Yesterday brimmed over with news events highlighting what the government shutdown meant in real, “I can’t see the fucking Statue of Liberty?” terms. They poured in from all over, the semi-humorous suspension of a KKK rally due to a park closing, to the far more serious loss of funding for the Women’s Infants and Children’s food program leaving 9 million mothers and children in desperate straits, to the tragedy of children turned away from cancer wards.
Alan Grayson accused Republicans of drinking on the House Floor and I don’t doubt it for a minute. If you’re approaching a political guillotine, you might drink. Or, if you are an absolute idiot and don’t understand you are approaching a political guillotine, you might drink as well. I suspect the latter is the case with the GOP Tea People but there are at least a handful of establishment pols that understand this might not be the best of times. According to Noam Scheiber over at New Republic, Fox News was especially entertaining.
“Every half hour brought another report from a correspondent in the field surveying the landscape of shuttered facilities. The Statue of Liberty. Bunker Hill. My favorite was a group a World War II veterans who’d trekked to Washington to tour the World War II memorial, only to find it barricaded when they got there. Fox played the footage over and over, clearly sensing a prime Kulturkampf opportunity—aging war veterans made to suffer indignities by socialist president. But none of the Foxies narrating the story could quite figure out what to do with the fact that it takes government money to build memorials, and government money to keep them open.” So it stuck out there like a kind of implicit rebuke of the primary reason for Republican’s existence. Luckily, RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus has kindly stepped in and offered to PAY to keep the World War II memorial open for the Greatest Generation because that’s not socialism, I guess, that’s private charity. Sweet guy, but it’d be nice if he ordered a round for the house and did the same for EVERY agency shuttered and federal employee shafted since the shutdown has taken effect…
Still, this is a walk in the park compared to the economic meltdown that might occur should we default on our debt. Economists like Paul Krugman have been pointing this out for the last few weeks, and even stalwart conservatives like the Wall Street Journal get it. I was shocked this morning to read an editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, of all places, lamenting the childish antics of Republicans and eviscerating, in particular, Boehner’s craven leadership. And with good reason. If the US defaults on the debt ceiling, the repercussions will reach beyond our little skiff on this side of the pond and shake the world community. Yesterday, Christine Lagarde, managing director at the IMF said as much: “failure to raise the debt ceiling is a far worse threat to global economy than the current government shutdown.”
So, basically we have about 15 days to raise the debt ceiling. The votes are there to fund the government. According to the Huffington Post, there are now more than 17 Republicans who say they’re ready to pass a bill with no strings attached, giving the House the votes it needs to pass a clean funding bill.
The hitch? House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would have to be willing to put it to a vote, which so far he has given no indication he will do. Why? Because he might very well lose his leadership position thanks to the crazy Tea Party faction that has cornered the Republican brand. So, it appears, the fate of the world economy rest on the vanity of one man.
But maybe RNC chairman Reince Priebus can flag a few right wing billionaire donors and take care of the world economy, too?
In one of Bill McKibben’s environmental speeches on climate change (he’s the co-founder of 350.org) he describes the sophisticated behavior of bees gathering pollen. They calculate the distance they must travel weighed down by precisely as much pollen as they can carry. They navigate many miles and return to a specific hive–and not just a specific hive–but to the very slot from which they departed. Really a miracle of nature, but with a wrinkle. A beekeeper demonstrated for McKibben. He turned the hive so that the entrance slot no longer faced the original direction. The bees stacked up, one on the other, trying to enter the hive in the exact position where the slot should have been, but of course, there was no entrance. Bill and the beekeeper watched in amazement until they could stand it no longer and finally flipped the hive back to its original position so that they bees could flow in.
Yesterday, the Republicans stood in stony silence as the government shut down. As political bees, they seem adept enough at the usual boiler room politics: gerrymandering, fundraising, giving uncomfortably long and pointless speeches, but their single-minded instincts at crucial times do them a disservice. Not just them and their political futures, but, of course, the entire country.
Worse than children, who, after all, are wildly adaptable and after a few failures, will alter course and survive. No, our current crop of Republicans embody the relentless, yet simple hive mind of the worker bee–but, alas, without the work ethic. There’s a kind of zombie efficiency to their destructive behavior. One suspects, deep down, they know they are the walking dead, and simply don’t care. They have been sent to Washington to drown the government and, to that extent, they have succeeded. They are also starving children, slashing 800,000 people from pay rolls, and pushing the country to the edge of another financial crisis.
Worse than worker bees, really. They are bullies who will mindlessly stack up, one on the other, uttering the same banalities to a desperate public. They will surely lose elections over this, but maybe they don’t care in the end? Either way, they are more than a few degrees off from home.