legislative and/or executive action, from the Bush tax breaks to middle east wars.  But this time, it appears that the Tea Party — a genuine populist movement — has metastacized completely out of control of the party’s traditional masters.

This is evidenced by the behavior of the shills at Fox News, who are riding a brahma bull. They keep hinting that the Obamacare fixation may be over-wrought and may have to be set aside… (as we describe Congressman Ryan saying, above)… this is the message from up-top.  But they must also look to the bottom line! The average Fox viewer is by now so riled up — ironically by fox itself — that any calm-down message might alienate them and hurt the advertisers who pay the network’s bills.

Although the deep-right coined the term “culture war” I have been the one suggesting this is now Phase Three of the American Civil War.  Now have a look at an incisive appraisal by a writer who is (admittedly) from the left-end. And you all know that I am caustic toward the much-smaller far left, which was once — and may someday again be — the locus of dogmatic dangber in the world.

Nevertheless and despite that bias, an educated person knows that Marxists at least have thought a lot more about this whole “class” thing that most of us blithely ignored, during the anomalously flat era from 1945 to 2000.  So, while retaining a wary awareness that Marxists truly are crazy at another level (e.g. they believe in social teleology), I nevertheless think there is plenty here worth pondering.  From Josh Eidelson’s article, Tea Party’s Shutdown Lunacy: Avenging the Surrender of the South:

“A couple things. I do think that we have this broad kind of rot at the top end of our society: It’s devolved from a real ruling class, with some distance from day-to-day moneymaking, into something more just like a pure plutocracy, interested in maximizing its cash in as short a time as possible, and really not capable of thinking about policy in a serious sense. The Financial Times has been writing about how groups like the Chamber of Commerce, who normally would put pressure on the difficult Republicans, don’t seem to be willing or able to do that — and one of the reasons is that they’re so enamored of the tax-cutting side of the Republican Party that they don’t really want to stop things like the government shutdown, or they don’t have the capacity to stop things. It does seem like there’s a breakdown at the elite level of society.”

Josh Eidelson continues: “But also, Michael Lind had an interesting piece about how the roots of Tea Party are in a Confederate, almost kind of a neo-Confederate structure of people who want to preserve their class privileges — very much articulated through race — and they are a very, very sizable portion of the Republican Party. And what they see — and this is also confirmed by the focus groups that David Greenberg et al. did — the core of this is a group of people that feel like the country is being taken away from them by a new minority-majority country. And all of their familiar touchstones are being smashed. They feel like they’re fighting a heroic kind of lost cause, and they’re willing to do a  lot of damage to try to get their way.”

“To some degree the Big Business interests are paying a price for having relied on these characters in the first place. The last thing that Big Business wants to see is something that threatens the status of Treasury bonds. They don’t want to threaten the status of the dollar as reserve currency. They don’t want to rock the image of the United States as the most stable capitalist power in the world. Even though the financial crisis essentially originated here, money still flowed to the United States then because it seemed safer than everywhere else. The big boys don’t want to endanger that status.”

Okay that was at least thought provoking. Still. At risk of agreeing with a quasi Marxist… I will one-up that appraisal, taking it even farther.

After the almost perfect record of calamitous rule by the Bushites — with every large decision directly resulting in extreme harm or decline in the American Republic, its small businesses and entrepreneurial verve, its science, its economic and its Pax power — one has to wonder about the author’s core assumption, that all of the right wing’s oligarchs want the United States to thrive.  Don’t forget that the Republican Party’s top bankrollers now include quite a number of foreign princes, aristocrats, moguls and sovereign wealth funds, many of them rooted in cultures that express open contempt for North American civilization in principle and who have openly wished for an end to the American Pax. I include one of the top foreign co-owners of Fox News.

As Goldfinger said: “Once, Mr. Bond, may be happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three … or many many times… that’s enemy action.”


Filed under politics

2 responses to “Government Shutdown or Showdown?

  1. “…one has to wonder about the author’s core assumption, that all of the right wing’s oligarchs want the United States to thrive.”

    I doubt there is much nationalist sentiment in the upper rooms of the now globalized plutocracy. In fact, I imagine that a brutal punishment of the uppity US middle classes in particular and the working class in general is pretty high on the agenda.

    Despite the fact that a largely PR-driven model of subjugation would be far more efficient and profitable, I imagine a deep emotional desire, perhaps fairly unconscious, on the part of the power-mad to wage a scorched earth campaign against democracy. I think they perceive liberal democracy as a far greater existential threat than climate change or the limits to growth in general. Besides, I think they see massive population reduction (survival of the richest) as a solution to the latter.

  2. Pingback: Shutdown at the OK Corral | Poor Richard's Almanack 2.0

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