Wednesday, October 2, 2013

About the Shutdown: A Gathering of Good Commentary

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Rachel: Elect Republicans and they will burn the place down. And they will laugh while they do it and have a great time. And then what?

Here are some worthwhile pieces I've read about the shutdown in the past day or so:

Egberto Willies commenting on the Rachel Maddow clip at the head of the posting: 

Rachel factually illustrates that the Republican House of Representatives have accomplished nothing for the country in the two and a quarter years they have been in power. It has passed no meaningful legislation. It has passed no laws to aid employment. In effect it has been more damaging to America than if they simply stayed home in their district and did nothing. They have materially hurt the working middle class, the poor, and the economy at large.

The Republican Party is bending its entire will, staking its very soul, fighting to its last breath, in service of a crusade to.... 
Make sure that the working poor don't have access to affordable health care. 

Shutdowns over spending levels or taxes are probably easier to grasp, but GOP lawmakers, after being rebuked by the American electorate, have decided to throw an extraordinary and dangerous tantrum over a moderate health care reform law that mirrors a policy enacted by the most recent Republican presidential nominee and adheres to a policy blueprint drafted by the Heritage Foundation. 
It's this centrist law that has, for reasons that confound, pushed Republicans into almost sociopathic rage. Whether it's sane or not is apparently irrelevant.

On the day the Affordable Care Act takes effect, the U.S. government is shut down, and it may be permanently broken. You’ll read lots of explanations for the dysfunction, but the simple truth is this: It’s the culmination of 50 years of evolving yet consistent Republican strategy to depict government as the enemy, an oppressor that works primarily as the protector of and provider for African-Americans, to the detriment of everyone else. The fact that everything came apart under our first African-American president wasn’t an accident, it was probably inevitable.

Joshua Keating at Slate (in a fantasy piece about what might be written about the shutdown from the perspective of people outside the U.S., looking in on the insanity):

Americans themselves are starting to ask difficult questions as well. As this correspondent’s cab driver put it, while driving down the poorly maintained roads that lead from the airport, "Do these guys have any idea what they’re doing to the country?"

To hold our governance processes and financial credibility hostage to narrow priorities is not only dangerous to the nation's near term financial being, it threatens the very foundations of our democratic process and our capacity to live united. We ask that congressional leadership of both parties stand strong in opposing efforts to allow the will of the few to threaten the common good.

There’s something worse now. Many movement conservatives are driven, if implicitly, by a terrifying intellectual foundation not even present in Goldwater’s day: the Christian Reconstructionist view that, since the family is the basic unit of God’s covenant, the secular humanist state is a false idol held up by minions like Obama (and you) in order to mock all that is godly—a well-nigh Satanic rival for the redemption of the world. Though there is also, if you’re not a particularly theological conservative (or if you believe theology, Leo Strauss–ishly, is bread and circuses for the rubes), a pragmatic motivation to draw from as well. Consider William Kristol, in his infamous 1993 memo “Defeating President Clinton’s Healthcare Proposal.” As I wrote a couple of years ago, for Kristol “the notion of government-guaranteed health care had to be defeated, he said, rather than compromised with, or else: ‘It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government.’ Kristol wrote on behalf of an organization called the Project for a Republican Future. The mortal fear is that if government delivers the goods, the Republicans have no future.” Even their pragmatists are nuts.

But there is something more here. How does one party that has lost two presidential elections and a Supreme Court case – as well as two Senate elections  -   think it has the right to shut down the entire government and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States Treasury to get its way on universal healthcare now? I see no quid pro quo even. Just pure blackmail, resting on understandable and predictable public concern whenever a major reform is enacted. But what has to be resisted is any idea that this is government or politics as usual. It is an attack on the governance and the constitutional order of the United States.

In a democracy, hostage tactics are the last resort for those who can’t otherwise win their fights through elections, can’t win their fights in Congress, can’t win their fights for the Presidency, and can’t win their fights in Courts. For this right-wing minority, hostage-taking is all they have left – a last gasp of those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy.

And New York Times, putting the blame for the shutdown where it belongs--squarely on Mr. Boehner's shoulders:

The consequences of Mr. Boehner’s failure will be immediate: 800,000 government employees thrown out of work, over a million more working without pay, offices that provide important services closed, and programs on which poor people depend — like the Women, Infants and Children nutrition system — cut off. The longer Republicans refuse to approve a rational spending measure, the more federal agencies will be affected and the greater the damage done to an economy still in recovery.  .  .  . 
The Republicans’ reckless obsession with destroying health reform and with wounding the president has been on full display. And, as the public’s anger grows over this entirely unnecessary crisis, it should be aimed at a party and a speaker that are incapable of governing.

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