Notebook, 29 April 2013: Washington Recap

I could have titled this, “A Fortnight of Dysfunction” except “dysfunction” isn’t exactly right. Anyways, let’s take a look at exactly what Washington has been up to lately:

On 15 April, the bombing st the Boston Marathon put everything on hold, but by the 17th, Congress got the ball rolling again. First up was the Manchin Twoomey bill mandating background checks on gun sales nationwide, especially on almost all gun show and internet sales. As the wingnut fringe went into overdrive, a lot of the usual lies resurfaced. This time around, there were claims that the bill would create a national gun registry, or that it was one step away from doing so.

Here’s the bill. I invite you to view sections 102 and 103 say about a national gun registry and judge for yourselves:

Come to find out, the NRA told it’s supporters in Congress it wouldn’t score the cloture vote (which later turned out to be incorrect), and the measure was allowed to proceed. However that was as far as the NRA was prepared to go, even though they have been blaming criminals, the mentally ill and even video games—anything and anybody but themselves—for the deadly assault on Americans that guns represent. (According to FBI statistics, guns are used in the majority all murders in the US, especially handguns, which alone account for about half of all murders.)

In the end, the amendment was defeated (including 4 Western Democrats, Baucus, Begich, Heitkamp and Pryor), and I got into it on twitter with another Senator after seeing these:

That same day, an assault weapons ban was defeated, as well as a measure to ban arms trafficking and another regulate large capacity magazines.

A series of important victories? Seemingly, the NRA and their congressional toadies have no problems with people like the Tsarnaev brothers getting guns either. As for Ted Cruz, he is a particularly egregious example of what’s wrong in this country. On average, 30,000 Americans will be shot and killed this year, and if present trends continue, the number of gun deaths should overtake traffic fatalities in about 20 months or so.

So what did Congress see fit to act on?

Yes, that’s right. Airport delays. Passed by both houses of Congress in a matter of hours, just as they were about to head home for recess.

But requiring gun dealers in store, at gun shows and over the internet to check whom they’re selling to? A recent CNN/ORC poll showed 94% support for background checks, while a Quinnipac poll support reported 91% support for the measure.

I started this by rejecting the notion that Washington is dysfunctional, and I stand by that. Washington is functioning as it was designed to, by founders who decided early on to restrict meaningful political participation to the propertied class (the vast majority of Americans aren’t getting near an airplane anytime soon), and to guarantee the slave states a stranglehold over government. That is still not quite the problem.

America is being driven by liars devoid of all sense of civic responsibility. This is built into our business philosophy, our foreign relations and eats away at civic life as well. Certainly our business practices as well as our politics are poisoned, perhaps beyond redemption. In effect, we are being told that murder, theft and fraud are things we’d all be better off living with (as long as the victims aren’t propertied, white and male) than agree to the least of restrictions on such behavior. In effect, we are being told that the American Dream is more about an elitist freedom from sanction than it is about the general welfare and that a lazy abdication of responsibility in favor of a narrow, inward focus is preferable to undertaking the work of securing the blessings of liberty and prosperity for all Americans. We are, in fact, being sold on the notion that our individual pursuits, no matte how selfish or misguided, are fundamentally what it means to be an American.

This is not dysfunction. Washington is merely, as it was designed to be, an accurate reflection of all this.



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