The shutdown: Day two

Norman Pollack’s recent description of the impasse rings true:

The “shutdown issue,” presently mired in the political-ideological battle between the Far Right and the Less-Far Right (House Republicans and Administration Democrats), has little to do with the social welfare of the American people, and instead reveals discernible differences only on the degrees of sophistication informing the programs of each in their determined assistance to corporate capitalism. Republicans in this tableau (a staged presentation going back decades in the roles assumed by each side) are the visceral fascists, striking out at government without realizing how much it helps, assists, and protects business and banking, while Democrats actively, yet with becoming liberal rhetoric to hide from themselves their delusions and treachery, take help, assistance, and protection to a higher level of systemic interpenetration between business and government by means of a regulatory framework written by the affected interests.

Pollack considers the shutdown to be an opportunity:

Shutdown, ideally, equals wake-up, an exposure of widespread impoverishment on one hand, widespread waste, corruption of democratic institutions, and military aggression pure-and-simple on the other. If nothing more, scaring the folks at Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs until the legislative conflict is papered over, is worth the candle, considering that nothing will be done for the poor in any case.

But it should prove to be an opportunity missed by those who need to act to bring Superpower to heel:

Sequestration will ensure the lifeblood of the current American polity and economy, militarism attached to the continuing program of global hegemony, so that neither Republicans nor Democrats find urgency in resolving the present stalemate—and in fact, holding the bottom one-fourth of the people hostage to the utter good will of the political system and the consolidated wealth standing behind it, as the source for a solution, is a good lesson in proper obedience, deportment, citizenship. Dangle just enough social- welfare anticipated goodies before the people to ensure quiescence while simultaneously magnifying ideological differences that hardly exist, and one has the perfect formula keeping the masses distracted from the main show—not shutdowns or debt ceilings, but a foreign policy of global capitalist expansion geared to US-defined financial, monetary, and trade advantages, coupled with necessary regime change for their realization, all wrapped in a framework of massive surveillance at home and the quickening paces for demanding patriotism and conformity.

Today, political accountability originates in the streets. Democracy also. Both originate in the streets because America’s electoral mechanism, its judicial practices and its Congress have proved themselves incapable of protecting the citizenry from the government and, of course, the world from America’s empire. But public action of this kind is now risky and even mortally dangerous. Nevertheless the appearance of anti-system social movements and public protest motivated by a system-critical political culture appear to be necessary conditions for the country if it is to move beyond the current situation.

Quote of the day

The International Financing Review (h/t Cate Long) points to the altered “country risk” assessment the United States courts with its mindless, absurd, ridiculous and irresponsible debt limit ‘debate’:

It is not clear yet if the US Congress will raise the nation’s debt ceiling in time to avoid a default, but the country’s gilt-edged credit rating is clearly now vulnerable to a downgrade, and that is going to have a lasting effect, regardless of the outcome in Washington.

Imagine that another country was threatening to default out of choice — and imagine what the President, congressmen and senators would say if that country owed money to the US. The volume would be deafening as US officialdom made the most of its bully pulpit to demand that the nation in question lived up to its obligations. They would point out that no internal dispute could possibly provide an excuse for threatening to default – and that such a decision would irreparably damage that country’s credibility.

They would be right, of course, and the same applies to the US.

Well, we’ll see. After all, America is exceptional.

Quote of the day

Attaturk asks:

Who actually won [the Congressional wrangling over the debt limit vote] last night, the hypocrites, the assholes or the insane?

He also answers his question:

Oh yeah, it is still a tie and also all of them.

The Congress keeps on sinking down

According to Rasmussen Reports:

Just six percent (6%) of Likely U.S. Voters now rate Congress’ performance as good or excellent, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Last month, Congressional approval ratings fell to what was then a record low with eight percent (8%) who rated its performance good or excellent.

Sixty-one percent (61%) now think the national legislators are doing a poor job, a jump of nine points from a month ago.

The demos does not care much for each party:

Most voters don’t care much for the way either party is performing in the federal debt ceiling debate. The majority of voters are worried the final deal will raise taxes too much and won’t cut spending enough.

Only 11% of voters believe this Congress has passed any legislation that will significantly improve life in America. That ties the lowest ever finding in nearly five years of surveys, last reached in January 2009. Sixty-nine percent (69%) think Congress has not passed any legislation of this caliber, a six-point increase from June and the most negative assessment ever. Nineteen percent (19%) are not sure.

And:

With divided control of Congress, neither party’s voters are very happy. Eight percent (8%) of GOP voters give Congress positive marks, compared to five percent (5%) of Democrats and six percent (6%) of voters not affiliated with either of the major parties.

The report does not reveal a population without a distorted picture of Congressional politics (“Forty-five percent (45%) of voters trust Republicans more when it comes to handling economic issues, while 35% put more trust in Democrats.”), but it may present an omen of an upcoming electoral upheaval, albeit an electoral watershed that would pass through the Party Duopoly filter.

Mike Lee likes California so much

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Senate class of 2010, wants a Constitutional amendment to impose a ⅔rds supermajority requirement on the Congress whenever it votes for a tax increase. This, of course, is the Constitutional limit on democratic governance that has made California a basket case economy. Lee discussed his desires on Hardball with an incredulous Chris Mathews:

Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress calls Lee’s gambit extortion:

So Lee wants to rewrite our Constitution to [sic] that the American people must always live under conservative governance, regardless of who they elect, and he’s got a simple plan to force his colleagues in Congress to make this happen. That’s a mighty nice economy we’ve got here, it would be a shame if Mike Lee had to break it.

And so it is.

Acrid mockery of the Congress

The Onion helps to correctly frame the debt debate:

WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. Congress reported Wednesday they were continuing to carefully debate the issue of whether or not they should allow the country to descend into a roiling economic meltdown of historically dire proportions. “It is a question that, I think, is worthy of serious consideration: Should we take steps to avoid a crippling, decades-long depression that would lead to disastrous consequences on a worldwide scale? Or should we not do that?” asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), adding that arguments could be made for both sides, and that the debate over ensuring America’s financial solvency versus allowing the nation to default on its debt — which would torpedo stock markets, cause mortgage and interests rates to skyrocket, and decimate the value of the U.S. dollar — is “certainly a conversation worth having.” “Obviously, we don’t want to rush to consensus on whether it is or isn’t a good idea to save the American economy and all our respective livelihoods from certain peril until we’ve examined this thorny dilemma from every angle. And if we’re still discussing this matter on Aug. 2, well, then, so be it.” At press time, President Obama said he personally believed the country should not be economically ruined.

On the sincerity of the Congressional Republicans

According to Zaid Jilani of ThinkProgress:

White House and congressional negotiators are currently in the process of striking a deficit reduction deal, as most Republicans in Congress are refusing to raise the federal debt ceiling without deep cuts to public investments and social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare. By doing so, these Republicans are essentially holding the country hostage, threatening the United States with default unless Democrats agree to these cuts.

Yet these Republicans were not always demanding hostages in exchange for allowing the country to pay its own bills. In November of 2004, Congress voted in both the House and Senate to hike the U.S. debt limit by $800 billion, which raised the total ceiling to $8.1 trillion.

A ThinkProgress review of the votes in both the House and Senate finds that a whopping 130 congressional Republicans voted to hike the debt ceiling that November that remain in the U.S. Congress today (either in their same seats or by coming to the Senate). These members of Congress did not demand draconian cuts in public investment that would’ve driven up unemployment and threatened the economy in return.

Of course, there was one other difference between then and today. President George W. Bush was in the White House, and Republicans did not have an incentive to try to politically damage him by holding the debt ceiling hostage.

It appears that the Congressional Republicans are insincere to a degree that they would strongly prefer to destroy the credibility of the Federal government in order to score pyrrhic political victories over their Democratic Party opponents, victories they would ‘win’ by opposing policies they had supported in the past.