In the British sitcom “Are You Being Served?” Mrs. Slocum would, when confronted with the pusillanimous machinations of management cry: “weak as water, I’m telling you they’re weak as water”. Last night, as the Democrats put the finishing touches on their era of control, the Congress passed and sent to the President extension of the Bush-Era tax cuts making complete the capitulation of hope to the forces of greed.
So ends the Nancy Pelosi era as House Speaker. For her part she has done a marvelous job of advancing the interests of the middle class for the well being of the country. The problem has been the United States Senate which, through the unprecedented use of the filibuster, has proven itself the most dysfunctional institution in America. The House has passed a record number of landmark bills. But over 400 such acts sit languishing in the Senate which, because of abuse of arcane rules, needs 60 votes to act. The result is that the Rescumlicans have been able to engage in a “scorched earth” policy of opposing nearly every act short of capitulation by this White House, backing away from even their own proposals--like low interest loans to small businesses, pay-as-you-go congressional spending restraints, and creation of a bipartisan deficit reduction panel--once the White House has signed on.
There were early signs of trouble before the newly elected President was even sworn into office. Confronting an international economic collapse, he had signed on to the Bush era TARP legislation to bail out the banking system and the troubled insurance giant AIG to the tune of nearly 700 billion dollars. Already, during the waning days of ‘Ol Two-Cows, there were rumblings from the idiot wrong ready to let the International House of Cards collapse on their own watch. But, knowing that the Democrats would do the responsible thing, they were given the luxury of voting no despite the tearful pleas on House Minority Leader John Boner. Responsibility and sound public policy are anathema to these fools. As the upcoming inauguration approached and the incoming administration was scurrying for support for additional legislation to fund the government, stabilize the markets, and stimulate the economy--then hemorrhaging nearly 700,000 jobs a month--the new administration could muster only three Rescumlican votes in the Senate and none in the House. It was a pattern that was to repeat itself, with very rare exceptions, for the first two years of the Obama Administration.
De ja vu. Alas, we have been here before. I’ve seen that movie too. Re-reading Bob Woodward’s The Agenda, about the opening days of the Clinton Administration I was reminded once again of the behavior of the idiot wrong when the public has had the temerity of denying them their “god-given” right to rule. The remnants of the Clinton Administration that Obama had gathered about him could and did tell him that you cannot reason with fools, but to no avail. The Rescumlicans, in their ceaseless efforts to smear the historical record, are forever telling us that it was the Rescumlican Congress under the leadership of “Baby Huey” Gingrich that brought about balanced budgets and budget surpluses. The problem with that argument, as always, is the historical record keeps getting in the way. As Woodward recalls, and as the congressional record records, Clinton made the first moves at deficit reduction by instituting massive spending cuts in 1993 to the tune of around 180 billion dollars. He also completed a long series of tax increases, begun under Reagan and continued by Bush the Elder to address the failure of the Reagan Era tax cuts to reduce deficits, by raising the marginal rates on the richest Americans to 39%. The reason the Clinton Administration pursued this policy was that they thought they could lower interest rates and in so doing Americans could refinance homes and restructure debt. With lower interest rates Americans would then have more money to spend creating, it was hoped, a bigger stimulus to the economy than would happen through deficit spending. This adoption of conservative monetary orthodoxy made sense when interest rates, then at near record levels, were throttling the economy. Nevertheless this singular feat of political courage in the name of sound fiscal policy was accomplished with not a single Rescumlican vote in either the House or Senate. In fact Al Gore, then Vice President of the United States, had to cast an historical tie-breaking vote in the senate to pass the bill 51-50. This was two years before “Baby Huey’s” infamous ‘contract on America’ and the Rescumlican control of the Congress. Nevertheless the right-wing echo chamber has been convincingly making the argument that it was the Rescumlican ‘brake’ on the excesses of the ‘tax-and-spend’ liberals that created the surpluses and the prosperity. The result is that the No-Nothing party has been able to engage in a ‘scorched-earth’ policy of voting against virtually every Democratic attempt to right the ship of state and, by delaying economic recovery, reap the political harvest.
The situation was further inflamed by Rusty rush to judgment Limbaugh who announced shortly after the inauguration that he hoped for the failure of the Obama administration saying that if Obama wins, America will lose. This despite the awful beating the country had taken at the hands of the conservatives. Nevertheless there followed a brief comedy of errors in which several leading Rescumlicans, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Rescumlican national chairman Michael Steele among others took umbrage with the fatuous blowhard, over one or another of his daily pronouncements, only to quickly call into his program and genuflect before this “icon of idiocy”. It became quickly understood that to stray from the ‘party line’ would, by incurring the wrath of those that nearly monopolize the public airways and the cable talk shows, mean the humiliation of publicly bowing and scraping before the tribunes of greed. What followed, after an all-too-brief period, was the public spectacle of those responsible for governance quickly falling to their knees to snort every emanation from the backsides of this corpulent, drug-addled, intolerant fool.
One of the last things the senile old actor did before leaving office was repeal the so-called ‘fairness doctrine’ as it pertained to broadcast media. Leaping into the breech Limbaugh has, through outrageous and inflammatory commentary, spawned a virtual cottage industry of right-wing howlers and hate mongers nearly 450 of which now dominate talk radio and have, in recent years, invaded our homes through the open sewer that is becoming cable television. The result is that the well of public discourse has been poisoned as charges real or imagined--and more imagined than real--fill the public airwaves. The recent flap over Obama spending 200 million dollars a day on a trip to India, involving a tenth of the U.S. Naval fleet is a case in point. Any damn fool knows that not since the middle of the last century has the President traveled by boat. Nevertheless the wholly fatuous charge was picked up from some obscure Indian publication and. never fact-checked, made it’s way by the usual channels unto Fox Noise and talk radio as god’s own truth. Similarly the Shirley Sharrod case in which an employee of the Agricultural Department was brutally savaged by Glenn Beck and Fox Noise forcing her resignation only to find on examination that her remarks were taken grossly out of context and what she actually said was precisely the opposite of what was implied by the reporting. These episodes, and there are far too many to be repeated here, demonstrate the ability of the idiot wrong to not only lift things out of context but to create issues out of whole cloth and present them as fact following Joseph Goebbels practice of repeating the lie often enough until it is believed.
Nowhere was this dictum demonstrated to more telling effect than the Rescumlican so-called ‘grass-roots’ but in actuality ‘astro-turf’ campaign to derail health reform. Nakedly acting in the interests of the insurance cartel, Dick Armey--a veteran of misrepresentations on this issue dating back to his smears of the Clinton era health care reform effort--and other Rescumlican operatives organized assaults on ‘town-hall’ meetings by inflaming the public over the alleged creation of “death panels”. This is, of course, fatuous nonsense. There was no basis to the charge. In fact rationing of health care services, which has often led to people being denied care in life threatening or life ending situations, already exists in the form of insurance company policies and practices. Care is denied for pre-existing conditions. Caps were installed on some care. Nevertheless this cry was picked up by the howlers on the wrong and repeated by their leadership finding expression in that mindless half-governor from Alaska and, famously, in Senator Charles Grassley’s remark about the government “pulling the plug on grandma”. What ensued, through these antics, was a year-long food fight involving the backing and filling of one administration position after another until, in the end, we were left with a perfectly Rescumlican health care plan, one that would have made Mitt Romney, in previous incarnations, proud. First to be sacrificed before ‘negotiations’ even began was the single-payer option. In effect, it would be Medicare for everyone. This has been part of the basic Democratic Creed since Truman and what was generally understood to be what Health Care meant. The retreating administration then drew a line in the sand saying that any bill would have to include a ‘robust’ public option. Facing further opposition and a storm of protests from shills of the cartel, the ‘public option’ too was cast aside. Without a single “No-Nothing” vote Health Care now became health care insurance reform or as Wendell Potter, former industry spokesman turned critic, called it the “Health Insurance Guaranteed Profit Act.”
Gone are the days of joy and hope. Gone are the visions of massive ‘shovel-ready’ projects designed to put America back to work while rebuilding its decaying infrastructure. Gone are visions of new technologies like solar, high speed internet and rapid rail. Gone are visions of “spreading the wealth around a little” as Obama so succinctly put it to ‘Joe the Plumber’. Once again a miserable bargain has been struck: a paltry extension of unemployment benefits in exchange for massive tax breaks for the wealthy including reductions in the estate tax. Once again we are left gnawing the bones thrown us by Boner and the economic royalists. “Change we can believe in” has become chump change rattling our otherwise empty pockets.