Politics: DEBT TALKS

Predicting the Future? Stewart Calls Out NJ Question to the President … From December — VIDEO

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Aug. 2, 2011, 6:36 a.m.

Ex-MA Gov. Mitt Rom­ney (R) stumped for Gov. Butch Ot­ter (R) 10/6 “in an ef­fort to pump up sup­port among” Mor­mon voters “in south­ern and east­ern” ID.

Boise State prof. Jim Weatherby: “I’m not sur­prised Ot­ter brought Rom­ney in, not for his sup­port of a health care man­date in Mas­sachu­setts, but for his pop­ular­ity in east­ern Idaho. … (The Mor­mon vote is) a sig­ni­fic­ant factor in east­ern Idaho, where Butch Ot­ter has not run very strongly.”

Want More On This Race? Check out the Hot­line Dash­board for a com­pre­hens­ive run­down of this race, in­clud­ing stor­ies, polls, ads, FEC num­bers, and more!

Ac­cord­ing to busi­ness­man/event host Frank Vander­Sloot, act­iv­ist/ex-Har­vard prof. Keith Allred (D) “has been send­ing” Mor­mons “the mes­sage, ‘I’m Mor­mon, so vote for me be­cause I’m one of you guys.’” Vander­sloot: “My an­swer to that is, well, Harry Re­id is a Mor­mon.”

Ot­ter: “Mitt and I have very sim­il­ar value sys­tems, and I con­sider him a close friend and con­fid­ant.”

Allred: “It’s un­for­tu­nate that Frank Vander­Sloot wants to use re­li­gious and par­tis­an la­bels to dis­tract people from the ac­tu­al po­s­i­tions held by the can­did­ates. I stand for keep­ing taxes low on Idaho fam­il­ies and provid­ing a great edu­ca­tion for Idaho school kids. These are pri­or­it­ies that Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats, Mor­mons and non-Mor­mons alike sup­port. … It’s pre­cisely be­cause my pri­or­it­ies are res­on­at­ing so well with Idaho­ans that Butch Ot­ter has asked Mitt Rom­ney to ride to his res­cue” (Rus­sell, Spokane Spokes­man-Re­view, 10/7).

Even by Wash­ing­ton’s re­pel­lent stand­ards of cow­ardice and blame-shift­ing, the nat­ter­ing nin­com­poopery of the cur­rent se­quester de­bate as­ton­ishes.

Re­pub­lic­ans want you to be­lieve that the more than $500 bil­lion in across-the-board de­fense-spend­ing cuts over the next dec­ade is Pres­id­ent Obama’s fault. It was his idea, they say, and there­fore his re­spons­ib­il­ity as com­mand­er in chief to see that these meat-ax de­fense re­duc­tions — due to be­gin on Jan. 2 — don’t oc­cur.

Obama and his Demo­crat­ic al­lies in Con­gress, mean­while, act as if their hands are tied by diabol­ic­al GOP ob­struc­tion­ists who won’t let an al­tern­at­ive to $1.2 tril­lion in do­mest­ic dis­cre­tion­ary cuts (half from de­fense ac­counts and half from nondefense ac­counts) emerge to avoid po­ten­tially re­ces­sion-in­du­cing aus­ter­ity.

Tues­day on CBS, De­fense Sec­ret­ary Le­on Pan­etta, a former chair­man of the House Budget Com­mit­tee who un­doubtedly knows bet­ter, used the third-per­son plur­al pro­noun to make it sound as if this en­tire mess was the work of space ali­ens, the League of Shad­ows, Lord Vol­de­mort’s de­ment­ors, or crazed eco­nom­ists jacked up on Red Bull, Chee­tos, and Twizz­lers.

“They said if we don’t do this thing, we’ll blow our heads off,” Pan­etta told Norah O’Don­nell. “Well, now they’ve cocked the gun.”

They? Please.

It’s us. As in the United States.  

As in a pres­id­ent ne­go­ti­at­ing a bill with Con­gress, see­ing it passed, and sign­ing it in­to law. Ba­sic civics, people.

There is no they. There is no sui­cide gun. There are only choices and the will to make them. If every­one con­tin­ues to look for “they,” they will miss the “we,” and that will screw us.

Let’s re­mem­ber how this got star­ted. The debt crisis birthed the se­quester. House Re­pub­lic­ans vowed to re­ject any in­crease in the debt ceil­ing not ac­com­pan­ied by a dol­lar-for-dol­lar re­duc­tion in fed­er­al spend­ing. Obama fool­ishly thought they were bluff­ing, much as par­ents in the ‘60s doubted their re­bel­li­ous chil­dren would at­tend Wood­stock, hitch­hike to Haight, smoke weed, or take up mac­ramé.

Re­pub­lic­ans were not bluff­ing. They were con­sumed with the polit­ic­al im­per­at­ive to con­front the debt. They be­lieved it was im­port­ant eco­nom­ic­ally. They knew the voters who gave them the largest gain of House seats since the Great De­pres­sion de­man­ded not just ac­tion but con­front­a­tion. The tea party act­iv­ism had a ‘60s feel to it — con­front­ing the old power struc­ture (not just Obama, but George W. Bush, too) with street-theat­er protests, an­ti­gov­ern­ment signs, and a fe­ro­ciously self-right­eous voice.

Re­pub­lic­ans re­belled, and the power struc­ture could not com­mu­nic­ate with them — not the eco­nom­ists, not the in­dus­tri­al­ists, not the polit­ic­al sci­ent­ists, not the lob­by­ists, not the pres­id­ent. Oh, they were so un­reas­on­able. But they had a cause: tam­ing the debt, or at least erect­ing the highest hurdle ever seen to rais­ing it. No more brain-dead debt load­ing.

And in this, Re­pub­lic­ans suc­ceeded fab­ulously. They forced Obama to do what no oth­er pres­id­ent had: Link a pro-forma ex­er­cise of in­creas­ing the debt ceil­ing to bind­ing, dol­lar-for-dol­lar spend­ing cuts. In ex­change, Obama de­man­ded that half the cuts should come from de­fense if the star-crossed su­per com­mit­tee failed to find oth­er means to achieve equi­val­ent de­fi­cit re­duc­tion. Re­pub­lic­ans agreed.

It doesn’t mat­ter if se­quest­ra­tion was Obama’s idea or if he bar­gained for a 50-50 guns-and-but­ter di­vi­sion of cuts (he is a Demo­crat, after all). What mat­ters is that the law re­flects le­gis­lat­ive in­tent and polit­ic­al com­prom­ise — one set in mo­tion by Re­pub­lic­ans re­belling against the es­tab­lish­ment and the debt-bal­loon­ing ways of old. In that com­prom­ise, each swal­lowed the oth­er’s time-re­lease pois­on pill.

For a party that prides it­self on ori­gin­al in­tent, Re­pub­lic­ans are sud­denly suf­fer­ing a curi­ous bout of am­ne­sia. The se­quester and all its con­tours re­flect their ori­gin­al in­tent — one they per­suaded Obama to ac­cept.

Speak­ing of the ‘60s, let’s hear from Frank Beard­s­ley, Henry Fonda’s char­ac­ter in the 1968 movie Yours, Mine and Ours. It’s the story of a wid­ow and wid­ower who com­bine her eight chil­dren with his 10 and have two of their own. It’s a story of blend­ing fam­il­ies, jug­gling lo­gist­ics, and mak­ing scarce re­sources stretch — all un­der the con­stant fa­mili­al re­quire­ment of com­prom­ise. In one scene, Frank talks to one of his old­est daugh­ters, who is be­ing pres­sured to have pre­marit­al sex. He’s against it.

“Life isn’t a love-in, it’s the dishes and the or­tho­dont­ist and the shoe repair­man … and ground round in­stead of roast beef. And I’ll tell you something else: It isn’t go­ing to bed with a man that proves you’re in love with him; it’s get­ting up in the morn­ing and fa­cing the drab, miser­able, won­der­ful every­day world with him that counts.”

The ‘60s sens­ib­il­it­ies that coursed through the ranks of re­bel­li­ous Re­pub­lic­ans in the debt crisis forced the coun­try in a dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tion and forced new choices they are now for some reas­on pre­tend­ing they don’t own or have some re­spons­ib­il­ity to see through. While not ex­actly the same as some of the shirk­ing tend­en­cies of the coun­ter­cul­ture move­ment, there are par­al­lels.

Re­pub­lic­ans want to force the coun­try to choose ground round over roast beef and be able to an­swer how to do the dishes (FEMA, FAA, EPA, NRC, etc.), how the na­tion will pay for the or­tho­dont­ist (health care) and the shoe repair­man (boots on the ground). But to do so, Re­pub­lic­ans — and Obama — have to ac­cept the drab, miser­able world of $16 tril­lion of na­tion­al debt and four straight years of de­fi­cits in ex­cess of $1 tril­lion.

That is the world we live in. If Obama and Re­pub­lic­ans don’t like the se­quester, then soon­er or later they will forge an al­tern­at­ive. Act­ing like a child throw­ing a tem­per tan­trum and pre­tend­ing there’s no ac­count­ab­il­ity won’t work.

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