A nation whose constitution begins with the words "We, the People" should not be governed through threats and intimidation and lies. It is time to defuse the hostage-taking bomb. Do not negotiate with hostage-takers – and that includes shutdown threats.
The "fiscal cliff' was the result of the last debt-ceiling hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies...
The Last Few Years Of Hostage-Taking
I took a look back at what I have written about the various hostage-taking threats of just the last few years. Remember the 2010 "tax deal," when the GOP took unemployment benefits hostage to win an extension of the Bush tax cuts (thereby increasing deficits)? Winning that way only fed their appetite for even more hostage-taking.
December, 2010, The Debt-Ceiling Threat To Gut The Things Government Does For Us:
The country’s huge debt was caused by tax cuts for the rich and increases in military spending. But debt-cutting recommendations from the D.C. Elite never suggest restoring taxes on the rich and cutting military spending. Go figure. Instead they suggest cutting the things government does for We, the People. The D.C. Elite is not We, the People. Let’s stop this in its tracks.
January, 2011, Prevent Hostage-Taking; Add Debt Ceiling To Tax Deal:
They are going to do this. They are going to take the biggest hostage ever. You can stop this. Democrats in the House are at the maximum leverage point. You can stop this. You can literally save the country by demanding the debt ceiling be increased in exchange for this tax-cut deal and the huge amount of debt it adds.
March, 2011, Budget Fight: Why Are Republicans Forcing a Shutdown:
If you read their websites and magazines you know that they hate government and talk about ways to get rid of it. They have said they just want government to go away and have been running strategies to get it small enough that they can drown it in a bathtub. If you are a Republican who doesn’t think destroying government is the best approach you are called a RINO and shunned.
They don’t talk about governing, they talk about killing government, and when they get power they don’t govern, they destroy government. They appoint industry lobbyists to agencies that are supposed to oversee their own industries. They appoint polluters to the agencies that are supposed to protect us from pollution. And they appoint people who have called for getting government out of areas like education, medical care, etc. to head up and dismantle those departments.
... And unspoken in all of their anti-government arguments is just what will replace government, namely the big, powerful corporations and the wealthy few behind them.
Here we are only four months into Republican control of the House of Representatives and the government is shutting down! When you give power to people who hate the government, what do you think they’re going to do? Since the election the Republicans have been itching to gut or shut the government. It has been a drumbeat that they either get everything they want or shut it down. And getting everything they want guts the government.
Either way our economy takes a big, big hit.
Just weeks after the “debt-ceiling” hostage-taking, forcing trillions to be cut out of the economy, the hostage-takers are at it again. Now they are threatening a government shutdown, demanding even more cuts in the “continuing resolution” that keeps the government operating. This time they even want to cut the disaster-relief spending that helps people hit by wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
[...] So this will come down to the wire. Again. And the public’s faith in government will be further eroded. And the economy will take yet another hit as our government’s paralysis is even more apparent.
Once again, Republicans are holding government hostage, trying to force through unpopular cuts to the things We, the People — “the 99%” — do for each other and our economy, while giving handouts to the 1% who pay for their campaign ads and smears. Once again they are threatening to just shut down the whole government if they don’t get their way This time the hostage is unemployment benefits for 2 million people and the payroll tax cut that is the only stimulus left to keep the economy going. Here’s the thing, they say they want “cuts” but what they are really doing is shifting costs from the 1% on to the rest of us.
Haven't we learned yet?
But it's actually not just these last few years that we have been government by hostage-taking, threats, lies and intimidation.
Actually, It Has Been Decades Of Government Through Hostage-Taking, Threats, Intimidation And Lies
Our country has a sad history of policy-making that resulted from hostage-taking, threats, intimidation and lies. The Vietnam and Iraq wars are two examples of the tragic consequences of allowing these tactics to succeed rather than following a transparent, informed, reasoned, systematic and democratic process. Paul Rosenberg takes us through the decades-long history of GOP hostage-taking in an excellent, must-read post at Al Jazeera, "GOP terrorism - and Democratic complicity":
The GOP is a hostage-taking organisation. That's not just what I say, it's what the Wall Street Journal says, on its own editorial page. And for decades now, the Wall Street Journal editorial page has been a leading propaganda organ of the Republican Party.
Paul writes about the harm done by this sort of governing:
"Okay," you may say. "But that's only a metaphor. No one's actually going to die." But that's clearly false. People die during recessions. People die when they suffer from long-term unemployment. There are studies clearly showing this (here, here and here, for example).
People die from gun violence that GOP, along with its NRA allies and its ALEC allies have both passively and actively helped spread. (A recent report shows that states passing "stand your ground" laws have higher gun homicide rates, for example.)
People die from lax worker safety regulations and lax enforcement, which the GOP and ALEC also support. People die from fossil fuels - both greenhouse gas and particulate pollution combine to cause millions of deaths a year worldwide.
And people die prematurely from the effects of the GOP's economic policies, too - policies that it's now enforcing as a minority party by threatening even more intense and immediate harm - the possibility of another world-wide recession, which would no doubt cause many more premature deaths, along with all the other sub-lethal suffering it would bring.
The history of GOP governing through hostage-taking, lies, threats and intimidation goes back decades (click through for links and more):
First, consider Harry Truman. In March 1947, three years before Senator Joe McCarthy burst onto the national stage with his Wheeling speech denouncing Communist infiltration in government, Truman tried to preempt such attacks by instituting his own witch-hunting internal security program by presidential executive order.
Both Truman and McCarthy were following in the footsteps of the young master, Richard Nixon. Of course, Truman ended up encouraging McCarthyism, preparing the way for it, rather than preempting it - but at least he had the excuse that he didn't have the failed example of Harry Truman to learn from.
As if this first rightward lurch didn't turn out badly enough, Lyndon Johnson then repeated the exercise in even more bloody form. As I've written before ("George McGovern: The road not taken"), we now know from White House tapes that Johnson never actually believed in the Vietnam War. He fought it because he thought he'd be impeached if he didn't fight it. This is the clearest possible admission that he was implementing GOP policies out of fear - out of terror.
Rosenberg takes us through the Carter and Clinton years, the lies that brought us the Iraq war, and so much more. Click through and read his post.
How long have we been governed through hostage-taking, threats, intimidation and lies? Vietnam, Iraq and the more recent tax fights should make it clear that governing in reaction to hostage-taking, lies, threats and intimidation doesn't turn out well in the long run. We need to govern through an open, transparent, considered, informed, reasoned, systematic and democratic process.
It is time to disarm the hostage-taking bomb. Stop giving in and giving these terrorists what they want. What they want hurts We, the People, always just to further enrich some already-wealthy billionaires. It is time to just stop it. Do not negotiate with terrorists.