Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Debt Fight: Rejecting The Premise of America Itsel

Rejecting the Premise of America Itself

As a specialized state-level blogger I've been micro-focused of late, pouncing on hot legislative campaign announcements while not looking at the big picture economic train wreck we're fast approaching.

It's not that I have no thoughts. Its just that the only thing I learned in four dead end years of grad school was: make an original contribution to the discipline or keep your mouth shut. And in eight plus years of blogging I've learned that my original contributions are my local contributions. I can't compete with the major leaguers, but then again they can't compete with District Of The Day.

That all said, last night on Hardball I heard the most accurate and thought provoking discussion yet of the debt ceiling crisis between Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, and David Corn of Mother Jones. Fineman even joked he should have written it as a column before going on air. The key exchange, slightly edited for clarity:
MATTHEWS: Is it possible what the Republicans are up to here—because I hear this from people around me who are on the progressive side. And you hear it, probably. You‘re on the progressive side. Is it possible that despite all this “We‘re all in this together” talk we like to engage in, and I believe in, that some people on the right are quite willing to see this country get burned in the butt, to really hit by the world market, to really start seeing spiking interest rates, to really see a drop in our bond rating, hellacious stuff, so that they can make their point? They‘re not at all willing to avoid that at the cost of their own ideology.

CORN: I think some people fear that or suspect that. I think the reality is that there are people who don‘t believe in reality and they don‘t want to listen to people in the government or people on Wall Street. "We know better. We tighten our belts when things go bad. The government has to do the same." But I do think there are some—I think Ron Paul said this just today, the past few days—we should default. Default would be good for America. It would put us back on the gold standard, and whatever he believes. So there are people who do believe you‘ve got to burn the village to save the village.

MATTHEWS: I think it‘s part of this flat earth society that doesn‘t believe in science, doesn‘t believe in human history, doesn‘t believe in global climate change—nothing!

FINEMAN: What‘s going on here, as I see it, is a kind of slow-motion secession. This is an ending of the social compact. This is two generations, three generations worth of agreement about Social Security, about Medicare, about the role of the federal government.

The Tea Party people are saying, We want to secede from that society. And the way to do it is to draw the line on spending and taxes, to starve the federal government so that it loses power, so that we aren‘t part of the social compact anymore. And that‘s the real argument that‘s going on.

And the Congress as an institution is incapable of dealing with that kind of fundamental argument, which—given in the entitlement age and the welfare state age, which is why you have the super-committees and super-duper-committees and the smaller and smaller ring of people attempting to decide something.

MATTHEWS: You know what this sounds like? When I spent two years in southern Africa. It sounds like what the whites talked about doing, eventually going into some sort of little circle, like Custer‘s last stand against the United States.

FINEMAN: Well, I wouldn‘t put—I wouldn‘t put a racial tone on it, but I would say that the Congress is not dealing with the fundamental question here. They refuse to do it. And they‘re not dealing with it now because both plans, both the Boehner plan and the Reid plan, don‘t deal with either entitlements or taxes.

MATTHEWS: Who‘s the guy emerging at the top, Republican name year hearing all these days? Rick Perry, who actually does talk about secession, withdrawing from not just the social compact but from the unity of the country and going back into the area where, I‘ll keep my money in the bank. I want lower tax rates. I don‘t want any government...

FINEMAN: Tea Party people would say, and I‘ve, you know, been to their rallies and spoken to a lot of them in Congress and out, that they‘re being driven to this by the overweening role of the government, by the fact the total tax burden, counting state, local and federal, is so high, et cetera, et cetera, that I think it‘s a desire to withdraw from a deal that they think has gotten out of hand, that they can‘t control, even though generations of Republicansas well as Democrats, have benefited from the results of the welfare state.

MATTHEWS: It‘s like withdrawing money from the bank, but it‘s more like withdrawing money from America, saying, I‘m pulling out my investment in America. It‘s home schooling. It‘s all those things people are doing right now to get away.

CORN: We‘re talking about competing visions of society.
I'm not as reminded of late-era apartheid as I am of late period Weimar Germany. The Nazis and the Communists, two parties who did not believe in electoral democracy, controlled more than half of the Reichstag. Since neither could not be absorbed into any pro-democracy coalition, it made government mathematically impossible.

This analogy is NOT meant to cast any of the present players as Hitler, but we all know the story doesn't end well.

A wise friend of mine was once discussing a state election and discussing the young Republican mindset: "You're 22 years old and your whole world view is 'I got mine, screw you'?!? How sad is that?"

In the speech that propelled him to national fame, State Senator Barack Obama said:
Alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper — that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.
This fight is about nothing less than the rejection of that premise.

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