America: The Bravely Incompetent

that-tattered-old-flag-mike-hendren

Crisis averted, sort of. But sort of seems to be the best we can do these days. The fact the Government only ever pass Continuing Resolutions now, rather than real Budgets, is only one of many examples.

But the true ‘sort of’ of the deal passed Wednesday night regards the question: is governance through crisis the new norm?

Although the attentive portions of the World may have breathed a collective sigh of relief at the House’s acquiescence to reality, the stage is set for a repeat in January. The CR passed only extends Government operations until 15 January and the debt-ceiling will need to be re-negotiated on 7 February.

Ted Cruz ominously pronounced on ABC News following the agreement that ‘[He] would do anything, and [he] will continue to do anything [he] can to stop the train wreck that is ObamaCare.’

The one kernel of hope is that, unlike the previous debt ceiling debates, the Democrats did not cave. The Republicans were not whole-heartedly rewarded for their actions. ObamaCare lives.

But this perception of utter failure is not entirely true because despite obviously losing the present battle, the Republicans may still be winning the war, and terroristic obstanancy is still their most powerful weapon. The Senate CR finally passed by the House is $37 billion lower than the draconian 2011 Paul Ryan [R-WI] Budget.[1]The budget delineations are not strictly uniform with Ryan’s proposal  –welfare and domestic spending took less of a hit, and more came out of Defense– but in many ways the Republicans have managed to achieve their budget goals even though they lost the Presidency.

Yet they still ask for more, Ryan’s 2014 proposal is $19 billion lower than the Senate Bill, making it $56 billion lower than his wish-list from 2011.

The situation may resolve itself if this latest debacle causes enough lasting popular anger to lose the Republicans control of the House in 2014, even in the currently gerrymandered condition most Congressional Districts languidly reside.

But this may be a fantasy. Historically, the Party that controls the Presidency loses House seats in midterm elections. Democratic voters also have a poor track record of turning out for non-Presidential elections, which are often dominated by those of the political extremes, which can only help the Tea Party.[2] Further, according to a YouGov/HuffPost poll, although Ted Cruz’s unfavourability among Republicans almost doubled to 17% during the shutdown, his favourability rating stayed virtually unchanged at 60%.[3] Meanwhile, according to the same poll, both Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio)  and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have lower favourability ratings, and higher unfavourability ratings than Cruz among Republicans. But fundamentally, midterm elections are more than a year away, and anger can fade.

Regardless of any hope of a totally Democrat controlled Government in 2014, one still cannot help but feel we have been duped. That we exist in a good-cop/bad-cop single party state tricking us into swallowing corporatist policy.

Things probably aren’t that contrived, they almost never are. But it still seems that we live in a Single Party state, or at least two separate Single Party states. We no longer have political choice. In the political bubble-worlds that have arrived, either you think the Democrats are crazy, or the Republicans are crazy. And no matter in which world you reside, you are offered no choice over viable candidates for office.

The arrival of this reality seems to have accompanied a Rightward shift in American political dialog. This is probably not the only contributing factor. My pet guess is that the continuing degrading of campaign finance regulations is leading to greater and greater influence by the inherently Right-leaning group of people, due to their operating codes, known as corporations. Helping fuel the new-Right-American political reality.

But lack of viable political choice would logically seem to exacerbate the issue. The politically active have less ability to influence political dialog through their vote if they are automatically placed into two classes, there is muted outlet to voice political descent.

And a Rightward shift is undeniable. That ObamaCare has become the epitome of Liberalism and that the Democrats are now writing and endorsing budgets that would have been hard-line Republican proposals three years ago, are but the most recent examples of this phenomenon. To cite another example, the beloved Ronald Regan, placed in the contemporary Republican Party would both fail to win a Primary election and be derided as a Socialist overlord if elected as a Democrat. Reagan raised taxes eleven times, including the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 –the largest peacetime tax increase in American history– he supported amnesty for immigrants and was the head of a labour union: the Screen Actors Guild.[4]

This shift seems only to be worsening, with the moderate Republicans losing standing the Tea Party seems to be coming to speak ever more readily for the GOP and the Democrats are simply scrambling to implement Republican policies from twenty years ago.

This is highly distressing to someone of my political leanings. But regardless of this, the dysfunction and obstinacy of the new-American politics is the true terror. Even the recent actions, which saw the worst possible scenario averted, were estimated by Standard and Poor’s to have cost the US economy $24 billion, leading them to slash their growth forecast for the US by 0.6%.[5] The tentative nature of the resolution is warned to have further negative consequences on consumer confidence, with people’s fear of a repeat leading them to save rather than participate in consumer capitalism.[6] Like Standard and Poor’s, Fitch has only scathing remarks for our actions, placing the US on a ‘rating watch negative’ in preparation for a possible credit downgrade on the basis that ‘political brinkmanship and reduced financial flexibility could increase the risk of US default’ –i.e. for being self-absorbed incompetents.[7]

China has been similarly scornful of the debacle. Although these statements must be taken in the propaganda fueled context in which they were released, the following excerpt from the Chinese state controlled News agency Xinhua sheds some light on how the World’s second largest economy views our actions.

‘It is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world… a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas…Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated, and a new world order should be put in place.’[8]

But the real fear is that if the Government is forced to apprehensively grasp at retaining its existence and preventing a default, no positive movement towards addressing any of the major issues facing the Nation and the World can be made. We are rendered incompetent by the breadth of divide in American political culture, by the exacerbating tendencies of gerrymandering and campaign finance deregulation, by the obstinacy of the new-Right.

– My personal reaction to this has been an ever greater detachment from reality. I felt it exaggerate during the run up to the potential debt ceiling breach. An attempt to dull the horror I felt as every day ticked by. An attempt to pretend that what was occurring in American politics was a fictional satire, a television show contrived for my amusement. This is a disturbingly recurrent disassociation.

I have long felt that News-junkies suffer from a form of masochism. And although I am not sure I would find it so fascinating if we were not so submerged in the solidly dystopian world that the twenty-first century has become, attentively tracking our probable slide towards self-immolation certainly chews at the soul I probably don’t have: I can never truly forget it is real. Maybe I don’t even like it. Maybe I just have the personality of someone who should be obsessed with Reality TV. But because I already decided Reality TV is for the stupid, for those helping to perpetuate the problem, I’m stuck with the News. I’m stuck with paying attention.  

But for dedicated followers of News, things have reached a new high. This has been creeping up upon us since Obama took office. For Conservatives, the election of a secret Muslim, immigrant, anti-Christ as President was clearly a traumatic event. For Liberals, the cage of jaded depression has been slowly closing all along. If a black man from Chicago, running on a platform of ‘Change’, turned out to be a proponent of the status quo, how can we ever trust a mainstream politician again? I can’t. The Democrats are dead to me. I might still vote for them, but I will never again be excited by their campaign promises. Fool me once ass-holes.  

Fuck it, all hail King Kardashian. Too bad I’m too lazy to learn Mandarin.      

[1] http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/budget/news/2013/09/30/76026/the-senate-continuing-resolution-is-already-a-compromise/

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/17/shutdown-ends-heres-whats-next_n_4117386.html

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/19/ted-cruz-ratings_n_4124957.html

[4] http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2012/06/15/Why-Ronald-Reagan-Would-Not-Lead-Todays-GOP.aspx#page1

[5] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/16/government-shutdown-cost_n_4110818.html

[6] Ibid.

[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/fitch-us-credit-rating_n_4102262.html

[8] http://www.marketwatch.com/story/china-wants-to-de-americanize-the-world-2013-10-14

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