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Hullabaloo


Friday, July 29, 2011

 
A Sickness that Knows No Name
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

As we awaken on Friday morning here on the California coast, John Boehner will already have started trying to whip the votes he couldn't get yesterday over in Washington, D.C. The nation's capital has been waiting with bated breath to see if Boehner could pull enough of his caucus together to pass his austerity bill. Which is really funny, considering that the bill has zero chance of getting passage in Reid's Senate, and even less chance of being signed by President Obama regardless. Nothing could better exemplify the comic farce that is the D.C. media bubble than this latest much ado about nothing.

Kudos are owed to Nancy Pelosi for keeping her caucus together, even the Blue Dogs, and not giving Boehner any votes (same for Reid, who even managed to keep Joe Lieberman on board.) But what, exactly, is Boehner having trouble with his caucus over? As The Hill reports, it appears to be Pell Grant funding:
House conservatives who have stalled legislation to raise the national debt limit are angry that it includes $17 billion in supplemental spending for Pell Grants, which some compare to welfare.

Legislation crafted by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to raise the debt limit by $900 billion would directly appropriate $9 billion for Pell Grants in 2012 and another $8 billion in 2013.

This has shocked some conservative House freshmen who say they were elected to cut spending, not increase it. Some House Republicans think of it as being akin to welfare.


So this is what it comes down to. Spending a few billion on giving kids the prayer of being able to afford to go to college given skyrocketing tuitions is just too much for the Tea Party brigade. Money for college is just the same as "welfare." Before you know it, those strapping young college kids will be driving Cadillacs and eating T-bone steaks, the lazy freeloaders. Far better that they stay in the menial labor workforce, as the hired help for America's "job creators," while we merrily piss away trillions of dollars on pointless wars for oil overseas.

Back in the days before euphemisms came in vogue for such things, they used to call that moral evil. Nowadays a professional psychiatrist might call it antisocial personality disorder, except that we know there aren't that many actual clinical sociopaths out there. What it is, is a culture of sociopathy, made possible by a 30-year-long echo chamber of right-wing radio, Fox News, corrupted church propaganda, and astroturf think tanks. Back in the days before the conservative echo chamber, it used to be deeply embarrassing to hold these sorts of views. Now, the more extreme your devotion to the sociopathic line, the better proof of your membership in the right-wing cult.

But it's not just that: they're deeply stupid as well. Without getting into the fact that spending on education is an investment in America's future potential, and that anyone who did what Tea Partiers claim to want and "ran government like a business" would instantly see that such investments must be made, the numbers don't add up, either.

As Dave Dayen tweeted, the increase to Pell grants in Boehner's bill is more than made up for by cuts to student loans elsewhere. In fact, the sum total of the elimination of certain student loan subsidies combined with increases to Pell grants actually saves the government money long-term. Per the CBO analysis of Boehner's bill (see Chart 3 at the end), the $17 billion in increases to Pell grants are offset by $22 billion in cuts and savings elsewhere. And yet that is what the Tea Party crowd is willing to scuttle a political negotiating chip and John Boehner's sorry career over, in a bill that won't even get past the Senate, anyway.

What's the clinical term for mass delusion combined with immorality and abject stupidity? I'll leave that to the sociologists and mental health professionals to decide.



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