Monthly Archives: November 2013

From the Top Down

The first commandment for every Republican has to do with spending. Spending! Omigod! it has to be reined in. The deficit is unacceptable. The only sane goal is a balanced budget. If we don’t get our financial house in order, claim the money-mad Republicans, we are failing in our most important political responsibility. We are kicking the can down the road, breaking the back of our unborn grandchildren and great-grandchildren, even beyond the third and fourth generations.

One hears this kind of talk whenever two or three Republicans get together. If a Republican talks in his sleep, that may constitute a quorum. So what is this fixation with spending about? In the long history of mankind, spending has always been a bogeyman for The Right.. At least so it seems. For them, the first order of business is the exercise of thrift.

In fact, thrift is an obsession. It trumps spending for education, for scientific research, for repairing the infrastructure of the nation. And that’s the least of it. In the words of Capt. Ahab, thrift is “cruel and remorseless and sinewed with malice.” It takes food from the mouths of children, from the disabled, from our veterans. It has the heft of a sacrament, even as It propels a budget through the land that in its ferocity matches Sherman’s March to the Sea.

For our purposes, the Right’s preoccupation with spending and the absolute necessity to rein it in are an Ariadne thread leading to an understanding of how Republicans think. How did we get to this unbalanced budget? they ask. How did we rack up such a deficit?

That’s right, moral turpitude!

We indulged ourselves. We wasted our “substance in riotous living.” We set up retirement plans that were not realistic, basically indulging our workers. We offered entitlement programs beyond our means. We lavished unemployment benefits that corrupted our middle class. In short, we acted like drunken sailors, an appropriate and sober way of life farthest from our mind.

Achieving a balanced budget is a moral imperative. It demands that we live within our means. “Thrift, Horatio.” That’s why we don’t raise taxes or close loopholes. That’s an evasion of our responsibility. We are not waiting around for a rich uncle to die and leave us in his will. No, we must evolve the moral fiber to run our country responsibly with the means at hand.

It’s time to pay the piper. It’s time for Republicans to clean up the mess in Washington. Republican Paul Ryan, a Wunderkind, has put together a budget that can usher in fiscal responsibility. It spells out our first commandment – control spending.



There are two ways of interacting with reality – from the top down or the bottom up. The Right relates to the world from the top down, whereas The Left relates from the bottom up. Not surprisingly, this epistemological difference leaves them frequently worlds apart.

Take the issue of spending. The Republican Right is obsessed with the importance of a balanced budget. That means spending must be limited to income. The imperative comes down from the top: do not spend beyond your means. “That’s an order!” No circumstances outside the command post are recognized as relevant to that judgment. A balanced budget is all that matters. Facts on the ground staring up from the bottom messiness are simply disregarded.

Furthermore, one must balance the budget with its present resources. Enlarging the budget through increased taxation, for example, is against the rules. Grover Norquist had the Republican senators and representatives sign a pledge never to raise taxes, in any form, including tax breaks to large corporations. A pledge is not an oath, but it’s close.

Suppose facts on the ground make plain that balancing the budget denies food stamps to millions of children. Unfortunately, priorities established from the top down remain inviolate. So $40 billion in food stamps over the next 10 years must be cut.

“But how can you turn your back on the children?”

– What children!

There is a great gulf fixed between reality seen from the top down and seen from the bottom up. Recognizing epistemological differences is like discovering the Neanderthals have not gone extinct. I will examine Republicans in my next posts, living fossils of Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.

Kathleen Sebelius

Dear Kathleen,

I watched the moral maniacs, like a pack of screaming banshees, go for your jugular during the congressional hearings. You handled life in the jungle bravely and brilliantly.

I kept thinking of the observation by Jesus that if someone came back from the dead, thereby refuting an ideology, it would make no difference. If the mind does not see what is obvious, there is nothing to be done. Nonetheless, I want to share with you what is obvious.

Capt. Ahab recognized that the adversarial relationship between him and Moby Dick was “immutably decreed, and I am (simply) Fates’ Lieut.” it is immutably decreed that implementing a major legislative initiative will drive folks up the wall. It is a systemic inevitability, a consequence of complexity. Check the headlines when Social Security became the law of the land in the 30s, or Medicare in the 60s, or prescription drugs less than a decade ago. The hue and the cry on the front page of every newspaper had nothing to do with moral issues. Nor were the rage and anguish linked to adversarial problems. It is simply the nature of the beast. The pack of banshees howling on C-SPAN disregard history and are condemned to repeat it. Besides,they prefer life in the jungle, “cruel and remorseless and sinewed with malice.”

Some 30 states have refused to set up the insurance exchange which is the beating heart of the Affordable Care Act. States that have cooperated, such as Kentucky and Oregon, have had smooth sailing. The 30 Republican governors who refused to cooperate with this new law of the land have obviously increased the load on the federal government, making an already difficult situation almost impossible.

I just spent four weeks in hospital following a total hip replacement. The thought of having no medical insurance is unthinkable. I understand that 60% of bankruptcies are the result of medical bills, and the majority of the newly minted homeless HAD medical insurance. That is, JUNK insurance, forced on a callow public by an unregulated free market.

Hang in there, Kathleen.






Follow the Energy

Eight weeks ago, I had a total hip replacement and have spent the time since in a rehabilitation facility. Hence no posts on my blog site. The world, nonetheless, continued on its merry way.

What did I learn?

That convalescence sucks up all the energy. Putting it otherwise, to pay attention and to think comes at a very high price. Doctors have advised seven days convalescence for every day spent in the hospital. Dwight Howard, the Houston NBA center, known as Superman no less, to his shock took well over a year to recover from back surgery.

I have various thoughts to post on my blog, but I can’t think them through. The oomph is not there. When I have the energy available beyond body maintenance, I shall return.

One thought: Obama’s handling of Syria and his phone call to the premier of Iran were magnificent instances of leading our country into a new world.