Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Renee Ellmers, Symptom

(Rep. Renee Ellmers, R NC, photo from

Got a letter in the mai
l Monday from our new Congressional Representative, Renee Ellmers, who defeated last November a long-time Democratic politician, Bob Ethridge, who before becoming our Representative was NC Secretary of Education for many years. I still don't know anything much about Ms Ellmers, except she ran on a kind of Tea Party platform. She's probably not as crazy as NC's own Virginia Fox.

Anyways, her Monday letter assures me that she will fight tirelessly for a Balanced Budget Amendment in the coming months. That is, she proposes to lock the Federal Government into a financial strait-jacket with the power of Constitutional Law. Certain percentages will be constitutionally invoked to limit government spending, such as a requirement that all budgets be pegged to the GDP. The proposal is supposed to have a "safety-valve," which is a super-majority vote to break the lock in certain special circumstances.

If you want to read about the concept of tying up the Federal Government this way, there's plenty on-line, from genuine economists of note. It is yet another example of the intellectual mess in which this nation finds itself that economists can now be labelled as either liberal or conservative, as though political doctrine has now become the very air in which all decision-making occurs. In fact, it takes little more than common sense to see that hamstringing the Federal Government in this way is simply a formula for paralysis, or for a further gelding of the Government's abilities to react to reality.

Thus the Tea Party comes to my neighborhood. It's a bit like finding a dangerous-looking mole on your arm. And indeed, the actions of the radical Republicans grouped around the "tea party" is pretty similar to a cancer, since they are one and all elected officials who are attacking the health of the very institutions to which they are members. These radicals started out, some decades back, by slowly destroying a main-stream media which was tasked in part with helping the public distinguish between real issues and pseudo clap-trap. The prime historical example: Joe McCarthy. When the Fairness Doctrine was abolished by Ronald Reagan, the emotional power of Joe McCarthy style arguments could again be unleashed upon the typical American voter--a person who has much to do besides pay close attention to politics, and a person who tends to vote on the basis of sound-bite information.

And so it has been unleashed, in the form of Fox News and the endless parade of right-wing pundits who toil non-stop (taken as a whole) on the radio, where people hear them as they drive to and from their jobs. And by 2010 we have a veritable "tea party" election, with numerous new Representatives in the Ellmers pattern--people with no particular credentials who have learned to talk the talking points. People just like the radio pundits, that is to say.

And so comes in my mailbox (which may soon be vanished, like Wittgenstein's ladder), Ms Ellmers' assurances that she will work tirelessly in my behalf for a Balanced Budget Amendment. No doubt many folks, including many seniors, will think Ms Ellmers is exactly right. It sounds so good, it must be true. Moreover, Ms Ellmers is a pretty lass, unlike the gangly, awkward Bob Ethridge, a figure only his mother could love, who had the gumption to counter a right-wing urchin's insubordinate ambush-question with a slight shove of his hand. What Ms Ellmers will not care to tell her constituents is that such an Amendment will be used to defund Medicare and Social Security. "I hate it," she'll say, "but it's just the law."

You don't think, do you, that the Balanced Budget Amendment will be used to defund ongoing military operations, or the development of new weapons allegedly aimed at making us safer still, in a hostile world? No, even Renee Ellmers couldn't sell that, could she. Ironic that the pretty nurse who informs you that yes, it's melanoma, could herself be the very political equivalent.

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