Is it posturing, or is it real? The so-called tea party faction in the Republican party is pushing deep cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and a host of other outright attacks on the people of this country, especially working people. So far, they appear to be holding Republican House Speaker John Boehner hostage to their demands, and thus increasing the risk of a government shutdown this weekend.
The sourness of the budget-busting deal struck in January - extension of tax cuts for the rich in exchange for unemployment benefits and some mild stimulus - has returned with a vengeance. In the now highly charged, bitterly divisive partisan atmosphere in Washington, Boehner has declared he will NOT do a deal that does not have majority Republican support, or that has to be passed by Democratic votes. With such extreme positions taken by these reactionary forces, it is now almost certain that the necessary political discipline for a deal will not happen until AT LEAST the very last moment. That means: shutdown for the weekend, with the real showdown being 11:59 p.m. Sunday night.
But this is a dangerous game, and anyone who thinks it's "all under someone's control," or can't spin out of control, should consider consuming a stiff drink as soon as possible.
With contempt for workers' rights, and bald falsehoods about public services, the fanatical anti-union and anti-labor dogs in the Republican Party demean both public workers and those they serve. Their budget seeks to both impoverish and politically disenfranchise youth, seniors, the poor, immigrants, national and racial minorities, and women. It acts with wanton disregard for for public safety and health. Meanwhile Republican "zombie" economic arguments try to pass off half-baked excuses for corporations sitting on billions of un-invested dollars (a lot of it from the taxpayer-funded TARP bailout, the rest through tax cuts) and not creating jobs, by blaming "excessive government intervention." That intervention, by the way, is the only reason unemployment is not officially at 25 percent.
But the financial backers of Boehner and the tea party, and the suckers and fools who have bought their "pig in a poke," have clearly lost touch with reality. The top 1 percent of the rich could apparently not care less whether there is adequate health care coverage - because they don't need it. They don't think they need public education. They have no retirement problem - if they ever worked at all. Worse, they don't appear to know anyone who does need these things.
They hate regulations and taxes on the fabulous wealth they have accumulated over the past 35 years at the expense of the vast majority of the American people.
They fear government more than ever, and with ever-increasing passion, because it is the only force with the power to curtail the excesses that sustain their lavish, isolated, parasitic, futile and impotent opulence.
Yet it's driving them crazy! Almost schizophrenic or bipolar! Because they need the government they hate more than ever - to rescue them from the abuses to society that their own appetites and disregard for both people and nature engender. Their firms desperately need infrastructure, an education system, security, public health and vast public goods to reinvent themselves, and to participate in and thereby gain from sustainable growth.
Inequality is driving ever greater inequalities. And we have to consider the serious possibility that the "Great Recession" may have critically aggravated the inequality tendencies in this economy past the point of self-correction. Our political institutions may have become too corrupt for ordinary and civil-obedient methods to restore the balance, to ensure that economic growth both happens and lifts all boats, as it must.
We are mindful this month of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King's last days in Memphis, Tennessee, in April 1968, defending public sanitation workers. We recall that there are times when we must must defy unjust laws and regimes. Our memory is enhanced further by the recent example of the Egyptian, Tunisian, and Wisconsin rebellions, in whose spirits Dr. King's message lives and breathes. We the people are always, in the end, our own protection. And we must act now as never before.
In his last speech, Dr. King invoked the parable of the Good Samaritan to explain why he came to Memphis to help the sanitation workers.
A Jewish traveller on the dangerous road to Galilee was beaten and robbed and left for dead. First a priest and then a lawyer passed him by, and both asked themselves, "What will happen to ME if I stop and waste precious time helping a stranger?" Then a Samaritan, whom the pharisees declared could not be touched, with whom a Jew should not even share a cup of water, stopped to help the stricken stranger. He asked a different question, which Dr. King asked, and now we must ask: "If I do not stop and help this man - and all whose fates wait in their shadow - what will happen to US ALL?"
Time to get moving!