Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Asteroid and the Debt Ceiling and Lincoln

Good news!  Maybe you can wipe two worries from your burdened brow!

An asteroid the size of three football fields will likely NOT hit earth in 2029 as previously feared.  The chances have dropped from 2.7% to one in a million.  (Sort of makes me think of Nate Silver, writing about statistics again. Ah, those were the days!)

Until scientists told us the good news yesterday, I was unaware of the asteroid threat.  Now I sort of feel cheated that I didn't get to worry about it before the threat ended.

The other worry we can perhaps unworry is the debt ceiling.  Undistracted by the three football fields of looming asteroid, I've been thinking a lot lately about the debt ceiling and its approaching "debacle".  The GOP House is threatening not to raise the debt ceiling unless Obama accepts big cuts in spending, especially in Medicare and Social Security.  He has already announced he's not going to play this game of the debt ceiling being used as a hostage and that he will make future cuts only if accompanied by increased revenue.  Therefore, it is predicted that if he doesn't blink, the GOP will effectively put the USA into default on its debts around early March, including those to foreign countries, and the world's monetary and fiscal systems will crash as resoundingly as if hit with three football fields of asteroid.  We will all be in the deep dooley-doo!

You will recall the GOP tried this same hostage stunt in 2011.  Obama ended it by agreeing to the "sequester", i.e. a trillion in cuts over 10 years, with half from defense and half from everything else beginning on January 1, 2013.  This was a superbly smart move by the poker-playing President because the GOP House will NEVER be able to suffer through that half trillion in defense cuts.  Baby, the defense industry is the biggest source of their campaign funds and their post-Congress fat jobs!  Now Obama still has the sequester to use as a counter threat to the GOP's threat to not raise the debt ceiling.  Though the sequester was supposed to begin on January 1 of this year, Ol' Joe Biden got it shoved off for two months  -  which is just about the time the government bumps its head on the debt ceiling.  Nice move, Joe!

Now, some of you are probably saying,  "STOP ALREADY!"  You are disgusted with the gamesmanship.  "STOP  THE GAMESMANSHIP AND JUST GOVERN!"

Well, honey, this is how governing is done in America and always has been.  Take a look at the Constitution with its  three-fifths of "persons".  What in hell do you think that was all about?  It was part of the "game" of compromise used to put this country together.  It's also why the nation's capital is in a "district" and not in a state. It's why the electoral college is weighted too much in favor of small states.  It's why we kept slavery for about a hundred years after birthing the union.  It was the only way to get the union and thus become an independent country.  Yes, it was gamesmanship.  And slavery was a horrible and sinful price.  But that is how it was done.

Likewise the movie "Lincoln".  The same sort of gamesmanship that put slavery in the Constitution in the 1780s was used to destroy it in enactment of the 13th Amendment in 1865, and that's what the movie "Lincoln" is about.  A number of commentators who were dreadfully hard on Obama over the dealing that went on re the Affordable Health Care Act  saw "Lincoln" and announced that "Aha!  Now we understand!  This is how it's done!  Bribing and threatening and cutting deals, etc. It's Lincoln's way!  It's the AMERICAN  way!  It's DEMOCRACY!"

Well, of course it is.  How else did they think it got done?  Do they really think that opposing forces who passionately believe in their own position just decide after half an hour of tea and conversation to meet the other guy half way?  When at their backs they have crowds of supporters armed with pitch forks, rails, feathers and tar?  Please grow up, you Democratic-leaning talking heads, and get real.  (No use asking the GOP-leaning commentators to get real.)

Especially get real about the huge untruth the media have perpetuated about the supposed "intransigence of both sides".  This is a big fat lie.  The GOP has virtually monopolized intransigence.  Not Obama nor Joe Biden nor anyone can cut a deal with the GOP when (a) a major faction of the GOP wants NO DEALS EVER but prefers a catastrophe and (b) the leader of the House has no power and can't deliver votes even on his own legislation.

You can't cut a deal all by yourself.  There has to be someone to deal with.  The GOP is largely leaderless.  Governing-wise, there ain't nobody home at the House.

So how will the debt ceiling "game" go?  Will there be a "trillion dollar platinum coin"?  Obama invoking the 14th Amendment to thumb his nose at Congress?  No Social Security checks going out and me starving?

Tune in soon for the most likely trajectories.  And let's hope that the best of these trajectories have a better than the one in a million chance the scientists now give the asteroid because I don't want to go hungry waiting for a Social Security check that doesn't come.

P.S.  Can someone explain why we now measure things in football fields?  We didn't use to.  




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