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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Congressional Malpractice

Timothy Birdnow

Here is a most instructive nightmare.

Imagine, if you will, that you are out somewhere and suddenly feel strong chest pains. Your companions call 911 and an ambulance arrives to take you to the hospital. You are whisked into the E.R. and tests are run, showing near total blockage of your arteries; your heart is pumping very little blood because it can't get through the clogging.

Death is immanent. The doctors have to operate.

You are on the operating table, about to be anesthetized, when you see the surgical staff and it turns out to be Barney Fife and the Pyle brothers, Gomer and Goober. Your stomach lurches as you realize you are in the most incompetent of hands. Still, it's these fools or nothing. But then you find that your insurance adjuster is also on the staff, and he begins arguing with Fife about the cost of the procedure. He doesn't want to do all of the arteries, just about an eighth of an inch of one of them. Fife is furious, blustering and demanding more, but after exhausting himself he says "well, allriiight!" and agrees to do the one eight inch because it was the best he was going to be allowed to do. Meanwhile, the surgical team has grown hungry from all that fussing, and so food is brought in; donuts, White Castle sliders, fettuccini carbonera, Reuben sandwiches, Hardees Thickburgers, milk shakes, etc. The last thing you see is Dr. Fife agreeing to puree some of this and put it in your I.V. because he it would be good for you. Your mind drifts away.

When you awaken you are told that, while this surgery won't save your life, it is something you can live with; it won't shorten your life. You are then given a bill and discharged.

Now, nobody would accept such medical treatment, yet we are told - even by many well-known conservative pundits - that we have two accept such treatment where the national debt is concerned. Boehner and McConnell are Barney Fife, two dufuses full of bluster who always cave in the end. They simply cannot resist any real pressure from their opponents who, like the insurance adjuster in our little drama, want to minimize expense to themselves at all cost - and that means removing as little as possible in surgery/budget cutting. And, of course, by giving Obama $2.4 Trillion dollars extra to spend - the equivalent of the entire budget for World War II - they have just inserted pureed fat into the patient's I.V. What has been done is less than worthless.

It's as if the nation had surgery for no purpose. The doctors tell us that we are still going to die, but that they managed to agree on how to proceed in treating a walking corpse. Pity it won't do any good...

And so the Republic has been victimized by monstrous Congressional malpractice. I doubt that John Edwards and the trial lawyers will be eager to file lawsuits against them.

Remember, Boehner and others promised that this moment was going to be our stand, not next year, not in five years, but now. The Democrats aren't stupid (well, at least not about the mechanics of politics) and they prepared this deviltry, a trap that a blind mouse should have seen coming. But, as always, our guys stumbled right in. In a month or so a lot of them will be saying "Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!" and shaking their heads mournfully at the duplicity. Others will have their "come to Jesus moment" when the commission ends up pooping on their heads. But in the end the GOP will express shock and regret, promise to do better provided we give them more, and continue along the path of least resistance as they usually do.

You must understand; Boehner and the other Republicans don't want a revolution in Congress. They have a nice, secure niche and want it to stay that way. They get to strut around as respected leaders, enjoy the good life Washington has to offer, and make lots of money provided things stay as they are. And things only stay that way as long as they can continue to spend money. Money is to politicians what water is to fish; their natural medium. Lose that and they lose power. The trick is to make it look like they are doing what their constituents want while doing exactly nothing.

And nothing is the one thing we can no longer afford; each day we draw inexorably closer to financial collapse as government debt eats up more of our GDP. Nations can and do collapse from profligate spending. Consider the Spanish empire; Spain was in a state of near constant war, and the costs of those wars fell principally on Castile. Taxes were too high, and with the looting of the New World empires complete the Spanish had no alternative source of revenue. They, like modern liberals, didn't understand the difference between mediums of exchange and wealth, and they thought that money equaled wealth. They flooded their economy with gold, driving down the value and thus making it increasingly difficult to pay their debts. By the time the New World wealth dried up they had too much gold on the market and it's value was too low. In the end, more productive people, people more prudent with their wealth, overtook them. America is heading down a similar path.

Spain could have remained strong if she had just understood that wealth is not something merely amassed but something created. The Spanish mercantilist economy was run from a central location - Madrid - and was aimed not at empowering people to create wealth on their own but in milking it from "sources of revenue" for government's own ends. Every decree from the King, every bureaucratic overseer, every tax collector, stifled the creation of wealth in the Spanish kingdom, and the model established made Latin America poor, and keeps Mexico poor to this day. Mexico is a land rich in resources, yet it has always been an economic basket-case because it has been strangled by bad, interventionist governments and overtaxation. America is following suit.

Rome, too, fell because the Romans overspent and under produced. They could no longer afford to pay soldiers to defend them, and had to turn to mercenaries, to Germans, to do the job for them. The Roman treasury was always empty, the result of "bread and circuses" and internecine warfare. When times got hard they went broke, and could not defend themselves. The end was the end of a whole civilization, and a long dark age.

But we've lived with debt for so long (since the nation's founding) and nothing bad has happened yet; why worry now? Indeed; many of us lived with debt - credit cards, mortgages, car loans - through the 1990's and 2000'nds only to wind up in bankruptcy after 2008. At some point the piper must be paid. The piper, in fact, a whole orchestra of pipers, are now clamoring for their money. And that money just isn't there, and won't be because we are using this year's revenue to pay the musicians of ten, twenty, fifty years ago. Time has run out.

The nation needs drastic surgery; liposuction, caratoid artery surgery, angioplasty, a transplant. Unfortunately our political class is still addicted to its spending, and offers to treat our national bad ticker with iodine and alcohol. The patient is going to die.

And the American public - or at least the Tea Party - see this. People know that we have entered the death spiral, and that the only way out is to perform open-heart surgery. Of course, if the Democrats get their way they will tie a tourniquet around the patient's neck.

And the Republicans will, in the end, assist; they just want to get along. Hey, it's the best deal they can get!

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