The good news about the roiling pot of oversteamed irrelevance that we call a national discourse is that there is pretty much always, through sheer mathematical imperative, one news story going on that is completely hilarious. For the last week it has been Sarah Palin’s and Rush Limbaugh’s public argument over the words “retard” and “retarded.” As is usually the case when a news story centers on something you’re glad the president didn’t do, this one originated with Rahm Emanuel. Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal ran this news analysis piece about liberal resentment of the chief of staff, including the revelation that, back in August, he dismissed a plan to run attack ads against senators opposing health care as “fucking retarded.” First of all, I sincerely want to believe that if you come to Rahm Emanuel with some idea that turns out not to be so great, he will immediately call you retarded and send you back to your desk. Second of all, everyone can stop accusing the WSJ of conservative bias, because the chief of staff saying “retarded” in a private meeting six months ago has turned out to be hot news. In a Facebook post titled “Are You Capable of Decency, Rahm Emanuel?” Sarah Palin called on the president to fire his chief of staff, saying that “Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities—and the people who love them—is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking.” By “God’s children,” she was generally interpreted to mean her own personal child, who—I don’t know if you’ve heard this—has Down syndrome.
It’s been a bonanza week for news commentators, with earthquakes, tell-all books, people saying “negro” two years ago—everything that makes a vibrant political discourse thrive. The big news, though, was that a certain someone jumped from national electoral politics to the big show: cable news commentating. When Bill O’Reilly welcomed Sarah Palin to Fox News, he told her that she had acquired a powerful tool, a bigger megaphone that she could at last use to shout back at her critics. The implication was that being a Fox commentator was a position of greater power than being governor of Alaska. And was he wrong? Sarah Palin is more popular now than she was when she had the full might of the Republican Party behind her. Rush Limbaugh has outlasted the Contract With America, three Presidents and presumably dozens of minor coronaries. And Glenn Beck can’t think. Powerful men all, and it’s hard to argue that they wield less influence over the American people than do Pelosi, Boehner and Reid. Perhaps that is as it should be. I, for one, welcome our new and increasingly bloated masters, and urge them to form a new government of Real Americans and questionable analogies to Hitler just as soon as they can. Won’t you join me in considering the beautiful world they’re creating? No? Okay, back to cat videos, then. I’ll see the rest of you after the jump.
The graph at right shows us the US national debt in billions of dollars by year and President, conveniently colored in accordance with political affiliation. Props to Smick, who sent me this wonderful gift and the crooksandliars.com article that accompanies it over the weekend. First of all, don’t let this graph get into a time machine somehow, because it will make George Washington’s head explode. Second of all, the Bush tax cuts are estimated to have added $2.5 trillion to the debt from over the 2001-2010 period. As Susie “The Anagram” Madrak over at C&L points out, that just happens to be two and a half times the cost of the House’s health care bill. Smell that? That’s some sweet, delicious hypocrisy, right there, and arrayed in their Kiss the Cook aprons are several Republican members of Congress, including John Boehner (R–OH, net worth $1.7–$6 million.) He’s just one of the many valiant defenders of fiscal responsibility who oppose health care reform because it will add to our $12 trillion national debt, but voted overwhelmingly to pass the Bush tax cuts.
Thinkprogress.org reports that the Lafayette County Republican Central Committee has taken out the billboard advertisement at right, urging local citizens to rebel against the US government. Mad props to Big Game James Horak for the link. First of all, hey Amanda Terkel of Thinkprogress.org: You know what your internet news article needs? Some indication of where Lafayette County, Missouri is, or when the billboard went up, or a quote from someone at the Lafayette County RCC, or any additional information at all besides two links, one of which doesn’t work. Let’s hope the New York Times stays in business a little while longer. Second of all: JESUS CHRIST—THIS IS SEDITION, RIGHT? I mean, I didn’t go to law school, but telling people to not pay their taxes and “prepare for war” against the government is pretty much the definition of the term. Meanwhile, in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, local businessman Phil Wolf has erected a slightly more not-treason billboard asking the serious political question, “President…or Jihad?” It features a cartoon of Barack Obama in a turban and urges us to “remember Fort Hood.” It’s also emblazoned with the legend “BIRTH CERTIFICATE…PROVE IT!” Phil Wolf, I hope you’re reading this, because here you go. Wolf is not operating in the capacity of official representative of the Republican Party—although I think it’s safe to assume he’s not a registered Democrat—so his actions aren’t quite as damning as those of the Lafayette County RCC. Still, it’s hard not to see his behavior as partly consequent of a Republican Party whose elected representatives are actively fomenting mistrust of the federal government. At this point, the assessment that the GOP has settled into the role of opposition party is old news. What’s weird and mildly terrifying, though, is their emerging willingness to be a deliberate obstacle to American democracy.
First of all, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Newt Gingrich is a big Skynyrd fan. Second of all, get ready to have a lot more completely unproductive arguments over facts with guys like this, because the Congressional Budget Office has released a report projecting that the proposed health care reform bill will have little impact on insurance premiums. Kind of. It turns out that the math on this one was really hard—so hard that the CBO initially refused to make an estimate. On the insistence of Senators Max Baucus and Evan Bayh, though, they’ve been crunching numbers for weeks now, pausing only to drink Mountain Dew and watch Buffy on Netflix, and they have concluded that, um, a bunch of stuff will change. But not really. The upshot of the CBO report is that premiums for individuals in large-group employer plans—that is, those in pools of 50 or more—would see a +1% to -2% change by 2016, while those in small-group employer plans would see their premiums drop by zero to 3%. Individuals who purchase policies for themselves—my unemployable ass, for example—will see the largest difference, with a projected 10 to 13% increase in premiums. Yes, increase. That’s a little misleading, though, because A) the cheapest policies currently offered to individuals fall below proposed minimum standards, so people paying higher premiums will also get better coverage and B) federal subsidies will reduce the actual cost to individuals by about 50%. Are you confused yet? The health care debate just got a little more complex, and that’s a boon to Republicans.