Standing up for ‘the American people’

Once again it would be nice to have had a peek into the Republicans’ play book for the early-stage budget battle that just ended with the Capitol Hill crowd avoiding tipping over the Gingrich cliff, with all the peril this portends. Not that the GOP manual would lay bare anything we didn’t already know. Hell, we’ve seen them run those plays so many times before…and it goes without saying that the Tea Party influence lately in the ranks would necessitate a ratcheting up of the group’s patented “piranha” m.o. in treating with affairs of state.

Even so, the countdown tableau, primarily featuring House Speaker John Boehner, was a piece of work. Once he’d been elected speaker, the conventional wisdom seemed to be that the test of Boehner’s survivability would be whether he could keep the GOP’s rump section in check, they having sashayed into Congress in January with sirens blaring and due notice to all that they’d be shaking the great domed space to its very foundations. So here was Boehner in these recurring appearances before the cameras, faithfully following the script, delivering the good news of the GOP’s band of do-gooders crusading for “the American people.” I mean, it began as a theater-of-the-absurd routine and went downhill from there. (Some observers seem to think he didn’t do too badly, having elicited no post-budget deal public grumbling from the rump. Then again, as others contend, given Boehner’s voting record, he figures to be Tea Party pedigree, anyway.)

There’s one thing you can’t deny the GOP. They have this way of sounding off about whatever with a measure of bravado that, for the unsuspecting, cannot but approximate the word straight off those biblical tablets of stone. When Boehner and others in his camp make with the histrionics about bleeding for “the American people,” surely they’re hip to how big a con that is. But damned if some targeted innocents aren’t duped into believing such claptrap the real deal. Or maybe it is that, by some formula yet unknown to the rest of us, every member of Boehner and company’s target audience counts for a lot more than one “normal” American.

How else does one posit that a large swath of the citizenry find favor with the top two percent or so of wealthy Americans deserving a tax break? Or that terminating the $4 billion annually in government subsidies for big oil companies proposed by President Obama is really an example of the government looking to beat up on these corporate behemoths? Exxon Mobil, the largest of the petroleum giants, had profits for all of 2010 of $30.46 billion, up appreciably from a “depressed” year in 2009 when profits totaled only $19.28 billion. Shell reported profits of $18.6 billion in 2010. Smart wagering says there are hardly likely to be owners of Exxon Mobil, Shell, Texaco…stock in numbers enough to constitute a significant mass of “the American people” sympathetic to the claim of industry titans, that big oil needs that subsidy lifeline from the government.

How many among the large proportion of Americans dependent on Social Security and Medicare, even while acknowledging the need for reforming these entitlements, would opt for reforms along the lines of privatizing the programs, as services-slashing Republicans are once again advocating or hinting?

The $38 billion in budget cuts announced as the number agreed on by Republicans and Democrats to avoid the shutdown was somewhere in the ballpark of numbers the two sides had reportedly arrived at days before in their negotiations. While they steadfastly denied, not surprisingly, that they were allowing social agenda considerations, specifically the abortion issue, to impede an agreement, Republicans were evidently prepared to wage a pitched battle precisely on that account. Which hardly would be big news in the realm of GOP behavior. The social conservative element throwing its weight around has long since been standard practice.

Some poll numbers in a New York Times story a few days ago by Jennifer Steinhauer are revealing of social conservatives’ blind obsession with a cause and indifference to any factor(s) inimical to their pursuit of it…even if so horrendous a consequence looms as the functions of government being put on hold. New York Times/CBS New polling in 2010 and 2011 showed that when asked to name the most important issue facing the country less than one percent of respondents cited abortion. The results showed 36 percent favoring abortions being generally available and 40 percent favoring abortions being available with limits. Only 20 percent thought abortion should not be permitted. Say hello to Boehner and his confederates’ “American people.”

Away from that extremist fantasy, real Americans worry about how long before what they keep hearing about a turnaround in the country’s woeful economic plight the last couple of years finally impacts them. Real Americans would just as soon leave the spewing of those packaged verities to the likes of Boehner and his crew. Of course, never to be excluded from the reckoning is that seismic crashing through the glass ceiling for occupancy of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in ’08 – a perplexity and continuing outrage to more of America than America dares admit. Fortunately, though, the quest for resonance among the hoi polloi from the reactionary right still requires a resort to demagoguery and farce, as we got in full plenitude during the recent extended look at showtime with Boehner.

More from Around NYC