Any time the Wall St. Journal proposes that “individuals” should be treated the same as businesses, and any time they criticize the hard line Republicans in Congress, you know there is a problem. But this is exactly what they did on Wednesday, Oct. 2, one day after the government shutdown started. In their lead editorial they criticized the hard line Republicans for refusing to compromise over the government shutdown. They suggested what sort of compromises could be made and how.
Among other things, they proposed that since Obama has delayed for one year the mandate that businesses provide insurance to some employees, that the mandate that everybody must have health insurance could be similarly delayed on the basis of fairness. Fairness? When has the WSJ ever considered fairness for individuals vs. business? Also, contrary to their usual stance, they said that the hard line will cause the Republicans to lose votes in coming elections. In the past, their claim has been that compromising on “principles” is what loses votes.
What gives here?
A Weakened Superpower
The answer lies in a column from Gerald Seib, the head of their Washington bureau. On the previous day, Seib wrote: “When will Washington’s dysfunction, which has become a chronic condition, begin to erode allies’ confidence in the U.S.? And when might America’s foes decide they can take advantage of the paralysis?” He put the matter squarely: “Let’s face it: A superpower that isn’t sure it can fund its government or pay its bills, overseen by a president who recently found that members of Congress from both parties were unwilling to follow his lead on military action in Syria, isn’t in a great position to work its will abroad.” He writes about “the broader doubts about American credibility and reliability now being sown, regardless of the outcome of the current comic opera. If the president and Congress can’t agree on a plan to keep open the Washington Monument, how can foreign powers assume the U.S. government can unite behind efforts to do much harder tasks abroad?”
Seib specifically mentioned Israel. He wrote that the Israeli regime would be less confident in its US protector and, therefore, more liable to act alone. As if to emphasize the point, the very next day Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave one of his sabre rattling speeches before the UN. In it, he denounced Iran (for the nth time) and said “If Israel has to act alone, it will act alone,” in bombing Iran.
On the same day, a news article illustrated Corporate America’s concern. According to the article, Chinese capitalism has a major investment in nearly every Caribbean country. This is their strategy to influence and control other governments, and they could use this influence ultimately to establish spy stations in the Caribbean. This is not just Chinese capitalism trying to win friends and influence people. As the article explained, control over the Caribbean means control over vital sea lanes – something that nations have gone to war over in the past.
The shutdown shows the underlying tensions in US society. The years of attacks on working class people have created huge insecurity and anger. It has also created massive confusion since no significant force in society is explaining the class nature of these attacks and organizing workers to fight back as workers. The result is that a minority wing of the capitalist class – the Koch brothers, Mellon-Scaife, Murdoch, etc. – have been able to get a base through the Tea Party movement. This wing does not think strategically. They believe the clock can be rolled back to the situation prior to the 1930s. This is what their representatives in Congress are trying to do all along the line. Among other things, their world view is that the US is so powerful that it doesn’t need allies and it doesn’t need to maneuver. So who cares what the regimes of other nations will think?
It should also be remembered that this shutdown is different from previous ones. In the past, the shutdowns were due to an inability to reach an agreement over spending in budgets. This time it is because the right-wing Republican lunatics are using the process as a hostage to push a policy matter. They are partially out of control of the major wing of the capitalist class.
For many in Corporate America, the Democrats are seeming like a safer bet, therefore.
Children Don’t Vote
Meanwhile, a lot of people will suffer. Retirees will continue to receive their social security checks, but recipients of the “Women’s Infants Children” (WIC) food program for impoverished children won’t. The reason? Retirees vote in large numbers. Children don’t.