As bad as you thought it would be, it’s going to be worse
I had meant for today to be a reflection on Barack Obama, and in a way, it is: all the terrifying incompetence, the sleaze, the obvious grifts, the disdain for intelligence is an inverse reflection, a terrifying funhouse mirror image of the administration that is ending tomorrow morning. We are going to be in a markedly different country, and not just in a matter of style (though that too, of course).
Because if there is one thing that Barack Obama truly valued, perhaps the overarching philosophy of his Presidency, it is that we have a shared heritage and a common past. Too often in that past we were driven apart and fought against each other, but that pain, that suffering, that ignorance-borne violence and oppression, is still shared. He believes that our being Americans, whether we came on the Mayflower of a slave ship, whether our ancestors crossed the ice bridge or the Rio Grande, means something. Protecting the common good is part and parcel of the shared work of governance.
That’s all going away. We have a rampant and radical GOP led by a sniveling ideologue, a consummate cynic, and a know-nothing megalomaniac. Every item on the radical wishlist can be checked off. Let’s start with the budget.
The Daily Intelligencer sums it up.
That plan is tightly modeled on a blueprint drafted by Heritage last year.
The proposed cuts are so draconian and far-reaching, they encompass nearly every government function that liberals care about.
At the Department of Justice, the plan would eliminate programs that aim to prevent violence against women, encourage community-oriented policing, and provide legal aid to the indigent. It would also drastically reduce funding the DOJ’s Civil Rights and Environment and Natural Resources divisions.
At the Energy Department, the plan would eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Office of Fossil Energy, which develops technologies to reduce carbon emissions.
Two of the top State Department programs focused on climate-change prevention are marked for elimination.
The Minority Business Development Agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities are all headed for the scrap heap. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized.
First of all, the government actually does things, and without all the jobs filled it’s not apt to do them very well. Even if there’s no catastrophic failure, lack of leadership will, as should be no surprise, yield inertia and low morale, leading to steadily worse performance.
He concludes that Congress, and interest groups, will essentially be running the show. And brother, those interest groups are something else.
And that leads me to the real, true horrorshow: it’s not just that they want to cut spending on programs that strengthen the community, and thus our bond. They literally want to sell our heritage on the cheap. We’ve talked about how the plan has been to parcel off federal land, not for the people–who, it needs to be said, already fucking own it and can use it–but to private interests, to make money off of. So this land will no longer be our shared good, but ranchers like the Bundys, and loggers and miners. A fence will go around it.
As The Guardian reports, they basically have already done that.
Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans’ birthright: 640m acres of national land. In a single line of changes to the rules for the House of Representatives, Republicans have overwritten the value of federal lands, easing the path to disposing of federal property even if doing so loses money for the government and provides no demonstrable compensation to American citizens.
Essentially, Utah Republican Bob Bishop, for whom this is a holy crusade, introduced a rule change in the House that says “Transferring public land to “state, local government or tribal entity shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending or increasing outlays.” Basically, it says that federal land has no budget value, and that means it can be transferred to states, because it can be done so if there is no revenue loss. So, essentially, the rules say that federal land that brings in revenue can’t be transfered to the states (already a dubious standard, but fine). Bishop’s change says that they have no value. So, no problem.
Of course, the problem with transfering federal land to the states is that 1) most states can’t afford upkeep, and so their budgets will be drained, leading to cuts in services (which is fine with the GOP) or else the sell-off of public land to private interests, and 2) a lot of these state legislators already want to sell it off. This isn’t a side-effect. It’s the whole goal: the transference of our land to private interests so that the very few can make money.
It’s hard to say how deeply insane and infuriating this is. It is enough to make one weep. (And really weep. To wit: “the first places to come under attack might include areas adjacent to the majestic Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Those areas hold uranium and copper, respectively.” How dare they.) Really, anyone: as the Guardian says, “a 2016 study found that 95% of the American public believes that National Parks are worth protecting and 80% said they’d be willing to pay higher taxes to do so.” That’s essentially everyone.
And it should be! These are our lands, and they are part of what make the fabric of this country. They inspire us and bring us together. They are a stirring testament to the idea that some things aren’t for sale. That there is something which binds us other than our role in the free market. We aren’t objects of capital. We’re human beings. We’re Americans.
But that doesn’t matter. These are legislators bought and sold by interest groups, working for a government now run by interest groups. Hell, most of them don’t even need to be bought: they truly believe that we have no common good. There is no body politic. There is only the market, and it should be opened up. There’s no better symbol of that than selling off the Grand Canyon on the cheap.
This is the government which will come into full expression tomorrow. Millions of more people voted for the most progressive platform in American history. And it doesn’t matter. The body politic will mean something differently. We haven’t even begun to cope with it.