Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

17 October 2013

A Real Solution? Not Yet!


Our media are all breathless with a “solution” to the crisis that our Republicans manufactured. If all goes well, by the end of the day we’ll have a government that is open for business and can borrow again.

The stock market will surge. And we Yanks, whose greatest skill these days seems to be congratulating ourselves prematurely, will celebrate. Break out the champagne!

By its own terms, this “miraculous” solution will last through January 15 for government operations and February 7 for borrowing. In sixteen weeks the whole show will begin again.

The People’s Republic of China has five-year plans. We have sixteen-week plans. Who do you think is going to win in the fierce but peaceful competition long under way?

I keep waiting for a little ® to appear next to the terms “government shutdown” and “debt default.” Below them will be the lawyerly legend, “Government Shutdown® and Debt Default® are registered trademarks of the Republican Party.”

Republicans certainly don’t want the Dems to use their intellectual property when the GOP is in power. So why don’t they just register their trademarks and be done with it?

Anyway, what will happen to our democracy, i.e., to majority rule? John Boehner will still be Speaker. You could see from his little Ted-Cruz smirk that he’s pleased with himself. He put on a good show for his Tea Nuts and kept the whole party together, at least for now.

Having changed nothing and apparently having learned nothing, Boehner will still follow the so-called “Hastert Rule,” at least after today. That means he will require majority Republican support, rather than a simple majority of the whole House, for the House to pass any bill.

According to the House’s own official Website, it now has 232 Republicans, 200 Democrats and three vacancies. So if 116 Republicans and all 200 Democrats want to do something, their bill will never reach the House floor.

Think about that. That’s 116 Republicans and 200 Dems—a total of 316 out of 432 members. That’s 73%. And under the “Hastert Rule” they can’t do anything. Didn’t our Founders and our high-school civics courses say something about majority rule?

That’s what’s wrong with our country. It’s not the Tea Party. We’ve always had nuts in this country. We’ve always had a Confederacy, explicit or tacit. Now its political arm is the Tea Party. So what? It just hid itself better than usual.

We should have known, but our media failed us, badly. They were so riven by the human drama and that entrancing and aggravating little Cruz smirk that they failed to give us the basic facts: who are these people and whom do they represent? Now we know.

Until the last two decades, we’ve never let our South rule us as a minority. Didn’t we once fight a Civil War about that?

The Confederates have never been able to convince a majority of us to see things their way. But now they don’t need to. They just need a 27% minority in the House, a 41% minority in the Senate, or a single Senator willing to stick his or her neck out and “hold” a bill or presidential appointment that the vast majority of us want. Then they can bring Congress and our government to a halt.

The rogue senator doesn’t have to stick a neck out very far. Unlike a presidential veto, a Senate “hold” can’t be overridden. And much of the time it’s secret and anonymous, so the public doesn’t even know. Not even the senator-culprit’s own constituents need know.

He or she can stab our democracy in the back in the dark. Senator Shelby of Alabama has done this to the President’s appointments seventy times.

Numbers matter. Procedure matters. Rules matter. And they have changed so we no longer have a democracy. It’s that simple. Those smooth Southern pols, with their soft voices and soporific accents, have lulled us into giving up our birthright as a nation, without a shot fired.

But don’t worry. Our President has a plan.

It involves those sixteen weeks. If today’s “precedent” holds, by next November we will have gone through this selfsame farce approximately seven times.

Think we’ll all be mighty sick of it by then? I hope so. By then, maybe most of us will have realized that our government is not our enemy, but our friend. Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder.

But by then, we’ll also be a banana Republic and the world’s laughingstock. They rest of the globe, which is not as big on late-night television as we are, will invent new comedy shows just to crack jokes about us. The new global reserve currency will be the Yuan, the Euro, or some come combination of the two (maybe with the Yen). And when we try to offer our advice, foreigners will work hard to look polite but will start to chuckle and guffaw into their cuffs.

There’s always a silver lining. Our good people, having wised up at last, will finally vote out the goons who don’t believe in government and vote in some who do. With Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress, we’ll be able to change the rules and restore majority rule in our Congress. We might even save our Democracy, but we’ll probably be too late to save our global leadership.

So please don’t tell our moron-bullies about the President’s plan. It might not make much difference to them. They don’t seem to pay attention to much beyond the voices in their own heads anyway. But stay mum just for caution.

If we let the President use his superb skills, we’ll have a wild ride for a bit over twelve months, and then democracy again. We’ll be a much-diminished nation. But won’t majority rule be worth the roller-coaster ride? And do we have a choice? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to join the Confederacy quite yet.

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