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Rogue Columnist

Sequester this

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Jon Stewart has so degraded the usefulness of profanity with his unending use of partly bleeped F-words that I am forced to fall back on the oaths of my parents' generation: Let the goddamn sequester happen. I am so sick of the crazy fanatics called Republicans and their willingness to inflict great damage on the country, really do anything, only to hurt a man they see as an illegitimate president, a man who represents everything they loathe: Intellectual, cosmopolitan, urban, open-minded, tolerant, black and doesn't know his place. I am as sick of the president, who is squandering his mandate, doesn't know how to use it. He continues the Bush assault on our civil liberties, extends the drone war, won't tell the American people the truth and won't bring the banksters to justice. He named one to be Treasury Secretary. And is Chuck Hagel the only Republican he can find to be Defense Secretary? Let the goddamn sequester happen.

Speaking of the Defense Department, why don't we call it by its historic name: The War Department (and, yes, dear careful reader, I know there was also a Department of the Navy and where would the Air Force fit...hang with me)? This would at least be straightforward about its purpose, using serious language that might give us pause. Aside from the damage of the Great Recession, one reason we face the dreaded deficit and debt is two unfunded wars. Mr. Obama is prosecuting imperial ass-whippings around the globe even now, creating more new terrorists than we kill. We are "pivoting" to the Pacific, to pick a fight with our Chinese banker. We spend more on war than the next 13 powers combined. The F-35 fighter will cost at least $396 billion — that alone would expand our passenger rail system by 300 times — and the thing is still not airworthy. Our new $13.5-billion-a-pop Gerald R. Ford class carriers will be target practice for some Chinese kid guiding a missile. We have too many flag officers and too many mooching, corrupt contractors. Even if not a single blade of grass on an officers' golf course goes untended, let the goddamn sequester happen.

Let the sequester happen and keep it going. Ever since Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency, politicians have gotten ahead by claiming "government is the problem." And voters accept this as they accept their Social Security checks, Medicare benefits, safe food and drugs, freeways and roads to drive on, in vehicles powered by gasoline kept artificially cheap by federal subsidies, armies and fleets, live in a Sun Belt made habitable by federal initiatives from the TVA to the SRP, survive airplane flights thanks to government air traffic control...and they think government is the problem. A people this stupid and corrupt deserves the real-life experiment of seeing whether they really are rugged individualists who don't need no gub'ment. Bring it on. I especially look forward to letting the net-taker red states actually live the Ayn Rand fantasy they rave about. I can imagine how LBJ, whatever the statues say, would ensure that all the military cuts befell states that voted against him and especially the districts of members of Congress who defied him.

When we've cut Amtrak, transit, PBS and assistance for the poor, maybe we can turn to where the real money is: The imperial capital. That won't happen, but one can dream. Defund the grifters of the "defense," "das homeland security," fossil fuels, banking and assorted tax avoidance rackets. MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson makes the point that more wealth has been created over the past decade than ever before in history. But "we're broke." We must destroy the social safety net, repeal the New Deal, Great Society and Nixon administration. Huh? How about cutting congressional staffs back to 1960s levels. The same with the White House. Why should the chief executive of this republic travel like a caesar or Persian emperor? Let's defund the Georgetown dinner parties where Bob Woodward whores out what was once the reputation of a great journalist. This will no more happen than tax rates rising to an appropriate level or tackling climate change with a carbon tax (and rebuilding our passenger-train network) and reigning in Wall Street with a transaction tax. See, it's you working slobs who are broke. Austerity is the answer (even if Latvia is the only example of its "success").

Two quick asides: Austerity won't work. In reality, federal fiscal policy is so integral to the national economy that cutting the budget in a time of slowness risks bringing on the kind of debt trap seen in the Depression, where the more austerity is applied, the worse the debt becomes because of contracting demand. Second, the whole Obama-is-a-socialist delusion is nice cover, but he's a Robert Rubin Democrat who has been planning draconian budget cuts on his own.

Institutional corruption has become so endemic in America, lying about the multiple realities bearing down on us has become so required of our leaders — nobody in power thinks they face any accountability whatsoever. When reality hits, they'll be safe in their walled compounds living off their lootings of the American commons. And the people taken in by the dogma of the Tea Party will still be blaming Obama when the federal assistance doesn't arrive to make them whole after the hurricane or flood washes away the house from a location where it never should have been built. They're real Americans, not takers like those Negroes and Mexicans in the cities. They're job creators, even if they've been claiming Social Security disability for ten years. It's other people who are the problem.

This is the madness we face. It would really be helpful to have a functioning two-party system, but no. One of our great political parties denies science and, as Paul Krugman says, wants to repeal the Enlightenment. So the compromise necessary to the essential functioning of self-government can't happen. The intelligent responses to our future of discontinuity are impossible. An "austere" federal government will add to people's pain, fail to invest in making the country competitive or prepare it for the future — or even maintain the system we inherited. Things will only get ugly when the duhs and ignos lose cheap gas and cable television, can't buy crap from China at Wal-Mart. Then it will get very ugly. If we're lucky, the New Confederacy will leave in peace. We may not be lucky.

I know this much. I'm sick of the Republican hostage-taking, sick of Mr. Obama's refusal to fight back, sick of the moronic coverage of momentous events by most of the media. Let the goddamn sequester happen. The worse, the better.

This commentary was originally posted on Rogue Columnist.


Jon Talton is a fourth-generation Arizonan who runs the blog Rogue Columnist. He is a former op-ed and business columnist of the Arizona Republic and now is economics columnist of the Seattle Times.

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