Is This a Congress, or a Mob?

Is this what the Founders had in mind when they first assembled Congress?

The bus of state is speeding toward the edge of a very tall cliff  — the unnecessary and politically-motivated default of the US Treasury next Tuesday — and almost all of the people who are wrestling for control of the steering wheel a) do not believe in cliffs, b) do not believe in gravity, and c) would rather be the center of attention than anything. It’s bad enough to realize that these people, despite their ignorance of economics, history, political science and the English language, are strongly affecting the course of our government on behalf of the country’s richest and most powerful people and companies. What is truly terrifying is the fact that they have now slipped the leash of their masters, and are running riot.
One example: the US Chamber of Commerce spent millions of dollars helping elect people to Congress (many for the first time) who met a simple test: they opposed all taxes and all government regulations. The test had no essay questions, so when it turned out that these people had no idea when or how to qualify their “audacity of nope” mantra, and did not have the mental faculties to entertain a nuanced argument on the subject, the Chamber began looking for ways to reign in their wholly owned but suddenly out-of-control Congresspeople. Their efforts, not yet successful, are detailed in today’s New York Times.

It reminds you of the people who get Pit Bulls to threaten people, then have to pry their jaws off the throats of their own children.

The Chamber, among others, seems to have assumed that their Pit Bulls would work tirelessly to prevent Obama from doing anything, to hamstring government controls on big business, to spike any effort to either raise taxes, impose taxes or close any tax loopholes. As the deadline on raising the debt ceiling (which, as I outlined in another post — Apocalypse Now? Not With a Bang, but a Blunder —  is itself a stupid law) became visible on the horizon, the Chamber, among others, gave it little thought. True, the Know Nothings were using it — using, that is, the threat to refuse to raise it –as a bat with which to try to break the windows out of Social Security, health care reform and especially, above all, the Obama administration.

The Chamber, among others, seems to have been pleased at the early effects of this tactic. The administration caved on social security, caved on tax breaks for the rich, agreed to a plan such as existed a few months ago only in Republican dreams. Pleased at what the mob was destroying, the Chamber suits in their high-rise boardrooms bided their time, never suspecting that when the time came to tell the mob to put down the bats and go home, the mob would not listen.

If you had suggested a few months ago that the mob would get the bit in its teeth, they would have given you an indulgent, you-don’t-understand-how-things-work smile. The Know-Nothings in Congress are nothing without the financial support of their masters. Their masters understand that to actually destroy the full faith and credit of the United States would be to bring down the economy of the US and much of the world, with catastrophic effects. The mob, it was assumed, understood this as well. How could they not listen to their masters?

Now, the Chamber has told the mob to stand down. As the Times put it this morning:

“There’s nothing more important for financial stability than getting the debt ceiling raised and putting our nation on a prudent financial path, a message we have been delivering to lawmakers for weeks,” said Rob Nichols, president of the Financial Services Forum, which has joined with the chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers to press the issue.

And the mob is not standing down. The suits in their boardrooms are hearing the sounds of breaking glass way down at street level, and it’s their windows. The suits are sweating, they are shouting at the mob to go home, yet the mob rages on.

Why? Two reasons. First, the Know-Nothing politicians do not seem to understand the nature of their jobs, let alone the realities of the larger world they inhabit. Allen West, to cite just one example, got elected to Congress from Florida in 2010 with a no-tax, no-regulation song, along with $6.2 million from some of his best friends. Did he realize that to keep his job, he would need that much money when he ran again in 2012? That he needed to raise, on average, $8,493.15 in campaign funds per day, every day, seven days a week, no vacation, no holy days? If he ever did the math, he has not been ringing the cash register as he needs to do, and he has a lot of company among the freshmen Know-Nothings of Congress. People who do not understand the mathematics of their own situations are unlikely to comprehend the vastly more complex algebra of the national treasury and the global economy.

Secondly, and this is the truly scary part: a mob is not rational; a mob does not remember why it became a mob;  a mob in full cry exists only to howl and destroy. Judging from the howling we hear today, and the destruction that is imminent, what we have before us is not a Congress assembled, as the American Revolution visualized, but a mob with a guillotine and a knitted list of names.

[For updates on this and other Daily Impact stories, and for short takes on other subjects, check out The Editor’s Log.]

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