Based on the sacred text of a contemporary Rasputin, a fanatic faction of the Republican Party has taken the Republic hostage and threatened it with grievous harm if not immediate death. The name of this American mad monk is Grover Norquist. As he says in the New York Times 22 July 2011 edition,
"Americans for Tax Reform created the pledge in 1986 as a simple, written commitment by a candidate or elected official that he or she will oppose, and vote against, tax increases." As of today, 236 current members of the House of Representatives and 41 current senators are signatories. According to his holiness, "fiscal conservatives must stick to their commitment to oppose tax increases and fight to reduce the size of the federal government." As he explains, "The problem to be solved is not the deficit; it is overspending." [http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/22/opinion/22Norquist.html?ref=opinion]
It is well within any person's right to hold views such as those expressed by this unelected despot, but when such fanatical views impede elected officials from bearing true faith and allegiance to the United States Constitution, such cultish belief becomes a matter of public concern and it open to criticism. "Contrary to the hopes of some that I am somehow softening the pledge, it is stronger and more important than ever: it has made it easier for members of Congress to credibly commit to voters that they will refuse to increase taxes and instead focus on reducing the cost of government. But ultimately, the pledge is only one expression of the Republicans’ commitment to shrinking the size of the federal government. The Republican leaders — Mr. Boehner, Representative Eric Cantor, Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Jon Kyl — have repeatedly and clearly stated that they will not allow a net tax hike to be imposed on the American people as part of a debt ceiling deal — especially when the goal of that deal is to reduce the runaway spending now damaging America’s economic future and killing the jobs we need."
The alarming truth is that the Congress of the United States now harbors 277 cult members. If this seems like hyperbole, consider the following adaptation from Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups - Revised: [http://www.csj.org/infoserv_cult101/checklis.htm]
1. At the vital core of cultic groups lie concerted, consistent efforts at control and influence.
2. Many cult members are seemingly unaware of the extent to which they are manipulated, intimidated and exploited.
3. Cult groups often exhibit zealous, reflexive commitment to the cult leader and his beliefs, priorities, ideology, and prescriptions.
4. Questions, doubts, dissent and deviation are discouraged, disparaged, and even punished.
5. The leader dictates how the members should think, act, and feel.
6. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members; the group and/or the leader is on a special mission. [See paragraph three above]
7. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict within the wider society.
8. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have otherwise considered reprehensible or unethical.
9. The most loyal members (the “true believers”) believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave.
10. The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members.
This assertion by Mr. Norquist [The Leader] "The problem is not the deficit; it is overspending." is an Ex cathedra pronouncement from this secular pope. It is in the immortal phrasing of an aide to Senator John Kyl, "not intended to be a factual statement." It cannot be meant as a factual statement because it is blatantly untrue. As the cult members use the term spending, it is pejorative when modified by the adjective government. A moment of reflection shows how fallacious this perspective is. Air traffic control is achieved through government spending. The military is a massive example of government spending. Food and safety inspections are accomplished through government spending. The Center for Disease Control is funded through government spending. Police and fire protection relies on government spending. The list is virtually endless. Using the term "government spending" as a disparagement is semantic jujitsu. The proper designation is "government services." Opinions may reasonably differ about any particular government service, but it is flagrantly irrational to assert or imply that all government services are wasteful and dispensable.
As Paul Krugman notes, "These are interesting times — and I mean that in the worst way. Right now we’re looking at not one but two looming crises, either of which could produce a global disaster. In the United States, right-wing fanatics in Congress may block a necessary rise in the debt ceiling, potentially wreaking havoc in world financial markets."
"So we have depressed economies. What are policy makers proposing to do about it? Less than nothing.
The disappearance of unemployment from elite policy discourse and its replacement by deficit panic has been truly remarkable. It’s not a response to public opinion. In a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, 53 percent of the public named the economy and jobs as the most important problem we face, while only 7 percent named the deficit. Nor is it a response to market pressure. Interest rates on U.S. debt remain near historic lows.
Yet the conversations in Washington and Brussels are all about spending cuts (and maybe tax increases, I mean revisions)."
This commentary by a Nobel prize winning economist reveals that the victims of hostage taking are now going through the Stockholm Syndrome process of identifying with their captors. The fanatical Republican cultists are both dishonorable and mistaken. The link of a debt ceiling increase to spending cuts is unnecessary, unprecedented, and ignoble. The cultists are not functioning in good faith. They are camouflaging a cynical ploy to attain unearned advantage with a cloak fiscal concern. The concern is bogus and the ploy is inherently harmful.
"It is now clear that the Republican strategy is to drive America to the brink of fiscal ruin and then argue that the only way out is to cut spending for the powerless. Taxes — a dirty word thanks to Norquist’s “no new taxes” gimmick — are made to seem beyond the pale, even as the burden of paying for our society shifts disproportionately to the middle class and working poor. It is the height of fiscal folly. It is also not who we are as a country."
For them, maintaining their rhetoric about spending cuts is more important than preserving the civic investments that make America stand out from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, some mom-and-pop stores and college students pay more in taxes than some of our largest corporations. Still, taxes are sin to the hard-liners, though they have difficulty demonstrating a correlation over the past decade between tax cuts and economic growth.
That political calculus has consequences for the rest of us.
If the deficit is reduced by spending cuts alone and there is no deal to raise the debt ceiling, here’s a sampling of what happens: We stop paying our soldiers or supporting our veterans. We stop feeding the neediest children and families. We stop providing nursing home care to seniors. We stop inoculating schoolchildren. We stop helping young people go to college. The unemployed are on their own. Roads and bridges continue to crumble. And we jeopardize the creditworthiness of our economy at one of the most fragile moments in history. All to protect the marginal benefits of the most fortunate and the political purity of the radical right."
Even if it had no cultish aspects and was not driven by the fanatical Republican faction, the spending cut mania is irrational and harmful as Mr. Krugman explains in the previously cited column,
"For those who know their 1930s history, this is all too familiar. If either of the current debt negotiations fails, we could be about to replay 1931, the global banking collapse that made the Great Depression great. But, if the negotiations succeed, we will be set to replay the great mistake of 1937: the premature turn to fiscal contraction that derailed economic recovery and ensured that the Depression would last until World War II finally provided the boost the economy needed."
After a harrowing several weeks, the President of the United States seems to be acceding to the fanatics. He is apparently unable and unwilling to allow those who have no concern beyond their articles of faith to inflict the damage described above. He must know that their proposals are erroneous and their tactics are deplorable, but he is about to pay the ransom. Not only that, he is now using their preferences as his own proposals. In this he exhibits the characteristic of a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. By emotionally bonding with the abusers, the president is using a common strategy for survival among victims of abuse and intimidation. It is easy to see these factors of Stockholm Syndrome at work in this latest example of failing governance in the United States.
These four factors can be discerned in this current political hostage situation:
- The presence of a perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the abuser would carry out the threat.
- The presence of a perceived small kindness from the abuser to the victim
- Isolation from perspectives other than those of the abuser
- The perceived inability to escape the situation
The President clearly perceives the threat of the intransigent refusal by fanatical Republicans to increase the debt ceiling. They have convinced him and most others that they will carry out their threat.
The willingness of the Speaker of the House, the Senate Minority Leader, and the Republican Gang members to discuss the crisis with the President and other Democrats is lavished with grateful praise to an almost nauseating extent.
The President has virtually excluded resolute Democratic voices from his inner councils during this period, so all he hears are troubadours of the fanatic faction. The isolation is self-imposed, but it is still isolation.
The President seems convinced that there is no way out of this contrived crisis without capitulating and giving those who have taken the full faith and credit of the Republic hostage what they zealously demand.
I sympathize with the desire of the President to forestall the maiming or execution of the American economy. I sincerely do. He did not create this dreadful impasse in any way and the loud and incessant lies alleging he did are tales told by idiots full of sound and fury. When progressives sat out the 2010 mid-terms and zealots carried the day, we, the People, set the stage for this cluster phuck. As President Obama observed, at a town hall meeting on 22 July 2011, "You voted for a divided government in 2010, but you did not vote for a dysfunctional government." Therefore, as much as it might soothe our egos and salve our consciences to denounce and dismiss all politicians as self-serving charlatans, that is neither appropriate nor honest. We, all Americans of goodwill, are in this together. The fanatical faction of the Republican Party is attempting tyrannically to impose their ideological obsessions on the entire nation and they are heedless of the consequences to the common good. As daunting as the looming dangers surely are, the time has come for all patriots to say as one, "death before dishonor."
We must never forget “Any appeasement of tyranny is treason to this republic and to the democratic ideal.” This includes surrender to the current fanatic faction in the House of Representatives as surely as it would include caving in to demands from the Taliban or any similar group of zealots regardless of the alleged basis of their zealotry.
Let us never acquiesce to terrorists regardless of the positions they occupy, the language they speak, the idols they worship, or the creeds they profess. As Churchill warned, "Victory will never be found by taking the line of least resistance." The same can be said for justice, tranquility, and prosperity.