"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." – G. K. Chesterton

Posts tagged ‘debt ceiling’

The Cut-the-Crap-and-Balance Bill

I dislike politics in general.  I dislike both major political parties.  I even dislike most of the minor political parties, which requires more cynicism than you garden variety political cynic can provide.  However, even for one like me who reacts to politics at all times with a constant level of simmering dislike, there are times that call for more dislike than normal.  This is such a time.

Let me back up for a minute a recount my political history.  I was raised in a left-wing household.  I was taught to believe that all things which the Republicans did were evil.  In 2000 I even campaigned for Ralph Nader.  (Yes, yes.)  During my college and graduate school years I grew up somewhat.  I realized that politics were more nuanced and complicated than the simplistic picture I was raised with would suggest.  I acknowledged that the Republicans were right about some things, including the basic fact that most government programs are unresponsive to change and inefficient.  At the same time, I still believed that the Democrats were right about other things, most notably foreign policy and the environment.  Most of all, I became aware that corruption was rampant throughout the political system, always had been, and always would be.  Politics naturally attracted inferior human beings.  Nonetheless it was a necessary evil, as a governed country was preferable to anarchy and a democratic republic was preferable to a dictatorship or oligarchy.  The intelligent approach is to do the best you can with the corrupt and selfish politicians that you have.

Within this framework, however, there’s still a possibility for politicians of varying quality.  In American history we have often had crises, and when they occurred we have often been lucky enough to have politicians who rose to the occasion, such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.  On the other hand, we’ve had our share of lousy politicians and there have been occasions when their lousiness got so bad that it seriously threatened the welfare of our country.  We are currently dealing with such an occasion.  Moreover, the fault lies entirely with one party: the Republicans.

For the past 235 years, the United States government has always made good on its debts.  Now the Republicans are threatening to prevent the government from doing exactly that, starting on August 2.  I wrote a post a couple weeks ago explaining why, in my view, the Republicans are doing that.  It’s part of a political strategy to get the biggest spending cuts they can get, and viewed in that light it makes sense.  However, they have now taken the tactic too far.  Genuine fear about a U.S. government default is “roiling the markets”, as numerous newspaper articles have put it.  That’s bad.  The more the Republicans delay, the worse it will get.

Our reputation for paying our bills as a nation is one of our most valuable resources.  We have earned that reputation over more than two centuries.  To sacrifice it, or even pretend that you’re going to sacrifice it, would be utter idiocy.  What the Republicans are currently doing is wrong.  Therefore I use the mighty influence that I have accrued at this blog to urge the Republicans to stop it.  President Obama and the Democrats have already offered what should be, from their perspective, a very good deal.  They should take that deal right now, rather than letting the markets get roiled for another day.

Chesterton on the Debt Ceiling Debate

The real evil of our Party System is commonly stated wrong. It was stated wrong by Lord Rosebery, when he said that it prevented the best men from devoting themselves to politics, and that it encouraged a fanatical conflict. I doubt whether the best men ever would devote themselves to politics. The best men devote themselves to pigs and babies and things like that. And as for the fanatical conflict in party politics, I wish there was more of it. The real danger of the two parties with their two policies is that they unduly limit the outlook of the ordinary citizen. They make him barren instead of creative, because he is never allowed to do anything except prefer one existing policy to another. We have not got real Democracy when the decision depends upon the people. We shall have real Democracy when the problem depends upon the people. The ordinary man will decide not only how he will vote, but what he is going to vote about.

It is this which involves some weakness in many current aspirations towards the extension of the suffrage; I mean that, apart from all questions of abstract justice, it is not the smallness or largeness of the suffrage that is at present the difficulty of Democracy. It is not the quantity of voters, but the quality of the thing they are voting about. A certain alternative is put before them by the powerful houses and the highest political class. Two roads are opened to them; but they must go down one or the other. They cannot have what they choose, but only which they choose. To follow the process in practice we may put it thus. The Suffragettes—if one may judge by their frequent ringing of his bell—want to do something to Mr. Asquith. I have no notion what it is. Let us say (for the sake of argument) that they want to paint him green. We will suppose that it is entirely for that simple purpose that they are always seeking to have private interviews with him; it seems as profitable as any other end that I can imagine to such an interview. Now, it is possible that the Government of the day might go in for a positive policy of painting Mr. Asquith green; might give that reform a prominent place in their programme. Then the party in opposition would adopt another policy, not a policy of leaving Mr. Asquith alone (which would be considered dangerously revolutionary), but some alternative course of action, as, for instance, painting him red. Then both sides would fling themselves on the people, they would both cry that the appeal was now to the Caesar of Democracy. A dark and dramatic air of conflict and real crisis would arise on both sides; arrows of satire would fly and swords of eloquence flame. The Greens would say that Socialists and free lovers might well want to paint Mr. Asquith red; they wanted to paint the whole town red. Socialists would indignantly reply that Socialism was the reverse of disorder, and that they only wanted to paint Mr. Asquith red so that he might resemble the red pillar-boxes which typified State control. The Greens would passionately deny the charge so often brought against them by the Reds; they would deny that they wished Mr. Asquith green in order that he might be invisible on the green benches of the Commons, as certain terrified animals take the colour of their environment.

There would be fights in the street perhaps, and abundance of ribbons, flags, and badges, of the two colours. One crowd would sing, “Keep the Red Flag Flying,” and the other, “The Wearing of the Green.” But when the last effort had been made and the last moment come, when two crowds were waiting in the dark outside the public building to hear the declaration of the poll, then both sides alike would say that it was now for democracy to do exactly what it chose. England herself, lifting her head in awful loneliness and liberty, must speak and pronounce judgment. Yet this might not be exactly true. England herself, lifting her head in awful loneliness and liberty, might really wish Mr. Asquith to be pale blue. The democracy of England in the abstract, if it had been allowed to make up a policy for itself, might have desired him to be black with pink spots. It might even have liked him as he is now. But a huge apparatus of wealth, power, and printed matter has made it practically impossible for them to bring home these other proposals, even if they would really prefer them. No candidates will stand in the spotted interest; for candidates commonly have to produce money either from their own pockets or the party’s; and in such circles spots are not worn. No man in the social position of a Cabinet Minister, perhaps, will commit himself to the pale-blue theory of Mr. Asquith; therefore it cannot be a Government measure, therefore it cannot pass.

Nearly all the great newspapers, both pompous and frivolous, will declare dogmatically day after day, until every one half believes it, that red and green are the only two colours in the paint-box. THE OBSERVER will say: “No one who knows the solid framework of politics or the emphatic first principles of an Imperial people can suppose for a moment that there is any possible compromise to be made in such a matter; we must either fulfil our manifest racial destiny and crown the edifice of ages with the august figure of a Green Premier, or we must abandon our heritage, break our promise to the Empire, fling ourselves into final anarchy, and allow the flaming and demoniac image of a Red Premier to hover over our dissolution and our doom.” The DAILY MAIL would say: “There is no halfway house in this matter; it must be green or red. We wish to see every honest Englishman one colour or the other.” And then some funny man in the popular Press would star the sentence with a pun, and say that the DAILY MAIL liked its readers to be green and its paper to be read. But no one would even dare to whisper that there is such a thing as yellow.

– G. K. Chesterton, in A Miscellany of Men

Find the relationship between this passage and the debt ceiling business is left as an exercise for the reader.

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