Monday, March 1, 2021

America Has a Pope-Queen

 My first reaction upon learning that an obscure Senate parliamentarian named Elizabeth MacDonough had not only single-handedly nixed passage of a $15 minimum wage through the budget reconciliation process, but that Joe Biden "respected" her ruling, was one of absolute chagrin.  Here I was, along with millions of others, so hopelessly addicted to binge-watching The Crown on Netflix, that we didn't even realize we'd had our very own Queen Elizabeth this whole time. She'd been discreetly presiding over the Sceptered Isle of the Senate for the entire past decade!

Granted, she has been pretty easy to miss, given that she only speaks publicly once a year, and that speech is to an arcane youth group. This is not fair. The least she could do is deliver an annual Christmas address to the nation, if not ink a Netflix deal or at bare minimum, go on The View.

 So much for us vanquishing King George in the American Revolution. Admittedly, we in the United States have always craved a monarch, making Hollywood celebrities and rock stars our sloppy seconds. This inbred authoritarian longing also helps explain the fascination many of us in the Colonies have with vapid exiled multimillionaires Prince Harry and Meghan, who are set to regale royalty fans with their own two-hour Oprah tell-all next week. 

But since Harry's granny, Elizabeth II, is only a constitutional monarch, a figurehead with no real power, I think it's high time that Her Majesty's subjects erupt in jealousy for our possession of an all-American monarch who has even more power than our semi-democratically elected president. This unelected and secretive and unaccountable official is able, with the dismissive wave of her little royal finger, to order millions of her subjects to survive - with a stiff upper lip, of course - on $7.25 an hour. 

Joe Biden himself is such a stiff that he would never dream of demanding to know, along with millions of outraged minimum wage reform proponents, who just died and made her Queen.

Born-again self-proclaimed progressive, cosmetic/gender diversity booster, and good Catholic that he is, Biden has actually gone way beyond royalty deference and effectively elevated Elizabeth MacDonough to the status of Pope. Thanks to a Vatican ruling by one of the previous popes in Rome who declared himself infallible, every subsequent pope is deemed to be infallible. The Pope has a direct line to and from God himself. Nobody must ever question what the Pope says, no matter how bizarre or how cruel. When, for example, the Pope forbids Catholic women to use birth control and outlaws remarriage after divorce, and bans abortion even in cases of rape or incest, there are no grounds for appeal. 

Catholics don't like it much, but what can they do besides leaving the church or opening themselves up to excommunication? Biden says he doesn't like Queen-Pope Elizabeth's decision either, but he views it as so infallible that he dare not try to reverse it. 

For their own part, senior Democrats, including Kamala Harris, have also followed suit and pragmatically abandoned all hope for fear of entering the hell of party and donor retribution. Senators Ron Wyden and Bernie Sanders renounced their own workaround bill, which would have penalized major corporations for failure to pay employees at least $15 an hour, for the very plausible reason that major corporations would easily have found their own workarounds to the odious requirement of paying workers a decent wage. 

Therefore, with Biden's abject surrender to Elizabeth of the Senate, not even the Supreme Court can be prevailed upon to overrule the Parliamentarian and declare her de facto unitary powers to be unconstitutional. Not that the Court ever would, of course, entertain such a thing. The reactionary majority would likely reimpose slavery if they could, guided by their own cynical reliance on the glorified pantheon of slave-holding "originalist" writers of the Constitution. This infallible document is either to be literally interpreted as a Bible, or conveniently ignored whenever the bottom line of capitalism is threatened, or twisted into a subversive parody of itself when, for example, assault rifle profiteers and sociopaths can legally define themselves as well-ordered militias.

Joe Biden, reactionary originalist stiff that he also is, claims that his hands are tied on the parliamentary minimum wage defeat. His overruling or firing of Pope-Queen Elizabeth would be a mortal sin, punishable by condemnation by his financial backers, who also own and control the Democratic Party.

So, although theoretically his hands are not tied - because both Catholic dogma and his own electoral mandate do acknowledge the concept of free will - Joe Biden is afraid of catching hell from the oligarchs he serves, the pantheon of demi-gods presiding at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable who adamantly oppose a $15 minimum wage - which, by the way, should not be confused with a living wage, now estimated to be about $24 an hour at the bare survival minimum.

He did promise these movers and shakers that "nothing would fundamentally change" when he became the figurehead president. The infallibility of capitalism will never be challenged by him, loyal courtier that he is.

As he goes about the business of having no power, it turns out that even with his hands tied, he is still capable of dropping bombs on Syria without the approval of anybody, not even the Pope-Queen herself. Congress, however, theoretically does have the power to stop the bomb-dropping. But once again, the rule of adhering maniacally to the Constitution whenever it's convenient and blandly ignoring it whenever it's not, especially applies when it comes to the unitary executive's power to wage war and kill people whenever the mood hits him, or whenever the de facto kings in the profit-driven "defense" industry (the Pentagon) order him to.

Biden press secretary Jen Psaki, meanwhile, soothes that Biden will spend the next few days... or weeks (or months, or years) figuring out "the best path forward."  Whenever people are being denied nice things, politicians can always fall back on evoking the Bible. Joe Biden, even with his hands tied by a tangle of silly string of his own making, is made to sound as though he is a saint, forever and always seeking the way, the truth and the light.

While Joe Biden is bound, the rest of us gag.


Anonymous said...

if Elizabeth MacDonough is the Queen/Pope, Joe Manchin is the King/Judas

I appreciate your reminding us of the Originalists and the slave-holding Originals. It explains a lot about how these obscure rules keep us circling back and spiraling in.

Erik Roth said...

No end to outrage for loathing ...

Joe Biden says his hands are tied on a $15 minimum wage. That's not true.
Democrats argue that it’s impossible to deliver a higher minimum wage, when there are plenty of ways to overcome this impasse.
March 1, 2021 ~ by David Sirota

Biden Sells Missiles to Fascists + US Base Destroys Ancient Coral Reef —
Feb 19, 2021 ~ by Abby Martin
Abby Martin covers Biden's first arms deals to major human rights abusers Chile & Egypt; another US military base in Okinawa, opposed by majority of residents, threatens unique biodiversity; militia puts US at crossroads of a new Iraq war; Ecuador's presidential election defies US imperialism.

Biden's Doublespeak About Ending Yemen War —
Feb 11, 2021 ~ by Abby Martin
Abby Martin explains what President Biden really means by the duplicitous language in his major Feb. 4 foreign policy speech on ending the Yemen war.

This Is Us: Why the Trump Era Ended in Violence —
The Capitol insurrection was born of a violent minoritarian tradition that is as American as apple pie—and it isn’t done yet.
January 20, 2021 ~ by Rick Perlstein

Don’t Look Away — The Big Lie is Still Out There
February 21, 2021 ~ by Heather Cox Richardson

mjb said...

Karen, you really rang the bell with your blog today. Your ability to describe the depressingly dysfunctional state of our government/social order in the manner you do is so impressive. You're an artist. You've definitely 'got the chops' (to use a music metaphor).

It's getting harder and harder to find any hope for the future. How long will it take these so called 'suburbanites' to realize how lame Joe Biden is and that he is just a weaker more boring version of Obama. Parliamentarian? That sure wouldn't stop the GOP from getting what they want. But, what can a President do when it goes against the wishes of the capitalist masters? It doesn't look like an FDR playbook is even possible today unless things get much more dangerous for capitalism. And then what?

Jay–Ottawa said...

I missed the part where white smoke drifts out from the Capitol dome. Habemus papam!

Remember the Obama years? His administration turned out to be like weather for the month of March: in like a lion, out like a lamb. Shortly after taking office, Obama sprung the first of his rabbity surprises by walking backwards into the White House den on most of his big campaign promises. No happy warrior he, just a smiley compromiser.

Understandable that in the following midterm (2010), hopey voters sulked in a stupor while Republicans picked up 63 congressional seats, gained 6 more senate seats, and flipped 20 more state legislatures. The big shift is known as the “Republican Wave.”

Obama’s understudy, “Sleepy Joe,” is moving likewise along the same path. The $15 minimum wage has been consigned to Limbo by the Senate parliamentarian. (Should we bow or curtsy?) “Let it be, let it be,” say Biden/Harris. All the Democratic representatives and all the Democratic senators cannot come up with a workaround to put the minimum wage bill back together again. Sad.

Imagine if Mitch McConnell were presented with a detour sign by the parliamentarian. He’d stomp the sign into splinters, threaten the parliamentarian’s federal pension and have anonymous voices calling through the night to say: “We know where your kids go to school.” You’ve gotta admire Mitch for his can-do spirit, even as he destroys you. Sweet delta male Schumer makes nasty alpha male McConnell look good.

Need I spell out what we can expect in the 2022 mid-terms? After which the rollover Democrats will settle into their customary comfort zone blaming Republicans (and Russians or Chinese or Iranians) for all the bad things that will surely happen, among which (you heard it first here) will be a total repeal of all minimum wage laws, state and federal, and several more claw backs yet to be announced.

Will said...


Great post as usual. It reminded me of this tweet from Caitlin Johnstone right after Biden took office:

You can do it Democrats! Just two years of stalling progressive change before you lose the House and Senate and can start claiming the lack of progress is due to an obstructionist congress!

The Joker said...

There are so many diverse areas where Biden will reveal whether four years of Trump was enough to generate an epiphany about this nation's underlying fascism and trigger meaningful changes away from it, or whether it's just back to another form of business-as-usual under a different wing of the uni-party.

In that regard, has anyone here seen either The Guardian article below or the WaPo source article? I am almost speechless. As The Guardian article says, it IS a new low.

"Ice reached a new low: using utility bills to hunt undocumented immigrants.
Our government is effectively forcing people to choose between heat in their apartment and the risk of deportation."

"Last week, the Washington Post revealed that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) has paid tens of millions of dollars since 2017 for access to a private database that contains more than '400m names, addresses and service records from more than 80 utility companies covering all the staples of modern life, including water, gas and electricity, and phone, internet and cable TV'. The information has been mined by Ice, the Post reported, for immigration surveillance and enforcement operations."

Jay–Ottawa said...

Thanks, Will. But I was disappointed in your link, which only showed how Caitlin Johnson on twitter, in January 2021, was stealing my stuff from March 2021.

What I was hoping for was your customary link to music (on YouTube) that lent grandeur to the politics under discussion. C'mon, what do you suggest as background music or a brief punctuation note for the Biden years?

Jay–Ottawa said...

@ Joker

Recent administrations are making it so hard on our ICE agents. All that expense and eyeball strain to catch the illegals through the fine-comb perusal of electricity bills. A misuse of manpower; ICE agents were trained for the field, not desks.

The real fix against illegal immigration was invented long ago: PAPERS. As in “Papers, please, papers!” a frequent demand, for no special reason, from someone usually wearing a dark uniform. At least in black and white movies depicting Europe in the Thirties and early Forties, especially on trains in the neighbourhood of Nazi Germany and Vichy France. I believe the requirement continued after WWII.

Over here too, Americans ought to be required to carry papers proving we hes and shes are legally going about our own business in the land of the free. I’d tuck the new requirement into the $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill –– but only with the parliamentarian’s blessing of course.

Kat said...

How can anyone profess to admire the works and writings of MLK and Caitlin Johnstone at the same time? She strikes me as a malevolent actor.
And speaking of-- malevolent actor or useful idiot?

Valerie L Tweedie said...

I should have done this sooner, but my husband and I just figured out how much $15 and hour actually is. If we take a 50 week year - let's assume these people won't get a paid vacation - it is only $30,000 before taxes and social security and the other little bits are deducted. And the Greatest Country on Earth can't figure out a way to pay working people - not "welfare queens" - this small amount? I made $30,000 as an elementary teacher twenty five years ago. This is appalling. I don't care if businesses pass the expense onto the buyer. I will gladly pay. Just give working people a half decent hourly wage.

BTW - The minimum wage in Australia is around $20 an hour with a 25% loading if the employee is a casual worker. And Republicans plus 8 brace yourselves - Australia hasn't gone to the wolves. Furthermore, all those employees have free medical care.

My husband, who got his masters degree in South Africa and lived there during Apartheid, says that the U.S. is looking more and more like the South Africa he gladly left behind.

voice-in-wilderness said...

This caused me to read about the position of Parlimentarian. From that I take away::
(1) It is advisory, not a statutory authority.
(2) The holder of the office is at the pleasure of the Senate majority leader, which currently seems split to consist of Schumer and McConnell. So they could, Trump-like, issue a tweet and fire her if they chose to do so!

I take it as a reminder that the Senate, over decades and with the support of both parties, has voluntarily adopted rules to make their function difficult. For example, it was a wake-up to me when I realized a few years ago that filibuster does not require any more action than pushing a button, no speechifying, no discomfort, no embarrassment.