Gub’mint shutdown hairball

That big chewy hairball of rage that I wanted to hawk up the other night – but was too jetlagged to choke out? Jim Wright nailed it. There’s plenty of profanity in there, as there should be. It’s appropriate to cuss. We’re dealing with a substantial minority of the electorate who are actively working for the destruction of the republic. Yes Tea Party, I’m looking at you. Their agressive, bigoted, blind stupidity is starting to show results. We were within a hairsbreath of a full-on government failure because of those no-compromise, no-thought jackasses.

These morons are an abject example of why our Founding Fathers designed a republic instead of a nation ruled by an enraged mob made up of ignorant selfish …

It’s a good read. Doubly so if, like me, you’re suffering from outrage fatigue. I’m happy that someone can still muster that level of rage. Me? I just go play in my garden and think about how I don’t have kids. If I had kids, I would probably worry more.

Also: For the record, our country did not “win” because those turds nearly brought down the system but then failed to pull the trigger. I spent a decent part of Thursday and Friday on the phone with federal customers who were trying to figure out how best to mothball some rather stable and robust systems. We did not “win” because we failed to lose in the worst possible way. People give Obama flak for wasting precious minutes caring about his basketball brackets.

I want my money back. For congress. Keep the NPR and Planned Parenthood parts.

In addition, as Scott points out in a comment to the last post, all this posturing and brinksmanship was over less than 1% of the budget. Our structural issues are closer to 1/3 of the budget. In order for 2011 revenue to cover expenditures under current tax law, we would need to cut about 42 times more. Think about “1,600 billion” rather than “38 billion.”*

Even Dwan’s Circumcision Principle doesn’t help us here. I believe that you can lop the to 10% off of just about *anything* and it’ll still work okay**. The same does not apply to cuts of 33%. You take 33% off the top of anything except mint or bamboo and it’ll just give up and die. If we cut deep enough to “fix” the problem, right now, we would kill our whole economy. That’s a Bad Thing, no matter which of the “hoorah go USA” American teams you’re on.

I do think that we need to address those structural issues. Doing that probably does mean massive changes in what it means for us to have an “America” at all. For the last 80 years or so, America has stood for a fairly progressive set of social services coupled with globally low taxes and an enabling environment for corporate growth. It’s clear to me that we’re going to dismantle some of the apparatus of the “welfare state” in the next decade or so. Some of it probably does need to go. Other pieces, not so much. It’s also clear that we’ll need to raise taxes across the board. That, and closing some rather embarassing tax loopholes might get us by.

The idea of cutting vital social services while in the same breath giving a tax break to the top income bracket is just a slap in the face.

More seriously: In any social change movement, there need to be two types: Firebrands on the hilltops, but also conciliators in the trenches. The gay rights movement got this exactly right. Sure, you need the chaps and dildos on parade in San Francisco to get people to pay attention and to draw the bigots into the sunlight. However, you also need the respectable neighbors who quietly put a rainbow flag sticker in their window. The sticker that you don’t notice until you stop over to thank them for looking after the house while you were away – like you have for the past 25 years. The ideologues define the argument, but in the end the conciliators work out what it means to have a civilization under a slightly different set of rules.

Give us time. We’re pretty smart, as a society. We’ll work it out.

The problem today is that the news cycle is too short and the national attention too fragmented. Few people in positions of power appear interested in actually sitting down to do the adult work of running a government. Ideologues don’t compromise. That’s why we nearly closed the passport office over a structural budget issue that’s been visibly building for the past 30 years.

The financial meltdown was just another dead canary in the national coal mine. We can’t run as a nation of debtors forever. At some level, we all need to take the haircut. Those with higher incomes need to pay more taxes. Those with lower incomes need to accept a lower level of social services and a lower amount of free and easy debt. The bastards who have pulled bonuses for steering the ship into the shoals need to be in prison.

Anyway, I can’t summon the rage anymore. Bad for the spleen. Go read Jim’s page. I think I’ll post about my brewing and my garden for a while.

* It bugs the crap out of me when people casually switch units and timescales in the middle of an argument, as in Reid’s $10T savings (over 20 years). For that reason, all numbers in this post are relative to 2011.
** With acknowledgement to Scalzo’s guillotine conundrum

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