The irony was just too much to ignore. The morning after I wrote the first draft of this post (Friday), I opened the newspaper to read that two of my friends and Mel King, a legendary Boston community organizer, had been busted for blocking yet another eviction by a greedy bank.

This gave me great pause since I’d written a scathing denunciation of our right-wing jihadists’ ability to blackmail the federal government into a shutdown. A shutdown which meant that more than 800,000 government employees have been unable to work1, 3,200 children have been locked out of Head Start, 2 and 401 national parks have been closed to the public.3

I’d even gone as far as presenting a chart that listed the number of federal employees in each of our states, noting how the congressional jihadists were hurting their own constituents. But after reading the article about my friends, I began to reconsider.

How would I have felt if the Vietnam Anti-War movement had been able to shut the government down? Truth is, I would have felt great, useful, triumphant. But then I realized this country never closes the military. Wouldn’t have then and didn’t now. Realized that shutdowns are programs that help people or build a better country. War, on the other hand, doesn’t sleep.

That’s when it struck me that the government shutdown was more than a byproduct of Tea Party activists, and the underlying philosophy of shutdown politics is not really less government as much as no government. Some of what this shutdown actually provides. A Facebook friend commented to me, “This is a war about what this country is.” I guess I’d say this is a war about what a social compact means.

One side believes that people ought take care of themselves and their families and choose on their own whether to help those in need. I have no doubt that a huge number of people on this side actually do choose to help. They adopt, give money to many different charities, feed the hungry, and live lives that are a testament to their beliefs. They also believe that government is wasteful, runs on pork, misuses their hard-earned money, and interferes with their lives. While they do acknowledge people need some government, say a military, on the social side of the ledger there is no need or place for the feds.

Actually, many progressives agree with some of these points from their own perspective. For example, who does the government really work for? They see the overwhelming support government gives to the rich and powerful, the banks and multi-national corporations, the 1% and it sickens them. And some of them, like my friends, try to shut the government down by committing acts of civil disobedience to stop ugly and unfair foreclosures.

For this side of the division, though, social compact doesn’t leave the wellbeing of others to individual decisions or buy into the notion that it’s every person for themselves. While it agrees that government wastes a huge amount of money, it relies on a federal government to provide jobs for the unemployed, food for the hungry, and yes, healthcare for our people.

That doesn’t mean those of us with the collective view of our social compact rather than the individual uber alles position think governments walk on water. There’s plenty to complain about. We don’t believe that governments have the right to follow us around, intercept our emails, mess with peoples’ personal lives (or bodies) and the list keeps rolling on.

But we do believe it’s a necessary condition to administer a social compact. Without it people would starve, bridges would crumble, and the quality of most peoples’ lives would hit the shitter.

There’s an enormous amount of problems with this government and I certainly haven’t been shy in writing about them—from institutional racism and unnecessary wars, to our governments’ lapdog ass licking to big business and the greed-heads. But unlike the other side of the divide, I’m not willing to flush it away—even with my significant doubts about potential reformation.

Because right now government does feed the hungry, does fund shelters for the homeless and battered woman, does make sure that back alley abortions are a horror of the past, and does provide educational opportunities for those who can’t get them on their own. (And I’m just naming a few. Haven’t even bothered with the really big stuff like the F.D.A, Medical Research Grants, Transportation etc.)

If the day comes when the private sector decides to do all the above and more at the scale needed, then it might be time to shut the government down. But right now it’s nothing but extortion by people who, at their best, actually imagine that more than 300 million people can go it alone. That’s not thought. That’s delusion.


Sources:  1. “Federal Government Begins First Shutdown in 17 Years,” Time Swampland, October 1, 2013

2. “Shutdown Closes 3,200 Preschoolers’ Head Start Programs,” The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2013

3. “National Parks: Shutting Down America’s Best Idea,” National Geographic, October 2, 2013

15 thoughts on “WHO THEY KIDDING?

  1. Who are they kidding? Enough of the people for just long enough. That’s the goal. Long enough for what? Follow the money.
    Who are they? Opposite worlders. Even in this “time out”, when there could be an opportunity to seriously evaluate our national interests and priorities, the focus is exclusively on positioning for the next elections.

    The private sector will provide? See the parable of Pullman. It’s never happened. Never will.

  2. I find it funny when people so soaked with delusion accuse other of being soaked in delusion.

    I tend to agree with you on what government should be doing but not on how.

    Government should not be providing the jobless with jobs, but securing an environment where jobs are plentiful for those who desire them.

    Government should not be providing for peoples hunger needs, but securing an environment where jobs are plentiful so one can provide for himself.

    Government should not be mandating what citizens do, not at the federal level, they should be focused on making sure we are safe in general so that we have the freedom to govern ourselves at the state and local levels.

    Can the federal government be an active participant in regulating things on the national level? Yes, and it should. There are matters that have national scope, like the environment and the food supply, to name just a couple. There are areas that need to be justly regulated on a national scale, the FDA serves a very important role, and transportation is both a matter of national defense and the freedom of our people to exercise our rights as citizens. The federal government is needed to make sure the state governments do not stomp on our constitutional rights, for example. We NEED our federal government, but the problem is that the federal government should need US just the same. As it stands now the federal government does not need us, it has us, and that is wrong.

    We need less federal government, not because we do not need to feed children. We need less federal government because we need to have more control over those we empower. That control is more easier to be had at the state and local level.

    I don’t want all of these federal programs to go away right now, that would be like not taking all of your antibiotics just because you feel better three days into the treatment, I want them to be more efficient, effective, and not ever expanding. Ideally I would want them to go away as federal programs and be taken up by the states. Why? Because still today we have more power over the state government than we could ever imagine.

    Your problem isn’t really with the Tea Party, they’re a bunch of attention whores, your problem is with me. The left, liberals, or progressives have no power over the Tea Party’s existence or what they do. You could be opposed to them and hate them till kingdom come and it wont matter a hill of beans, but people like me, the right, conservatives, or whatever we call ourselves do have the power to ignore the Tea Party and make them go away. The reality is that as long as we have a federal government hellbent on shit like the universal mandate then we will allow the morons like Palin and company to get all the attention they want and do what they need to do to get it.

    • Don–I think you’ve done a fine job expressing the traditional conservative point of view. In fact, there are things you suggest that I have little or no problem with. Of course we disagree about areas where I believe in government mandates and you don’t but I also think if we were stuck in a room together we might actually find places to compromise.

      But there are a few things I think you bypassed. As a progressive I see this government as working for the rich, the powerful, the major corporations. I believe these are the actual owners of the country and, for the most part, this government serves them, not the general citizen. And, as long as the courts continue to allow unfettered fund raising by politicians the government will continue to serve that 1%.

      The other point I think you don’t give enough credence to is the degree which the Tea Party and their advocates make a mockery not only of our government but of traditional conservatives like yourself. You don’t have to be a leftie to see what the jihadists have done to mainstream republicans. And although I don’t believe in the conservatism you propose, it is at least a place where discussions have an opportunity to occur. But at this point in our country’s life, mainstream Republicans are forced to simply sit quietly while Palins tear down their house.

      Am glad you took the time and effort to present your side of this story. Hopefully a reasonable discussion might ensue.

      • There’s is one thing I think we both agree on and that is that corporatist are a disease. I think it’s a good example of giving someone an inch and they’ll take a light year. Corporations were created to protect people not enslave them. Our government was created to ensure our freedom and restricted to stop it from infringing upon it. Now we have two camps who wish to abuse their powers. Two camps that are at times opposed to one another and at other times feeding off of each other. The problem is that a corporation has two different enemies, the government and consumers, (if they provide product.) the government can regulate it and people can refuse to purchase. But the government is almost beyond the reach of the people and willing to take payment from corporations. So you can see why I often oppose its expansion.

        • Don: “Two camps that are at times opposed to one another and at other times feeding off of each other.” I don’t see them as particularly opposed to each other. I see government, as I’ve often said, primarily working for them.

          “But the government is almost beyond the reach of the people and willing to take payment from corporations. So you can see why I often oppose its expansion.” All too true. You can see that even in the program you hate–ACA. It makes no sense to have dealt in the insurance companies. It just adds to our cost.

          The point that the government is “almost beyond the reach of the people,” is why I believe we need a progressive political party willing to do the work of generating our electorate by offering a government that really *is* for the people.

  3. And, beside what you already say, the corporte welfare of this country is, and has been, a free give-a-way to financial interests. These guys depend on free land (railroads), government investment, bailouts, because they have become toxic rhizomes insinuating themselves into every aspect of life such that they can (with a straight face) pretend that they represent a bunch of can-do guys whose primary contribution to the social contract is that “if they shrugged: no one could ever get anything done and would live on the meanest, poorest streets imaginable. I feel a rant coming on, so suffice to say, they are the producers of the polluted rivers, air, landfills, tailings piles, etc. I live next to a gigantic hole in the ground called the Copper Queen Mine. Freeport-McMoran runs around handing out pittances to the Boys and Girls club, high school seniors, and various fundraising endeavors. The area is so poor that few are willing to admonish them as people desperately desire their pittances. Meanwhile they keep a fleet of trucks rambling around rearranging the tailing piles on the Titanic so that they will not be forced into accepting the Super Fund costs that the EPA charged the former owners (Phelps Dodge) with. They will never pay the costs of the towering damage they have done as long as they play a busy game of earth moving with their depreciated trucks and putting a few bucks intot he hands of high schoolers and the Rotary Club..

    • Georgia: ” They will never pay the costs of the towering damage they have done as long as they play a busy game of earth moving with their depreciated trucks and putting a few bucks intot he hands of high schoolers and the Rotary Club..” I completely agree. The way I see it, is that while government has at times tried to do good for our general population, they basically genuflect to corporate and the 1%ers. Until *we* create a progressive alternative to our “one party with two right wings” (Gore Vidal) thing will only get worse.

  4. If government was run by officials who actually gave a tinker’s damn about the wishes of their constituents, it wouldn’t matter much what you called the majority party. This is not the case. The corporations have bought the government out from under us to serve their purposes, not ours. How many of us can slip an envelope containing two hundred million dollars across a freshman congressman’s desk?

    The bickering, fighting, and name-calling among we, the people has been generated and fed by corporate-owned American news services. It’s the old magician’s trick–look while I wave my right hand dramatically in the air and split your attention between that and my buxom and scantily-clad assistant while my left hand slips into your pocket and steals your money, personal information, ALL your communications, jobs, regulated banking and investment services, and allows your infrastructure to fall apart before your eyes.

    We are all being conned. We are all being lied to by professional thieves. The emperor has no clothes. Can I state this in any plainer fashion? Do you realize what I just wrote? We have a criminal government. Think hard about that for a moment. Then ask yourself, “What can we do to bring this in for a soft landing?”

    That’s the $64 dollar question. And I do not think there is an answer that can provide it.

    You’re a Social Democrat. I was a Conservative and now put myself squarely in the Libertarian camp. But if you and I were to magically become the two sole leaders of the United States, I have no doubt we could debate, cuss, stay up late at night, and within days agree upon a new set of laws, rules, and regulations which would return power to the citizens and immediately begin reducing the damage and pain now inflicted on our nation.

    No Republican and no Democrat is going to even attempt that.

    As for the POTUS, currently he is doing everything in his power to inflict yet MORE pain on American citizens by harassing 80 and 90 year old veterans who wish to visit their WW II Memorial, closing national parks (the Internet is rife with stories of Americans being threatened at gunpoint with arrest and worse at our parks). What the hell good does it do to solve this situation by closing the American Sector of Normandy Beach in France, or barricading and locking the gates to the American Veteran’s Cemetery nearby?

    Obama has nothing to lose now. Your side fell for his “hope, change, and transparency” lies during the first election only to discover you’d elected a more intelligent George W. Bush, and that intelligence makes him even more dangerous. He would not be POTUS now if the Republicans would have run a warm body–any warm body–during the 2012 election. Instead, they offered up a Sears department store underwear mannequin that I could not even vote for. 2012 made me understand the game is rigged. We will not win. This is not our nation anymore. They own it, lock, stock, finances, and telecommunications.

    I’m sorry. It pains me to write this. But I see no hope any longer for a “soft landing.” I see a full-blown worldwide 2nd Great Depression looming and oceans of blood in American streets. Obama is a tool. But he’s not our tool and he is not your tool.. He is a machete wielded by an enemy we have yet to identify. We cannot resist or fight this enemy if we can not even identify them. Sure, you can point to the 1% or corrupt politicians. And you will be pointing at the tip of an iceberg 90% of which we cannot see.

    The administration made the wise-assed remark that many Americans are now “clinging to their guns and their Bibles.” I can’t speak on their Bibles, but can assure you that the hundreds of millions of new guns sold since Obama’s first election were not purchased with hunting or plinking tin cans in mind. Consciously or unconsciously, Americans have been spending their little discretionary income on battle weapons since the days of George W. Bush, and the government has countered with NORTHCOM, the TSA, Homeland Security, and those 180,000 rounds of Magnum ammunition for IRS agents alone.

    If you cannot see what they are planning, if you cannot see what is coming–and soon–you neglected the lesson of what happened to Boston during the search for the kids who planted the pressure cooker bombs at the Marathon. The kids were real bombers, but the federal reaction was a false-flag operation to see the public’s reaction to combat-armed soldiers in our streets going from house to house to make warrantless searches. What will the next excuse be? What will be the next boogeyman they wave under our noses?

    I cannot describe how sad and frightened I feel in writing this. But there will be no soft landing. All the situations and complaints you describe above will get worse, much worse, until rivers of blood pour into our gutters.

    And history shows that during the first Civil War, the North had its vision of what victory and the following peace would be like. The Confederacy had its same (although somewhat different) visions of post-war America. They were both wrong. A different America than either one expected came out of the carnage, one neither side would have recognized a mere four years earlier. History also tries to remind those who learn from it that in their desperation from the failing Wiemar Republic, hyperinflation, unemployment, and literal hunger the German people *democratically elected* Adolph Hitler as Chancellor. He did not shoot his way into power, didn’t kick the door in with his brownshirts.
    He was elected by popular and democratic vote.

    I’ve been a history buff all my life, Zach. Now is the time for folks to start looking back to see what is coming our way. I honestly pray that I am wrong, but history does not exist to support my wishes or prayers.

    This will only get worse. Then the social and economic strains will become too great, and it will snap suddenly, viciously, and extremely violently.

    Calling people who wish for a smaller, less costly, and far less intrusive government “right-wing jihadists” and invoking the name of Sarah Palin (a joke to your side, an embarrassment to us) is as useless and divisive as those people calling you “Communists” or dull-witted Pollyannas. It advances neither side and only increases bitterness. It is playing directly into the hands of those who would oppress us both. They WANT us divided. They WANT us at each other’s throats. This is the magician’s waving right hand, the half-naked bimbo assistant strutting around. It is divide and conquer, and has been used successfully a sickening amount of times. It is being used, again successfully, on us now.

    These ARE the good old days. As Tolstoy said, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Do you think there is a chance in hell that the moneyed powers that be will give up their trillions of dollars and power over us without a savage fight to the end? Do you think mere window dressing “reforms” will make us all free from their increasing intrusion into our lives and our dwindling civil rights? Although we generally sit on opposite sides of the fence, you and I have had many agreements and reached over the wire to shake hands many times. Now I ask you not to believe merely what I say, but to study the past. It does repeat itself. Always.

    • Kent:”If government was run by officials who actually gave a tinker’s damn about the wishes of their constituents, it wouldn’t matter much what you called the majority party. This is not the case. The corporations have bought the government out from under us to serve their purposes, not ours. How many of us can slip an envelope containing two hundred million dollars across a freshman congressman’s desk?”

      You’re exactly right. But you know I don’t agree with you about the worse case scenarios despite history. Somehow I still believe our species is better than we’ve shown. And I’m hopful that I’ll continue to believe that for as long as I live.

      I don’t know how this mess is going to play out. But I believe there will be a path that doesn’t mean blood in the street. The older I get the more I abhor violence and I don’t think I’m alone with that process. I do believe we have to involve people in trying to regain our government rather than just bitching about it and I see that happening. Will it be soon? No. Will it be easy? No. But i do believe it will be.

  5. I do not think you should say the other side believes people shd take care of themselves
    The ruling class is the beneficiary of state policies that create their wealth. The super rich get the govt benes. They do not earn their dollars

    • Ron: “I do not think you should say the other side believes people shd take care of themselves
      The ruling class is the beneficiary of state policies that create their wealth.” I wasn’t referring to the 1% with my statement but rather those people who believe in a more rational conservatism. I do think they’re part of the 99% but somehow don’t see the system as rigged.

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