in which I despair over American politics
Today I sent an email to my colleagues in which I said that the more optimistic newspaper reports suggest that we’re heading for a government shutdown, while the more pessimistic ones suggest that the Democrats will just cave completely.
The Republicans in Congress are proposing deep cuts in core services, and the Democrats seem to be meeting them half way. The deficit commission itself included in its core principles that we should not balance the budget on the back of the most vulnerable, and that we shouldn’t cut so quickly that we put the recovery at risk. They suggested that we should start stabilizing spending in 2012, and yet we’re slashing services in this year’s budget, with the year half way gone. I’m increasingly convinced that for a significant part of the Republican party in Congress, cutting social safety nets is a goal in itself, not a means to the end of cutting deficits. And if given the choice between cutting taxes and cutting deficits, they’ll choose cutting taxes every time. Meanwhile, the Democrats take the rhetoric about deficit cutting and shared sacrifice seriously, and go after their own base to show that they’re serious.
And it’s killing me, because it was completely predictable that this would happen in December, when they made the grand bargain to extend unemployment benefits for another year, and the Bush give aways to the rich for two more years, but didn’t pass a continuing resolution, and didn’t extend the debt ceiling.
I just finished reading Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s Winner Take All Politics, and I am deeply depressed and scared. I’m not entirely convinced by their economic analysis (which I’ll write more about another day), but I am totally persuaded by their tale of how big business and the financial sector have consistently blocked increased taxation of the hyper rich and regulation. (Not that this is a new story to me, but they do a good job of putting it in historical context.) But the book came out last year, so they leave it pretty much as a story about how divided government and the increased use of the filibuster protects against any progressive changes through “drift”. But what we’re seeing now is not drift, but an all out attack on the role of government.
And meanwhile, I get lots of messages on Facebook and twitter about the attack on abortion rights and the threats to NPR, but most of my lovely middle-class progressive friends don’t seem to have noticed that there’s an all out war on the poor. I know, that’s not quite fair, some of you have. And I haven’t been banging the drums about it myself, because it doesn’t feel like it will make any difference. But unless we can build a movement that Chuck Schumer is as afraid of as John Boehner is of the tea partiers, we’re going to get compromised down the river every single time.