Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hyperbole is not possible

My favorite sign from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

-George Orwell, 1984

When I was visiting Berkeley, I mispronounced hyperbole. You know: hyper-bowl instead of hyper-bowl-lee. It was embarrassing mostly because the person I was talking to insisted on correcting me. It's one of those words that I mispronounced in my head the first time I read it, and now I can't cure myself.

Theoretically, there is a point where hyperbole is no longer possible. There is a point where no matter how scathing (or praising, but that doesn't apply here) your language, it's still understatement. 

In 2004, Dick Cheney said, "Deficits don't matter." In 2009 and 2010, Republicans manufactured a social movement fueled by outrage over the deficit (though it should be noted that this outrage took a short break in late 2010, while the GOP negotiated the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy).  

Now, during a fabricated crisis over the debt ceiling, Congressional Republicans have taken our country to a new level of recklessness and intellectual dishonesty so astounding I've given up attempting to describe it. has had some great coverage of the crisis, but I want to paraphrase a reader's comment as he dissects Charles' Krauthammer's recent article. Essentially, Fivethirtyeight reader, "Nick," pointed out that the GOP blaming the Democrats for the economic situation we're in is like a "murderer framing a paramedic." He continues:
[Now,] Republicans seem to have gone even further - they're trying to destroy the corpse to rule out any post mortem. Krauthammer seems to be saying that their "golden opportunity" lies in sitting back and watching a downgrade wreak havoc on the economy. 
Maybe they're bitter Obama had a well timed financial collapse during the last election. If they get him thrown out of office on the same tide of public sentiment that scuttled McCain then it will be a sick reflection of politics in America - you can ruin the economy over eight years and then intentionally sink it again to regain power. Never has there been a truer picture of a nation so intent on directing its own decline. 
(And Mitch McConnell has said as much)

During the last few days, I've talked with several respectable people about the debt ceiling debates. They don't seem worried: "It's just Congress going through its typical process of getting anything done."

There is no doubt that what we're seeing is political theater at its worst, but I don't share in the overall nonchalance. At this point, the GOP has pushed the debate to a situation where any outcome will be negative.

There are three possible outcomes: 1) default, 2) pass a compromise, or 3) Obama uses the 14th Amendment to declare the debt ceiling itself unconstitutional and simply ignore it. Options 1 and 2 aren't great politically or economically and option 3 would cause significant political backlash.

While the problems with defaulting as a country are self-evident, a compromise is not significantly better. Any compromise with Republicans will involve making cuts to government programs such as higher education as well as programs that support the working class, the poor, and other vulnerable populations. These will have a decidedly negative effect on the economy; education is the chief driver of economic mobility and the working class is the chief driver of consumer spending (which is the chief driver of our economy).

This morning, it looks like option 2 is most likely. In this case, the compromise would actually be farther to the right than the initial GOP proposal. Part of this situation is the media's fault. "Liberal" MSNBC discussed the differences between Boehner's plan and Reid's plan, but failed to mentioned that both filled the prescription the GOP spelled out in the beginning of this debate: all cuts and no taxes. The Democrats have capitulated to the GOP on every front, but aren't getting any credit (or blame) for it in the main-stream media.

Perhaps the most astounding aspect of the debt debate is that the position of Congressional Republicans (and now the current compromise bill) is actually farther to the right than what the average Republican voter wants. Nate Silver discusses that here.

From a policy standpoint, the 14th Amendment option as discussed by many and advocated by the more progressive wing of the Democratic party would probably be the best option. It doesn't cut spending, but it would afford us the opportunity to avoid harmful cuts in favor of raising some taxes and making cuts that won't damage the economy (cutting defense spending). It's also worth noting that since ratings agencies have threatened to downgrade the U.S. if we don't address the debt, swift cuts/tax increases must accompany this option.

At some point in my study of politics and current affairs, I would have rendered more hyperbolic judgement of the Grand Old Party. But at this point, I'm stuck with understatement.

-GOP, 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment