Remember those fun 1990s? Actually, they really weren’t, of course. If they look good at all in retrospect, it is purely because the intervening monster mash gave us a point of reference so that we might know what ugly really looks like.
Apart from that, however, the political story of that decade had a depressingly simple narrative arc to it. Republican bottom-feeders demonstrated at every opportunity how scummy politics can be, and Democrats responded over and over again with the political equivalent of “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” And wasn’t that fun to watch?
What the last months seem to be screaming out for all to hear is the lesson that some people just can’t change. Or won’t.
Could the little project launched a few centuries back, and affectionately referred to as ‘America’, possibly be in a more precipitous free-fall than it is right now?
No. And yet...
...And yet, while Wall Street firms are desperately trying to out-30s the 1930s themselves with their 2008 exercise in earnings annihilation, management gladly rewarded itself with nearly $20 billion dollars in bonuses, many funded by the United States taxpayers. This caused the people’s president to nearly raise his voice in remonstration, he was so upset.
...And yet, with the Republican Party tanking so badly that its best likely outcome in the years ahead (and you should see the second best) is to wind up as the undisputed vote-getting champ of Mississippi and large parts of Georgia, still they reiterate their most aggressive and abysmal of behavior.
...And yet, with the Democratic Party holding more or less all the political cards imaginable, still they go desperately looking for any and all possible ways to share their political power with the GOP. And when the latter folks reward such generosity with an immediate slap to the face, still the Dems come back begging for more.
We’re two weeks into the Obama decade, and already I’d be bored if I wasn’t so pissed. Even with every imaginable self-made predator circling the camp, still we go on with the same set of juvenile antics that substitute for a meaningful politics in America. Even with every conceivable disaster hungrily lapping at our shores, some of us would rather get rich than live to retirement age, some of us would rather win elections than save the country, and some of us would rather hold hands than be the guy who walks away from the knife fight alive.
Yep, it’s the Clinton years again. Minus the booming economy and probably the sexual shenanigans. But the politics sure look the same.
Wall Street greed that exists absolutely without bound, to start with. And a government that finds increasingly creative ways to liquidate the commonwealth of its common wealth and turn it instead into private playgrounds, corporate jets, MBA bacchanals, and really big rings on the fingers of really big trophy wives. What, you’ve got a problem with a $35,000 toilet for a company accepting taxpayer bailout money?
Don’t worry. Barrack Obama called it shameful. Since that appears to be just about all he plans to do about it, and since I had already made that particular analytical leap on my own horsepower, I must confess to being seriously unimpressed. Yeah, limiting salaries of the execs running companies receiving bailout funds is not a bad idea, but mostly another terribly trembling tactic from timid town. Since I am now an owner of these firms, would it be too much to ask for new management? Call me strange if you must, but I don’t want corporate chiefs who have proven their ability to wreck companies running mine. It’s just this odd quirk I’ve always had.
But the finger-wagger-in-chief’s little dressing down was actually the high point of the week. Somewhat less amusing was the GOP’s reaction to the president’s fiscal stimulus plan. Even though Obama went out of his way to include within it tax cuts that seem to be the only two words the lips of Republicans are able to form in discussions of economics or public policy – tax cuts that are widely understood not to have serious stimulus capacity at this point – still not a single member of the House – not one – voted for the bill. Instead, they went parading around the media complaining about how the legislation would favor illegal immigrants, or would spend a few bucks on family planning services. Can’t have that. Brown women in America? Not barefoot and not pregnant? Not okay.
Did I mention that this looks a lot like the 1990s? Zero was precisely the number of Republicans who voted for Bill Clinton’s economic rescue package in 1993. Taxes, sex, war, taxes. Taxes, sex, war, taxes. This guys are like a jazz singer who can only hit four notes, two of which are the same. And about as useful.
Of course, people gotta have principles. Texas Senator John Cornyn – who is absolutely everything you’d expect a Texas senator to be – said this week “I read the bill in vain for any real stimulus in the economy. What I do see mainly is an opportunity being exploited to spend a lot of money without much scrutiny.” Now see, dang it, that’s not okay. For example, let’s just say you had this Treasury secretary – we’ll just call him John Doe Paulson, to pick a name at random – and he spent $350 billion by giving banks rescue money that they used instead for bonuses and really cool toilets, literal and figurative. Now that there, my friends, is an example of money being spent without scrutiny. Or certain contractors (oh, you know, like Haliburton maybe) and their no-bid contracts in certain wars (let’s say Iraq, for instance). Or a prescription drug bill that actually forbids the government from using its buying power to obtain volume discounts. Now those are some nasty cases of unscrutinized federal spending, and we can all be thankful that Cornyn and other Republicans have been on the job this last decade, making sure none of that transpired.