The first Republican National Committee-sanctioned debate of the 2016 campaign is only three days away, but not every candidate will make the cut. Fox News announced that it would only invite the ten best-polling candidates from the field of 16, which sounds like maybe too many anyway, unless you happen to work for the Bobby Jindal campaign. “Whatever happened to the idea of freedom?” Jindal consultant Curt Anderson wrote of Fox’s plan. “Or democracy?” Soon every sentence uttered by a Republican on any subject will contain the word “freedom” and be in the past tense. Possibly coincidental to the demise of robust argument, Jindal, Lindsay Graham, and Ricks Santorum and Perry are all out of the top ten in NBC’s aggregate of the last five weeks’ polling. And Donald Trump is in the lead.
I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy, but “Kleenex” is in the Mac OS spellchecker where “corporatocracy” is not. Postindustrial America is the land of the free, meaning that government has declined to struggle with multinational corporations for control of our lives. Multi-thousand dollar insurance that doesn’t cover doctor visits? Fine, as long as it keeps government out of health care. Refusal to regulate high-efficiency killing machines that the vast majority of Americans want controlled? Whatever you say, paid lobbyists of gun manufacturers. Today is Friday, and the wolves want to set you free from the shepherds. Won’t you bleat plaintively with me?
The finance department of Ravalli County announced today that it will bypass the treasurer’s office to issue emergency operating funds to schools, libraries and fire departments. Meanwhile, treasurer Valerie Stamey told the county commission that she would present October financial reports by Friday. “If not then, by next Friday,” she added. Stamey’s statement was of a piece with what’s been coming out of her office since she was appointed in September—namely, everything but financial reports. After three resignations and numerous accusations of incompetence, she is starting to look like the perfect triumph of politics over government in Ravalli County.
That fat kid is just a tease; today’s Combat! is in fact mostly about charts and graphs. My brother sent me this wonky Wonkbook post about the deficit reductions achieved by the fiscal cliff deal. Both parties made a big noise about what they had accomplished, but in fact the spending cuts implicated in that agreement were paltry compared to those enacted by Congress in fiscal year 2011. About half of them came from the Budget Control Act, better known as the debt ceiling deal, better known as the time Congressional Republicans held a annual formality hostage and ultimately downgraded the credit of the United States. They did save a lot of money, though. Now who’s the party of intransigent theoreticians?
My favorite part of the slow news period between Christmas and the New Year is the Times’s daily countdown to fiscal armageddon. This morning, Harry Reid pretty much told us all to buy canned food. According to the Times, he spent much of his day on the Senate floor “excoriating” House Republicans for their refusal to consider a bill extending the Bush tax cuts on households that make less than $250,000 a year. Thus excoriated, the House stayed home. We are going over that cliff. Having imposed a future penalty no one wanted in order to force itself to come to agreement, Congress has argued its way into penalization. The legislative branch of the US government is like an addict who flushes his drugs down the toilet and then drowns.