Combat! blog is just one Friday link roundup away from its weeklong vacation, and this is it. There will be no Combat! blog next week, because my urbanized ass is going camping in the wilds of, um, New Hampshire. Obviously this period of discombatery will be difficult for all five of us, so today’s link roundup is designed to give you as much to think about for the next week as possible. By “think about” I mean “ponder nervously while you fail to sleep.” It’s the gift that keeps on giving: the gift of fear, and it’s all over American politics this week. Whether it’s guiding our decisions or just coalescing around them years after the fact, absolute scared-shitlessness is the unifying principle of apparently everything of note in contemporary culture. Won’t you catch a chill with me?
If you somehow haven’t gotten enough doomsaying about the Laffer Curve and Republican economic policy, former Reagan OMB director David Stockman has published a scathing guest editorial in the New York Times. He asserts that an “honestly reckoned” total of public debt will reach $18 trillion in 2015 if we preserve the Bush tax cuts. Ostensibly, at least, that’s just what the Republican Party intends to do. Practically, they might just recognize that they A) don’t have the votes and B) to do so would wreck the country anyway, which means they can C) pretend to want to extend them and force the Democrats to repeal, thus enabling the GOP to present the Dems as a bunch of tax-and-spend jerks at little actual risk to the country.
That would be hideously spiteful, of course. Even what I’d though was my depthless cynicism wouldn’t allow for such a possibility, but then I read this fantastic article about the disintegration of the Senate, and the floor of the abyss dropped six feet. George Packer’s historical examination of how the upper house of our legislative branch went from being the world’s foremost deliberative body to a place where ideas go to prostitute themselves and die is gripping all the way through, but here’s my favorite part: During the reconciliation process for health care reform, when any amendment would have sent the bill back to the House, David Vitter proposed an amendment making it illegal for child molesters and convicted rapists to use government funding to buy Viagra—just so Democrats would have to vote against it. Sweet.
Packer argues that part of the reason for such gamesmanship is the increasing influence of radicalism within the GOP. The fringes have become the fabric, so to speak—which is an argument seductive to outraged liberals like myself, but probably one that overstates the case. Then again, Mitch McConnell did just tell The Hill that we should “take a look at” the Fourteenth Amendment. For those of you without your pocket Constitutions handy, the 14th is one of the package of amendments introduced after the abolition of slavery, and makes anyone born on US soil an American citizen. McConnel, along with fellow jerks-off John Kyl and Lindsey Graham, worries that illegal immigrants are deliberately coming to the States to have children—Jeff Sessions posited the example of pregnant Brazilians flying to the US to give birth—in a nefarious plot to make them Americans. How much this is actually happening went unexplained, as did why this nightmare scenario would be worse than creating a permanent underclass of stateless children. As with the Viagra amendment and the Bush tax cut extension, the odds of the Republican Party actually repealing the Fourteenth Amendment are pretty low. As the Times points out, the whole thing looks like a particularly ugly play for votes.
Of course, there are consequences to whipping the stupid into a terrified frenzy every two years. Witness the Appleseed Project, by which patriotic American Jack Dailey teaches people how to shoot a man-sized target from 500 yards, and also mentions how the present burden placed on the American taxpayer “compares unfavorably with the lives of slaves in ancient Egypt.” Dailey isn’t fomenting a revolution. He’s just telling folks that the federal government is potentially illegitimate and teaching them how to kill people with a rifle. Lest you think Dailey is simply a nutjob, consider this quote from Sharron Angle, the Republican nominee for Senate running against Harry Reid in Nevada:
The nation is arming. What are they arming for if it isn’t that they are so distrustful of their government? They’re afraid they’ll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways. That’s why I look at this as almost an imperative. If we don’t win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?
You know what the next step was for Democrats when we lost at the ballot box? Sit through eight years of the Bush administration, including government-breaking fiscal policy, imprisonment without trial for hundreds of foreign nationals and a handful of American citizens, and secret domestic surveillance. But hey—now that a black guy is President, the income tax is an unconstitutional violation of our liberty. Those of you wondering what American fascism might look like are invited to check out the Tea Party. Me, I’ll be walking around in the woods of New Hampshire. There’d better still be a democracy when I get back.