Connecting the dots is the way this game is played. There are two stories and one op-ed up today that at first glance may not seem to be related. But they definitely are.
The first headline screams something about lawmakers in Washington scrambling like mad to cut a budget deal in the lame-duck session to avert a national catastrophe quaintly known as the "Fiscal Cliff." This totally manufactured piece of disaster theater was set up after the Debt Ceiling Kabuki a year ago by an unelected senatorial "Supercommittee" which stipulated that unless Congress cuts a budget deal this year, there will be horrible terrible cuts to Pentagon spending and the Bush tax cuts will expire. Sounds pretty good, huh?
Not so fast, citizens. Another headline shrills that one of our unarmed American spy drones was shot at by the Iranians a few miles off their own coast, in a terrifying act of misplaced aggression! So if you thought that going off the fiscal cliff and cutting money off from our eternal war machine is still a good idea, be afraid be very afraid. Feel the terror, and submit before you hurl.... off the cliff.
Even though reasonable people reasonably state that the fiscal cliff is more like a gradual slope and that there is no urgency in letting us slide gently down it for awhile next year until a new,
somewhat more liberal Congress can deal with it at its customary leisure, The Times is having none of this calm rationale. It sees a "rising urgency" in getting a deal cut. That is because Catfood Commissioners Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson (the B.S. Duo) are leading an astroturf rampage of Wall Street CEOs in a Bain-like campaign to gut the social safety net in order to enrich themselves. The Times article reads like an unedited press release from a centrist think tank (Third Way comes to mind):
Senior lawmakers said Thursday that they were moving quickly to take advantage of the postelection political atmosphere to try to strike an agreement that would avert a fiscal crisis early next year when trillions of dollars in tax increases and automatic spending cuts begin to go into force. (hurry to take advantage of a cowed populace still basking in the O-gasmic afterglow and too busy trashing Karl Rove to notice the incipient betrayal.)
Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, said he had begun circulating a draft plan to overhaul the tax code and entitlements, had met with 25 senators from both parties and “been on the phone nonstop since the election.” (Before his own self-congratulatory tears had even dried on his face,President Obama was also on the phone, reaching out to Boehner and McConnell, while his starstruck fans slept, blissfully unaware of the incipient betrayal.)
Meanwhile, the Iranian attack on a piece of flying metal that resembles an upside-down-spoon was announced for the blatant purpose of scaring us. Call your Congress Critters pronto, and demand that open-ended funding for the eternal war machine to avoid the precipice! If we go down the fiscal cliff in a few months, that will not be good for American Empire and definitely not good for the defense contractors' bottom lines. Drone production will come to a screeching halt unless we act, and act right now, to avert fiscal catastrophe.Senator Olympia J. Snowe, the Maine Republican who will retire at the end of the year, made it clear that she intended to press for a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff and get serious on the deficit, lame duck or not.“The message and signals we send in the coming days could bear serious consequences for this country,” she said. “It could trigger another downgrade. It could trigger a global financial crisis. This is a very consequential moment.” (What a bunch of bullshit. It's not critical, it's not consequential, the deficit is not important to anyone but CEOs, and no way are these clowns even remotely serious. Seriously cynical, maybe. Did Olympia mention she is under consideration for an Obama Administration appointment in between revolving door spins to lobby shops?)Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, extended an olive branch to Republicans, suggesting Thursday that he could accept a tax plan that leaves the top tax rate at 35 percent, provided that loophole closings would hit the rich, not the middle class. He previously had said that he would accept nothing short of a return to the top tax rate of Bill Clinton’s presidency, 39.6 percent. (Democratic mandate? What Democratic mandate? Oh, never mind. Chuck's constituency is the Wall Street plutocracy. But since he's not up for re-election to his permanent seat for several years yet, it's safe to play Bad Cop.)
Oh, and although the alleged attack took place a week before the election, it was not revealed until the Fiscal Cliff crescendo had reached a fever pitch, within hours of the Obama victory. What a coincidence.
And now for the op-ed. The president has safely won re-election, so Paul Krugman is finally getting around to playing Good Cop, urging him not to "cave" to Republican demands for a deficit reduction deal in the lame duck session. The only thing he seems to miss is that it's President Obama himself and the Blue Dog cohort who are leading the charge for a B.S. type of deal. Too many people are still under the impression that Barry is the hapless victim of Republican intransigence, and that it is up to us to urge him to stand strong for the People. Inveterate letter-writer Bernie Sanders says he should go on another 50-state tour (as if the last two years of campaigning were not enough) to repudiate the Grand Bargain the president himself wants. Oh yeah. We are really going to hold Obama's feet to the fire now. Here's my response to Krugman:
We can't say we weren't warned. The president did promise throughout the campaign that he would collaborate with the GOP on a deficit reduction program. Social Security and Medicare will be put on the table in exchange for a bit of token revenue from the plutocrats. The free market, which is laughably portrayed by the media as an actual living being with feelings, must be placated at all costs. Wall Street actually went all droopy the day after the election. Fetch the smelling salts, quick.Even though Mitt Romney lost, the powers-that-be are still operating under the theory that the deficit hawks and the vulture capitalists hold all the cards. No matter that, excepting for Barack "Teflon Don" Obama himself, every single candidate who voiced support of Bowles Simpson, lost their races this week.
But no worries. The confetti was still floating through the Chicago air when the president picked up the phone to reach out to Boehner and McConnell.Never mind the liberal mandate that was handed to him by an increasingly progressive nation. Never mind that only 10% of respondents in exit polls said their main concern is the deficit.
The "fiscal cliff" is a contrived bit of disaster capitalism dreamed up by the corporate class that runs things in this country. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are leading an astroturf movement of 80 CEOs, yammering hysterically for social spending cuts in the name of increased profits and lower taxes for themselves. Meanwhile, the complicit news media spews endless propaganda to keep the populace cowed. Economic collapse, we are told, can be averted only by tightening our own belts, funding the endless wars, and enriching the oligarchs.
Grand Bargain? More like a Bargain for the Grandees, and a grand betrayal of everyone else.
So, you voted and thought you were giving the victors a mandate? Think again.
As Sheldon Wolin wrote in "Democracy, Inc.",
Today elections have replaced participation. Elections enact a kind of primal myth in which “the people” designate who is to rule them, that is, who is to authorized to wield government power. Authority or authorization means not only that some official is enabled to perform a particular action (e.g. has the means to enforce the law) but also that he or she is entitled to assume that citizens will accept the decision and comply. Thus an election, at one and the same time, empowers a Few and causes the Many to submit, to consent to be obedient. Submission entails more than obeying the law. Citizens, regardless of whether or not they voted for the elected candidate, are expected to defer to those who were elected, to give them the benefit of whatever doubts there are about the wisdom of a particular action or law, to the identification of democracy largely with voting, there is the risk that legitimation can become automatic, tantamount to a slippery slope ending in Tocqueville’s submissive citizenry.