The weekend editions of the Leesburg Daily Commercial offered far more topics for discussion than time permits. Saturday’s reports of the intensifying risk of conflict with Iran – the probable next target for our bloodthirsty military empire – were followed by a news item today featuring Rick Santorum’s opinion that the United States should not condemn the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists. Only in the bizarre world of the American right-wing can a candidate flagrantly ignore the Biblical Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill, and still be regarded as a moral conservative. Sunday’s paper also brought us more deranged ramblings from yet another gun nut, close on the heels of an earlier letter this week which actually argued for modification of the First Amendment instead of the Second. These people are almost as frightening as the criminals who benefit from their permissive gun policies. Other letters focused on the militarization of the police under the grotesquely misnamed Patriot Act, though the authors failed to fully develop the larger point that the American Gestapo is ready and waiting for any intensification of the Occupy Movement that is so anathema to our corporate oligarchy. Counterbalancing the lunatics were some healthy contributions from such reliably sane contributors as Marvin Jacobson (who joined us in lambasting Russ Sloan’s previous column), Kathy Weaver, and Nancy Hurlbert.
But when time constraints force us to choose only one subject, we must focus on the most egregiously bad piece of writing in the Leesburg Daily Commercial. As usual, that honor falls to Russ Sloan, who continues to force us to question the underlying motives and agenda of the newspaper which continues to publish his propaganda. Having recently defended the indefensible practices of Wall Street, Sloan today sought to defend the only slightly less reprehensible group of thieves and liars more commonly known as House Republicans. Channeling GOP messaging to the letter, like the loyal foot soldier he is, Sloan contends that the House has regularly produced potentially job-creating bills only to have them killed by the Senate. Rather surprisingly, he fails to stress the partisan affiliation of the majority party in the Senate, but that is just as well. For anyone with more than a grade-school level understanding of American governance knows that the viciously destructive Senate Republicans, led by a Machiavellian master of the chamber’s arcane rules, procedures, and customs, wield exponentially more power than their minority status might imply.
Before addressing the substance of Sloan’s argument – such as it is – a few words are in order about Sloan’s style of writing. A fabulist in every sense of the word, Sloan has patronized his readers with fables and mythological allegories on numerous occasions. Today’s chef d’oeuvre featured a motif from the Charlie Brown comic strip, Peanuts, in which the mischievous Lucy continually fools Charlie into taking a running kick at a football that she removes at the last minute, causing him to fall flat on his backside after missing. In Sloan’s simple world, the Senate is equated with Lucy, while the House is poor, well-meaning Charlie Brown. Now, I don’t know whether Russ Sloan actually thinks this way or is intelligent enough – and cynical enough – to employ these stories as literary devices. Either way, his habitual over-simplification of a very dark, complex world both insults the intelligence of his readers and does them a profound disservice by failing to even attempt to peel the tear-inducing onion of public life. Perhaps this is his way of emulating the Gipper’s “aw-shucks” likeability, and of attaining some microscopic portion of his popularity. But for those of us who understand the long-term damage done to this country by Reagan’s tenure, that is anything but a saving grace. The only person falling flat on his backside here is Russ Sloan, and it isn’t remotely funny.
Sloan would have us all believe that the American electorate sent the noble House Republicans to Washington because of “their disdain and fears about federal spending.” Now, I’m sure that Russ Sloan (and his dutiful wife) voted for the illustrious Daniel Webster for that reason, but the majority of swing-voters who swung to the right did so in a desperate attempt to encourage job creation. Why they would have done so is a bit of a mystery, since the Republican policy of slashing federal spending and laying off public-sector employees has precisely the opposite effect. (But who am I kidding? We don’t use the words fiscal stimulus or aggregate demand in the Money section of the Daily Commercial; no, we have bloody cartoons instead.) Republican candidates promised an eager electorate that they would create jobs, but have done nothing but pander to the oil, insurance, and banking interests that fund their campaigns.
Far from being industrious in the pursuit of the public good, House Republicans have wasted the public’s time with a series of empty, symbolic votes and posturing measures that they knew were dead on arrival in the upper chamber. (Speaker Boehner, when still in opposition, referred to such votes as “chicken shit,” then went on to emit copious quantities of said substance himself.) Paul Ryan’s much-ballyhooed budget was perhaps the biggest pile of them all, threatening to privatize Medicare and sacrifice the health and well-being of lower-income seniors on the oligarchy’s altar of fiscal austerity. The utterly avoidable budget-ceiling fiasco was another, driving the country to the brink of disaster purely in order to curry favor with rabid Tea Partiers and the odious plutocrats who bankroll their astro-turf movement. If all of this is Russ Sloan’s idea of responsible legislative behavior, then perhaps we can say that he has the government he deserves.
Sloan’s most specific argument was the unsatisfactory outcome of the recent debate about extending President Obama’s dubiously useful payroll-tax holiday. I do not disagree with Sloan that passing a two-month extension is potentially disruptive for small businesses struggling with the burden of payroll. But I utterly reject his account of why that outcome emerged, and his failure to note the obvious point that Congress will almost certainly end up extending the holiday through the end of the year (which presents House Republicans with yet another opportunity for hostage-taking.) Sloan’s slimy version of reality conveniently neglects to describe all the poison pills that were stuffed into the House bill. In fact, the House’s conduct was a study in ineptitude, from the leadership on down.
Doing the oil companies’ bidding, as expected, Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell appeared to have forced the President to accelerate administrative review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would deliver crude oil from Canadian tar sands across the lower 48 to Gulf refineries. But then, clutching defeat from the jaws of victory, Tea Partiers who couldn’t stomach the cost of the payroll-tax cut (which, unlike cuts for rich people, had to be paid for by spending cuts elsewhere), took Boehner’s deal away from him. At the last minute, with the threat of electoral reprisals looming over them, House Republicans relented and agreed to the Senate bill that provided for only a two-month extension but also called for a conference committee to hash out a 12-month extension later on. In a nutshell, the uncertainty that Russ Sloan decries – which Republicans always decry – was entirely of their own creation. It is the increasingly insane right-wing of the Republican Party that is destroying the legislative process, and if Russ Sloan had any measure of intellectual integrity he would admit as much.
I must correct something that I wrote earlier. Russ Sloan is not the only one falling on his backside here. The poor saps who fall for Russ Sloan and his party’s propaganda are falling on their backsides, suckered into voting for people who are hostile to their long-term interests and will actively destroy the American middle class. That isn’t funny; it’s tragic.