Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lily livers and chicken hearts

A number of important articles appeared today, but they have a common theme which their headlines alone should make manifest:

  • Senate Approves Energy Bill Without Tax Increase
  • Farm Subsidy Reform Fails Again
  • Democrats Bow to Bush's Demands in House Spending Bill
  • AMT: The fight for a fix
  • Democrats Blaming Each Other For Failures
That last, from the Washington Post, is perhaps the most focussed for our purposes:
Now, as Congress struggles to adjourn for Christmas, relations between House Democrats and their colleagues in the Senate have devolved into finger-pointing.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) accuses Senate Democratic leaders of developing "Stockholm syndrome," showing sympathy to their Republican captors by caving in on legislation to provide middle-class tax cuts paid for with tax increases on the super-rich, tying war funding to troop withdrawal timelines, and mandating renewable energy quotas. If Republicans want to filibuster a bill, Rangel said, Reid should keep the bill on the Senate floor and force the Republicans to talk it to death.

Reid, in turn, has taken to the Senate floor to criticize what he called the speaker's "iron hand" style of governance....

Officially, House Democrats blame Senate Republicans, who have used parliamentary tactics to block even uncontroversial measures. But they are increasingly expressing public frustration with Reid and Senate Democrats for not putting up a better fight.
I'm not so sure that even the House Democrats have much to brag about, but they are as giants compared to the spineless wussy shrimps on the Senate side.

What is it with Democrats the last generation or two? Harry Truman must be positively pinwheeling in his grave the way these milquetoasts are carrying on. The degree to which all but the most fanatically conservative segments of the American public have come to positively despise the current administration was manifest in the results of the last election, and it continues to show clearly in every political poll taken on virtually any subject. Yet the Democrats continue to reflexively drop to their knees every time the Republican conservatives (which is most but not all Congressional Republicans) say Boo.

Let me tell you folks in Washington: this is not what the base wants or expects. Out here where real voters live, we are, to be blunt, massively pissed off. We understand that owing to the peculiarities of that useless relic, the Senate, a 40% minority can effectively block anything (something for which you should urgently be working on a remedy) and that there are not 60 Democratic or Democratic-leaning Senators (yet). So?

Take the AMT as a case in point: every Representative and Senator knows with crystalline clarity that it would be suicidal not to pass relief very, very soon: from the 4 million or so taxpayers last year hit by the AMT, to 23 million this year would mean another 19 million households extremely angry with a Congress that let the expected relief slip away. The Democrats had a fine relief bill, but the Republicans objected because the Democrats, as they had promised the voters, weren't going to forgo expected, already budgeted income without getting it back elsewhere, namely in some taxation that ought to be pretty uncontroversial, hitting only the obscenely rich.

But no, the Republicans, who have a certain relationship with the obscenely rich, stuck out their tongues and yelled Boo! And the Democrats, feeling a genetic call not to be denied, fell to their knees tugging their forelocks and saying Yes sir, sorry sir, won't do it again, sir. A group possessed of the guts an earthworm has would have said "Oh, right, you want us, in an election year, to be reminding 19 million middle-class households which party it was that made them pay an average of $2,000 extra in taxes so the rich could get off paying a hair more? Sure! Glad to oblige!" But the genes involved in automatically falling to one's knees apparently do not include those associated with the guts of even an earthworm.

One of these years, the Republican party as it is will implode and we'll again be seeing moderate conservatives of the old style, and when that happens, the Democrats can count on another 40 years in the political wilderness, which is how long it will likely take for them to evolve some guts.

(Late add: I now see that Glenn Greenwald at Salon covered much the same ground today; I guess great minds work alike; either that, or the Dems' situation is so forcefully screwed that it's impossible to not notice.)

The much-touted Mitchell Report is now out. It's 400 or so pages long, and because I want to read it carefully before commenting in detail, I am going to hold off till at least tomorrow. I will say now, though, that preliminary scans suggest to me that--as I anticipated--the public is being served a big platter of nice, fresh, steaming-hot horseshit.

As The New York Times reported in an editorial,
The small-business lobbying group that had a big role in derailing Hillary Rodham Clinton’s effort to overhaul health care in the early 1990s . . . warned politicians and policy makers on Wednesday not to impose new health-benefit obligations on small employers.

The group said in a statement of principles that “a health care system built on employer mandates or on play-or-pay taxes is unacceptable.”
The almost mindless, reflexive greed that seems to now be the powering force of American society, as exemplified above, is quite deceptive. Americans as individuals are not at all Scrooge-like. As individuals, we give over a quarter of a trillion dollars annually; something between one quarter and one-third of Americans volunteer. The Scrooges, then, are not the American people but rather the business community and the government. (The United States gives less per capita than most first-world nations, despite wildly inflated public perceptions: "While surveys regularly show the public thinks that about 20 percent of federal spending goes for foreign aid, the actual figure is less than 1 percent", though other sources say less than half a percent).

This grotesque mis-match between what individual Americans see as the right things to do and what institutional America sees is near the heart of what's wrong with the nation today: its institutions do not represent its citizens. I, and I hope you, vote diligently at every election, large and small; but sometimes it's hard to not to recall the old sarcasm: Don't vote--it just encourages the bastards. So where is relief?

Don't miss this thought-provoking essay from the Christian Science Monitor: "How Iran's president is being undercut"; Ahmadinejad may be a moron and raving maniac, but his bosses are more pragmatic.

And a bravo to Al Gore for telling it like it is at the Bali conference:
"My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here," he told a packed audience at the U.N. climate change summit in Bali. "We all know that."

The Nobel laureate, in fact, urged delegates to push ahead despite U.S. opposition, even to the point of drafting a negotiating document with blank spaces where American participation should be. But while Gore's public criticism of his own country's delegation — and implicitly, of the President who controls it — electrified his audience, what he said next was even more important. "Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it is not right now," said Gore. "We are going to change in the U.S."
Let us pray.

No comments: