It would be nice to think that with this week’s collapse of The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the Democrats had finally tired of being buggered by the mythical unicorn of bipartisanship. That adopting President Obama’s penchant for shoving half his chips across the table to the Rethugs before the first card is dealt, that negotiating with themselves on issues like the budget deficit, are not winning strategies.
But that would be giving the Dems more credit than they’re due. As the supposedly transparent
Stupor Super Committee meetings dragged on, it was soon apparent that they were all too eager to abandon their traditional role as the protector of the middle class and the broader social safety net. Some reports had them expanding the ratio of spending cuts to taxes by factor of 10, over ten years. (By contrast, Simpson-Bowles fixed the ratio at 3:1, while the first Clinton budget called for a 1:1 ratio spread over four years, including an increase in marginal tax rates for America’s wealthiest from 31% to 36% )
Fortunately for the Dems and their political brand as protector of the middle class and the social safety net, they were saved by the Grand Obstruction Party’s absolute refusal to take “yes” for an answer. The latter’s position is dictated by their total dependence on Teabagger funding billionaires willing to issue the political death penalty to anyone who would even think of raising taxes on them for any reason whatsoever. Really, that says all you need to know about “Washington gridlock.”
The Rethugs’ Chief Executioner, Grover Norquist, is the cult leader of Americans For Tax Reform. He is also an influential member of the legislation churn out factory known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Grover used to be a behind the scenes influence peddler, but recently he’s been all over my teevee, including last week on 60 Minutes, smirking his way through various interviews.
Norquist’s claim to fame has been his success in getting 95% of Congressional Rethugs to drink the One Percenter Koolaid, forcing them to shift their fealty from upholding the US Constitution to his infamous no-tax pledge. The consequences of his goal to “starve the beast” of government; to “…to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub” are outlined by the ThinkProgress War Room in a post titled:
One Oath to Rule Them All
What It Means: An Oath Of, By, and For the 1 Percent
The GOP’s oath to Grover Norquist has serious practical consequences — consequences that are bad for our country. Here’s just a few examples of what Republicans oppose en masse as a result of the oath they apparently hold most dear:
• Republicans oppose making the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share
• Republicans oppose making huge corporations pay their fair share (or even any taxes at all in some cases)
• Republicans oppose ending unfair tax loopholes that allow millionaires and billionaires to pay a lower tax rate than middle class Americans
• Republicans oppose ending unfair handouts to hedge fund billionaires
• Republicans oppose ending tens of billions of dollars in handouts to Big Oil
• Republicans oppose ending unfair tax loopholes that pay companies to ship jobs overseas
• Republicans oppose ending unfair tax loopholes for vacation homes and yachts
• Republicans oppose ending unfair and ridiculous tax loopholes for things like wealthy horse breeders or corporate jets
And in these deficit-obsessed times, we know that unfair government handouts to millionaires, oil companies, and giant corporations have to be made up by cutting spending elsewhere in the budget. So refusing to make everyone pay their fair share means programs that benefit the other 99 Percent each and every day get cut deeper as a result of the taxpayer-funded handouts going to the top 1 Percent.
IN ONE SENTENCE: The only oath our elected leaders should take is to the Constitution, not one to a Republican lobbyist who embodies an unfair system rigged to benefit the top 1 Percent.
Last summer as the battle over the debt ceiling was raging, The NY Times wrote an editorial titled Signing Away the Right to Govern that expanded on the theme of patriotism versus self-interest, noting along the way that both George H.W. Bush and the patron saint of the GOP, Ronald Reagan, proactively raised taxes when circumstances dictated:
It used to be that a sworn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution was the only promise required to become president. But that no longer seems to be enough for a growing number of Republican interest groups, who are demanding that presidential candidates sign pledges shackling them to the corners of conservative ideology. Many candidates are going along, and each pledge they sign undermines the basic principle of democratic government built on compromise and negotiation.
…Washington, the ideologues decided, corrupted true conservatives into moderates.
More was needed to keep them in line, which gave birth to the signed pledge — no more enforceable than a spoken promise, but a politician’s actual signature was seen as more binding. The oldest and most pernicious of these modern oaths was dreamed up by Grover Norquist, the leader of Americans for Tax Reform, who has managed to get 95 percent of all Republicans in Congress to pledge never to raise taxes for any reason. If they end tax deductions, Mr. Norquist’s pledge-takers say they will match the increase in revenue with further tax cuts. That pledge is the single biggest reason the federal government is now on the edge of default. Its signers will not allow revenues in a deal to raise the debt ceiling.
When Standard and Poor downgraded US Treasuries for the first time in history, they specifically cited the political paralysis evident in this summer’s manufactured debt ceiling crisis and how the resultant higher interest rates would increase the deficit.
Bloomberg News @ 8/6/11:
Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S.’s AAA credit rating for the first time, slamming the nation’s political process and criticizing lawmakers for failing to cut spending or raise revenue enough to reduce record budget deficits.
S&P lowered the U.S. one level to AA+ while keeping the outlook at “negative” as it becomes less confident Congress will end Bush-era tax cuts or tackle entitlements. The rating may be cut to AA within two years if spending reductions are lower than agreed to, interest rates rise or “new fiscal pressures” result in higher general government debt, the New York-based firm said yesterday.
What historically made the USA great was its guarantee of equal opportunity to all and help for those who, through no fault of their own, fell short of the traditional American Dream. But the foundations of American egalitarianism are being undermined by the destructive fungus among us– multi-millionaire and billionaire proponents of a new social Darwinism characterized by a survival of the meanest mentality that concentrates wealth in richest 1 and 1/10 percent, with little concern for how it is obtained.
In a post I wrote last May titled Moral Insanity: Psychopaths & Sociopaths, I cited an essay that quoted the father of modern psycopathological research, Dr. Robert Hare (emphasis added):
“[V]iolent criminals are just a tiny fraction of the psychopaths around us. Hare estimates that 1 percent of the population — 300,000 people in Canada — are psychopaths.
He calls them “subclinical” psychopaths. They’re the charming predators who, unable to form real emotional bonds, find and use vulnerable women for sex and money (and inevitably abandon them). They’re the con men like Christophe Rocancourt, and they’re the stockbrokers and promoters who caused Forbes magazine to call the Vancouver Stock Exchange (now part of the Canadian Venture Exchange) the scam capital of the world. (Hare has said that if he couldn’t study psychopaths in prisons, the Vancouver Stock Exchange would have been his second choice.)
Since then, another study of psychopaths confirmed Dr. Hare’s last comment, as reported by MSNBC’s Marisa Taylor on MSNBC.com on September 27:
[…] A new study from a Swiss university finds that financial traders are more uncooperative than psychopaths and that they have a greater tendency for lying and risk-taking.
As part of their executive MBA thesis at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, forensic psychiatrist Thomas Noll, a chief administrator at the Pöschwies prison near Zurich, and co-author Pascal Scherrer studied the behavior of 28 financial traders in a decision-making game, comparing their performances with those of people who were diagnosed as psychopaths.
They expected to find that, like the psychopaths, the traders would be uncooperative with others, but that they’d perform better at the game because, as Noll said, traders “are supposed to be good at making money. In social interactions, they’re supposed to be good at performing.”
But the two authors were shocked to discover that the traders were actually more uncooperative and egocentric than psychopaths when playing a prisoner’s dilemma game — a type of gaming scenario where participants can choose to cooperate or betray each other.
Moreover, even though the traders lied and took risks more than their psychopathic counterparts, their performance at the game was about the same as the control group. This means the traders not only didn’t play well with others, they also didn’t do any better at the game than regular Joes…
Interestingly, the traders scored much lower than the psychopaths did on cold-heartedness and the externalization of guilt, meaning they didn’t place the blame on other people when they failed.
No, they were intelligent enough to realize what total assholes they were, and probably proud of it. During the Senate investigation of Enron‘s collapse, audio tapes of two Enron energy traders emerged that perfectly captures how their minds work. As CBS News reported at the time:
Four years after California’s disastrous experiment with energy deregulation, Enron energy traders can be heard – on audiotapes obtained by CBS News – gloating and praising each other as they helped bring on, and cash-in on, the Western power crisis…
“They’re f——g taking all the money back from you guys?” complains an Enron employee on the tapes. “All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?”
“Yeah, grandma Millie, man”
“Yeah, now she wants her f——g money back for all the power you’ve charged right up, jammed right up her a—— for f——g $250 a megawatt hour.”
And the tapes appear to link top Enron officials Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling to schemes that fueled the crisis…
If the same people who created the shit storm that is sweeping this beleaguered planet were held to account for their actions; if they were indicted, convicted, fined, jailed, demoted, fired, forced to listen to Sarah Palin word salad verbosities 20 hours a day— then might justice prevail. Instead, they’re allowed to keep their jobs, given a raise, promoted, or allowed to retire with multi-million dollar golden parachutes.
Accountability is for wimps. Or as one of America’s foremost foreign policy commentators, The NY Times’ Thomas Friedman, told Charlie Rose about what young American troops should say to the newly invaded and devastated Iraqis as they kicked down their front doors: “Suck. On. This.”
A One Percenter rationalizes the destruction of Iraq