THE SHUTDOWN: ADDENDA AND ERRATA

by E.C. Fish on October 5, 2013

FISH LOGOAt moments like this, when the nation finds itself in a state of high absurdity, is vitally important that our national conversation confine itself to things that actually exist, instead of devolving into in-depth analyses of butterfly farts and moonbeams. Separating facts from emotional pitches, wish-mongering, and self-serving lies is completely necessary to any good outcome of this situation.

This is particularly difficult in the good old U.S. of Archie circa 2013, because one is effectively on one’s own. The media certainly won’t help: per NBC News political director and dangerous, irresponsible hack Chuck Todd, calling a spade a spade is not the media’s job. In his editorial judgment, butterfly farts, moonbeams, and bullshit are news — content be damned. The way Todd sees it, there are no such things as truths and lies; there are simply successful messages and unsuccessful ones, and if a lie is successful, who is he to stand in its way? It’s the job of the other side to call it out, and he’ll even give them air time — provided they’re willing to sit across from a Republican representative from the Deep South.

Todd — who, in the words of Charlie Pierce, “knows sweet fuck-all about journalism” — issued a non-retraction retraction that would do the crowd in the green room at The Daily Rundown proud, but his original statement explains a lot. By defining objectivity as “presenting every viewpoint on a story without regard to the truth and accuracy supporting that viewpoint,” Todd and his ilk have spread¬† mis- and dis-information and have added to the national confusion that has brought us to the current crisis. Polls say Americans believe a lot of crazy things, and Chuck and the gang will report them, too.

We wouldn’t be suffering from the dreaded information overload that our media streams decry every now and then if we just ignored the parts that were empty crap. There is, for example, no need to pay attention to any of the following ever again:

If only they were talking . . .: About what, exactly? At base, the bill on the table is a continuing resolution to fund the government for the next number of weeks — in the immortal words of LBJ, “The rest is chicken shit.” Not only are both parties in complete agreement on the actual budgetary details of this bill, but the result funds government at levels of austerity the Republicans wouldn’t have dreamed of asking for pre-sequester. There are ample votes in the House at this very moment to end this shutdown right now. The only thing holding up such legislation is the question of whether Republicans should be allowed to use the bill to overturn the policy results of the 2012 elections by extra-constitutional means. And no, they shouldn’t.

If only Obama would lead . . .: Who, exactly, do you expect would follow? This entire legislative maneuver is based upon a profound disrespect for the executive branch and the separation of powers, and the Republican political strategy for the last eight years has been based upon a profound disrespect for the president as a person, with a nasty chunk of that disrespect due to his ethnic background.

If only Obama would negotiate . . .: Rising Republican star Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has defined the terms of the debate nicely, in a House floor speech that roughly translates into, “We couldn’t kill the baby, so we offered to starve it. We couldn’t starve it, so we offered to merely cripple it,” with each of these magnanimous gestures supposedly representing a reasonable compromise. Under these terms, the only thing left to negotiate is the degree to which Obama will capitulate to Republican threats to harm the economy on purpose.

Obama and the Democrats won’t fund veterans/parks/cancer kids/etc.: With their actual rationale for continuing the shutdown a complete mystery even to their own members, Republicans have taken to sending bills up for the piecemeal funding of whatever particular outrage has made the news lately, completely ignoring a slew of other equally outrageous effects of the shutdown that haven’t been “messaged” sufficiently to attract the attention of, for example, Chuck Todd — all of which could be funded with one simple vote.

No one wants a government shutdown: Oh, sure they do. Government shutdown was a popular campaign promise of Republican congressional candidates in 2010 and 2012. The resulting shutdown of the entire federal apparatus — EPA, SEC, IRS, DOE, and dozens of other hated acronyms — represents the one-fell-swoop achievement of decades of Republican stump promises and takes the heavy hand of regulation off the necks of their corporate campaign contributors, who are no doubt delighted.

The business community will pressure Republicans to end this:¬†No, they won’t. See above.

It won’t hurt the economy: Sure it will. Among other things, the shutdown has taken 800,000 jobs out of the economy. But hey — perception is all, right? With the Department of Labor defunded, they won’t actually be able to report just how badly this puts the unemployment rate in the crapper.

It’s not so bad . . .: Yes, it is.

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E. C. Fish is the editor and publisher of The Spleen.

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