Was it John Boehner’s Intent to Sabotage the #Teaparty?

John Boehner

John Boehner (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

There’s a fascinating, very sour interview on Salon.com with Adam Brandon, a leader of Freedom Works. That organization, somewhat defanged in the wake of an acrimonious split with its former leader, the former Texas Congressman Dick Armey, was nevertheless instrumental in forging right-wing discontent with Obamacare into pockets of astroturf activism around the country. More recently Freedom Works played a role in goading Republicans into following the Tea Party line over the shutdown and debt ceiling debacles. Brandon has ideas about the shutdown and House Speaker John Boehner’s motives during it that are worth considering,

I’m not sure if he’s going to be running for Speaker again. I wonder if that’s part of all of this as well. Why did – I mean the way it was crafted…You needed Democrats to pass this. And what I don’t understand is, if the plan all along was to put just basically a pretty clean CR out there and pass it with Democratic support, Democratic members, why even do it? Why not do this a month ago? Or were they actually trying to embarrass some people, or trying to cause this fight? I mean who knows. I don’t know why these things – if this was the plan all along, he should have started this at the very beginning, and just, “Hey, listen, we’re just going to pass this with Democratic votes.”

All along, observers were wondering what Boehner was up to. He looked weak, terrified of a small group of rabid right-wingers who were insisting on an all-or-nothing fight against Obamacare, which Boehner, being an old hand in DC, had to have known was a big fat turkey that was never going to fly. He would not be Speaker without the rabid right, but he would never be able to accomplish anything worthy of a legacy with them. The Tea Party coalition is the entire reason the Republicans have become the Party of No: No major legislation, no enabling of Obama, no compromise ever. Not much ammo there to stake a Speakership on.

Brandon’s paranoid theory actually makes a kind of sense, then. What if Boehner, realizing his legacy was doomed because of this awful hand he was dealt, decided, having nothing personally to lose, to take revenge on his tormentors on the right by giving them enough rope to hang  themselves? What if he was thinking, if they’re going to tear me down, I’m taking them down with me?

Perhaps this is giving Boehner too much credit. But even if this were his intention, and even if it shows him to be more of a master Machiavellian than most had assumed, it doesn’t change the fact that the shutdown caused massive pain, to government employees, to families, to women with infants and children, to cancer patients, to people with disabilities, veterans, to local and national economies. He can’t be forgiven for that. But it would at least make his actions comprehensible. At least we would know, that cruel and heartless though he may be, he wasn’t motivated by sheer insanity.

Graeber: Why Austerity Reflects a Sham Morality

In an interview with David Johnson of Boston Review, anarchist/activist/anthropologist and author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years David Graeber makes a key point about the “morality” behind austerity movements that is destined to be missed by all influential economists, bankers, presidential candidates and media pundits, but which no one interested in ethics , politics, or economics should miss (my emphasis):

David Johnson: What inspired you to write the book?

David Graeber: It came out of the strange moral power that debt has over people. So many times you’re talking to people about the depredations of the International Monetary Fund in the third world, telling these horrible stories about the thousands of babies dying of preventable diseases because people aren’t allowed to maintain malaria-eradication campaigns or basic health services due to austerity measures and debt servicing, and people respond, “Well, yeah, but you can’t say they don’t owe the money. People have got to pay their debts, come on!” That common-sensical notion not only that it’s moral to pay one’s debt, but also that morality essentially is a matter of paying one’s debts can bring people to justify things that they would never think to justify in any other circumstance. For the most part, decent people tend not to think killing lots of babies is justifiable under any circumstances. But debt somehow changes all that. Why is that?

Let’s try to really pay attention to that question, because as citizens of the modern democratic-capitalist world, we are very well-educated to gloss over it. Continue reading

Hank Williams Jr and the Sad State of American Discourse

I will try not to spend a lot of time on the latest overblown media spectacle to distract from what really matters. It probably won’t last long anyway. But the Hank Williams Jr. incident does say something about what’s wrong with the way Americans talk to (or around, at, or through) each other about America. Continue reading

The Austerity of Hope

I call myself a Democrat because that’s how I’ve been registered all of my voting life. In fact, the older I get, the more disconnected I feel from that label. I don’t want to register as an independent because, Bernie Sanders notwithstanding, I can’t get over the prejudice that American independents are all right-wing at heart. Was it George Wallace’s American Independent Party that instilled this in me? Who knows? It’s beginning to feel, however, that the correct radical stance in this disintegrating context is to not register or vote at all. A vote begins to feel like acquiescence to the corruption.

Did Democrats or any other Obama supporter vote for the fiasco of the last month, culminating in the supreme surrender by our audacious leader last night to the anti-democrats of the Republican Party, bypassing the leaders of his own party to give the (fictional) partisanship-loathing centrists of the electorate  the White House is courting for 2012 the illusion of “operational bipartisanship?” Well, yes, we actually did vote for it, unfortunately, and that’s where the whole problem lies. Continue reading

Why Is This Debt-Ceiling Hike Like No Other?

Tyler Durden over at Zero Hedge makes a point overlooked by almost everyone who talks about this debt-ceiling limit compared to previous ones (his emphases):

While everyone and their grandmother is foaming at the mouth how both republicans and democrats hiked the debt ceiling for umpteen times over the past x years, the truth is that never before has the ratio of the proposed debt ceiling to the tax receipt ratio been as high as it is now. At nearly 6 times, this means that the top line (forget bottom line) cash inflows into the Treasury are 6 times lower than the current debt ceiling. And following the upcoming $2.5 trillion this number will surge to almost 8 times.

Continue reading

Dueling Armageddons of TeaParty Rep. Steve Pearce

How many Armageddons?

The leaders of US business in the form of the US Chamber of Commerce, the New York Times reports, spent millions of dollars last election cycle electing the extreme right-wing dynamos now holding the Chamber and the rest of us hostage for the sacred Republican principle of a balanced federal budget (well, sacred except to Reagan, the Bushes, and the Congressional Republican leaders of the last 30 years). One of these intellectual giants the Chamber was particularly generous toward displays the kind of logic these new leaders (and, by implication, the rest of us) are at the mercy of:

The chamber spent $436,953 helping to elect Steve Pearce, a New Mexico Republican, almost 20 percent of the total that he was able to raise and spend on his own.

This month, Mr. Pearce told the radio program “News New Mexico” that cutting federal spending was just as important as increasing the debt ceiling.

“We have talked a lot about Armageddon if we don’t pass the debt ceiling,” he said. “There’s an equal Armageddon on the other side if we don’t start curing the spending problems.”

Set aside that the debt-ceiling “Armageddon” is pending next Tuesday and the other has been pending since Bush and Congressional Republicans spent the Clinton-era surplus on tax breaks for the rich, Pearce evidently wants us to believe  that in order to hold off the second already held-off Armageddon, it’s necessary to bring on the first.

Hey, Chamber, thanks for sending us this leader. Thanks a lot.

“Anarcho”-Capitalism (Proprietarianism) vs. Real Libertarian Anarchism

An American's sacred right to property being profaned.

Continuing from my last post, here reproduced are excerpts from the Usenet debates I had in the summer and fall of 2002, mostly, with self-described “anarcho”-capitalists. The original argument concerned “rights” and “freedom,” but it quickly led, as most debates with “anarchos” go, to the question of property. As I mentioned yesterday, these issues, I believe, lie at the very heart of the debates going on presently over the debt-ceiling (actually over revenues vs. spending) in Congress and the media. But you won’t hear our pundits or politicians for the most part bring it down to the very ground it all springs from. Continue reading