(Image source: The Washington Post)
“Cut it or Shut it!” — Republican chant during the 2011 and 2012 budget and fiscal crises…
Though it appears Republicans may at last cave in their current game of economic brinksmanship, let’s be perfectly clear who or what’s to blame. It was not typical bickering in Congress. It was not the fact that Republicans and Democrats disagreed on a whole host of issues. And it’s not because, as Alan Greenspan says, our political system is a failure. It’s simply because Republicans decided to link an ideological issue surrounding a Republican drive to kill Obamacare to the broader issue of keeping the government, and everything else for that matter, running.
What we witnessed was not the failure of a political system, but the drastic moral and intellectual failure of the Republican Party. A party whose entirely irresponsible and selfish actions brought us to the brink, yet again….
A Bankrupt, Extremist, Callous and Irresponsible Ideology
There seems to be no rational limit to Republican idolatry of an ideology, in the service of wealthy special interests, that has proven morally and rationally bankrupt time and time again. And in the most recent government shut down and debt default crisis, the direct threat is now that both the US and world economies would steadily go bankrupt as Republicans attempted to foist their extreme political agenda on the rest of us one more time.
Analysts noted that the recent government shut-down (tied directly to Republican demands for concessions over Obamacare) cost Americans more than 100 million dollars per day and that the number would likely balloon further if the shut-down continued. Similar analysis also showed that the related debt default (also tied to concessions), beginning at midnight tonight, could result in total losses to the world economy in the range of 2.5 trillion dollars over the course of just one year (about 4.2 percent world GDP). Despite these ominous warnings, Republicans appeared, until the very last minute, to be in denial of the ongoing and growing risk resulting from their imposed shutdown and dangerous games of chicken with national debt default.
Earlier today, both ratings agencies and Wall Street chimed in. Fitch threatened yet one more downgrade in the US credit rating, while Wall Street hinted that the game was up asking Republicans to step down in their ongoing and irrational tirade, primarily to serve a few Wall Street special interests.
The drama on Wall Street and the reports of big dollar numbers masked the more tangible and personal losses that were less apparent in mainstream reporting. Child victims of cancer applying for NIH grants to help gain access to treatments their parents can’t afford had to wait in hopes that the Republican blackmail machine fell off the rails. Hundreds of local parks, military bases, schools, libraries and facilities receiving government grant and funding assistance had hours of operation curtailed, events canceled, or had to make yet one more set of hard choices to keep operating. Hundreds of thousands of government employees were released on furlough due to Republican intransigence and brinksmanship. Scientists, teachers, researchers, doctors, and those supporting police officers, security guards, and firemen were all included in the furlough. Essential research was stalled, education and health care was curtailed, and law enforcement and public safety was jeopardized.
Meanwhile, tens of millions of dollars were cut off from middle and working class Americans each and every day. Americans whose skills focus on finding a cure for cancer, inventing helpful new technologies, keeping a weather eye to an ongoing climate change crisis, keeping Wall Street from imploding, providing revenues for ongoing government functions, or just keeping the essential functions of the most powerful civilization in the world humming. These everyday people are the nefarious ‘villains’ Republicans invoke each time they demonize government in rhetoric or lobby for the dismantling of all things public in their endless quest to serve a corporate profit motive. A quest that has increasingly included an incessant barrage of budget blackmail crises.
Brinksmanship and Blackmail In the Service of Greed
It is a sad fact that the ideology Republicans now serve endlessly pushes for short term gains and concessions for wealthy individuals linked to sprawling, bloated, exploitative, self-serving, myopic, and inefficient multinational corporations. In the case of the current shut-down, massive for-profit health care corporations who stand at risk of losing a small percent of their profits (resulting from over-pricing medicine, rationing health care only to those able to afford spiraling costs, and excluding poor and middle class individuals with major illnesses) after the implementation of Obamacare are the primary beneficiaries of the most recent Republican action. And the Republicans would risk wrecking the world economy in order to preserve the overly exploitative and harmful structures of the for-profit medical corporations and related multinationals. (In Growth Shock, such badly behaving corporations were labeled Godzilla Megazombies or GMZs. In this case, they have certainly earned the title.)
The Republican attitude, in this as in so many other cases, is ‘give us what we want, or we’ll sabotage everything else.’ This destructive and anarchic mind-set illustrates a degree of petulance not seen in modern memory. In other words, large corporations, like the medical industry, are believed to be entitled to exploit their fellow human beings, even to the extent that they shorten their life-spans, for the sake of their corporate and individual profits. If concessions to these self-serving entities are not ensured, the Republicans attack the very system that supports modern civilization by threatening to shut it down completely.
The Latest Link in a Chain of Crises
Sadly, the current crisis is just the latest in a long string of such events spear-headed by Republican and Tea Party backers. Republican brinksmanship has gone in the service of removing women’s rights, de-funding efforts to research human-caused climate change, instilling new systems of voter suppression in the south, neutering legislation supporting SEC efforts to reduce risk on Wall Street, de-funding EPA efforts to keep water and air clean and to regulate US carbon emissions, and a number of other beneficial activities in which the US Government is involved.
In total, these Republican disruptions are estimated to have cost the US population on the order of 900,000 jobs and 51 billion dollars in personal income annually. But the past damage caused by Republicans linking political issues to budget passage pale in comparison to the billions and trillions that stand to be lost should the US government default on its debt or continue to be shut down for an extended period.
One would expect this kind of behavior, and its related linking of funding the federal government through the extraction of political concessions, from a Batman-style super-villain, not from an American political party. So, with Republicans and the American people in general, the level of confusion and cognitive dissonance continues to reach unprecedented highs.
Will the American People Let Republicans Get Away With It?
Political polls covering the current Republican-inflicted shutdown and debt crisis show that Republicans bear most of the blame for the most recent debacle. However, big money ideological interests like the Koch Brothers are likely to spend large sums to muddy the water, shift blame and obscure Republicans role in the most recent shutdown and debt default. So it is uncertain whether the American people will be hoodwinked, as they were during the emergence of the ‘revolution for the rich’ Tea Party insurgency, or if they will hold Republicans accountable for their infliction of harm on the broader American public in order to extract concessions for their special interest backers.
But with Republican congressional disapproval ratings rocketing 11 points to 74%, it appears possible that the Republicans have finally bitten off more than they can chew and the American public has, at last, figured out the implications of their dangerous games. The Atlantic recently published an article listing the 32 Congressmen most responsible for the current government shut down. Small surprise, every one is a member of the Republican Party or a rabid member of the Tea Party Caucus.