Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hell is empty and all the devils are here


A famous quote in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and a colloquialism to describe today’s fiscal policy impasse.  And while pollsters take polls to find out who the uninformed ill-informed and often misinformed public blames for the government shutdown and the media rushes to share these shiny new data sets with the very same public, we are stuck in neutral with a sputtering engine.  I refuse to believe that our sclerotic government is at its worst right now, not when you look at the first hundred years of our nation’s history, and anyone who compares today’s situation to the Civil War has stretched credibility.  No today is bad, but not as bad as the ratings searching media and talking heads would like you to believe.  No, we just need to deal with these devils. These usual suspects:

For starters, the mainstream media, especially the beltway brand that is more interested in playing the blame game and deciding which party or politician is winning or losing.  Elections are about winning and losing, running the world’s biggest economy, most powerful military, and richest nation is about governing.  Can you imagine the 24 hour cable news shows during the 1860’s?  Sean Hannity calls for Lincoln’s impeachment, Lou Dobbs calling slaves property, and CNBC reporting which stocks are good buys during civil war.  Unfortunately, none of that is going to change any time soon so we are stuck with the noise.

Then there are career politicians, many of whom have forgotten why they are in D.C., a la L.A. Confidential’s Detective Jack Vincennes who answers “I don’t remember” when asked why he became a cop in the first place.  You know the type, the ones who call the guy from the other side of the aisle ‘his friend’.  Good old boy club, love the perks, and the benefits are awesome, Yes, I think many of them have forgot why they sought office to begin with.

There are the grandstanders and media whores like McCain, Graham, Schumer, Cruz, and Paul that are about self-promotion and their Q rating.   These are the politicians that are routine weekly guests on the Sunday Morning Talk shows displaying the innate ability to respond to a question as if they heard a different question.

As bad as the career politicians may be, they are matched by the loud mouthed sound bite chasing hacks.  This cabal is represented by both sides of the aisle (Alan Grayson I am talking to you) , but let’s face it the Tea Party takes the cake here.  Our only satisfaction is that some of the most ridiculous personalities such as West, Walsh, and Quayle were all defeated in 2012.  These people are not here to create, but to destroy.  They confuse snark for intelligence, they pander to their base and they demagogue the shut out of everything. 

Of course all of the above are really just representing their real constituents: business.  Schumer is Wall Street’s guy, McCain and beltway delegations are there for Defense, Coburn, Cornyn, Inhofe, Barton, and anyone else from an energy state are there for Oil and Gas, the Midwest ethanol connection, and we haven’t even touched guns, tobacco, coal, multinational industrials, and the religious fundamentalists.

We have legislative rules that means a majority is actually 60, not 51, a GOP controlled House trying to repeal a law that is already in action, the resurrection of the culture wars, things called continuing resolutions that don’t resolve anything, and inability to do anything, never mind anything grand.  Why would GE want tax reform when it can pile on the costs in its U.S. operations, run a loss, actually get tax credits, and book the profits overseas. 

Suddenly money is speech, corporations are people, and if you thought Citizens United brought money into politics, wait for the Supreme Court to rule on McCutcheon vs. Federal Elections Commission.  More and more money pouring into elections squeezing the very people who are to be represented and completely mocking President Lincoln’s famous words “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  Sadly, it has perished.

Democrats mocked the Tea Party for swearing off all compromise and now they beseech the president not to compromise.  Bernie Sanders says Social Security has not contributed to the debt, but to ignore the dual nondiscretionary spending associated with Medicare and pensions is short sighted a both increase significantly in the coming decades.  Spending has increased under President Obama as the government has tried to fill the economic void left after the great recession.  And while both sides demagogue the issues, no credible short or long term plans are created.  The right is convinced Americans on government aid are lazy and need to be cut from the teat while ignoring defense spending waste and corporate handouts.

Everybody calls for growth, heck there’s even a Club for Growth, yet both sides are wrong to believe you can spend your way to prosperity or cut your way to prosperity respectively.  Growth is stagnant because we haven’t created the next bubble.  Since the flattening of the earth, as Tom Friedman calls it, the U.S. economy has relied on a series of bubbles, dot.com, housing, bonds, etc. to drive growth.  Each successive ‘new economy’ creates fewer and fewer jobs and there is nothing the government can do about that other than to make us as competitive as possible to design, develop, and manufacture these goods and services.

We are drowned out by the noise, our voices have lost their timbre, our officials talk past one another, and compromise is considered weakness.  Where is reason?  True patriotism, not the Fox variety?  This is American exceptionalism? 

To beat the devils, we’re going to need more than just a few good men and women.

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