Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Actual Conversation Going On

Brooylyn Bridge Baby's Photosteam

Watched a good deal of C-span yesterday, the various speeches concerning whether to pass the Reid Compromise.  Now and then some interesting things got said.  Interesting in the sense that they revealed some truth.  Mr. Coburn (R, OK), for example, was nearly in tears over the fact of waste in government programs.  He cataloged program or agency after program or agency where millions were in fact (assuming he wasn't flat out lying) wasted.  Stuff didn't work like it was supposed to.  Stuff was redundant with other stuff.  Funded studies were just plain silly, pointless, ill-conceived or ill-executed.  It all adds up to a spending deficit.  Another group of Republicans got up to say that all cuts to military programs are dangerous in these dangerous times, and the Democrats wanted to cut defense spending.  Speaker after speaker resorted to the good old "family metaphor."  Congress can't police it's own spending, therefore Congress has to simply cut up it's "credit card" in advance and just live with the consequences, whatever ever they happen to be.  This metaphor is delightful and can be developed into a full length movie by the way--can't pay for your gas with your paper route, son?  Well I guess you'll have to walk to school, or drop out and get a job at the gas station pumping gas.  Sounds perfect.

On the Democratic side, Nancy Pelosi gave the best speech.   "They are trying to destroy the entire public sector," she said.  She's right.  I'm hoping this whole weekend will conclude in a stalemate, and that President Obama will have no choice but to evoke the Fourteenth Amendment and raise the debt ceiling as a simple edict.  That would be, at this point, the very best the United States could hope for.  I wish he could then adjourn Congress entirely until after the 2012 Election, and spend the next months educating the nation on why it needs to elect competent congress-persons who understand what the US government they're running is, why it exists.  I wish he could simply rule out of order any parties that claim to run on the proposition that if elected, they will destroy their office and the government they were elected to serve.   There ought to be some kind of standards of logic at work in our political life.

But there aren't.  Mr. Coburn's angst concerning waste is of course sensible in itself.  No one wants waste.  But the fact that no one wants waste should be an obvious spur to ongoing efforts to eliminate waste.  It's not like that job is simply done at some point.  Waste is part and parcel of effort.  Waste happens in all industry, private and public.  So does fraud, thievery, various kinds of blatant misuse of power.  Let's see Congress eliminate power.  I don't think they'll have that conversation.  What's going on now is the on-going effort to privatize all government functions, today tied to a debt and deficit which the privatizers for the eight years of the Bush Administration created in significant part by their privatizing efforts.  It's indeed crazy circular thinking.  What the Republicans are arguing for, fundamentally, is abdication of all Congressional responsibility.  Instead of dealing with these examples of waste and fraud which Mr. Coburn cataloged yesterday during this past Congressional session, these people did everything but.  They spent their time primarily attacking their own offices and closing essential government agencies and services such as the FAA.

If government is so reduced, power will not therefore vanish.  Instead, power will be unaccountable.  And all the slow agony of making power accountable, which is one story of America starting with the War of Independence and moving down the long march of struggles--expanding suffrage, ending human slavery, improving working conditions, ending legal segregation, Labor struggle, etc.  All these things except possibly direct human slavery are mitigations of naked power, primarily leveraged by economic forces.  (Indeed, even slavery is probably in theory on the table, since slavery can be masked so as not to be unpalatably obvious.  Quite a few slaves will tell you they love their masters, for example.  In some sense they do.)   Moreover, the list of public goods which Mrs. Pelosi catalogued will not be served in the privatization process, except coincidentally.  She mentioned clean air and water several times as an example.  The best we can hope from privatization is somewhat clean air and water, in some places.  Corporations are duty bound to provide dividends to their stockholders.  They are not duty bound to provide them with clean air and water.

I'd recommend watching some C-span as this debate continues.  There's a good bit of reality slipping out around the rhetoric.

Meanwhile, there are also other things to think about.  I direct your attention to this post:

Can even one member of Congress comprehend the rightness not to mention brilliance of this argument?   I doubt it.  Not when Kansas can actually outlaw all abortion clinics via the absurd lever of arbitrary building code standards designed specifically with all existing clinic buildings in mind, and Congress doesn't bother to stop its infernal angels on the head of a pin argument to send in the New York National Guard.  Not when North Carolina's Legislature can actually write and pass a law (over our Governor's veto) requiring that women thinking of abortion must be "counseled" for at least 24 hours by people who by definition have utterly zero comprehension of the argument linked to above.

And the President doesn't act either.  On this front Mr. Obama lags behind General Eisenhower fer gawd's sake!  The "Markets," the Congress, the States, the President, the Countries of the Developed World--they all deserve a US default on Wednesday morning next.  The only people who don't deserve it are the people who just struggle to survive, here and elsewhere.  And they are the people not being represented in our Congress right now, even though they're supposed to be. 

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