"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."
- Abraham Lincoln
At exactly 10:11 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday night, the 218th vote required to forestall the wrath of stupid people was cast in the US House of Representatives.
Whoop de freakin' do.
I honestly don't know where to begin. The breadth and depth of this land mass of abject Fail is genuinely breathtaking. The right-wing trucker protesters coming to "arrest" Congress who were chased off by a traffic cop. The Confederate flags waved in front of the White House that houses a Black family, folded into a veteran's protest that got co-opted by Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, who yowled about not using veterans as pawns even as they shoved veterans out of the way in order to get in front of the red lights of the news cameras.
Heritage Action, the activist wing of the Heritage Foundation, has been the hood ornament of the "Defund Obamacare" movement since President Obama won re-election in 2012. The final attempt by House Speaker John Boehner earlier this week to present a legislative alternative to a Senate takeover of the process - thus salvaging a shred of integrity for himself and the chamber he allegedly leads - was dashed to bits by a letter from Heritage Action warning against any concessions. That one letter scattered his caucus like geese. Just after 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, however, Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham presented himself on Fox News, of all places, and said, "Everybody understands that we'll not be able to repeal this law until 2017."
At one point on Tuesday, the House GOP's island-of-misfit-toys idea of a good deal was to strip their own Congressional staffers of their health insurance, because damn it, someone has to get hurt to make this whole mess worthwhile. Not long after that punctured trial balloon hissed out of existence came another lumpy Hindenburg trailing a banner that read, "Contraception Clause," which also, after a few ticks, crashed and burned. After that, there was some muttering and growling about the House passing something, anything, and then blowing town so as to leave the Senate holding the bag. As they couldn't even come to a consensus on the wetness of water, however, that quasi-terroristic tactic never saw the light of day.
And then there was Ted Cruz, Republican Senator from Texas, who has been declared politically dead by the entire "mainstream" news establishment. Did Mr. Cruz ravage the GOP's image root to branch by leading this quixotic charge against the Affordable Care Act? Every poll says "Yes." Does he give a tinker's damn what anyone thinks? His face, and his bank account, say "No." Mr. Cruz has been fundraising on this for a while now, so you can kiss his ass. He doubled his fundraising take this quarter, raking in close to a million dollars, and received a hero's triumphant welcome at the base-of-the-GOP-base Values Voters Summit. All this is why he ran for the Senate in the first place: Teddy ain't care, and if you happen to be one of the flock who bought into his "Kill Obamacare" rhetoric, consider yourself right and properly sheared. You are his useful idiot, and he thanks you for your patronage.
The flabby cry of Republican Senator Lindsay Graham on Tuesday afternoon - "We won't be the last political party to overplay our hand. It might happen one day on the Democratic side. And if it did, would Republicans, for the good of the country, kind of give a little? We really did go too far. We screwed up." - speaks for itself. Carve that on his tombstone. As far as political epitaphs go, few have deserved this one more than he.
The government will have sufficient funds to remain open until the middle of January. The debt ceiling has been lifted until the first week of February. As it turns out, the foreshortened deadlines - particularly in regard to the budget - were actively sought by Senator Harry Reid. Had the deal to keep things running encompassed more time, the sequester would have been locked in for another full budget year. Mr. Reid, it seems, wants to attempt to do away with sequestration in the upcoming budget talks before that happens, and from a position of strength. Maybe he'll get rid of it, maybe he won't, but he wants to try. Given the sudden spine he has displayed throughout all this, I am willing to let him take a hack at it.
And as we are on the subject of praise, let us give due respect to the President of the United States. Mr. Obama has taken all manner of flak from "smart people" who say he should be more like Lyndon Johnson and work Congress, massage Congress, glad-hand Congress, and that his failure to do so somehow makes him equally culpable in this fiasco. This is, in point of fact, piebald nonsense. It requires a very special misunderstanding of history to believe that members of Congress in Johnson's day bear any resemblance whatsoever to the meth-addled barn swallows we endure today.
The president's bargaining position throughout this process amounted to "No," and then "No," and then "No," and then "No," and then "No," and then "No," and then "Please proceed," once his opposition collapsed upon itself in disarray and raced to be the first to offer surrender. Politically speaking, this was a rout, and the man holding all the cards hardly said a word.
And so much for the bullshit.
According to Standard & Poor's, this nest of gibberish cost the country $24 billion. An analysis by the much-respected Macroeconomic Advisers puts the total tab for all the budget/debt limit/shutdown mayhem unleashed by the GOP since 2010 at $700 billion, with an additional cost of 900,000 jobs. Very smart people are making the point that the larger damage has already been done, default or otherwise. On the smaller scale, millions of people - government workers, veterans, the disabled, the poor, children - have already felt the lash, and got a full taste of genuine fear when it looked like they were actually going to put the car into the wall.
Anyone you know who has the gall to call this a "victory" is an idiot. Aside from the actual pain this thing caused is the fact that all the Democrats won in the end is a few months of government, and a few months of not looking economic Armageddon in the teeth. The GOP just got a budget CR that operates at the sequestration level they set the last time we spun this Merry-Go-Round, and a faction of their party will try this hostage-taking thing again after the New Year to get even more. Of course they will.
This was a zero-sum gain, and a lot of people lost, badly. It was a nifty exercise in disaster capitalism, more proof of the power of the shock doctrine, and nothing more. Whoever tries to tell you otherwise is selling something.
Finally, anyone who says this mess spells the end of the Tea Party phenomenon is fooling themselves. If anything, the re-branded right-wing created by the Koch Brothers and pimped by CNN will greet the dawn on Thursday morning re-invested in the idea that Jesus hates the poor, women and all brown people, just goddamn because. They see themselves as victims even when they win. Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and the rest of the sharpies will be there to egg them on and pick their pockets. Mark my words: these people have learned no lessons, ceded no ground, and are not going anywhere anytime soon.
Also, there is there is still the Trans-Pacific Partnership to contend with, plus Chained CPI and Medicare means testing (both of which Mr. Obama floated not long ago, which will make an appearance in the budget debate, count on it), plus the Keystone XL pipeline, plus the ongoing voter restriction efforts, plus the all-important 2014 midterm elections, plus, and plus, and plus, and plus, etc.
Take this to heart, friends and neighbors: rust never sleeps, and there is never, ever any rest for the weary.