Ayn Rand wins

Cornel West said something that should be obvious in a recent Al Jazeera interview. He pointed out, in so many words, that for an act to be bipartisan, two parties need to be present. Calling Barack Obama a technocrat, he said, again in so many words, that Democratic positions were not being represented in Washington, D.C.[1]

Now I’d hasten to point out that by this standard, we haven’t had two parties in Washington for quite some time. Gore Vidal has said “the United States has only one party—the property party. It’s the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican.”[2] Noam Chomsky writes that “there is essentially one political party, the business party, with two factions. Shifting coalitions of investors account for a large part of political history.”[3] And not to put too fine a point on it, Chris Hedges explains,

The liberal class, which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible, functioned traditionally as a safety valve. During the Great Depression, with the collapse of capitalism, it made possible the New Deal. During the turmoil of the 1960s, it provided legitimate channels within the system to express the discontent of African-Americans and the anti-war movement. But the liberal class, in our age of neo-feudalism, is now powerless. It offers nothing but empty rhetoric. It refuses to concede that power has been wrested so efficiently from the hands of citizens by corporations that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty are irrelevant. It does not act to mitigate the suffering of tens of millions of Americans who now make up a growing and desperate permanent underclass. And the disparity between the rhetoric of liberal values and the rapacious system of inverted totalitarianism the liberal class serves makes liberal elites, including Barack Obama, a legitimate source of public ridicule. The liberal class, whether in universities, the press or the Democratic Party, insists on clinging to its privileges and comforts even if this forces it to serve as an apologist for the expanding cruelty and exploitation carried out by the corporate state.[4]

But let’s pretend that there are actually two parties in Washington. Let’s call them the Republicans and the Republican-wannabes. Because a moment has arisen when the difference, if not resolved by midnight tonight, between these two factions threatens to “shut down” the federal government—meaning that for the most part, only the most distasteful parts of the federal government will continue to function.

Of ongoing negotiations, Hill reporters Michael O’Brien and Russell Berman write,

Insisting the GOP wants to avoid a government shutdown, Boehner said “almost all” of the policy differences between the parties have been dealt with, and that differences over the level of cuts are preventing a final deal. . . .

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) said Boehner told the [House GOP] conference that he was “not going to get rolled” by the Democrats.

“Most of the policy issues have been settled, and it’s about spending,” he said.

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), said plainly: “The riders have been dealt with.” He would not share details of the agreement, however. That statement directly contradicts what Democrats have claimed. Asked if they were lying, Rogers told The Hill: “I wouldn’t use that word, no.”[5]

It is interesting the Rogers declined to characterize Republican-wannabe claims that ideological “riders” stood in the way of a budget agreement as “lying.” It is further interesting that, according to the report, Boehner said that “‘almost all’ of the policy differences between the parties have been dealt with.”

OMB Watch has a four-page list of “policy riders” in the House continuing resolution from February 19.[6] Which, given negotiators’ refusal to offer specifics, suggests that Boehner’s “almost” can cover a lot of ground without contradicting claims that Republicans are “demanding anti-abortion provisions and a blockade on Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gas and other pollutants.”[7]

While this might not be enough to raise her from the dead, I imagine Ayn Rand is stirring in her grave about now. Because, once again, poor people and the unemployed will be screwed. Writing for Reproductive Health Reality Check, Jodi Jacobson points out that Planned Parenthood offers the only accessible health care in many areas, and that,

The GOP and Tea Party are concerned with one thing and one thing only: Turning the United States into an oligarchy controlled by corporations and the very wealthy, a world in which we have a weak and ineffective federal government, workers have no power, and women are subservient–completetly, totally–to men.[8]

Comparing current budget policy to Andrew Mellon’s purported advice to Herbert Hoover to “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate,” Paul Krugman wrote,

Democrats are offering little pushback. The White House, in particular, has effectively surrendered in the war of ideas; it no longer even tries to make the case against sharp spending cuts in the face of high unemployment.

So that’s the state of policy debate in the world’s greatest nation: one party has embraced 80-year-old economic fallacies, while the other has lost the will to fight. And American families will pay the price.[9]

But even what little pushback the Republican-wannabes offer is too much for the Republicans.

  1. [1]Cornel West, interview by unintelligible name, Riz Khan , March 28, 2011, http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/rizkhan/2011/03/201132863311584728.html
  2. [2]Gore Vidal, interview by David Barsamian, “Gore Vidal Interview,” Progressive, August 2006, http://www.progressive.org/mag_intv0806
  3. [3]Noam Chomsky, “Containing the Threat of Democracy,” Chomsky on Anarchism, Barry Pateman, ed. (Edinburgh: AK Press, 2005), 157.
  4. [4]Chris Hedges, “The World Liberal Opportunists Made,” Truthdig, October 25, 2010, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_world_liberal_opportunists_made_20101025/
  5. [5]Michael O’Brien and Russell Berman, “Boehner says ‘almost all’ policy differences settled; cuts at issue,” The Hill, April 8, 2011, http://thehill.com/homenews/house/154931-boehner-says-almost-all-policy-differences-settled-cut-levels-at-issue
  6. [6]OMB Watch, “Policy Riders in H.R. 1,” http://www.ombwatch.org/files/budget/OMB_Watch-HR1_Policy_Riders.pdf
  7. [7]David Espo, “Shutdown talks but no deal as clock ticks down,” Yahoo! News, April 7, 2011, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110407/ap_on_re_us/us_spending_showdown
  8. [8]Jodi Jacobson, “Averting a Government Shutdown? GOP Says Over Your Dead Body. And They Mean It,” Reproductive Health Reality Check, April 8, 2011, http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2011/04/07/keep-government-functioning-says-over-your-dead-body-they-mean
  9. [9]Paul Krugman, “The Mellon Doctrine,” March 31, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/opinion/01krugman.html

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