Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Reprint: Closer, Mein Weimar, To Thee

[This originally appeared on March 5, 2010; it's no less true today than it was almost two years ago -- which should give you an idea how little progress had been made since then, how much more polarized we are; and how much more powerless in the face of The Powers That Be, bless their tiny white cotton socks.

But then, too, also, of course, we hadn't offed bin Laden yet -- so, I guess that makes up for everything. USA !! USA !!]

Class War And A Simple Country Hyperchicken

I've mentioned Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning Economist and regular columnist for the New York Times, before.

In today's column, Krugman says flatly that there is no 'bipartisan' Washington; Republicans are determined to force the Democrats to fail, even if by doing so they appear less like fiscal conservatives and more like people who kick dogs and ignore starving orphans.

What Krugman used as his initial focus was the recent, one-man Filibuster by Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky. Bunning was determined not to allow a bill to pass which would provide a one-month extension of unemployment and COBRA medical insurance benefits to approximately 100,000 workers -- and these were former Federal employees (Talk about biting the hand that used to serve you, huh?).

Former Phillies' All-Star Turned Nasty Greedy Crazy™
(Photo: SALON)

Bunning has been acting... a little weird, lately; angrily pushing away reporters and yelling at a Rotary Club questioner, and delivering heavily scripted remarks at campaign events in a halting monotone. Bunning travels with a special police escort, at taxpayer expense -- he says, because Al-Qaeda is out to get him.

Then, Bunning -- who is virtually unopposed in the upcoming midterm elections, spent nearly a full month in the U.S. Senate raging against a bill, almost single-handedly slowing the work of the Senate to a crawl and forcing all eyes on him.

Bunning Begins His Famous Filibuster

Democrats and Republicans live in different universes [Krugman noted], both intellectually and morally...

During the debate over unemployment benefits, Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat of Oregon, made a plea for action on behalf of those in need. In response, Mr. Bunning blurted out an expletive. That was undignified — but not that different, in substance, from the position of leading Republicans.

Merkley once ran Habitat For Humanity, the non-denominational organization which builds homes for the poor, in Oregon. Bunning, in addition to his Senate salary of $174,000, takes a hefty annual paycheck home as the head of the 'Jim Bunning Foundation' -- which, basically, does nothing but sell autographed baseballs, and is supposed to donate the funds to charity -- something that's now coming under more scrutiny.

When Merkley spoke on the senate floor about the direct effects upon people of Bunning's month-long Filibuster, the esteemed Senator From Kentucky (who was standing at another podium) said, "Tough Shit".

Obligatory Photo Of Cute Animal, Embedded In Political Rant
(Now With 52% More Handgun!)

The extension bill directly affected families trying to feed themselves and stay in their homes, and have COBRA health insurance. Even so, Little Jimmy was determined to use every possible avenue in the Senate's rules to delay or kill the bill's passage.

Krugman held up Brunning, his use of his position in the Senate, and power as a U.S. Senator, to show three things: (1) Washington is so polarized that it would be a comedy program, if it weren't so deadly serious in its consequences for the United States; (2) Brunning's actions, and those of Republicans in Congress generally, point out what part of America they really represent -- and the same for the Democrats; and (3) this is disastrous for our country, and isn't going to end anytime soon.

Take the question of helping the unemployed in the middle of a deep slump. What Democrats believe is what textbook economics says: that when the economy is deeply depressed, extending unemployment benefits not only helps those in need, it also reduces unemployment... But that’s not how Republicans see it.... Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, [said] defending Mr. Bunning’s position...: unemployment relief “doesn’t create new jobs. In fact... continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”

Bottom Line: The Republicans, while very organized, seem to represent The Rich. The Democrats don't appear to be very well organized, but they represent the Rest Of Us. If it were left to the Rethugs, the spirit that controls our government, and our culture, would be that deep belief of the Protestants who came to settle in North America in the early 1600's... that the world is separated into the Elect of God (chosen by predestination for salvation and eternal life), and The Rest Of Us (not chosen, and so already damned to Hell For Ever).

The Chosen are, of course, the wealthy -- to those same early Prots, worldly success being proof of god's favor. The reverse, then -- Poverty -- is proof of god's disfavor -- and who cares what happens to people who will burn for all eternity, anyway? Screw 'em.

(Incidentally -- d'ya think this might be one reason that the period of intellectual flowering which began in the 1700's was called 'The Enlightenment'? Huh?)

Part of me believes that the Right wants a polarized, paralyzed central government. The more effective a strong centralized government is, the more economic and legal rights of the largest number of its citizens is protected. The less effective it is, life comes down to how much money and power you have -- and, as usual, the ordinary citizen has less of both.

1936 Poster Advertising The New Social Security Program
(Photo: Smithsonian Collection; Common Use)

The struggle between Left and Right in America is ultimately about something that we're not supposed to have -- a Class Structure. The Left says we shouldn't have one, and the kind of laws Democrats enact, by and large, are social programs which benefit the majority of the population -- who are the people (at least, supposedly) that the Democratic party represents.

And, the Left believes it's fair that taxes are used to pay for those social programs, since we all have a stake in what those programs do for the country, and our culture.

Cooperation and collaboration are hallmarks of this kind of political philosophy -- summed up by Robert Kennedy's quoting Shaw: Some people see things as they are and say, why? I dream of things that never were and say, why not?

The Left believes that 'Market Forces' or 'Private Interests' don't keep the welfare of individual citizens -- their health, safety or longevity -- in mind, unless forced to do so by law and regulation. And when they aren't, you get what's just happened: Powerful Banking and Investment interests out of control; an economy kicked to the curb; millions of people who may be without steady employment for years. The effect upon millions of lives of the acts of a relatively small group of men, allowed to do almost anything they wanted, hasn't even begun to be calculated or felt.

Italian Poster For The Venice General Association --
A Riskier Form Of Retirement; The 'Association' Is
Part Of The Free-Market (Ayn Rand Hearts Mussolini)

The Right doesn't care about protecting citizens from the excesses and predations of Wall Street, or a chemical company polluting the air or our water. Republican legislation promotes and defends those interests. They don't represent the largest section of our population, but that smaller, wealthier and more influential number of Americans -- the ten or so per cent who own 60%-plus of the nation... that's who the Republicans represent.

Republican legislation reflects a world view of 'free enterprise', and 'less government meddling with individual and property rights'. In fact, it reflects Social Darwinism, nature red in tooth and claw -- and aggressive competition, where the winners step on the faces of the losers as they march forward into that bright, new Tomorrow. It's an old-school-tie, who-you-know (or who you can pay off) kind of world, and if you can't pay, then (as Little Jimmy Bunning would say) Tough Shit.

A good quote for the Right (wherever it came from) is, The Future Is For The Strong. There's no room in that future for the poor, the sick, the weak. They're going to burn, anyway, so to hell with 'em.

So, Krugman goes on to say ... what are the implications of this total divergence in views [between Democrats and Republicans]?

The answer, of course, is that bipartisanship is now a foolish dream. How can the parties agree on policy when they have utterly different visions of how the economy works, when one party feels for the unemployed, while the other weeps over affluent victims of the “death tax”?

I don't know who will win that contest. But I do know who will lose, in the meantime -- and what we stand to lose if the wrong crowd is the winner.

Postscript, November 2011: (From Wikipedia:)
In January 2009, when asked whether Bunning was the best candidate to run or whether there were better GOP candidates for Bunning's Senate seat, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn said: "I don't know. I think it's really up to Senator Bunning." Bunning replied: "Anybody can run for anything they choose. I am gearing up..."

...In a press conference ... Bunning called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a "control freak": "If Mitch McConnell doesn't endorse me, it could be the best thing that ever happened to me in Kentucky."

...Bunning announced he would not run for re-election in 2010, blaming fellow Republicans for doing "everything in their power to dry up my fundraising." On April 14, 2010, in a further show of disdain for GOP leadership and insiders, Bunning announced his support for outsider candidate Rand Paul over establishment favorite Trey Grayson.
And we've all see what sterling representation Rand Paul has provided both the State O' Kentucky, and his public sagacity as a Rethug candidate for the Presidency in 2012 -- as one mentally disturbed person replaced another in the Pay For Play Republican Tea Partei.

And, in July and August, during the so-called Debt Ceiling Crisis manufactured by that same Partei, President Obama tried to broker a 'Grand Bargain', bipartisan compromise. He offered cuts in Medicare and Social Security, if the Rethugs would accept new taxation to raise revenues (Sounds familiar, doesn't it -- the SuperCommittee Crisis, no?)

The Democrats did what they've done since 1994, wanting to be seen publicly as willing to compromise in the public interest, to be the adults in the room... only, the people Obama was dealing with weren't adults. In fact, they're closer to Mussolini than John Adams.

In the summer of 2011, they were willing to hold the government's ability to operate hostage to finally destroy the New Deal, and eliminate any barriers that would prevent the unimpeded stampede of Free Enterprise across America.

Reading Paul Krugman's take on bipartisanship in March of 2010, nineteen months ago -- I'd say he had it right. The Democrats didn't listen then, and may not be listening now. And, my feelings about the Right Wing in America haven't changed, either: I still feel my analysis is true today. Even more so, actually.

But, I'm only a Dog, and no one listens to me.

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