Like about 800,000 other people in the federal government (and many others beyond it),
I have been at home without pay (for now) for two weeks -- under orders to do nothing related to my job.
Since my job is related to a whole lot of things, it's hard to figure out what this really means.
For about a week, I cleaned up some loose ends in my understanding of basic physics. I could
have done more of that... but... felt called to really pay attention to what is going on here with the shutdown.
All just my personal impressions, of course, nothing official.
But first, some truth about where I am coming from. I basically agree with the President's position.
Many folks have said he was too soft on terrorism, and encouraged it too much as a result. There comes a point where a slippery slope takes you to a cliff even more certainly than trying to fight your way out.
I'll explain more below... but any honest and sane person should at least really listen to what the President has been saying, as he tries to explain it himself.
As I watch the players... many people demonize Boehner, for obvious reasons. But as I look at the history
of what Boehner has done and is planning to do... I see someone in a pathetically weak position,
who seems to feel "I have to obey orders, to keep my job."
In fact, I have had a lot of contact with staffers in both political parties. Starting in 2009 (when I was a Republican staffer myself on the Senate side), I have heard a whole lot of them complain about their
unpleasant dead-end job as much as any underpaid dissident worker at WalMart. And they explain what it means for them and their boss to have less autonomy than they used to.
So who is in charge, and what are they fighting for, and how long will they be on the scene?
Bloomberg BusinessWeek had a big article recently on "the real speaker of the House," former senator DeMint, head of Heritage. They and others have documented how strenuously the far right
(including Heritage and a few of their allies) have studiously urged House Republicans to "stand firm"
on their hostage threat. One day, when the television news go to be ... less informative than it might have been... I went up to bed and turned on the radio... where all the stations I could get here
(next to DC!) were static, music or... on the one clear station with talk, incessant loud calls to "stand up for freedom, tell your Congressman to stand firm... this was paid for by..."
As I read Bloomberg, I thought back to some articles I had read about a big power struggle in which minions of Koch (and his right-hand man Fink, who ironically might be a distant cousin on the German side... if there is a German side)... took over firm control of several Republican "think tanks." I remembered a meeting at Cato where even Fred Smith, a conservative and head of FedEx, had real problems not being
attacked by the ideological extremists and storm troopers who clearly were in charge.
And so... a quick google search on John Birch Society..... (for which I also have memories)...
When the House clearly failed in its efforts to bluff out the President, lots of rational people thought that the Republican Party, with its respect for the traditions of the Republic and its respect for the economy and for big business (and for its popularity) would do what Boehner clearly wanted to do initially -- pass a clean resolution. Obama has complained that Boehner broke his promises in the conversations they had had; but it seems that Boehner had no power to keep the promises, a bit like the President of Iran who must answer to the Ayatollah.
In truth... the John Birch society people like Koch (of "He who has the gold makes the rules")
really WANTED to shut down the government. That was just a quick realization of their long-term plan.
"The sky is not falling. Better to get it over with in one shot than just phase it out, as we had been planning. Government should be for national security, and for protecting the legal rights of the private sector such as our rights to our oil holdings overseas, and nothing else. We are HAPPY to have people discover that nonessential government is nonessential, and that we can do without it permanently." So much for NSF and NASA and NIH and food for the poor and all that.
And now this week a lot of people are surprised that the same folks who grinned about a government shutdown are looking forward with glee to shutting down the world financial system. They should not be surprised. Shutting down the federal reserve and all the large banks was always a part of their program. (The John Birch Society long say the big bankers like Rothschilds as evil centers of the world Communist conspiracy. Do read the wikipedia article... and hope they are not paid to take it down.)
But what if that causes a world depression? I can hear those folks saying.. maybe, maybe not, but that would be a small price to pay in adjustment, to get us back to true freedom. Precisely the same kind of freedom which Mussolini offered people, which benefitted from depression.
How could we get to such a pass?
I do blame part of it on a previous Supreme Court ruling, out of touch on the idea that "corporations are people", even as the two-legged sort of people got a lot less respect. I blame part of it on well-meaning people who inadvertently went too far in reducing the rights of the minority in House rules, and it makes me nervous that Reid might make the same mistake in the Senate. (The rights of the minority are crucial to limiting what "51% of 51%" can inflict on the rest of us. If the rules gave the minority one day of control of the House floor every week, the shutdown would be over. And, more generally, there would be no control by groups far from what the majority enacted into law just the year before. This is especially important when the 25% extremes on BOTH sides are really bad news.)
Part of it I would blame on the effects of gerrymandering by both sides in encouraging extremes, and in disempowering the people in the middle. If only we could get a constitutional amendment saying that all Congressional districts will henceforth based on a computer algorithm (specified in the amendment
or at most delegated subject to very strict rules) to be run nation-wide on Census data, as aggregates of Census tracts!! Many incumbents would worry... but what about the other guys YOU are worried about,
and what about the very survival of this nation, which is now under severe threat?
The irony is that I knew about the John Birch Society long before its attempted coup, because I was a very active Conservative Republican, back when that group really did stand for freedom and independent thinking. What we have now... well... Boehner starts to remind me of that feeble old Junker,
who made it to the history books as the laughable nonentity who paved the way for certain more serious folks. What can Boehner do, really? That's a question for his conscience... but we all face a question of conscience here. I don't see the reinvention of Mussolini's corporate culture as the true path to freedom.
If the Business Roundtable knows how to face facts, they won't let a depression really happen.
They will take firm steps to get us back to a more authentic democratic system. As will any true Christians, who pay more attention to the words of Christ than to the words of Koch.
Of course, Koch is sincere... as sincere as the Ayatollah Khamenei, to much the same ends.