Illustration by DonkeyHotey for The Politics Blog (Based on Images from the AP)
Moral Hazard, the Irish setter owned for photo op purposes by New York Times, tried to get comfortable on the throw rug of the pantry just off the back kitchen of the Young Fogies Club. He had been having some issues with his left rear paw ever since he had visited Master’s vast spaces for entertaining and, while chasing a copy of Reflections On The Revolution In France that Master had thrown to him in lieu of a ball, he’d tripped over young Douthat, the pledge, who was polishing the marble on the floors as part of his ongoing initiation. Moral Hazard had caught his back leg on the beads cinched around the young pledge’s waist and spun out like Jimmie Johnson in the general direction of the library. Because Master’s spaces for entertaining are so very, very vast, he’d slid a long way before banging into the wall. Now, in the pantry, he couldn’t wrap himself around on the rug so as to lick his balls in contemplation of his recent ill-fortune. Moral Hazard was in a bad mood.
He was so wrapped up in his own problems that he barely heard that morning’s paper thump through the slot in the kitchen door. Manuel the cook, who’d just slipped Moral Hazard a nice hunk of the previous night’s prime rib, picked the paper up off the floor. Moral Hazard couldn’t see Manuel’s face, but he watched as the cook’s fingers whitened as his grip on the newspaper tightened. Aw, damn, thought Moral Hazard, Master’s written another column Manuel doesn’t like. That’s bad, he thought. Somebody’s soup’s going to get spit in tonight. As he rearranged himself painfully again, his tongue just inches from his balls, Moral Hazard sighed in frustration. He closed his eyes and, soon, he was dreaming of being a farm dog again, and the little towheaded boy who owned him was bringing him to the local vet. The vet was round and jolly, with a fringe of white hair, and everybody called him Doc, which pissed off the local physician, who actually treated human beings, but whom everybody still called “Buck,” because that was his nickname when he played linebacker in high school.
Doc the vet greeted the little boy and Moral Hazard. He looked down and said, “What’s wrong with your foot, old timer?” He hoisted Moral Hazard up onto the table with a smile and slipped the little towheaded boy a Tootsie Roll pop. “Don’t tell your Mom,” Doc smiled. “Your friend here’s gonna be fine. Just needs to stay off that foot for a spell.” Outside, across the street, kids from a Little League game were flocking around an ice-cream truck. Moral Hazard was so deep in his dream that he never heard Manuel clearing his throat as he moved toward a pot that was simmering on the stove. Moral Hazard dreamt on. “Yeah,” he dreamed, “that’s be cool.”
Sequestration may have seemed insane back then. But politicians in both parties are secretly discovering that they love sequestration now. It allows them to do the dance moves they enjoy the most.
You know those slasher movies where the teenager walks up toward the cabin door in the middle of the night and you think to yourself, “No, don’t open that door!”? You know how you feel when you see your child drive for the first time, or the chill that goes through you as you look over the brim of a cliff? That’s what it feels like when you see David Brooks edging toward a metaphor.
Democrats get to do the P.C. Shimmy. Traditional presidents go through a normal set of motions: They identify a problem. They come up with a proposal to address the problem. They try to convince the country that their proposal is the best approach.
And then they all get together, the Traditional Presidents do, and they play “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” on mandolins and hammered dulcimers. Stop him, please, before he metaphors again.
Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy, the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn’t address the problem (let’s raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. Then he returns to Washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town.
Let us remind ourselves that The Problem is that the House Of Representatives is in the hands of the insane who have all the patriotic instincts of a brick tossed through a window. Let us remind ourselves that there is nothing vague about tax-the-rich. It means, “Tax the rich,” who, we would mention, have been doing quite well over the two decades in which David Brooks has rendered himself capable of purchasing his vast spaces for entertaining through the lucrative peddling of faux-sociological horse-hockey.
Sequestration allows the White House to do this all over again. The president hasn’t actually come up with a proposal to avert sequestration, let alone one that is politically plausible. He does have a vague and politically convenient concept. (Tax increases on the rich!) He does have a chance to lead the country into a budget showdown with furloughed workers and general mayhem, for which people will primarily blame Republicans. And he does have the chance to achieve the same thing he has achieved so frequently over the past two years, political success and legislative mediocrity.
Let us remind ourselves, since Brooks plainly has been in a coma for the past three years and doesn’t realize the damage his 20 years of cheerleading for The Stupid Party ultimately have wrought, that the concept of what is “politically plausible” has undergone something of an adjustment since the day in 2010 in which the American people decided to have some fun and elect the most hilarious Congress in the history of republican government. And, while I have problems with the Affordable Care Act, I think calling the most thoroughgoing change in American health-care in 50 years “legislative mediocrity” is pretty damn rich. I’ve gotten myself so worked up that I didn’t notice that he was moving toward metaphor again. No! Stop him!
Republicans also secretly love the sequester. It allows them to do their favorite dance move, the Suicide Stage Dive. It was pioneered by Newt Gingrich in 1995 and has been repeated constantly since. In this dance, the Republicans mount the stage and roar that they are about to courageously cut spending. In this anthem they carefully emphasize cuts to programs the country sympathizes with, such as special education, while sparing programs that actually created the debt problem, like Medicare.
“Medicare” has not “actually caused” the debt problem. Two unfunded wars did. A deregulated Wall Street that blew up the economy, threw millions of Americans out of work, and thereby depressed demand to nearly unprecedented levels did. George Bush’s Medicare boondoggle, also put on the country’s credit card, did. A steady increase in health-care costs is driving the long-term debt problem, but that’s being addressed by the ACA and there are a number of fixes available. To simply say “Medicare” caused the debt problem makes you sound like Newt Gingrich dove off the stage and landed on your head.
Sequestration allows the Republicans to do the Suicide Stage Dive to perfection. Voters disdain the G.O.P. because they think Republicans are mindless antigovernment fanatics who can’t distinguish good government programs from bad ones.
They are, of course, entirely correct in that assessment.
Sequestration is a fanatically mindless piece of legislation that can’t distinguish good government programs from bad ones.
And thus does the calm, reasoned legislative action by which the aforementioned anti-government fanatics jacked with the debt-ceiling and, therefore, made sequestration seem to be a reasonable alternative disappear into the olive tray at the Applebee’s salad bar.
Sequestration carefully spares programs like Medicare and Social Security that actually contribute to the debt problem. Sequestration will cause maximum political disgust for a trivial amount of budget savings.
The program most like Social Security, namely Social Security, doesn’t do anything of the sort.
These two dance moves, the P.C. Shimmy and the Suicide Stage Dive, when combined, are beautifully guaranteed to cause maximum damage to the country. What’s America’s biggest problem right now?
Ooh, ooh, I know! Call on me!
It is that business people think that government is so dysfunctional that they are afraid to invest and spur growth. So what are the parties going to do? They are going to prove that government is so dysfunctional that you’d be crazy to invest and spur growth.
(Slinks back down into his seat, grumbling about the unfairness of at all and covertly rolling spitballs for later use.)
Oh, dear god, the Confidence Fairy has gotten into the HGH again. “Business people” are sitting on all that money because they profit from sitting on all that money. The entire American economy has been turned into a rigged casino by policies for which David Brooks did everything but a fan dance. Shuffling paper has replaced making stuff. The complex financial instrument has replaced the Colt revolver as an American product, although, for the purposes of stealing other people’s money, they serve almost an identical function.
In a normal country, the politicians would try some new moves. For example, if they agreed to further means test Medicare they could save a lot of money. Democrats would be hitting the rich. Republicans would be reforming entitlements. But no. Both parties love their current moves. It’s enough to make Harry Reid put his head between his legs and throw up.
Thanks for that image, big guy. However, in a normal country, we’d also have single-payer health-care. But, wait! Brooks has an apology to make.
The above column was written in a mood of justified frustration over the fiscal idiocy that is about to envelop the nation. But in at least one respect I let my frustration get the better of me. It is true, as the director of the Congressional Budget Office has testified, that the administration has not proposed a specific anti-sequester proposal that can be scored or passed into law. It is not fair to suggest, as I did, that tax hikes for the rich is the sole content of the president’s approach. The White House has proposed various constructive changes to spending levels and entitlement programs. These changes are not nearly adequate in my view, but they do exist, and I should have acknowledged the balanced and tough-minded elements in the president’s approach.
Translation From The Original Weaselspeak: I got caught making shit up again. My men of straw are now in flames around me. Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.