Soundtracking the Resistance - Blowing the Budget

The Government Shutdown is Mainly Averted

Feb 09, 2018 Web Exclusive By Stephen Mayne Bookmark and Share


Things have gone south and then been rescued in Washington (again) as yet another attempt not to shut down the government fell short. It's also not been a good week for economic benchmarks, or Chiefs of Staff. For that reason, we close by getting away from the swamp to hit up "Middle America."

The Big Event

When attempting to scrape together a budget for federal spending, you'd think the richest country in the world could do more than keep punting the argument a paycheck or two down the road each time.

Then again, perhaps the way to remain the richest country in the world is to horde all the money and extract extortionate bargains whenever deals do have to be struck. There's a reason so many Ivy League colleges sitting atop piles of cash while fighting tooth and nail to prevent staff and students unionizing for so much as dental and cold sandwiches.

It seems a dangerously high stakes game of poker for everyone to keep engaging in though, and like that miserably bland Justin Timberlake/Ben Affleck star vehicle Runner Runner, the whole ordeal feels like it will never end.

That's where we seem to be again, derailed temporarily by partisans (here's looking at you Rand) despite a group in the middle actually finding the elusive common ground. Congress looked set to agree a spending plan throwing more than half a trillion dollars in the direction of various causes before it was delayed and finally rubber-stamped.

Even better, Donald Trump largely kept out of it. His famed deal-making abilities are exactly the kind of thing to blow up the rare occasions when Democrats and Republicans manage to talk without immediately trying to throttle each other

It's a shame they couldn't get the vote completed in time to stop shut down mode from engaging. There's lots for key players to enjoy in the final plans as well. Trump gets to be delighted by increased funding for his beloved military. He can keep playing toy soldiers and not have to face the horror of his pet projectstroking that most fragile ego by having the military parade around in front of himbeing undermined by a lack of clean dress whites.

That's the red meat for Republicans, or some of them (the military funding, not parades). As for Democrats, they can crow about a wheelbarrow full of money for various domestic projects. Some wheelbarrow too. It's worth remembering the deal on the table (let's call it a $560 billion deal minus some revenue raising measures to be more accurate) covers only two years. The fiscal stimulus Obama passed, the same fiscal stimulus savagely attacked by the GOP for close to a decade, added $787 billion over ten years.

The great party of tight-pocketed fiscal hawks has turned truly Trumpian, throwing money around all over the place like only a man used to declaring bankruptcy on multiple occasions to get out of trouble can.

We can't pretend everyone was happy with the outcome, otherwise it would have been signed and sealed in time. Plenty of elected Republicans did what they could to torpedo the whole affair, desperate to prevent their cherished national debt from increasing. Like many a good homophobic bigot over the years, the amount of time they spend obsessing in the most puritan fashion over debt makes you wonder what their credit rating scores might be.

Across the aisle, Democrats were not exactly over-joyed by the lack of measures to support "dreamers" seeing as how they've been making this a core part of their negotiating strategy. You literally couldn't stop Nancy Pelosi from talking about it on the floor of the House for eight hours the other day.

Both sides got so close to finding the votes, and then they didn't, potentially stripping Puerto Rico of its proposed recovery funding, then doing the same to federal health programs and efforts to deal with the opioid epidemic. Thankfully, a final rally means that will all materialize, while the Republicans get a fresh injection of cash to blow on abstinence education.

It's been messy sure, but we can savor the fact something with red and blue votes attached to it exists.

What's Going On

The stock market goes up and the stock market goes down, not always connected to the fundamentals of any given economy. As much as people tend to treat it as a scientific indicator of success (or the lack thereof), it's really just a bunch of people betting, which is why they panic buy and panic spend en masse. For those not watching, that's exactly what happened as everything plunged on Monday before rallying and falling again. It's probably just a normal correction made more pertinent by Trump's constant referencing of the stock market as vindication for his stewardship of the economy. Unfortunately, crediting yourself for things out of your power also means you have to take the blame when those same things go wrong. No doubt he'll accept full responsibility.

It's a sad fact of life that too many people are awful. Inevitably this means some scandal is going to arise sooner or later in any administration. Trump's has already had more than its fair share, the latest of which came when Rob Porter, an aide to Chief of Staff John Kelly, stepped down after being accused of domestic violence by both of his ex-wives (allegations it turns out the White House knew about for some time). Kelly was left flip-flopping, first declaring Porter to be "a man of true integrity and honor" and someone "I can't say enough good things about," only switching to "there is no place for domestic violence in our society" after Porter announced he would resign. He becomes more his masters voice with every passing day.

Song of the Week: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - "Middle America" 

Stephen Malkmus has been charming us in some form for two decades, but he's also grown older and will sometimes lay aside the sheer irreverence of the Pavement years. That doesn't make the music any less delightful, as "Middle America" demonstrates, but it gives him the chance to work over a few thoughts on what it's like to grow old in this country.

Plus, every politician seems to be fighting over middle America these days, even if they all live in a big city on the coast somewhere, so he's even got the topical title nailed down.

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Dan Jackson
May 30th 2018
4:27am

Song of the Week: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - “Middle America”

Trump’s has already had more than its fair share, the latest of which came when Rob Porter, an aide to Chief of Staff John Kelly, stepped down after being accused of domestic violence by both of his ex-wives