My plan was to watch the pilot and then, after a snack, skip straight to the series finale. So I did. I watched the pilot, and . . . well, you can guess the rest. I’m up to Season 2, Episode 6. Chromecasting via Netflix from my iPhone to my TV. See you in a week or two.
Everyone wants the government re-opened and the debt ceiling raised. Democrats — asking for nothing — have been ready to do both. Republicans ARE asking for things — such as that we accept their draconian budget. Which we did. But they want more.
We want stuff, too, like a vote on the immigration bill. But as important as that is to millions of people and to the success of our economy, we aren’t threatening default in order to blackmail Republicans into giving it to us.
We want to repair our national infrastructure — it makes us crazy that we allow so many construction workers to remain unemployed when there’s so much crucial work to do. But we’re not threatening to blow up the world economy if the Republicans don’t stop blocking the American Jobs Act.
This is nuts! Everyone wants the government re-opened and the debt ceiling raised* and all that’s required is . . . to do it. Just put it to a vote, let a majority vote in favor, and the crisis is over.
If only deflecting asteroids or halting climate change or curing Alzheimer’s were so easy. All we have to do in this case is . . . do it.
And as always, I remind you: the National Debt has stopped growing — relative to the economy as a whole, which is all that matters — and if we don’t needlessly tank the recovery, it will soon begin to shrink relative to the economy as a whole, as it did for 35 years after World War II . . . until Ronald Reagan and the Bushes sent it galloping back up. (Clinton was able to get it shrinking again, as Obama is now poised to do as well; but aircraft carriers take time to turn round.)
*Actually, the debt ceiling should be eliminated altogether, as it would be unConstitutional for us NOT to pay our bills: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” — Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment
WHY IT’S NOT “EQUIVALENT”
A lot of my business school friends — who tend to be moderate Republicans or libertarians — say “a pox on both their houses.” Both parties, they think, have gone off the deep end, and are equally to blame for the disastrous polarization and dysfunction of Congress.
But that’s actually not true.
It sounds above-the-fray, magnanimous, and conciliatory . . . but, well, sorry to repeat myself, but this is important. It’s just not true.
Part One: Quite a few moderate Republican incumbents have been ousted in primaries by uncompromising right wingers. The equivalent is not true on the left. We haven’t been kicking our moderates out for not being liberal enough. I’m doubtless forgetting some exception; but for the most part, it just hasn’t happened.
Part Two: A great many Republican incumbents, while they have not yet been ousted, are afraid they will be, so have become far less likely to compromise. Again, the equivalent is simply not true on the Democratic side. Very few if any Democratic senators or representatives live in fear of being “primaried.” That could change; but it may not — because:
Part Three: There is a reason for all this. There are billionaire right wingers like the Koch brothers and others who stand ready to fund these primary battles — which, win or lose, really get the attention of any remaining Republican moderates. The equivalent is simply not true on the Democratic side. Yes, we have our billionaires. But few if any are “far left” in their policy positions — no Karl Marx D’s to balance the Ayn Randian R’s — and any who may be closet commies have not used their muscle to oust moderate Democrats.
In short, the constituency hurt by raising taxes on the rich has billions of dollars — and, if I may speculate without having seen the actual lab results, an impressively high level of testosterone — while the constituency hurt when, say, the minimum wage is held below the rate of inflation has not a dime to spare.
Gerrymandering has made it impossible for moderate, centrist Republicans to win primaries because primary elections tend to be dominated by the most passionate, extreme folks. Gerrymandering isn’t a great idea on the left, either — but whether for lack of equivalent funding or lack of equivalent anger — or lack of equivalent misinformation** — the effect has been far more profound in moving the Republican Congressional caucus to the intransigent right than in moving the Democratic caucus to the left.
To date, anyway, the effect of gerrymandering has simply not been equivalent.***
**I would argue that, while opinionated, Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow, et al, are far more respectful of the facts, and the science, and the logic, than the Limbaugh’s and Fox News. They would of course disagree, as the respected scientists of the Tobacco Institute so manfully did for decades, and as the climate deniers and birthers and others now do.
***And as a moderate Democrat, I wouldn’t want it to be. For me, one or two clicks left of center is the place to be. I outgrew my Marxian phase freshman year in college. When’s Paul Ryan going to outgrow his Randian phase?
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Life is too short to be small.~Disraeli
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