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Uncle Sam is a Mean, Right-Handed Son of a Bitch


“Some People Are Essential and Some People Aren’t” 

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>The current partial federal government shut-down imposed is consistent with this bias against the left hand, and for the right hand, of the state. As Aaron Brady eloquently and bitterly observed in a New Inquiry reflection bearing the title “Essentially Vicious” last week:

"Verdana","sans-serif"”> If a government shutdown meant that planes would be grounded, it would never have happened. If a government shutdown meant the NSA would turn off the lights, not a single Republican would have signed on. If it meant that soldiers would stop killing, that police would stop putting people in jail, or that any of the many things that the government does to keep the economy running would come to a halt, it would be a cold day in hell before Ted Cruz would make himself the face of the shutdown…. When the Republicans threaten to blow up the government if they don’t get everything they want, they know that the technocrats won’t let them hurt anyone who matters. The Office of Management and Budget won’t let them hurt the business community, or wreck the economy, or imperil America’s status as world’s warmonger. They know that poor people will suffer the most, and rich people will suffer the least.”[2]

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Empire Abroad, Mothers Scrambling for Food at Home 

shutdown would hit poor people and women particularly hard:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”> The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is on the ‘non-essential’ list of government services to be shut down starting this week. Since 53 percent of infants in the U.S. rely on WIC to meet their full nutritional needs, this is a massive shortfall that could leave a lot of babies hungry and mothers scrambling for food.”

  because some financial aid officers are being furloughed…”

10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>People who struggle to afford food or rent also struggle to afford heat in the winter. These people tend to be disproportionately female. Temperatures are dropping, and if the shutdown drags into the colder months, poor people who depend on the Low Income Home Energy Program to heat their homes  about whether to heat their homes or feed their kids.” 

10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>Temporary Assistance to Needy Families is a program overwhelmingly used by women—specifically single mothers—and  line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>With 700,000 federal workers thrown out of paid employment for the time being, the demands on these and other supposedly non-essential programs can only be expected to rise.

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“Some Kind of Crime Against Nature”

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>Brady might have deepened his sense of how “essentially vicious” the shutdown is by adding that it was launched to stop millions of Americans from attaining government-enabled access to health insurance under Barack Obama’s corporatist and conservative Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Teapublicans do not hate the ACA because it is corporatist or even because of its much-bemoaned “individual mandate,” which requires everyone who can afford it to be insured. They hate the ACA because it (modestly) taxes affluent Americans and expands health care access and coverage for those who can’t afford health insurance under the previous system. “When you talk to [House Republicans] privately,” Congressman Alan Grayson [D-FL)) told Salon last week, “what you find is that if they could repeal Medicare they would. If they could repeal Medicaid they would,” along with the requirement that emergency rooms treat patients who can’t pay for care. “They are literally offended by the idea that people would get the care they need to stay healthy or alive even though they can’t afford it. They regard it as some kind of crime against nature,” Grayson said.[4]

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>Still, we should definitely not exaggerate the extent to which Teapublicans’ supposed “war on government” is proceeding in accord with the wishes of Big Business. A recent Wall Street Journal news item is titled “Fiscal Gridlock Worries Business.” It reports that The Aerospace Industries Association has called the shutdown “a tragic mistake,” warning of significant industry layoffs. Mortgage bankers have voiced worries that home lending and sales will be jammed up by lost access to government data at the Federal Housing Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.[5] A different WSJ piece titled “Prospect of Long Shutdown Stokes Concern” notes that “the risk of a prolonged closure that morphs into a battle over the nation’s borrowing limits is raising concerns among [top corporate and investment firm] economists and executives.”[6]

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";color:black”>The biggest danger has to with the coming due date for Congress to raise the debt-ceiling “It’s true in general that Wall Street dictates our economic policy,” Grayson tells Salon, “but in this case neither [JP Morgan Chase President and CEO] Jamie Dimon nor anybody else from Wall Street seems to have been able to get the Republicans to understand the obvious resulting difficulties that would come from the largest debtor in the entire world suddenly defaulting on its debt.”

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";color:black”>Alan Grayson says that “many Republicans in the House still regard the United States defaulting on its debt as a good thing, despite the fact that they’ve had one presentation after another in their own caucus from Wall Street bigwigs explaining the utter chaos” that would result.[7] Left Business Observer publisher and veteran watcher Doug Henwood recently told Salon’s Josh Eidelson that he’s been “impressed by the erosion of what I thought were the lines of class authority among the American elite. Normally you’d think that [Goldman Sachs CEO] Lloyd Blankfein et al. could go and sit these Republican backbenchers down and remind them of their class duty. But that doesn’t seem to be happening this time.”[8]

color:black”>It’s no small matter what might occur. As Henwood noted three days ago:

color:black”>“The last thing that Big Business wants to see is something that threatens the status of Treasury bonds. They don’t want to threaten the status of the dollar as reserve currency. They don’t want to rock the image of the United States as the most stable capitalist power in the world. Even though the financial crisis essentially originated here, money still flowed to the United States then because it seemed safer than everywhere else. The big boys don’t want to endanger that status….A technical default might not have immediately disastrous consequences, but it would certainly erode that perception of the U.S. as a safe haven. I think they understand it would reduce the status and power of the U.S. in the world, and they don’t want to see that…. “

color:black”>“The Treasury bond market is at the core of American financial economic power. It’s the gold standard of the global securities markets. It’s the safe haven in times of trouble, and if that safe haven loses some of that safe haven status, something happens to U.S. power in the world…. it would promote an awful lot of disorder, and quite possibly a global financial crisis, and another return to deep recession….The consequences of default could be quite tumultuous.”

color:black”>But the “Tea Party people [don’t] particularly care about that,” indicating that “The American elite has lost control, or is losing control, of some of the core mechanisms of its power.”[9]

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bold”>“Klein: But then there’s the funding world, and a lot of the key Republican funders are in the business community and they don't want this shutdown, much less a debt-ceiling breach.”
 

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>The Klein article in which this exchange is found bears an interesting title: “The Left Thinks Business Controls the Republican Party. They’re Wrong.”

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line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>There is little “rational” about the fact that “the white working class has voted for [the militantly ant-union/anti-welfare/pro-low-wage] Republicans ever since Nixon”[16]( not to say that the Democrats have done much if anything to deserve working class votes over the last half century[17]). And one has to wonder how well southern and western Big Mule millionaires are going to make out if the nation is kicked by default into “a huge financial crisis, dwarfing the crisis set off by the failure of Lehman Brothers five years ago.”[18] 

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>But then, the Wall Street emissaries who are trying to “talk sense” to Teapublicans have little credibility when they claim to speak for the full faith and credit of the United States. The financial institutions have been dismantling America’s once proud manufacturing economy and social and economic infrastructure, de-developing the nation for decades They contributed richly to the economic crisis that helped – along with changing electoral demographics, the 2008 Obama election, and the mass media – bring the Newest Right Tea Party phenomenon into being. The economic super-elite has long found the “extreme” right useful as a sort of advance shock troop force to roll back union power, government regulation, and the social safety net and advance neoliberal privatization, “deficit reduction” and (yet) tax cuts for rich.  As Henwood notes, “To some degree the Big Business interests are paying a price for having relied on these [right Republican] characters in the first place.[19]” Now the economic super-elite wants to rein in the Frankenstein it helped create, which boasts its own paranoid-style mass media, which has been stirring the FOX News base into a frothing tizzy with dire warnings about “Marxist Obamacare” and “out of control federal spending” and “Chinese takeover” for more than four years now.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>Personally, I think the big money masters will prevail. A succinct item in today’s New York Times reports that: 

"Verdana","sans-serif"”>leaders jumped on the plan, presented on Wednesday by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee. Meantime, a group of Republican senators has begun meeting with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, to find a bipartisan solution to the twin fiscal impasses….The senators are examining a year-long resolution funding the government at levels that reflect automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, but with added flexibility to help government agencies and departments deal with the tight budgets. The debt ceiling would also be raised…A repeal of a tax on medical devices would lend a face-saving fig leaf for conservatives trying to take a bite out of the president’s health care law. And Republicans are eying new income verification procedures to limit access to the health exchanges under the new law…Democratic aides said they are a positive start — and a ray of hope that has buoyed stock markets and lifted the gloom that descended over Washington nine days ago when the government shut down.”[20] 

 

P.S. Just as I was logging into Yahoo to submit this essay to ZNet (at 11 AM CST, Thursday, October 10, 2013), I saw this headline on Yahoo News: “New GOP Offer: Temporarily Raise the Debt Limit, Then Negotiate Over Shutdown.” According to Yahoo reporter Chris Moody, “The proposal would raise the federal borrowing limit for six weeks and be passed before Oct. 17, the date the Treasury Department says is the final day the government can make payments on all its debts.” I am reminded of the old Jim Croce lyric: “you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind.” 

Paul Street’s next book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, January 2014).

 

Endnotes 

1. Pierre Bourdieu, Acts of Resistance (New York: Free Press, 1998), 2; Paul Street, Empire and Inequality: America and the World (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), xiii-xix, 150-51, 171. 

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/zunguzungu/essentially-vicious/. Emphasis added. 

Amanda Marcotte, “http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/10/01/government_shutdown_from_wic_to_the_panda_cam_seven_ways_the_shutdown_will.html

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";color:black”>4. John Eidelson, “Grayson Blames Shutdown on GOP Literally Drinking on the Job,” Salon (October 1, 2013), www.salon.com/2013/10/01/grayson_blames_shutdown_on_gop_literally_drinking_on_the_job/?source=newsletter Emphasis added.

5. John D. McKinnon, “Fiscal Gridlock Worries Business,” Wall Street Journal, October 7, 2013, A7. 

6. Sudeep Reddy and Brenda Cronin, Wall Street Journal, October 7, A6. 

7. Eidelson. “Grayson Blames.” 

8. John Eidelson, “Tea Party’s Shutdown Lunacy: Avenging the Surrender of the South,” Salon (October 9, 2013), http://www.salon.com/2013/10/09/tea_partys_shutdown_lunacy_avenging_the_surrender_of_the_south/ 

 9. Eidelson, “Tea Party’s Shutdown Lunacy.” 

10. Ezra Klein, “The Left Thinks Business Controls the Republican Party. They’re Wrong,” Washington Post Wonkblog (October 8, 2013), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/10/08/the-left-thinks-business-controls-the-republican-party-theyre-wrong/ 

 11. Eidelson, “Grayson Blames Shutdown.” 

"Verdana","sans-serif"”>Michael Lind, “http://www.salon.com/2013/10/06/tea_party_radicalism_is_misunderstood_meet_the_newest_right/ 

13. Paul Krugman, “The Crazy Party,” New York Times, September 19, 2013. 

 New York Times, Sept. 30, 2013. 

15. Lind, “Tea Party Radicalism.” 

 

17. See Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner Take All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned its Back on the Middle Class (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010); Paul Street, Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008), 3-12. 

18. Paul Krugman, Rebels Without a Clue,” New York Times, Sept. 30, 2013). 

19. Eidelson, “Tea Party’s Shutdown Lunacy.” 

20. Jonathan Weisman, “House G.O.P. Discusses Short-Term Fix on Debt Limit,” New York Times, October 10, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/11/us/politics/debt-limit-debate.html?hp&_r=0 

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