So, Standard and Poor’s and Moody are both threatening to lower the United States’s AAA bond rating as a result of the refusal by congress to raise the debt ceiling. The result would be that we would have to pay higher interest rates on our national debt, and, if the financial experts are to be believed, a financial shock-wave that could destabilize markets around the world.
Perhaps we should think about how we got here.
The cause of the impasse is that House Republicans are refusing to allow the US to accumulate more debt. Why? Well, the Republicans, or more specifically Eric Cantor, are demanding that we move towards balancing the budget, but refuse to agree to any sort of tax increase, or even to the closing of certain existing tax loopholes.
Of course, the fundamental, deep problem here is that Americans – and by extension their elected representatives – have grown accustomed to having stuff and not having to pay for it.
But in this particular crisis, we have to ask why the hell we have a congress that is filled with obstructionist Republicans who are willing to flush the country down the toilet in order to stick to an ideological principle of NO TAXES, despite the fact that the no-taxes view is decidedly outside the mainstream, and goes against public opinion.
Well, the standard liberal/progressive explanation goes something like this: the Republican party gets its power from a rainbow coalition of billionaires and bigots. The billionaires want laissez-faire policies that will allow them to further enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else, and of the country collectively. In order to get enough votes to do this, they pander to the pantheon of bigots: people who hate black people, people who hate homosexuals, people who hate muslims, people who hate evolution, people who hate immigrants, and so on. These people are so blinded by their hatred of X that they are willing to go along with whatever regressive fiscal policies their demagogues demand.
Now, there’s certainly something to this narrative, but I don’t actually think it explains the majority of Republican voters. I’d say (based on nothing) that it accounts for maybe a fifth of them. They tend to be the most quotable fifth, which leads to their being overrepresented on TV, but this still leaves the question of the millions of intelligent, non-hate-filled Americans out there who put these jackasses in congress.
Which brings us to the actual topic of this post. I think a lot of Republican voters are motivated by stories like this:
Weldon Marc Gilbert was recently arrested for allegedly kidnapping and raping young boys and videotaping the encounters. Gilbert is acting as his own attorney, and, as such, has the legal right to review the evidence against him. This means that, while in jail, Gilbert has access to all of the child pornography that he himself created, which was seized in a raid on his home (ABC News).
Whenever I hear something like this, I think of my Texas relatives, who tend to propose punishments like burying criminals up to their necks and letting the victims and their families kick them in the head.
I’m a long-time ACLU member, and I recognize how critical it is for us as a society that the government play by the rules and protect the rights of even the most despicable among us. But when you hear about something like this, there is no denying the emotional attraction of the certainty, moral absolutism, and take-no-prisoners attitude that the Republicans are so adept with.
Something similar happens for many people every time there is a story about government waste (but, interestingly, not with military waste).
I fear that if we’re going to be able to move the country forward in a good direction, progressives need to figure out a way to tap into that sort of emotion. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, outrage about CEOs who take home billions of dollars while ruining the country don’t seem to cut it.
Here’s something to embody the problem in musical form: Toby Keith is an unmitigated piece of shit, but this song is awesome.