A Partial Light out of the Tunnel? Update

The New York Times reports

President Obama on Thursday rejected a proposal from politically besieged House Republican leaders to extend the nation’s borrowing authority for six weeks because it would not also reopen the government. Yet both parties saw it as the first break in Republicans’ brinkmanship and a step toward a fiscal truce.

This means that we are back to quite possibly one of the worst disasters in American history.  This is truly what nightmares are made off.

The markets reportedly reacted to a possible light at the end of the tunnel today. Tomorrow we should expect for those gains to be lost. This is what instability looks like


October 10, 2013 (San Diego)– So we have news that maybe there is a way out a partial tunnel, and the setup for another hostage crisis.  and  report in the New York Times that:

House Republicans, looking for a way out of a budget standoff they began, will offer to President Obama at a White House meeting Thursday a plan to increase the debt limit through Nov. 22, in exchange for a promise to negotiate a deal for long-term deficit reduction and a tax overhaul.

Ok, that is fine and dandy, we are not going over the debt ceiling right now, But this is quite cynical on their part, and partly created by the letter that the Koch Brothers sent. Everybody is quite spooked by this created crisis. This also creates the set up for another major hostage situation. In effect, this has created a very unstable government. You and I might not be able to feel it yet, but what we have is instability not seen in living memory.

There are though elements of this crisis that are already paralleling the fall of the USSR. We are not paying death benefits to troops. Instead the Fisher House is picking the tab. There are many things wrong with this, but for starters, what do you think this is doing to troop morale? Why should troops risk life and limb and not be guaranteed that their families will be taken care off if the worst happens and they buy the farm in the field?

So where exactly does the USSR come into the equation? Remember the Berlin Wall and it’s fall? One reason the Red Army did not do a thing was they had not been paid for a few months. They were on the line, but they had not gotten paid. So the army, which mind you had no protocols as to what to do with people dancing on the wall, decided to just pack up, get into their BMPs and drive East. In some cases they did not even pack up, they just drove away.  For an excellent article on this, visit Foreign Policy. There are lessons in there that parallel our current condition. Of course there are also many parallels to Spain in 1898, but that is far less known.

Now let’s go back to this governing by crisis. The last time we saw anything even close to this, none of us were alive. The conflict back then was over slavery. The North had mostly developed a modern industrial economy, and it’s source of cheap labor were immigrants and poor whites. The South developed a slave based economy where there were few rights to anybody not outside the leading plutocracy. The cheap labor were poor whites and slaves, and the whole system was based on religious belief.

Right now we have a similar conflict over the future the nation. There is an attempt to make low taxes, no rights for workers or women, the future of the country. This is what this government by crisis is all about. THey want to extend Taft Hartley and Right to Work (for less) to the whole country. This is also based on a quasi religious belief in the power of the market.

So yes, while there is a partial light at the end of the tunnel, it is just prologue to the next hostage crisis. I have no idea how this will end. But what is for sure is that now we are living in a constitutional crisis from hell.

You might ask for the reasons. Some of the obvious reasons are gerrymandered districts (yes both sides have done it), where essentially the officials chose the voters, not the other way around.

The others are far more fundamental, I promised to go into it. One of them is in the Constitution actually. It is the winner take all system. The Founders were working with what they knew of Rome, Greece and the very much less known Venetian Republic. They understood very well why those failed, and they also had the very much recent experience of the Glorious Revolution, which also partially failed. All of them led to very powerful men taking over the reins of power. What they wanted to do is prevent the rise of factions and to centralize all power in one man, a tyrant, but the electoral system they wrote down creates both factions, and in the modern age a powerful President.

This conflict of legitimacy is actually another source of instability potentially in the system. Given that right now many of our Tea Party members do not recognize the election of the President and believe a minority can impose their way, it has created instability. Abraham Lincoln had that problem too.

The winner takes all system also creates the tendency for two major parties to dominate the political system. Third parties can play a role in local elections, rarely at state level, and only in very small states at the Federal level.

At the very least the US should adopt what John Stuart Mill gave British politics after studying what was pretty young American Democracy; this is proportional representation. No, we do not need to go to a Parliamentary system to implement this. Other bicameral systems use it currently, and it has opened those political systems wide open to different views and organizations. It would break up both national parties into parts of their respective coalitions though, and would make winning Presidential elections a harder path. So it is not in the interest of either national party.

The other major problem brings us back to the early part of the post. This is instability. The system of government we rely on has one important premise to work. This is a word that has become quite dirty these days and is leading to levels of instability not seen since the early days before the Civil War. This is compromise. Without it, we will continue to move from crisis to crisis, and continue to become unstable. But, for that we need the radical Republicans to stop hating the government they themselves got elected to bring down.

Francis Wilkinson writes in Bloomberg about our Radical Republicans:

For them, Greenberg notes, Washington looks nothing like the capital many others see. Gridlock? There is no gridlock. Only a socialist steamroller before which the Republican Party is feeble and afraid. “Evangelicals who feel most threatened by trends embrace the Tea Party because they are the ones who are fighting back,” the report states. Republican base voters “think they face a victorious Democratic Party that is intent on expanding government to increase dependency and therefore electoral support.”

This is the context of the fight against Obamacare. The basic idea — similarly articulated by some Republican officeholders, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz — is that Obama has extended a new entitlement to create a class of lazy, poor voters whose well-being is dependent upon the Democratic Party. Shorthand: more 47 percenters.

“Their party is losing to a Democratic Party of big government whose goal is to expand programs that mainly benefit minorities,” the report states.

This is critical. There is no way to compromise with people who believe their very way of life is at risk. Now this is not a Constitutional problem perse. It is a myth making problem. It is partly based in how we understand history. These people see this as a manichean battle between good and evil, that if they lose, they might have to take up arms. In fact, some are already talking that way,

For example we have Truckers for the Constitution planning to shut down the beltway, but one of their leaders told this to US News and World Report, which Huffington Post says has since been retracted.

“We want these people arrested, and we’re coming in with the grand jury to do it,” Conlon told U.S. News. “We are going to ask the law enforcement to uphold their constitutional oath and make these arrests. If they refuse to do it, by the power of the people of the United States and the people’s grand jury, they don’t want to do it, we will. … We the people will find a way.”

This is the kind of language that real nightmares are made off. So we have entered into a crisis period in the United States. This is a trend that we have been on for at least ten years, and some of us have observed this in other places over the years, There is no longer a way for  the comentariat to hide from this. Welcome to this new reality, as we continue to go down this path of government by crisis. This is also what Empire Collapse looks like, and we might very well be in the early stages of that.

I wish I could offer you some popcorn, but this is not a movie, nor is this fun.

Categories: analysis, debt ceiling, economics, editorial, labor, shutdown, Uncategorized

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