Monday, October 07, 2013

Ongoing Reports From The Long October

I'm trying to come up with some poetic-sounding names for the Shutdown Showdown of 2013, and right now "The Long October" is about as good as I can think of a name.

Because for the most part we're now expecting the current Shutdown to merge into the scheduled Debt Ceiling crisis set for October 17th, simply because the House Republicans are driving the nation off the cliff (via Jonathan Chait at the New York):

...Last Tuesday, House Republicans shut down the federal government, demanding that Obama abolish his health-care reform in a tactically reckless gamble that most of the party feared but could not prevent. More surreal, perhaps, were the conditions they issued in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling later this month. Lifting the debt ceiling, a vestigial ritual in which Congress votes to approve payment of the debts it has already incurred, is almost a symbolic event, except that not doing it would wreak unpredictable and possibly enormous worldwide economic havoc. (Obama’s Treasury Department has compared the impact of a debt breach to the failure of Lehman Brothers.) The hostage letter House Republicans released brimmed with megalomaniacal ambition. If he wanted to avoid economic ruin, Republicans said, Obama would submit to a delay of health-care reform, plus tax-rate cuts, enactment of offshore drilling, approval of the Keystone pipeline, deregulation of Wall Street, and Medicare cuts, to name but a few demands. Republicans hardly pretended to believe Obama would accede to the entire list (a set of demands that amounted to the retroactive election of Mitt Romney), but the hubris was startling in and of itself.
The debt ceiling turns out to be unexploded ordnance lying around the American form of government. Only custom or moral compunction stops the opposition party from using it to nullify the president’s powers, or, for that matter, the president from using it to nullify Congress’s. (Obama could, theoretically, threaten to veto a debt ceiling hike unless Congress attaches it to the creation of single-payer health insurance.) To weaponize the debt ceiling, you must be willing to inflict harm on millions of innocent people. It is a shockingly powerful self-destruct button built into our very system of government, but only useful for the most ideologically hardened or borderline sociopathic. But it turns out to be the perfect tool for the contemporary GOP: a party large enough to control a chamber of Congress yet too small to win the presidency, and infused with a dangerous, millenarian combination of overheated Randian paranoia and fully justified fear of adverse demographic trends...

We're basically unable to do anything about the current Shutdown: the Democrats are attempting to force a vote on the House floor for a "clean Continuing Resolution" using an obscure mechanism called a "discharge petition", but to pull it off they seemingly need more than 17 Republicans to commit publicly to vote for it.  And while there's a solid number of anonymous House Republicans complaining about the Far Right taking their own party hostage during these "negotiations", only two of them have been brave up to stand up... because if anyone else did so they'd be primaried within a heartbeat.

Molly Ball at The Atlantic makes the observation that Republicans are the one voting bloc that refuses to compromise (the poll is linked from her article):

Republicans, it seems, are different: They value compromise far less and principle far more than other Americans. In refusing to give ground, then, Republican politicians are reflecting their base's priorities.
This result helps explain more than just GOP intransigence, it seems to me. It also helps explain the parties' mutual incomprehension. Since Democrats value compromise by such an overwhelming margin, they assume their opponents do too. But Republicans, it turns out, are wired a bit differently.

Andrew Sullivan makes the observation that the Republicans aren't so much refusing to compromise, it's that they can't accept the reality of the situation and are grasping at anything:

They say they want to reverse what they see as the end of American freedom because of the dawn of public subsidies for private insurance policies, based on a Heritage Foundation idea and implemented by their last presidential nominee in his home state. Okay, so how about running a campaign for Congress and presidency that explicitly promises to repeal Obamacare entirely? Oh, yes, they already did that and lost. How about upping the ante and making it explicit in the campaign that this is the very last chance to end Obamacare and save America? Oh, yeah, I forgot. They did that too. So what do they want? I’m not sure they even know.

Even though there's another poll, this time on approval ratings for the parties involved - Obama, Democrats in Congress, and Republicans in Congress - and showing why this is still a serious problem for Republicans continuing this path to self-destruction:

Problem with that poll is while the numbers show the Republicans in trouble with Americans overall (at 70 percent disapproval), the House GOP are only worried about the Americans (Tea Partiers) in their gerrymandered districts (and yes, the gerrymander is one of the things at fault here), and most of them are in the 24 percent bracket still approving of their hostage-taking BS.

This is going to be a Long October after all.

I only hope this won't interfere with trick-or-treating... 'cause if our kids can't trick-or-treat due to an economic collapse then we are going to see some SERIOUS street riots led by kids dressed up in superhero costumes and wielding plastic pirate swords.  CANDY OR DEATH!  CANDY OR DEATH...!

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