October 3, 2013

William Kristol reassures MSNBC viewers a government shutdown isn't the end of the world. Tell that to someone who isn't eating tonight because they aren't being paid.

Kevin Drum asked a pretty obvious question: Why are so many people in a blind rage these days? Drum was referring to Republicans and in particular, the subcult of Republicans who are dedicated to making sure every American understands how much they hate government.

But why? There's always been a faction of right-wing craziness in America. It's part of our DNA. But how did it become so widespread? The usual answer involves the rise of conservative think tanks, conservative talk radio, Fox News, the Christian right, and racial resentment toward a black president. And maybe that's it. Somehow, though, it doesn't feel quite sufficient. But if it's not, then what's going on? What's happened over the past decade or two to spin up so many Americans into a blind rage?

Complaining about tea party congressmen misses the big picture. The problem is the people who voted them into office. What happened to them?

The problem here is that those people who vote these insane people into office have been fooled by the pretty little lies that they can bring jobs and prosperity to every American simply by robbing them blind.

You know the lies. You've seen them a million times. The Koch machine shovels them out with alacrity. If we feed the billionaires first, the rest of us might get some crumbs. Trickle down, trickle on, trick us all. And yes, the Fox News, the Christian right, the KKK and the Muslim haters are all a part of the larger picture.

But there's a material difference between right-wing rage and actual populist outrage. Ross Douthat thinks rage on the right is more the product of some repressed need to win.

This divide, I think, explains a lot of the mutual incomprehension surrounding size-of-government debates. To liberals and many moderates, it often seems like the right gets what it wants in these arguments and then just gets more extreme, demanding cuts atop cuts, concessions atop concessions, deregulation upon deregulation, tax cuts upon tax cuts. But to many conservatives, the right has never come remotely close to getting what it actually wants, whether in the Reagan era or the Gingrich years or now the age of the Tea Party — because what it wants is an actually smaller government, as opposed to one that just grows somewhat more slowly than liberals and the left would like.

And this goal only ends up getting labeled as “extreme” in our debates, conservatives lament, because the right has never succeeded in dislodging certain basic assumptions about government established by F.D.R. and L.B.J. — under which a slower rate of spending growth is a “draconian cut,” an era of “small government” is one which in which the state grows immensely in absolute terms but holds steady as a share of G.D.P., and a rich society can never get rich enough to need less welfare spending per capita than it did when it was considerably poorer.

Oh, what a reasonable spin he wove, but for a few notable problems. First, the population of this country has grown considerably since Lyndon Johnson's day, but the government has not kept pace with that, mostly because of their unreasonable and ridiculous demands. It isn't like New Deal policies took hold instantly and put people on equal footing right away. It took a generation to see any progress.

Second, what he seems determined to ignore is the simple truth that conservative policies hurt people, which is why they don't take hold and gain ground. They hurt real people, and there are many more real people than there are billionaires and their sycophants.

This insane government shutdown hurts real people, and I don't mean World War II vets, despite the fact that dishonest Republicans would like us all to toss the ACA under the bus to honor those living few who fought sixty years ago.

While Republicans beat their breasts over children with cancer being turned away from the NIH, they fail to remind everyone that their specific vision of "small government" includes gutting the NIH. Because small government.

While Republicans go out in front of the cameras and make a big show about national parks being closed, they're busy little bees behind the scenes working hard to gut funding and sell them to the highest bidder.

Republicans want to toss Grandma off the cliff and people with pre-existing conditions under the bus. They want to kill Social Security and Medicare and most especially, Obamacare.

Because small government.

For the majority of people in this country, the programs "small government conservatives" target help them. They are examples of how government serves the governed, rather than doing harm. Therefore, it should not be a huge surprise that conservatives are frustrated by populist rejection over and over and over again of policies that do harm to those who are governed. After all, people don't like losing loved ones because they couldn't get treatment for a pre-existing condition. They're not in love with medical bankruptcies either, nor do they jump with joy when they lose everything they worked for just because someone got sick.

Small government is a pipe dream of oligarchs and sycophants. For the rest of the humans who live on the planet alongside, struggling to get from one day to the next, there's a different kind of outrage. It's the kind of outrage that asks how many lies they get to tell before someone -- anyone -- actually calls them lies. It's the kind of outrage that burns white-hot when the realization they're getting their wish via the back door collides with the realization that granting the wish means permanent unemployment for some.

It's the kind of outrage that shakes its fist at a country that reveres those over 65 and shovels those between 50-65 into a junk heap long before their productive years are behind them.

That's the outrage I feel. It's outrage that bubbles over, white-hot into rage that a small faction of one party in one branch of Congress can put a rock under the wheels of government and cause children to go hungry. It's outrage that no one bothers to remind anyone that these "small government conservatives" are the very same people who claimed they'd bring JOBS back to the country if we just paid homage to their billionaires. Where are those jobs????

This past week has sent my outrage meter off the charts and triggered a rage so hot I have trouble even articulating it. Part of it is aimed at those who insist on saying this is another "both sides thing" when it's clearly not. The majority of it is aimed at those small government conservatives who are throwing a temper tantrum in our nation's capitol in order to see to it that jobs lost because of sequestration never, ever return and more people can die because they have no access to health insurance.

It's the kind of rage that flares into a nuclear burn when some anonymous coward masquerading as a so-called principled conservative calls me a thief because Obamacare means we can cover our family for $82 a month with small copayments, which means we might actually be able to survive without that job that won't come back, thanks to sequestration.

It's the kind of rage that can lead to despair. But I would rather spend every waking moment of every day of the rest of my life making sure as many people as possible understand that "small government conservatives" are nothing more than selfish bootlicking brats who mean to do real lasting harm to each and every one of us who calls ourselves citizens.

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