‘with no plan and no apparent hope’

(reposted because WordPress didn’t like something in the formatting…)

The words in the title belong to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who said on the floor of the Senate Sunday:

“Mr. President, I rise today frustrated, embarrassed and angry. It is absolutely inexcusable that all of us find ourselves in this place at this time, standing on the floor of the Senate in front of the American people hours before we plunge off the fiscal cliff. With no plan and no apparent hope.”

(The quote comes from Politico’s coverage Sunday)

This is the bad start to a worse downhill slide, even if the ‘fiscal cliff’ is avoided, which seems increasingly unlikely as of Sunday night. (Of course it’s a con, what Krugman correctly calls a great scam.) Should the ‘cliff’ be avoided, it will be a sloppy, careening turn away from the edge, with a couple of wheels in the air. Everyone will be exhausted, what little good will exists will be shot, personal relationships will be frayed.

And that’s to settle a completely artificial, utterly unnecessary ‘crisis.’

And that will be followed almost immediately by an even more brutal fight over another utterly artificial issue, the debt limit. Just to get past these two issues, by no means a sure thing, will exhaust official Washington.

Which means the real, deep and lasting problems we face, and that threaten to get significantly worse in 2013, simply won’t be addressed at all. Income inequality is a threat to our democracy here and now; the middle class, which is what made America largely immune to radical social movements, has been hollowed out. We not only need a lot more jobs, we need a lot better jobs – and real protection for people who lose their jobs.

Global warming will produce more unpredictable, more severe weather in 2013. I suspect insurance companies will make it clear to everyone this year that the debate is over, but who knows?

And while it may seem quaint to complain in 2012 about the influence of corporations on our lives, the sad fact is we have less power than ever over the fundamental conditions under which we live, and increasingly the corporations can’t even be bothered to hide what they’re doing.

We can’t even do something simple, concrete, in the area of guns, after the massacre of children.

It’s terrible to say it, but it’s true: we are not remotely up to solving our big problems. And while I like Barack Obama, I increasingly think of him as yet another captive of deeply entrenched powers in this country, powers that are very patient, and very much not concerned with my best interests, or the best interests of anyone I know.

Dave B.’s comment…

I totally agree. I especially agree with this: “…powers that are very patient…”

The fiscal cliff….er, curb … is a figment of Washington’s imagination. The debt limit argument is nonsense as the debt has already been incurred and must, therefore, be paid for.

But it’s true that this dispute reveals Congress for what it is — a fully dysfunctional body, unable to agree on lunch let alone tax policy.

Better that the Tea Party and whatever passes for a liberal wing split off into third parties, a la the third party running things in the State Senate these days, and force action through coalition politics. Imagine what the Tea Party could force if it created its own caucus, withdrawing from the Republicans but allying with them, or the Democrats, when necessary.

We’re seeing the limit of two-party politics, but are we also seeing the end of it?

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