Death by a Thousand Budget Cuts
By Staff News & Analysis - April 01, 2011

Budget talks continued Thursday on a compromise that would avoid a federal government shutdown, even as "tea party" protesters gathered outside the Capitol, urging Republicans not to stray from the $61 billion in cuts already approved by the House. A tentative deal would result in cuts of about half that – $33 billion in cutbacks in one of the largest onetime reductions in domestic government programs. But House Speaker John Boehner (left) insisted Thursday that Republicans had not agreed to that level of reductions. He said the GOP was holding out for the House-passed bill that included dozens of such politically divisive policy priorities as defunding Planned Parenthood and gutting the Environmental Protection Agency. That bill died in the Senate. – Los Angeles Times

Dominant Social Theme: Can't we all just get along?

Free-Market Analysis: The larger dominant social theme of the DC elites remains the same: "Governing demands compromise." John Boehner himself has become a kind of walking political metaphor for this sort of business-as-usual; and it's probably a trap he will not easily be able to get out of. He's desperately trying to portray himself as a man who is NOT especially willing to compromise. But it's probably too late for Boehner and it may be too late for the DC legislative process itself. Real change may be on the way.

In this article we want to try to cut through the woefully inadequate mainstream media spin about what is actually going on in Washington. Here's a thought: The danger to one's prosperity and portfolio increases as warranted alarmism decreases, reduced by a lulling media. So let's examine how the mainstream media is presenting a town involved with business-as-usual and then contrast that to what we know to be true. (A far less pretty picture.)

The current business-as-usual promotion begins with Boehner and the sense of faux-normalcy he exudes. The mainstream media continues to portray him with a certain grudging affection, a mixture of melancholy and admiration. The melancholy seems to derive from the idea that Boehner is a good man playing a bad hand. The admiration stems from the way he is playing it. And one can sense it in numerous articles. We found one story – an AP screed – that perfectly encapsulated this sort of sentiment, entitled, "Tea party rallies to keep GOP cutting spending." Here's an excerpt:

The intensifying talks are as much a test of credibility and clout for the tea party as they are a measure of Boehner's ability to lead. There's evidence that some of the 87 members of the freshmen class have been educated by their real bosses – their constituents – on the fact that compromise is sometimes the only path to governing. And governing is what lawmakers get paid for.

"Compromise on the subject of spending is a tough sell. It doesn't mean it's an impossible sell," said freshman Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., a member of the Appropriations Committee who won his seat with 72 percent of the vote. Though he acknowledges the voters' mandate to cut spending, "I also live in a realistic world." Another freshman suggested the no-compromise crowd save their powder. The current, slow-motion showdown is only over a budget to fund the rest of this fiscal year.

Just wait, said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, for the fireworks over next year's budget, as well as a must-pass bill to allow the government to borrow more money to meet its commitments. Republicans hope to use that measure to force further spending cuts on the president. "What I tell folks is: This is like Fort Sumter in the Civil War," the Illinois Republican said Wednesday. "This is the first fight. The big battle is still ahead of us."

This is truly a masterpiece, beginning with the statement that "compromise is sometimes the only path to governing. And governing is what lawmakers get paid for." Really? Where exactly is it written down that Congress has to produce massive amounts of prosperity-killing red tape in order to justify its existence?

Freshman Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark. is already portrayed by AP as ruefully aware of how soon his legislative childhood has ended. "I live in a realistic world," he says. He may surely regret it once his many Tea Party voters see how quickly he's turned from a budgetary hawk into a "realist and a "moderate."

Then there's Rep. Adam Kinzinger who used an especially unfortunate metaphor when explaining his own evolving views regarding budget cuts. He is already willing to compromise, he says, because "this is like Fort Sumter in the Civil War … The big battle is still ahead of us." But wait a minute: Didn't the South LOSE the American civil war?

The mainstream media hasn't changed a bit. The same articles with the same rancid condescension were being written decades ago, maybe a century ago. Boehner himself has become part of the meme, a "business-as-usual" kind of guy trying to tame the juvenile radicalism of Tea Party types. There seems little or no institutional memory regarding the seismic shock that just took place. Likely it doesn't fit the narrative of normalcy. And yet … angry voters just blasted away the Democratic majority in the House and reduced it mightily in the Senate.

Ironically, Boehner may really understand the anger. Trapped by the system, he may be making the best of a bad business. (Let's see what today brings). Meanwhile the "normalcy meme" continues to be propounded by the media. Democrats, in fact, have been circulating reports that Boehner had agreed to some US$31 billion in cuts rather than the $61 billion the Tea Party preferred. It all sounds so wonkishly comforting. The Times explained it this way:

The deal would cut $23 billion from the remaining 5 1/2 months of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Coupled with $10 billion in cuts already enacted into law, the package would amount to $33 billion in cuts over current spending levels. Difficult discussions remain over the programs and services that would be reduced or eliminated and which GOP priorities would remain in the package.

Of course, this is a far cry from the US$100 billion that Republicans promised constituents on the campaign trail. And maybe for this reason Boehner denied the compromise later in the day. "We're going to continue to fight for [increased reductions]," Boehner said, according to the Los Angeles Times. He repeated the sentiment several times.

Could he hear the Tea Party chanting outside of the Capitol building? "Cut it or shut it," they cheered, according to the Times. "Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, the group that organized the rally, said the House GOP must stand firm … ‘They can't go lower than $61 billion. They've already compromised.'"

White House spokesman Jay Carney had a different perspective: Boehner and other Republican leaders wanted to avoid a shutdown because shutdowns give the executive branch the advantage. The president can use his bully pulpit to make it appear as if he is the aggrieved party no matter the reality. Again the media seems sympathetic to the House Leader's plight: Grown-up Boehner knows that a shutdown is a loser's game no matter how much Tea Party Kids want it to happen.

The Times article (predictably) gave Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the final word. "He acknowledged the difficulty Boehner faced," the Times commented, and then quoted him directly: "I'm sure it's not easy trying to negotiate with the tea party screaming in his right ear."

The Times article and the AP story are good examples of business-as-usual reporting. But this time around the paradigm itself may be flawed. Let's start to examine reality. Here's some basic math …

US-government unemployment figures are way off. Unemployment may total as much as 25 percent of the US population. As a result, one out of every ten Americans has lost his or her house to foreclosure. Forty million Americans are on food stamps. 20 to 30 percent of Detroit – America's most successful industrial city – is being razed. America's total unfunded obligations are approaching US$200 trillion. The Fed and other central banks have issued some US$20 trillion-plus into world markets and despite a lot of brave talk have no idea of how to remove such massive funds or when.

The dollar reserve system itself is probably on its last legs – perhaps headed toward hyperinflation – and this will make it even harder for the US to fund its impossible deficits going forward. Finally, some 50 percent of the US Federal budget – at least US$1.5 trillion ends up one way or another in the pockets of the military-industrial complex. Unless American legislators can stop the nation's serial warring and take a pickaxe to the Pentagon there's no way that the US can realistically deal with its budget problems. Is this likely to happen? Didn't the US just start ANOTHER war (in Libya).

There's more than dysfunction involved in the disaster of the US's dysfunctional legislative process. The US has been transformed into a quasi-authoritarian state over the past decade. The Department of Homeland Security and the US Patriot Act are a one-two punch to civil-liberties and, in the case of the former, an intimidating, freedom-trampling behemoth. The warrantless wiretapping and other activities aimed at Americans by 16 separate spy agencies are also aimed at Federal legislators. The fear factor in authoritarian societies can never be discounted. People are afraid to speak out and that goes for legislators as well, even moreso.

Boehner no doubt wants to do a good job and represent the larger Republican constituency faithfully. But what's going on now is so wildly beyond his control that it's hard to put into words. The Anglo-American power elite – money power – seems determined to drive the West toward one-world government and is willing to drive the Anglo-American axis itself to the brink of functional disaster to do so.

The mainstream media won't report this and Boehner who probably understands it as well as anybody won't whisper a word of it either. No, the conversation in Washington will continue to revolve around budget cuts and the media and its young reporters will continue to report on the process as they have for decades. The trouble is that things in America – in the West generally – are not normal. The PIGS are rioting already; the US Tea Party is incandescent with anger. Shutting down the Federal government is seen by many as the beginning of a hoped-for solution, not a political problem as Boehner apparently views it.

Again, Boehner is no fool. Just watch the man. He knows much better than the young DC reporters flocking around him what the stakes are. Barack Obama does, too, which is why he plays so much golf. In fact, nothing much can likely change the inevitability of what is going to take place. The Democrats will remain out of touch. Meanwhile, the political and budgetary process is about to bleed Boehner and the Republicans to death, unless they embrace truly radical rhetoric, and equally strong action.

After Thoughts

Ultimately, the US legislative process probably cannot heal what money power itself is determined to tear asunder. The budget process, of course, will continue in America as will the reporting on it, vaguely amused and faintly ironic. But the reality, in our view, it the system itself cannot handle anymore stress and may well be about to blow. If it does, Boehner and a number of others along with him on both sides of the aisle may wish they'd never gotten into politics in the first place.

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