Let’s start with the good news: Congress has passed an omnibus spending bill that will avert government shutdown, ensure that schoolchildren are getting enough salt, and free cattle farmers from greenhouse gas regulations. I guess the good news stopped with the first clause in that list, but still—soluble government! It does come at a cost, though. Remember the financial collapse triggered by an unstable derivatives market that required a trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout to correct? Trick question: we never corrected it. But banks are doing pretty well now, so they’re ready to leverage themselves into risky derivative trades again, and could they please do it with federal deposit insurance? Granted! Thus a key provision of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations is rolled back, and Congress recreates the conditions that preceded the worst economic collapse in three generations—falling gas prices and all.
Over at Time magazine—which may just be a website now—Michael Scherer notes how far we’ve come since 2004, when a young firebrand named Barack Obama declared that “there’s not a liberal and a conservative America; there’s a United States of America.” Props to The Cure for the link. Shortly after that speech, we re-elected George W. Bush, hated him, and gave control of Congress to the Democrats in 2006. Then we elected Obama, hated him, and gave the House to Republicans in 2010. Now we appear to be on the eve of repeating that process with the Senate.
That’s Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman, currently the Republican nominee to replace US Rep. Tom Petri, arguing that there are too many yes-men in Congress. “Glenn Grothman knows when it’s time to stand up and say no,” the ad assures us. Of course, the 113th Congress is on track to pass fewer laws than any in US history. There appears to be an unprecedented number of representatives willing to stand up and say no, but in Grothman’s mind Congress is a handmaiden to the president. His bizarre claim reflects an article of faith among contemporary conservatives: that the United States has somehow become pervasively, oppressively liberal.
Robert Putnam, author of the unfalsifiable big-think text Bowling Alone, told Maclean’s last week that “America is moving toward a caste society.” His next book is called Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, which sounds pretty exciting if you, like me, are obsessed with the question of whether life in America is easier or harder than it was 30 years ago. In this case, “easier” means “more fair.” I think we can agree that in the ideal America, the decisions an individual makes would be more important to the course of her life than the circumstances of her birth. Getting born to two married, upper-class parents is difficult to pull off, and we should probably offer a second chance to the kids who blow this crucial first choice.
We all know that Barack Obama is either a genius tactician or the puppet of a Maoist conspiracy. He’s black, and all previous black candidates for president were puppets of Maoist conspiracies. That’s why they lost. Obama won, so it therefore follows that he is a genius tactician. I introduce this airtight syllogism because his recent behavior re: Syria seems kind of weird. He said he wanted to intervene, but then he went and asked Congress, the same people who vigorously opposed his plan to put different light bulbs in the White House. Why, if Obama wants to intervene in Syria, would he seek a resolution from the most hostile House of Representatives and the most dysfunctional Senate in recent history? The answer is simple: he doesn’t want to intervene in Syria.