Thursday, February 5, 2009

Please, a New Torment!

I have watched the stimulus deadlock with increasing incredulity. There’s enough blame to go around, after all, Obama’s plan has remarkably little public works funding, and quite a bit of pork, but it is the House Republicans who really amaze me.

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Here they are, clamoring for more tax cuts. Their media mouthpieces, like Limbaugh, are opining on op-ed pages that ‘tax cuts work!’ Yet… we’ve had eight years of tax cuts, unprecedented in a time of war, and we’re in a state of economic ruin. They are opposed to ‘big spending’ for boots-on-the-ground projects like highway, school and hospital infrastructure – the very projects that are most labor-intensive and so put the most people to work, but seem to have no real problem with a massive war, or very costly tax cuts.

One Republican senator, who was narrowly re-elected, recently said: ‘If you want to stimulate the economy, increase military spending’. Excuse me, but isn’t that another thing we’ve been doing for the last eight years? Am I missing something or are these people psychologically incapable of evolving new ideas, trying new solutions?

And Obama, ever the compromiser-in-chief, is enabling this foolishness. He and the congressional Democrats stuffed the House bill full of tax cuts, yet still didn’t earn one vote from their hyper-partisan brethren across the aisle.

The time has come for some spine. If giving these one-trick ponies all the candy they ask for cannot yield a single vote, then Obama and the Democrats must take to the bully pulpits. They’ve got to start decrying the gridlock tactics of the other side, and they’ve got to stop watering down their own goals and principles to mush.

Compromise is a good thing. I’m all for it. But compromise denotes movement on both sides, and that simply doesn’t square with the Republican concept of compromise, which is capitulation… of the other side, on all major points. If these folks will not play ball, if they’d rather posture as Rome burns, then it’s time that they get called on it. Their intransigence can be pointed out to the American people.

But not with window dressing. Obama’s $500,000 per annum freeze on executive salaries for bailout recipients is just that. First of all, this stricture is only in play in the most heavily bailed out corporations. It is quite watered-down for others (for example, the corporations can pay more, much more, and only have to present a non-binding resolution to their shareholders to allow said shareholders to vent their impotent spleen). Moreover, these execs can still get massive stock and option compensation. Perhaps if they couldn’t sell these instruments until after they’d left the company, they would have some incentive to actually make the company profitable in a sensible, robust way, rather than gambling and gutting it for short-term stock price gains, but there is no such provision. This is a nice bit of political theater, designed to salve the populist rumblings that are echoing and gaining amplitude. It’s not mature, useful, or sensible policy. It’s politics.

But back to our friends across the aisle: Couldn’t they come up with some other policy to annoy me? I mean, their outsourcing of the military has resulted in the cost of an in-theater meal to the troops in Iraq quintupling (and Cheney’s Halliburton stock options gaining over one thousand percent). Their tax-cuts have further realigned this country’s income distribution to resemble a post-modern serfdom, or perhaps the land barons and compesinos in Latin American backwaters. Their de-regulation has resulted in the worst financial crises since the Depression (well, we hope it won’t be worse than the Depression – I think the jury’s out on that one). Their war in Iraq will have plundered over a trillion in national treasure and taken or irretrievably damaged at least hundreds of thousands of lives. I mean, come on, give me something new! I appreciate that you make insane policies that damage the country and raise my blood pressure, but please, give me a new torment!

Suggest we melt down homeless people and sell the tallow! Or set up concentration camps for those whose unemployment insurance has expired. If fetuses are full human beings in your world-view, how about tax cuts for the fetuses of the wealthy? Something, anything but the same old tax cuts, increased military spending, privatization, and de-regulation.

I am waiting to be appalled and amazed. I am hungry for more incredulity. Please, wow me, shock me, awe me with a new, creative plan for destroying my country!

(This post is a precursor of ‘Invective Day’, a bi-monthly purge that this blog commits to. A schedule of ‘themed days’ will be posted soon on the sidebar.)

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