Friday, December 26, 2014

The Next Two Years

Well, that was unpleasant.

So what does a Republican-dominated Congress and Supreme Court have in store for us?

One thing I think is highly likely: a slowdown in the recovery, or even a deepening of the depression. A period of deflation and an explosion of the national debt both seem possible.

This is likely to be an outcome of three Republican initiatives.

  1. Ending the health insurance tax credits in the 26 states that have not established their own health insurance exchanges. This would raise the health insurance prices of the approximately 10 million people enrolled via beyond the ability of most to pay. This, in turn, will cascade through the insurance industry, likely bankrupting insurance companies and affecting policies outside of the 26 Republican-dominated states.
  2. Cutting taxes on the very wealthy.
  3. Expanding military spending through borrowing.

At the personal level, further cuts in programs for people in economic distress are likely. The overall impact of this, and a slowing of the recovery, is likely also to affect the morale of the public. Some people will be further radicalized, and support further cuts. It seems likely, however, that much of the public will develop a hopeless hatred of the Republicans, which will be exploitable in a variety of ways, though it may ultimately lead to a successful opposition.

One of the most reliable markers of Republican politicians is their misogyny. Astonishingly for conservatives who claim to value women, children, and families, they are forever making excuses for rapists. This will manifest as more Congressional anti-abortion and even anti-contraception activism. A weakening, though probably not repeal, of the Violence Against Women Act seems possible.

Impeachment of Obama on false charges. Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!

It’s a pretty ugly list, though some of it many not come to pass. Obama’s veto will have some effect. At the same time, this list is not comprehensive; there are more horrors I do not know about. I think the country is going to be miserable by 2016, and I am not at all sure the Republicans will lose power at that time.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Further into Hell: Fascism, Keynesianism, and Red States

The tax-cutting and anti-labor policies of Kansas are destroying jobs. During a time of modest recovery, employment in Kansas continues to fall.

One of the things I now grasp about 1930s fascism is that it had to be militarist, it had to encourage internal looting. It had no other way to create jobs and maintain the wealth of its would-be aristocracy. How will this play out in states like Kansas and Wisconsin? Do the paramilitaries of the far right merge with the state militias? That sounds disturbingly plausible, especially since the state Guards and national reserve forces are already are full of Sunday soldiers. What happens then?

Internal violence, for sure. More attacks on victimized groups—blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, and women of all ethnicities—seem likely. External violence? It is hard for me to imagine a successful revolt; the state forces are too corrupt and disorganized, and the Federal forces are very powerful indeed. So instead, I think, a radical states-rights agenda enabled by a complaisant Congress and the Roberts Court.

I don't see how it can work, without a successful revolt. These states will not be able to hold their citizens and, especially, their women. Poverty and sickness will be a hard sell, when neighboring states will be relatively prosperous and healthy. But it promises hard times for whole (dis-) United States for some years to come.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Torture Report: We Haven't Hit Bottom Yet

Well, that was unpleasant.

The revelations in the torture report are even worse than what we already knew. And that's not all—we have the people who ordered the torture on television saying, like Darren Wilson, that they have no regrets and did nothing wrong. There is no talk of prosecution from anyone with the power to do it, though I suspect that all the perpetrators would do well not to travel outside the USA.

And we haven't hit bottom yet. Until substantive changes are made (I am starting to wonder if John Brennan, former master of drone assassinations, now Director of the CIA, is blackmailing Barack Obama), this will continue.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fascism by State

I think I get it. Some US states are fascist, the way some US states used to be slave states. Fascism, in the sense of that Paxton, Griffin, and Berlet defined it:
Fascism. Modern political ideology that seeks to regenerate the social, economic, and cultural life of a country by basing it on a heightened sense of national belonging or ethnic identity. Fascism rejects liberal ideas such as freedom and individual rights, and often presses for the destruction of elections, legislatures, and other elements of democracy. Despite the idealistic goals of fascism, attempts to build fascist societies have led to wars and persecutions that caused millions of deaths. As a result, fascism is strongly associated with right-wing fanaticism, racism, totalitarianism, and violence. (Griffin)

This, I think, explains a lot. It seems to the left, back in the 1950s, that fascism would come to America. Sinclair Lewis wrote a whole novel about it back in 1935. But it never took everywhere, and the federation recovered.

So we have a situation where places like Kansas and Wisconsin are dominated by rulers who their majorities hate, while California and New York are sort of getting along. The national government is still up for grabs, though we have two years of a fascist majority in the Congress and who knows how long in the Supreme Court.

So maybe it's time to dust off the old states rights rhetoric, and turn it against its inventors. Looks like the Roberts Court is going to bring it back; it's the way they will trash the ACA and drastically weaken marriage.

So we tough it out, and wait. It would help if some national leader or other would actually speak up. It would help if at least one national news outlet would admit that this is not politics as usual. (Well, maybe Comedy Central is doing that. But they're not news—are they?)

I'm not holding my breath.