Notebook, 11 December 2010: It’s Official. We’ve Gone Kafka . . .

As I noted yesterday, it’s a strange world where democrats try to sell the central republican goal of tax cuts as a good thing.

From last night’s Hardball:

Chris Matthews: Who filled Santa’s sack with all that great stuff for the democrats? The reduced cost of labor, the two percent off the payroll tax [he means the Social Security tax cut] the accelerated depreciation for business people . . . put all those goodies in that pack, so that it’s bigger than the president’s stimulus from last year?

If this is Santa’s gift, then President Obama is really Gregor Samsa.

Tweety deliberately lined up a bunch of DLC democrats—supposed democrats who have bought into the whole Reagan supply-side economics ideology—and sang the praises of what looks to be the ultimate betrayal: another bailout for millionaires which taxpayers will need to fund far into the foreseeable future.

Please note that neither he, nor any other person appearing on his show, mentioned the fact that the “payroll tax cut” they all say will work the employment miracles we all look for, are actually tax cuts of money destined for Social Security. Not one of those people had the guts to admit that simple fact.

Every one of them stood before the cameras and lied.

We all get it. We all get it that, in the normal course of things, this is the best agreement (maybe) that could be reached. We all get it that this proposal brings some needed relief to those, recently unemployed. We applaud that. So much so, that many of us are willing to go along with this really nasty piece of work.

A lot of blame can be spread around. Congressional democrats now realize the folly of relinquishing the tax issue for the midterm campaigns and of not using the drama of a battle in Congress to define the GOP as the billionaire’s club enforcers that they really are, bought and paid for on the cheap:

Given how lucrative lobbying is as an investment, it has become a huge business.

In other words, what he is talking about is, if you have a good lobbyist and the lobbyist changes a few words in a bill, your company or you as an individual can end up with huge amounts of money just by changing a few words. In this case, language that we are working on now is whether we extend the Bush tax breaks for the top 2 percent, for many millionaires and billionaires. Some lobbyists, representing the rich and the powerful, are determined to keep that language in there.

So it is an investment. So you spend a few million dollars, an organization spends a few million dollars on a lobbyist, but if you end up getting back hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and corporate loopholes or other benefits, it is a very good investment. That is what Tom Hartman is writing. He says:

Given how lucrative lobbying is as an investment it has become a huge business. In February, 2010, the Center for Responsive Politics laid out which industries had invested how much in Congress the previous year. Overall, it found that in 2009 the number of registered lobbyists who actively lobby Congress was 13,694 and the total lobbying spending–

Get this. Total lobbying spending in 2009 was $3.47 billion, a 240-percent increase since 1999, 10 years, more than tripling it, I guess. In 2009 companies spent $3.47 billion in lobbying. We have 100 Members of the Senate, 435 Members of the House. Listeners or viewers can get out their calculating machine and divide it up, how much money the big money interests are spending trying to influence Senator Inouye or myself or the other 98 Members of the Senate or 435 Members of the House. They are flooding this institution with money.

The Congressional Record

So here we see the Villagers getting out in full cry to impose the norms of the Village over the needs of the electorate. Often, the results of the last midterms are invoked as justification of the move right, as if the election was an ideological expression, conveniently forgetting that they themselves sat there day after day sharing the observation that the midterms were a rejection of all incumbents, regardless of party.

Can anyone today wonder why?

I’m out of the loop, having pretty much decided already to withhold my support for the president and for Senator Kerry. I can vote for my representative, who, though he keeps his head down (a sign of intelligence if not leadership), votes solidly progressive. Because it is the only leverage I have. It’s all any of us have. The Compromise is not even a case of preemptive caving, it’s a case of caving without any kind of public debate at all—and hear the roar from across the political spectrum. You know that something is this world is wrong when someone like me agrees with Charles Krauthammer and for exactly the same reason.

Kafka must be laughing his ass off.

I opened up comparing Obama to Gregor Samsa and the comparison isn’t without a point. While it was Gregor who subsumed himself, denying his own humanity in order to provide for his family without thanks, it is only at the end of the story where we find that, after he was gone, the family has become strangely released from the tyranny of their dependence on him, and Kafka leaves us with the notion that the Samsa family will be perfectly able to fend for themselves after all. Kafka implies that their dependence on Gregor was nothing but a vicious con the entire time.

Looked at another way, we’re all Gregors, forced both to support and bear the abuse of those in Washington whom we support, not only during elections but in our daily lives as well. While we are stakeholders in the success and failures of our representatives, we are also the drivers of their agenda when we choose, which is what we’re seeing today.

When President Obama recklessly told us to make Washington do what it was we wanted, he evidently never thought that it would look like this, but there’s hardly any chance it could happen any other way. This is what he asked for, and what we see now is the Village of Washington pushing back to impose their own realities, driven in large part by the lobbyists whom Senator Sanders spoke of, over those realities of everyone outside the Beltway Village.

He asked for this. Well I say, let him have it, because one of the lessons of the last cycle is that the realities of the Village need not, and should not, override the realities of the electorate, and if Lawrence O’Donnell thinks that elected representatives will fear going home after letting the Bush tax cuts expire as they were designed to do, does he really believe they’ll be any more comfy facing the voters at home after awarding a huge, unpaid-for gift to those who have trouble figuring out what to do with all their money as it is? AND dropping the bill for all this into their constituent’s laps?

I don’t know what O’Donnell’s smoking, but he isn’t sharing.

The only sane thing to do is give voters what they want, by unlinking the tax cuts from the unemployment benefit extension and forcing the republicans to publicly stand up and screw the entire nation in service to their billionaire paymasters.

That’s what I want. But who am I? I’m just a voter, and I am most definitely NOT the “limousine liberal” which Michael Smerconish tried to paint me as yesterday.


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