Sunday, July 24, 2011


Titanic II, or how to hit an iceberg without really trying

…the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.

The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency.

by Larry Geller

I found myself reading about the Titanic on Wikipedia after listening to the latest Al Jazeera news on KPFA. The image in my head (unfortunately, I can’t draw worth a damn) is of a huge ship-of-state heading for an iceberg marked “Debt Ceiling.” At least, it seems like a good metaphor for our current voyage toward potential economic destruction.

Obama, on deck steering this thing with a TV remote, is willing to sell the lifeboats in advance. The water is full of sharks (Republicans) and the Democrats are in their dinghies, fishing for sardines. Good thing I can’t draw, I guess.

Day by day the Titanic gets closer to that iceberg. The danger is not to the rich folks who support Congressional Republicans, but to the rest of us. After the historical Titanic went down, it was like that:

97 percent of the women in first class survived, 86 percent of the women survived in second class and less than half survived in third class.[84] Of men on board, 33 percent of the first class were saved, while only 8 percent of the second class and 16 percent of the third class were saved.

How to hit this economic iceberg without really trying? Just do nothing. That’s a good summation of Congress’ best efforts so far. Sound and fury also comes to mind.

The pull-quote above is from The Mother of All No-Brainers (NY Times, 7/4/2011), very worth a read.

A Google search reveals that plenty of others have associated the current Congressional course as the voyage of the Titanic all over again.

Also hot on the web is Grover Norquist’s no tax increase pledge, apparently signed by about 250 members of Congress. How does that figure in? Even Norquist himself may not be as clear as you’d think, but he may have given pledge-signers a way out with regard to expiring Bush tax cuts:

If there were no vote in Congress and taxes rose automatically, then no politicians would have voted for higher taxes and no elected official would have broken his or her pledge.

But that is different from supporting a plan by some Democrats that would end some or all of these lower tax rates, higher per-child tax credits and the A.M.T. patches — policies that, by the way, Congress has extended repeatedly with bipartisan support. It is difficult to see how such a package would fail to violate the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

[New Yorker quoting NY Times, Grover Norquist: “You Can’t Break the Pledge”, 7/24/2011]

So that should give Republicans some wiggle room. Right? Wrong. As the article indicates, he seems later to have taken that back.

So the Titanic steams inexorably towards that iceberg.

What will happen? Certainly nothing good (unless you believe that any damage to the government is a good thing, which is said to be the position of some Tea Partiers and others).

While waiting for the collision, check out the Wikipedia article on the first Titanic. It’s pretty good reading.  Notice that those in third-class never had a chance, and died in large numbers, while the rich folks in first class did very well.  As I said, it’s not a bad metaphor.


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