For a second there, it looked like the we were out of the woods on this whole shut-down-the-government-and-cause-a-world-economic-crisis thing. The president has rejected House Republicans’ proposal to raise the debt ceiling for six weeks, which would have demanded minimal concessions from Democrats but also would not have ended the shutdown. The government is still closed, and our statutory borrowing authority has a little less than a week. But there is reason for hope: the GOP’s proposal made no mention of Obamacare, and enough GOP moderates are breaking ranks with the ideologically pure that a clean continuing resolution is possible. Today is Friday, and we are so close to having a functional government. Won’t you pine with me?
The good news is that, according to Gallup polls, our dysfunctional government has surpassed the economy and unemployment to become the most serious problem facing America today. Also, this poll is bullshit. It’s cool that Americans have identified our elected representatives as our own worst enemy, but it’s not exactly scientific to split the vote between “the economy” and “unemployment/jobs.” For the vast majority of people, those are the same thing. On the other hand, the 33% of respondents who cited Washington as the country’s biggest problem constitute the largest such portion since 1939. Lookin’ good, Ted Cruz.
I join Alexander Hamilton and Mark Twain, however, when I urge you not to put too much stock in the opinions of the American people. Lest we cleave too closely to their whims in this whole shutdown/debt ceiling fiasco, a National Journal polls tells us that the majority of Americans don’t know what the debt ceiling is. A healthy 62% believe that raising the limit means authorizing borrowing for future expenditures, while the correct answer—the debt ceiling authorizes Washington to borrow money to pay debts already incurred—was chosen by 28%. By comparison, 46% of Americans believe God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.
Just over half as many people understand the government we created as believe they know the origins of life on Earth. To be fair, though, the truth of human origins is right there in the Bible, whereas the rules of how federal government operates aren’t written down anywhere. When discerning facts, you have to read the signs. In a world slightly more honorable than the House of Representatives, welterweight Rousimar Palhares has been cut from the UFC for unsportsmanlike conduct. He held on to a heel hook long after his opponent tapped and the referee tried to separate them—something he has done several times in his career, presumably to send some sort of message. As Ben al-Fowlkes points out, the message is that he is either trying to intimidate his opponents or an asshole. In sport, as in politics, the two mean pretty much the same thing.
Threats and intimidation don’t get you what you want. If you really need something from someone else, you must either harness religious authority or jab them with a cattle prod. It wouldn’t hurt to try both. The federal district court in Trenton has charged two Brooklyn rabbis with arranging to have recalcitrant Orthodox husbands kidnapped and tortured until they offer their wives gittin. For $10,000 they’ll issue a rabbinical decree permitting violence, and for $50,000 they will hire guys to do it. The New York Daily News says one of those guys is named Yaakov, but that’s from the newspaper that’s almost as reliable as the Post.
I’m not saying we could hire Yaakov to shock John Boehner’s testicles with a cattle prod until he agrees to a clean continuing resolution, because Yaakov only does that to Jewish guys. Also there is probably an ethical angle. But you cannot argue with the man’s efficacy. Maybe we just need that little push, now that we’re so close.