Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Politicians, Money, and Cocaine

Speaker John Boehner remarked over the weekend that "taking money from politicians is like taking cocaine from addicts." This is not true, and it again exposes the extent to which our arguments about the budget are really arguments about something else. Politicians are not, as a group, addicted to money; if they were, they would be bankers or lawyers. Some of them took big salary cuts to run for office. Their drugs of choice are power and attention. Federal spending is certainly a big part of how they wield power and get attention, but is only one piece of the big pie that is American politics.

What conservatives are trying to do in Washington, what Tea Party members want them to do, is not really to cut spending. It is to wield power, and thereby to bring self-described conservatives back into power. Part of why American conservatives were so angry in 2010 was that they were shut out of power, and Democrats were able to enact a big new government program (Obamacare) despite their best efforts to stop it. Whether Obamacare is a good idea or not is beside the point; most Tea Party voters have no idea what is even in the bill. (Neither do many of the bill's Democratic supporters.) The point is that it was a liberal plan that was shoved down their throats.

The job of Boehner and his comrades now is to force Obama and the Democrats to acknowledge their power, and therefore the power of American conservatism. They say, although I don't believe them, that they are willing to let the government hit its debt ceiling and default on its financial obligations to achieve that. To force their will on the country, and therefore validate their centrality in America, conservatives are willing to do something really stupid and quite radical.

And that is Democracy.

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