Whether I was subject to the zeitgeist of debt ceiling brinkmanship or pickles for supper, I had a bad night. I dreamed that Ted Cruz was running for president with Sarah Palin for VP. There are doubtless worse combinations, like Russ Limbaugh and the Donald (what a power struggle that would be, which would be Vice?). My nightmare made me sit up and tremble.
Having seen cultural changes from moon-in-June to hip hop heavy rotation slam rap, I thought I’d seen everything political at least once, but this was a new departure. Half the members of Congress were holding the other half to ransom in an attempt to deny health insurance to the masses and to impose the debt ceiling. The debts are frightening and must be addressed, but not in this fashion. They were playing chicken till the cars ran over the cliff, threatening the world monetary system with disaster until the very last moment. Let’s applaud President Obama for holding his nerve. In my sleepy state I reminded myself that Republicans can’t all be foolish to a man, but why are many of them afraid to stand up to the few that are irrefutably so? Are they more afraid of their Tea Party friends or the electorate? Are they blinkered, protecting their own jobs, or are they bent on defeating a president who at worst has been frustrated by opposition to the point of ineffective, and at best has exemplified social concern, moderation and intelligence? Surely it can’t be that his color is what riles them. Can it? There’s a law against that.
President Obama swept into power with a thrilling message: “Yes we can,” but he hadn’t reckoned on the depths to which his opponents were willing to sink to say “No you can’t.” What an opportunity missed for great gulps of fresh air to rescue the population from the stale breath of politics behind closed doors, windows and minds. Enough hope prevailed for the electorate to give him a second term, but his opponents’ refusal to negotiate (which ironically became their accusation against him) has stymied not just the Democrats. The whole nation is sick of Congress.
While threats escalated to downgrade America’s AAA financial standing (a scenario not envisaged in my lifetime) and unease was expressed by the Chinese who suddenly found themselves holding an uncomfortable number of possibly bad debts if the ceiling was not raised at least to pay interest on the money we are still borrowing to pay the interest… the Stock Market lit another cigar and gazed out of the window nonchalantly. At this point I wasn’t dreaming. What did investors know that others didn’t? They had seen the hooligans playing chicken once too often. They banked on common sense and self-interest prevailing at the eleventh hour. But sooner or later someone always plunges into the abyss on a game of chicken on this scale. Perhaps it will be in February.
Even more than disrespect for the President coping with a difficult legacy, the GOP seems motivated by teeth-gritting determination not to pay taxes and to protect the interests of the top 1%. Am I the only one who finds it puzzling that they defend so fiercely the top 1%, to which they can’t all belong? Who is manipulating (or bribing) them to fight so fiercely in those interests? How immoral is it to refuse to contribute to the national purse through taxes across the board, while oppressing the lowest paid with unfair burdens?
Purporting to curb the national debt this obstructionism caused over $20 billion to be wasted in the 16 days the government was shut down. This affected economic growth and caused unknown suffering to many. Members of Congress didn’t lose their income, but many small businesses did. Restaurants that were empty while workers stayed at home, museums and national parks that lost revenue while tourism suffered; contractors whose projects were delayed, barbers whose customers cut back on haircuts, all lost money while Rome burned. Scientists at the earth’s extremities collecting data on global warming, NASA personnel conducting experiments were sent home for the duration. They and their equipment had to be repatriated and redistributed, squandering valuable resources. Two weeks backlog awaited federal employees relieved to be back at work. Amid this uproar there were a few Republicans advocating good sense. The rest of the dog was wagged by its mischievous tail. What a nightmare.
It seemed like a terrorist attack on our economic system for which no one claimed responsibility. What triumph did the opposition snatch from the jaws of brinkmanship? What was achieved beyond convincing a chunk of the electorate of the reckless disregard by their representatives for the good of the country? Come the next elections, we may see the benefit of that.
What troubled my sleep profoundly was the chilling conviction that Tea Party sympathizers in Congress do not care about the people, the system or the country. They’ve kicked the can down the road like a belligerent gang, before the next battle to resist paying taxes that bring in necessary revenue. I have an enduring image of Ted Cruz reading aloud Dr. Seuss in filibuster. The only thing I admire out of that exercise is his bladder.
When Bill Clinton left office the country was in good economic shape. Unnecessary and prolonged wars under the Republican administration drained America’s resources to an unprecedented and perilous level. The defense industry used to benefit from conflict but this time it went too far. Bin Laden is dead but he spawned a global revolution which has blossomed and is likely to overwhelm us for decades to come. One cannot wage a “war on terrorism” with battalions.
The world is threatened by another recession, a collapse of the system in which there is nothing left to bail out the banks again. Our politicians may lamentably be achieving what Bin Laden failed to make happen, sending us all to hell in a hand basket while we sleep.
It gives me nightmares just to think about it.