by Playthell Benjamin
Doomed from the Outset?
But what is to be learned from this Fiasco?
The airways and editorial pages have been filled with commentary from the chattering classes speculating about the reasons why the Congressional Super-Committee failed. This is of course expected; after all it’s their job. No surprise in that. What is surprising however is the fact that anyone who has been paying attention to American politics since the last Congressional elections would be the least bit surprised by this outcome.
It is far more surprising to this observer that so many highly paid pundits, people who are tasked with explaining the great issues of the day to the American public, are puzzled about how and why this colossal failure has occurred. Nothing that has happened surprised this observer; in fact I expected failure. I would have been shocked had this committee succeeded in resolving the looming budget crisis: Would to God that the lottery numbers would be as easy to predict.
The seeds of failure were planted in the formation of the Super Committee, whose raison d’etre was the failure of the regular Congressional Committees tasked with negotiating fiscal matters. Hence when the Super Committee members were chosen each side should have selected their most reasonable members, people who understand that the business they are about will require compromise to succeed.
In spite of the intransigence of ideologues, many of whom never tire of reciting verbatim passages from a Constitution whose deeper meaning and historical limitations they don’t understand, the architects of the American government planned our political system so that compromise is an essential element in the process of governing.
This is the reason for the three fold division of power, and the checks and balances it provides, which make it difficult for any one branch of government – or political party – to monopolize power. Alas, instead of seeking a path to compromise the Republicans stacked the Committee with hard core right-wing ideologues who have all signed a pledge to anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist.
Even if the stability of our nation is at stake these pledgees will not vote to raise taxes. They have maintained this absurd position even though there is absolutely no evidence that this tax policy will have the simulating effect on job creation that the Republicans say it will.
In fact, Nobel Laureates in economics Paul Krugman and Joseph Stieglitz, supported by the nation’s most successful investor Warren Buffett, have argued persuasively that the Republican position is bunk. All have argued that the taxes must be raised on the rich, and the avaricious Bush Tax cuts allowed to pass on into history.
They have recently been joined by a new organization calling themselves “Patriotic Millionaires” who say that they are willing to pay more taxes! Yet the Republicans on the Super-Committee stood firm against raising taxes on the rich and insisted upon reducing the burgeoning government deficit by cutting entitlement programs that benefit the elderly and the poor. The Democrats were right to stand their ground and oppose this! I think it was their finest hour.
The failure of the Super-Committee was therefore destined. The central lesson to be learned from this is that the Democrats and Republicans have fundamentally different views of the purposes of government, and which vision shall prevail is a matter for the electorate to decide. After all, it is they who elected 85 Tea Party Zealots to Congress.
It is the people they chose who have pushed the Republicans so far to the right they have run the ship of state aground and stopped the President’s agenda – which accomplished great things for the American people in his first two years. If we are to avoid disaster as a nation the American electorate will have to turn away from their bread and circuses and educate themselves about the realities of American politics.
The lesson the conservatives must learn is that you cannot elect people to govern who passionately hate government and expect them to govern well. And zealots on the left must learn that politics is the art of the possible, and it’s not possible to elect revolutionary socialists just now; so it is a question of choosing the lesser evil!
If the Left can’t figure out that the Republicans have entered a Faustian bargain and sold their souls to the Plutocrats, then they are as much a danger to the interests of the working class as the Tea Party. It is irrelevant that one reactionary force hails from the right and the other from the left of the American political spectrum, in the real world of politics it is a distinction without a difference.
The choice between the two great political parties that monopolize power in America has not been clearer since 1860, on the eve of the great Civil War. The old carnard that the American system is able to function in spite of differences between the political parties, because the two major parties are non-ideological no longer holds true. The present Congress cannot resolve the nation’s problems; compromise is impossible because the Republicans have gone on record saying that their ultimate goal is to make President Obama a one term President.
Furthermore the Republicans have convincingly demonstrated that they are willing to wreck the nation in their attempt to do it. Hence the electorate must now decide which path our nation will take; which ideal of American society shall prevail. If the Occupy Wall Street Movement wishes to play a significant role in this great decision they will have to grow up quick and become a political force, and fight to defeat the Republicans in the coming national elections. Otherwise their actions will amount to no more than a collective temper tantrum! As the political scientists like to say: In a participatory democracy a people will eventually get the kind of government they deserve!
The Good Old Days!
Benjamin is a veteran political journalist out of Harlem NY. His essays can be read on his blog site Commentaries on the Times.