I need to say, "dough," now, but in the heroic terms put forth by that scion of American letters, Matthew Groening:"D'oh," or perhaps, "DOH."
After spending a near sleepless December 30th awaiting the government to implode under its own weight sucking the life from the massive bank of D-cell batteries that runs the entire U.S. military machine, causing every aircraft carrier and satellite to sputter and brown-out to Ozymandias-ian rubble, inviting the citizens of the soon-to-be-submerged island nation of Nauru to invade shores of Pismo Beach while C-SPAN captures our highly-remunerated elected officials gesticulating madly as they try to shake the stink off the fingers they have pulled from their respective rectums (and some from the rectums of others). Because I figured that by today the feds would impound all of our savings, checking, and brokerage accounts (which thanks to several prior Republican administrations can actually be the exact same account, now) and we would find ourselves arming the poor via our 2nd amendment rights and the streets would be filled with law-abiding stock brokers, dishwasher repair mechanics, and Hertz rental clerks breaching the gates of private communities by plowing their bullet riddled - NRA-sticker-emblazoned F150's through the fences at high speeds, then cell-phone video recording themselves molesting the "Real Housewives of Lincoln, Nebraska" and driving the world's bankers naked into the streets at the point of sharpened pikes fashioned from high school lawn flagpoles demanding the citizens vote up or down by texting "kill the bastards" to x1101 thus creating the world's first major-bank-too-big-to-fail-kabob.
But no. Nothing this good has happened.
Depending on who you talk to.
What seems to be true is this: somehow the Obama political machine cornered the Tea Party conservatives. Even though Obama has been not-so-quietly saying, "checkmate," over and over since his reelection, nobody on either side believed him. Or should I say, they did believe him, but they thought that they could deal with his maneuver the way they deal with global warming by denying it exists.
Tea Party: You lie, Kenyan dog.
Only now time had run out and there was no other reality to face except the one that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the world is older than 4000 years, the planet is warming, and winning an election means you can cram things down the throat of the minority (as Obama himself said - ALMOST - before editing himself in mid sentence quite Presidentially last night).
So it would seem the Dems have won and the Repubs have lost and all the liberals can go back to the shire and celebrate by kicking back their hairy size-18 feet with a glass of mead and their favorite Hobbit squire or wench and enjoy the rest of the day writhing in the hay in a feast of fornication and nauseating drunkenness.
Alas - how naive we all are.
Merely 2 days after I emit a foul screed lambasting my conservative brothers and sisters for their uncharitable handling of difficult financial conditions - everything they were worried about came true. And this is not good for anyone. Let me give you an example:
Imagine there is an orphanage of hundreds of tiny babies on a vast green hill overlooking the sea in the Irish countryside. It is a very nice and caring orphanage tended to by sisters of a loving convent who deal with each child as if it were her own. The orphanage grounds are replete with many tiny golden retriever puppies and bowls of happy baby goldfish.
Now imagine there is a comet the size of Detroit descending from space at two-hundred thirteen times the speed of sound heading straight for the tiled roof of that orphanage. It will hit in two months.
The Democrats are saying: we need to build the strongest shield we can make. Strip all the depleted uranium you can get from those Abrams tanks Bush-the-W sent to Iraq and we will make a massive structure to deflect the comet harmlessly into the ocean to save the babies and puppies and goldfish.
The Republicans are saying: are you high? Fuck the babies and puppies. That thing is moving at two-hundred times the speed of sound. It's the size of Motown all the way from Marvin Gaye to the new Cadillac Brougham (4dr, with satellite radio). It's going to annihilate the whole northern hemisphere. It's going to vaporize the whole continent. The ocean is going to be steam. We are going to have blue whales and giant squid in orbit. Fucking RUN to Auckland, you petulant dunderheads.
At which point Joe Biden looks at Mitch McConnell and says, "Yes, but I'd rather be crushed by a comet saving babies than stuffing my pockets with gold and trying to walk across the bottom of the ocean all the way to New Zealand where all they have is sheep, anyway."
While the whining is very different, the outcome is the same irrespective of which version of sniveling you choose to adopt before the end. Global cataclysm. Whales and sharks knocking on the windows of the international space station wanting in.
If you dissect what has happened in Washington the past few days re: the "Fiscal Cliff" you will come to the following conclusion: Everyone was right.
I mean that. Everybody from the far blue left to the far red right and the ultraviolet and infrared - anyone with half a brain and the means to spend a couple quiet hours reading - they are all correct. Bad economic things are happening. Everyone sees the same bad economic things and agrees they're bad. They don't even disagree on why they happened, though everyone would like to blame the other political party, as if blame somehow helps alleviate things. But even the blame is wearing thin.
Now, the party in "power", where "power" is defined by having the upper hand in decision making for "most" of the branches of government - which is currently the Democratic party - the party in power gets to spin the reality of the universe in terms that suit its mental fiction. This is true in a democracy. The party in power gets to define reality. The party that is in the minority goes back to adopting some version of reality that is closer to a universal truth. They have to, because if the election system is valid, we have to presume that, reality be damned, the majority of the people bought the weird science fiction being sold by the winning candidates.
For the Democrats, the mental fiction is that the Republicans have ruined the universe. We had peace and prosperity and a budget surplus under Democratic president Bill-she-sure-looks-fine-from-up-here-Clinton and Republicans broke the piggy bank and took all the nickels by reducing taxes and then involving us in needless expensive wars. Now we're in hock up to our eyeballs. The Chinese own everything from our underwear to Rockefeller Center. (In the 80's it was the Japanese, by the way, but now they're imploding under the weight of their hubris.) We're heading to hell in hand basket and the way to fix things is to stop these expensive wars where you start turning us into Nazi Germany by legalizing torture and reading everyone's e-mail and then raise taxes back to where they were when everything was cool because nobody was complaining back then and everyone was making zillions of dollars on the internet bubble.
When the Republicans were in power they said: It's not the government's job to be the bank for the whole damned country. People might want to keep their money and use it for, I don't know, maybe replacing that junker in the driveway or sending their kids to college,and seeing as how the government has "extra" it shouldn't take anymore. And as for the wars - well may we remind you someone fucking blew up New York City and as much as you conspiracy theorists want to say it was some kind of inside job - remember that we were at a grade school reading about goats when it happened. And by the way - nobody has blown up anything else in America since, and that takes money. So stop complaining. Also, keep in mind that while you're out there handing out retirement checks and covering health care bills you have to stop soon because there's more money going out than coming in and that has been true since before Jimmy Carter. Need we point out that the biggest bill we had back then when we said we'd cover grandma's medical expenses was a couple hundred bucks here and there. Not a couple hundred thousand! Wake up and smell the deficit you ninnies, you're driving us all to debtor's prison (in Beijing). Soon there won't be a government or a country left.
Now it's often pretty difficult to determine exactly what is "real" with these two parties posturing and "spinning" the truth while they squirm for supremacy. I have decided for myself, then, that if one of the sides ever says anything that resembles the other side's argument, there must be some blatant kernel of truth in it - and it must be awful.
The things that both parties are saying, each in their own absolutely twisted, truth-defying ways are:
- Holy shit, we're out of money.
- No, I mean it this time. We're really out of money. Forget for a moment about how we got here. We can argue about whether we spent it right or not. We're not going to be able to make the Visa payment in 2 months.
- This is serious. We are going to have our salaries attached and the collection agencies are going to repossess the Buick.
- How about we attach our own salaries right now - will that work? Oh, wait, it's not enough?
- Holy crap. We have to "reform" Medicare and Social Security. Let's be clear. "Reform" means we give less to people. Nobody likes to say "CUT" Medicare and Social Security, because that scares people. It just sounds nicer because it's got more syllables and, well, when you "reform" criminals they become nice people. So maybe people will think this is the same sort of niceness.
- Just to be clear as well, if you took all of everyone's money it's still not enough.
- And to make matters worse, and this is the pisser: everyone, including the people who get Medicare and Social Security: ESPECIALLY those people - they all get to vote. What a damned inconvenience.
- Democrats are benefiting from all this, because all they ever say about running out of money is: "well, no we aren't, we'll just make rich people pay more," which sounds great to everyone who doesn't consider themselves rich. Frankly, the congress has just said everyone making less than $400,000 per year ($450,000 for a married couple) is not rich, and I'd really like the opportunity to be not rich but making $399,999.99 per year, but it ain't happening. But not being rich I'm absolutely ok with making other people pay more to take care of the problem.
- But this very thing is what I railed against in my prior missive: the guy who said, Why won't people vote to 'reform' Medicare, Social Security, and alms to the poor? Because they "have their hand's in other people's pockets." Well, that's kind of snarky, nose-in-the-air, snobbish way to put it that rubs me the wrong way. But he's right. The solution to the problem the Democrats have put forward is to use other people's money to fix things. Because after all, we all make less than $400,000 per year and we don't have anymore. So make someone else do it.
Now that a deal has been inked and the stock market is rising, everyone is getting ready for round two, which will be soon followed by rounds three and four. This is not going to end any time soon.
While the Republicans are applying the Preparation H to their assholes the Democrats are toweling off and congratulating each other for getting the Republicans to heel. And nobody wants to look up, but they know that the comet is that much closer to destroying the orphanage, and the golden retriever puppies are all wide-eyed and waggy tailed wondering what we're going to do to stop it.
The liberal pundits in the New York Times are crawling over each other trying to assail the president for not driving home the dagger while they had the enemy down. Taxes were going to go up anyway, they say. He should have just let it happen, and then allowed a vote later for a much lesser tax cut for more middle-classy people, like those who make $250,000 per year or less, they say. (I don't know about you, but last time I made $250K in one year I was not reading newspapers because I was too busy being rich and loving the hell out of it.) And everyone in both the conservative and liberal press is accusing congress of once more "kicking the can down the road" to worry about at a later time.
And by the way - nobody has done anything about the fact we can't afford Social Security and Medicare anymore. Even our liberal president agrees, on TV.
One has to glean from these activities that the only reason this vote was taken was two fold: 1) nobody wanted to be seen as having actually "raised" taxes on everyone - and by not voting, each party would blame the other for raising taxes. The Democrats care less about this than the Republicans, so it would be a hit on the conservatives. But 2)and most importantly - nobody wanted to see the stock market drop 800 points today, and 900 points tomorrow - which it would have if we went over the "cliff."
Make no mistake. This vote was taken to make sure the markets didn't collapse, which would have sent us back to the end of 2007 all over again. Skyrocketing unemployment. Banks going belly-up along with grandma's pension. Nobody lending money to anyone. Property values falling. The price of milk in Madison, Wisconsin up at $12.50 per gallon. Sarah Palin seeming like a good Vice Presidential choice.
That is why everyone got together at the last minute to vote. They wanted to avoid cometary impact by taking two steps to the left which won't help so much when the earth is missing a northern hemisphere.
But the comet is still coming.
Nothing has been done to lower the costs of Social Security and Medicare, the costs of which are destroying the country. The most ingenious thing the Democrats can imagine is to take more from the "rich", frankly, they don't have enough to fix the problem, and even then, it's just plain un-American to try to tax people 75%. The French people, and a socialist French government which is so entirely loathed by American conservatives, wholeheartedly agree. (See Sunday's NYTimes for details on the French vote not to raise the top tax rate to 75%.)
So one can that needs kicking is how to "reform" entitlements, and how not to tax the nation to death so the entire economy dies and we go back into a recession and wind up with 12% unemployment, and how not to turn all of the country into a fetid rendition of Les Miserables turning a whole class of people into criminals by cutting off their food stamps and access to health care. It really is that bleak.
The next can is the debt ceiling, which must be raised or our credit is busted all over the world and gravity will stop working and time as we know it will end.
And then there's another can that the business tax has to be raised, because private citizens can't pay for all this American life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and nobody wants to approach the business people because those guys have teeth and will threaten to kill babies and take all their money to casinos in the Caribbean.
So what of this?
I say, welcome to democracy. When nobody gets what they want, but progress is made, the system is working.
There is no deal that could be done that everyone would like. For once, these guys did something right.
For one very brief moment, government worked. Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden probably should get medals for this crappy agreement - because there actually is an agreement that passed. That means someone did something they said they would "NEVER" do. On the Republican side, it's voting for higher taxes even though they now have Grover Norquist gunning for them (though I heard Norquist on radio today say that the Republicans who voted FOR the tax hike on the wealthy actually voted for a tax cut - even though he was threatening to flay the flesh from all of them last week if any of them so much as smiled at a Democrat ). On the Democratic side, it's agreeing to whatever extortion they had to pay to get the Republicans to vote for a tax hike, knowing they're the ones who are going to have to drop their shorts when their favorite parks bill is killed this year for lack of funding.
And nobody is going to want to take money away from senior citizens, each of whom can still drive a walker or a quadcane up to a voting booth and push the button against the people who are reducing their checks.
Watch the movie "Lincoln" and see the mess he had to go through to get slavery abolished as part of the U.S. Constitution. Now a days we think it's just a foregone conclusion that slavery would have to end sooner or later. But that was far from the case in the nineteenth century. The backroom thievery, finagling, arm twisting, threats, and payoffs, have been a part of politics since the founding of the country. Who knows what happened behind closed doors the past week - who was promised what, who was threatened with what.
Yes, the outcome doesn't justify the means, but if anyone can get politicians to act charitably and not abscond with everyone's food and money and children, let me know.
This is the very sorry way government works, and some say it's worse now than in Lincoln's time. But I for one am extremely heartened that at the final accounting the Republicans and Democrats got together and figured out how to compromise.
Compromise. Imagine that. Who'd of thunk it? We can breathe for two more months. Until we have another self-inflicted panic upon us.
Two more months... The comet is still coming.
But I, for one, am doing what the rich people are doing putting what little money I have left back into the market. For me, 2013 starts optimistically.