GROW A PAIR

Posted in Rants on October 3rd, 2013 by Ed

It didn't take the collection of stooges and sociopaths at Fox News long to feed the network's slack-jawed, largely immobile viewers their Shutdown talking points. You see, it's not really a "shutdown" since "most" government employees are still working – at least until the money runs out, although the Fair Balancers neglect to mention that part much. It's merely a "slimdown", a term that has Frank Luntz's donut-sticky fingerprints all over it and which I expect to propagate throughout the lexicon about as efficiently as "Homicide bombers" and "Freedom Toast." That is, it will be used mostly to mock people stupid enough to take such a thing seriously.

As stupid as this game of semantics and branding may be, it is based on an actual fact: as usual, the tough-talking GOP is unwilling to go all the way. When they say "Shut down the government" they really mean "shut down the parts we don't like." Exceptions are always made to soften the blow for their voting base of rubes, hillbillies, and the blobs of hate and Lipitor that fill Sun Belt retirement communities. If they want to shut down the government, let's shut down the government. All of it. Everything from the military down to the Social Security administration and Medicare. Shut it down, all of it, and see how long it takes the electorate to flay the GOP "Suicide Caucus" alive.

But they never do that. They don't have the balls. They want to talk tough and take pseudo-stands without really inconveniencing any of the people that matter to them. They want to push, but they're terrified of pushing too far. Consider, for example, the right-wing stance on health care for the past…half-century. They adamantly refuse to consider single-payer and now they won't even support what used to be their alternative to single-payer, a system that funnels people into private insurance. But at the same time, they never repealed the laws that require any patient who presents in an emergency room to be treated regardless of ability to pay. They want to make sure that their poor, rural base can still get medical care (as long as they're willing to be crushed by a mountain of debt when the ER bills arrive). I've argued that they should close this loophole. It wouldn't take too long – nor too many bodies found dead on sidewalks in front of hospitals that refused to treat them – before people would have enough of this shit and demand a new system.

Fox News and I are strange bedfellows for the moment, I guess. For different reasons, we each want to emphasize that the government isn't really shut down. They're using Orwellian language to attempt to re-frame the debate; I'm pointing out that the GOP hasn't truly "shut down" the government because they know that if the country ever had to experience a real, complete shut down, the government would be un-shut down in about an hour. Americans don't have much capacity for self-sacrifice these days. Many people are inconvenienced or made to suffer by this "Slimdown," but it's not a number great enough to scare Republicans in entirely safe congressional districts. If everyone had to suffer and be inconvenienced, though, this would be over so fast that people like Ted Cruz wouldn't know what hit them. That is why they are so careful, with their endless reserves of cowardice, to ensure that their grandstanding doesn't affect a large enough group of people to pose a threat.

How brave. Someday we will sing ballads of their heroism before the statues erected in their honor.