Tag Archives: budget control act of 2011

To the Brink…An Unnecessary Condition of Affairs

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I have resisted writing much about the shutdown that has beset our nation the past two weeks and the looming debt default. Truthfully I don’t know what to say. I am amazed that we have reached this point, but then at the same time I am not. I saw it coming in 2011 when the I wrote a couple of articles while nursing a broken leg. One The Deal is Done and are We? There are Always Results was written the day the deal was done, the other Be Careful…there is a point of no return and we may have crossed it was written the day prior to the deal.

Both articles lamented the state of the body politic of the nation and recognized that the actions of our political leaders, men and women elected by us were much less about the budget than a cultural war elicited by the unbridled hatred of our fellow citizens.

Back then I wrote:

“The attitudes that we have formed and angry words which we now use so ubiquitously are reflective of a deep hatred that now is becoming what defines us as a people.  In fact the deep and abiding hatred which now permeates our society is now threatening the international standing and I would say the national security of the United States.  We have only ourselves to blame because through our actions and inactions of the past decade we have made our choice to be what we have become and there is no one group especially in our political, media and business elites that have served us well.  In fact we have as voters chosen this toxic mix of elected officials often more influenced by hate spewing pundits and our own self interests rather than that of the nation and future generations much as we would like to claim that we are looking out for the future.”

I am an American. I serve my country regardless of who the President is. I have served under five Presidents now. In each case there have been things that I have liked and disliked about each of them as well as policies with which I have disagreed. But for me the fundamental principle was always the good of the country. That is something that I cannot say exists, especially in the Jacobins of the Tea Party who have driven the country to the point of default for no good reason.

People can say that their opposition to the Affordable Health Care Act is a matter of principle. But it is law and has been deemed Constitutional by the Supreme Court. Shutting down the government and bringing about default is not the means to change a law, even one that some despise.

The government shutdown, the default and the Sequester brought about by the Budget  Control Act of 2011 are dangerous. I see them from a national security point of view. In national security parlance our national power is not merely based on military power. It is what we call the DIME. The Diplomatic, Informational, Military and Economic power of the nation. These factors all have been weakened by the shutdown, the threatened default and the sequester. Our status as a world power is directly affected by these actions, and like it or not in our globalized interconnected world all these factors matter. The actions of Congress, particularly the members of the House precipitating these actions are dangerous, irresponsible and stupid.

It doesn’t take much to figure out that the Chinese in particular are attempting to use this to their advantage. The are lobbying for a new world economic order which would replace the Dollar as the world wide reserve currency. The loss of this would harm us immeasurably as many of our advantages in trade, finance and other economic matters are directly related to our economic and political stability and trust of other nations believing that we will act in a responsible matter.

Likewise there are people that have become unhinged. Today I had a comment on the site which I did not allow from a man in Louisiana (IP address lookup is a cool tool) who was more extreme than many of the more extreme Tea Party extremists I have encountered. By labeling these particular people extreme I am not making a blanket statement about people in the Tea Party because I know many good people who I count as friends in the Tea Party movement who are rational, reasonable and non-violent.

That being said I have gotten past the point of needing to engage unhinged internet trolls or giving them room to spout their hatred on this site. The man was spouting the most insane babble, a mixture of Alex Jones paranoia and simple hate devoid of any real real arguments. I went to his site and saw that this was his normal writing style. It was scary because his answer was violence.

I am reminded of what Robert E Lee testified before a Senate hearing after the defeat of the Confederacy.

“I may have said and I may have believed that the position of the two sections which they held to each other was brought about by the politicians of the country; that if the great mass of the people, if they had understood the real questions would have avoided it. I did believe at the time that it (the war) was an unnecessary condition of affairs, and might have been avoided if forbearance and wisdom had been practiced on both sides.”

That is what we face today. There is a hard core of idealist who will not compromise, who see compromise as weakness and defeat. They lack the understanding that the very narrow latitude prescribed in our governmental structure and Constitution prescribed by our founders demands compromise. Otherwise the system cannot work. It is not perfect by a long shot. There will always be things about the country that one faction or another does not like and attempts to change through the normal legislative process. That is what is supposed to happen in order to form “a more perfect union.” However that is not what is happening in this case. The radicals appear to want to destroy the country allegedly to save it.

I know not what tomorrow holds. I hope and pray that the shutdown will be ended, a continuing resolution passed and default averted. However I do not know if it will happen, and that should cause all of us regardless of our political views to ask just what the hell are we doing?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under economics and financial policy, History, national security, News and current events, Political Commentary

My Way or the Highway: The Zero Sum Game of American Politics in 2013

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“Politics is an art and not a science, and what is required for its mastery is not the rationality of the engineer but the wisdom and the moral strength of the statesman”Once upon a time in America there was a time when we had people in government who were statesmen.” Hans J Morgenthau 

These men understood something about the Constitution, representative government. pluralism, tolerance and dare I say compromise. Yet all were men of principle. The honestly believed in and worked toward the goals that they believed best embodied the American body politic as well as their own political, ideological and even religious beliefs. Basically when we cut to the chase the real thing that sets them apart from the legislators of today was that they knew that compromise was actually desirable in many cases. They understood that there were times to “duke it out” on Capitol Hill but that at the end of the day that as Americans we could have different opinions yet still come together for the benefit of all Americans, not just those that we were beholden to for the money needed to keep us in office.

But that was a different era. Men like Edward Dirksen, Scoop Jackson, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan or for that matter even Jack, Bobby or Teddy Kennedy would not survive in the zero-sum politics if 21st Century American. They would be despised by their political “allies” even more so than their opponents.

The sad thing is that in the United States of 2013 it is much easier to be against something than it is to be for something. Likewise it is now more beneficial for politicians of both parties in the gerrymandered congressional districts which ensure the safety of the incumbent to adopt a no-quarter attitude. It has allowed elected leaders to adopt a zero-sum game of no-compromise.

The results are a broken system of government, a deep division of the people almost all of whom distrust and even despise the very people that they elected.

As I watch the current proceedings in Washington I am reminded of what I thought when the “deal” to agree to the sequester was reached. I remembered the words of Thomas Jefferson concerning the Missouri Compromise. I knew back in 2011 that the even the threat of sequester would not change the behavior of those in Congress, particularly the Tea Party faction of the Republicans, a group who have in many cases so wedded the most uncompromising aspects of religion to political ideology that there can be no backing down for them. Politics is an extension of God’s will. It is the extension of the theology of Christian Dominionism which has at its center the takeover of the systems of the world by Christians, the Seven Mountains theology. That is why compromise if there is any in the current situation will by only delay the reckoning.

Jefferson noted: “but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. a geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.” 

We need a revival of statesmanship in our country but in the current political environment I fear that those who would attempt to be statesmen would not survive. Much like Weimar Germany our politicians, pundits and preachers, the Unholy Trinity are paving the way for something unimaginably terrible when they finally wreck our current system of government. They are doing it and those who do not speak out against them regardless of our politics have to take part of the blame.

Martin Niemoller wrote after the Second World War:

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me –
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, leadership, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary, Religion

Fiscal Cliff Notes: There are Always Results

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I am not a fan of heights. I find cliffs, bridges and tall buildings frightening. As a result unless there is like a high wall that I cannot be thrown over I stay far away for the edge. I think the correct term for this is ohnosplataphobia. This is the fear of what you say when you realize that you are going over the cliff and the last words that you say before you hear the sickening sound your body makes when it reaches the bottom. “Oh no”…splat.  There are several derivatives of this, there is “Our Father which art in…” splataphobia, the “Oh shit”…splataphobia, the “Did I remember to lock the car door…” splataphobia and my favorite the “Fuck it all you assholes….” splataphobia.

When we visited New York a few years back we went to the top of the Empire State Building and 30 Rock. Both gave us very good views of the New York skyline and no I did not come even close to looking down.

Sometimes I watch movies where there are scenes where a character dives off a cliff or some other really tall place. We were watching the 3D version of Men In Black 3 the other night and the scene where Will Smith has to dive from the top of the Chrysler Building was enough for me to hold onto the couch for dear life.

But now our nation is at what everyone is calling the “Fiscal Cliff” which if you ask me would be a terrifying horror movie if it wasn’t real. In fact in term for the phobia of people like me to the Fiscal Cliff is the “Fuck it all assholes…” splat. Of course the assholes are all the idiots in Congress who a year and a half ago passed a law on the extension of the nation’s debt ceiling in 2011 to keep the nation from defaulting on its debts. It was called the Budget Control Act of 2011 and basically it was caused when the Republicans  decided, believing that anyone that they ran against Obama in 2012 would win, forced a showdown on the usually innocuous measure of extending the debt limit. So to get the deal done all parties joined together to pass this bill, which is such bad legislation that it will screw everyone in the country if our elected leaders don’t do something about it.

Back when it was passed people pretty much figured that with a year and a half before the big mandatory across the board cuts, quaintly called “sequestration” which I think is similar to what happens when you castrate the cast of Sea Quest, except that it happens to all of us.

Since we are not a dictatorship and Mussolini is still dead and magically make things happen we have to depend on both houses of Congress and the President to figure this out. Now in the past we did these things. Politicians frequently compromised to get things done for the benefit of the country even if they did not get everything that they, or their supporters wanted and for the most part we were all better for it.

What I think needs to be done now is drastic. I am really pissed off that the House of Representatives, led by the Orangeman himself John “I need a smoke” Boehner didn’t even show up to work today. I mean that is really responsible. I think that all the members of Congress, House Members and Senators of all parties need to be forced at bayonet point into chambers and not allowed off of the House or Senate floor until they get a deal done. No office visits, no runs to the coffee shop, no ordering pizza for everyone, no conjugal visits and no smoke breaks.

Now I am not completely inhuman. They would get to go to the shitter, except that instead of going to one of the nice ones that our tax dollars pay for we would bring shitters to them. Yes it would break up the decorum of the place but we could put an inadequate number port-a-johns around the wall of the chambers and not empty them until the deal was done. This would be kind of like what happens when KBR-Halliburton contractors run Forward Operating Bases.

We should give them MREs to eat and all the Pabst Blue Ribbon and Busch beer needed to get the deal done even if that means that the port-a-johns overflow. The C-SPAN cameras should be going live the whole time Then maybe these assholes would do something, and if they don’t they should be allowed to leave, at the point of a bayonet. This may seem rather harsh and undemocratic but these men and women, of both parties are failing the country and seem more attuned to those that through their massive campaign contributions help keep them in office.

Will this happen? Probably not, but back when the Budget Control Act of 2011 was passed I knew that it would come down to this. I remembered and wrote about this on August 2nd of 2011 (The Deal is Done and are We? There are Always Results )and I quoted Thomas Jefferson’s words about the Missouri Compromise:

“but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. a geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.” 

God help us all.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under News and current events, Political Commentary