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

01 October 2013

Why the President Must Stand Firm


[For a popular three-day-old post about selfishness not being a strategy, click here. Fighting bullies takes priority.]

It’s taken a long time to drive our moderate, empathetic, thoughtful and prudent President to this point. But now he—and we—are beginning to understand why “don’t negotiate with terrorists” is a good general rule.

There is so much noise and confusion about this issue, almost as much as about so-called “Obamacare” itself. But the principles at stake are now much, much bigger than the President’s signature legislative program. And they are now also crystal clear. I’ll try to keep it simple, with just five points.

1. Minority rule is inherently unstable, not to mention un-democratic and un-American. I first made this point just a few days ago, about Bashar al-Assad. [search for “unstable”] I never thought I’d be making it about my own country.

But make no mistake about it. The Tea Party is out to impose minority rule on our nation. According to a Washington insider, the number of hard-core Tea Party hostage-takers in the House is somewhere between fifteen and 45. No one knows for sure, because John Boehner has been very careful to keep the exact number secret, from his own party and from the nation.

But if it’s as many as 45, that’s just 10.3 percent of the 435 members of the House. Even Assad and his Alawites have a larger minority in Syria, about 12%.

The other Syrians, as we all know, have fought minority rule for over two years, at incredible cost in pain, displacement and suffering. We should, too. Are we any less courageous than Syrians?

2. If we don’t take a stand, extortion will never end. What would Boehner and crew be offering if they “compromised”? A six week continuing resolution is the most they’ve proposed so far. Earlier, there was talk of an even shorter one, of one or two weeks. Anyway, the risk of default comes up in just a few weeks.

So after all the dust settled and the markets tried valiantly to calm themsleves, the Tea Party would be ready to do it all over again. This is why good leaders generally don’t negotiate with terrorists and hostage takers, except in extraordinary circumstances. The more you bargain, they more hostages they take. This extortion will never end unless it ends now.

3. This test is a dress rehearsal for a national default. The Tea Party is making a stand on a government shutdown because they think it doesn’t matter. Our economy will take a hit, whose size will depends upon how long it lasts. But markets won’t go into an immediate tailspin, and we won’t risk a second global economic collapse.

But we will if we don’t raise the debt ceiling and cause a national default. We could seriously damage ourselves economically even if we came close to a national default.

If we don’t take a stand now, the Tea Party will play brinksmanship with our economic recovery and the global economy as often as it likes. As every kid who’s ever fought a bully on the playground knows, you have to take a stand some time. It’s best to do so before there’s too much at stake.

4. This is a power play, and nothing else. This extortion is not about policy, let alone health insurance. It’s all about power—minority power.

If you’ve followed the travesty of Tea Party “policy” for the last year or so, you might have noticed that there’s no there there. There is no policy at all, let alone a consistent and reasonable one. There is only relentless negativity and hostility, if not hatred, toward our duly elected President. The closest thing to a coherent policy that anyone can discern is to run out the clock of Obama’s presidency with one phony crisis and act of political theater after another.

How can you tell? The Tea mob has jumped from opportunism to opportunism like a confirmed scatterbrain or a short-lived butterfly. First, it bad-mouthed the deficit and national debt. Then it was the Sequester, which the Mob promptly forgot, along with it’s being the only real deficit reduction the GOP has accomplished (or cooperated in) since Democrats first took the Senate in 2006. The Tea Party then torpedoed immigration reform, conveniently forgetting about its need to garner Hispanic votes and the landslide by which Mitt Romney lost among every ethnic, racial and religious minority, including Hispanics.

Now the Tea Party has focused on Obamacare, which has no evident relationship to the debt or deficit, let alone any of the serious problems (including immigration reform) that our nation has been facing for almost a generation.

If you think the Tea Party has a coherent plan, let alone a good one, you just haven’t been paying attention. What passes for their plan is selfishness as a national ideology.

These men (they are nearly all men) after after power and nothing else. If they get it, they will then decide what to do with it. But they won’t tell us, the people, beforehand. Letting them take minority control is a recipe for immediate and complete national disaster.

5. The South lost the Civil War but has been trying to take the nation by stealth. It is an open secret that the heart of the Tea Party is in the South. The world’s best propagandists took the name “Tea Party,” thereby evoking Massachusetts and Paul Revere, just to confuse us.

But few in Massachusetts (our most educated state) are dumb enough to fall for that. Look at where the Tea Party comes from. Nearly all its members are from the South and lower Midwest. Even John Boehner’s district is about as close to Kentucky as you can get and still be in Ohio.

The South lost the civil war 147 years ago. But it has recently decided to take over our country with filibusters, Senate holds, and now House “revolts.” It has nearly succeeded.

The South’s culture of bossism, racism and willful ignorance of things like evolution and global warming is anathema to what made our nation great. If we succumb and let this ignorant minority rule us, we will lose our Republic surer and quicker than if we had lost the Civil War.

Enough is enough. We can’t live like this, let alone govern ourselves. The time has come to let the GOP shoot all the hostages its lust for minority power and immorality allows, including (if it comes to that) national default. Then it must accept the consequences next year.

There are things worse than a government shutdown, and even a (one hopes temporary) national default. One would be succumbing to rule by a minority from our most backward areas, driven by power alone, without a trace of a coherent plan, empathy or understanding of what made our nation great, and an historical tendency to follow whatever boss or tyrant manages to climb up the top of the heap. We must resist that sorry fate at all costs.

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