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Congressman No
How I learned to stop worrying and love the austerity bomb

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
December 5, 2012

It looks like Obama is going to stand his ground. He has said, on several occasions over the past few days, that the ending of the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% is not open for negotiation. Come January 1st, one way or another, the top income bracket on incomes over $250,000 goes from 36.5% to 39.5%. Someone who makes $251 thousand in 2013 will have to pay an additional $30 in federal taxes. Oh, the humanity.

The real battle isn't between Obama and the GOP, despite appearances. That battle ended before it began, when Obama racked up 323 electoral votes on election night. He became only the fourth president since 1900 to get re-elected with more than 50% of the popular vote. And he ran on a platform of ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Even Faux News is finding it difficult to claim he deceived anyone on that.

No, the real battle is between the moderates that remain in the GOP, and what one Guardian blogger called “the more swivel-eyed” elements of the far right. The ones that House Speaker Boehner is busily running out of the more important committees in an effort to bring the party back to something approaching sanity. As the wise man said, “The longest journey begins with a single step.” Boehner has taken that first step, and not surprisingly, the party has erupted into full scale war.

This puts Boehner in a bind. If he wants to prevent the austerity bomb agreement from going into effect, he needs to come up with a package that will appeal to a majority of the Republicans in the House (otherwise it won't even get voted upon), but that which then has to get past every Democrat in the Senate, and finally, Obama himself, who has absolutely nothing to gain by caving and a great deal to gain by standing his ground.

The House won't even entertain Obama's proposal. They won't even let it go up for a vote, which is pretty much their standard operating procedure. Like fascists everywhere, they are contemptuous of the democratic process, seeing it as weak and accommodating.

As a result, Boehner can pander to his right wing and come up with an immensely unpopular bill that attacks Social Security and Medicare and who knows what else, or he can actually try to negotiate with a President who doesn't owe him any favors, and alienate the nutball right. Either way, he's pretty much screwed. I don't have any sympathy.

If the right does revolt, and overthrows Boehner, and puts some teabagger in the Speaker's office, the results should be so grotesque that the GOP will lose the House in 2014. Yes, it means two more years of paralysis for the country, and the economy might slump again because Congress is so hopelessly tied up.

In the meantime, there is the austerity bomb.

It isn't really a bomb any more than it's a cliff. The effects will be gradual. Assuming that Congress and Obama fail to reach an agreement January 1st, we will not see cities in flames that afternoon, and the Republican will not fall.

But gradually, over the period of a few months, the US will slip back into recession. It's because it is an austerity package, which is another way of saying, “Man the lifeboats! Banksters and Corporations first!”

The United Kingdom is having fun with their austerity measures. Their economy is so healthy they are now saying their recession might end by 2018. Greece is on the verge of a socialist revolt thanks to austerity; most Greeks, for some reason, don't quite follow the logic that they should lose their jobs, their pensions, and their homes so banks that made stupid investments can recoup their loses.

Iceland, the one country to say “Screw the bankers! Our people come FIRST!” is doing quite well. The banksters hate them, but their people are fed, their economy is back on its feet. They were in far worse shape than the US is now.

The Gallup Poll, badly discredited as it was in the last election, had an interesting factoid last week. Respondents were asked to give “top-of-mind reactions” to a variety of terms, including “socialism”. On that, 36% expressed approval, and only 58% disapproval. And it's important to keep in mind that a large number of the 58% who disapprove actually have no idea what socialism is, and think of Hitler, or if they're a bit smarter, Stalin, when they hear the word.

Terminology trumps knowledge in this poll. 86% approved of free enterprise, and 84% approved of entrepreneurs. 61% approved of capitalism. But only 49% approved to the inevitable result of entrepreneurship, capitalism and free enterprise: big business.

I don't think the country is as comfortably happy with the economic situation as Wall Street hopes. At a time when big business has less jobs available in America than they did in 2000, and outfits like Walmart collect more welfare—either through undeserved tax breaks, or through subsidies of badly underpaid “associates,” the concept of big business as the friend and succor to all Americans is an idea that has become distinctly threadbare.

And yet, here are Boenher and the rest of the Republicans demanding that tax breaks for the rich be continued, at the expense of the middle class.

The country seems to be paying more attention to these corporate dancing clowns these days.

And they don't seem amused at what they see.

Posted: December 8, 2012

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