I gave some thought to whipping up a super-clever comparison of Walter White, “Breaking Bad’s” abused-ego-driven meth king and Ted Cruz, he of the guffaw-inducing narcissism and putative leader of the Republican nihilist caucus. But the concept fell apart so damned fast.
Walter White, trail of bodies, ruined lives and psychic mayhem aside, was at least intelligent enough to remain respectful of science, the inflexible boundaries of hard mathematics and in the end … the very end … even managed to achieve the self-realization that he did it all “for me”. Because he was good at it and it made him feel “alive”.
Ted Cruz, by comparison, doesn’t appear to have respect for anything, other than himself, while still posing as a guy who like the early-Heisenberg, believes himself immune to the consequences of his nefarious actions.
So that idea crashed and burned. And was replaced by the less elegant and more blunt declaration, “Shut it down!”.
A government shutdown and a national default, resulting in actual citizens inconvenienced and millions of dollars a day flagrantly wasted, is the best thing that can happen given the current predicament. Both appeal to the Tea Party apocalyptics who regard destruction of the anti-christ (i.e. anything touched by the hand of a Democrat, including national elections), as divine will. Which is why other contenders to the court of GOP brainiacs — Michele Bachmann, Steve King, etc. — are so unabashedly delighted. Finally, the illegitimate majority will be brought low!
While consensus thinking says the GOP will take the bigger beating for these completely unnecessary (and utterly misbegotten) crises, Cruz and his fellow apocalyptics truly do have a cloak of immunity wrapped around them, personally. Cruz won’t run for reelection for another five years (during which time he will be an electro-magnet for chump cash from the country’s aged, white and angry), and the 70-80 Tea Party congress-warriors live in tightly gerrymandered districts that vigorously exclude anyone remotely moderate from serious consideration. (That recently revealed $250 million Koch brothers slush fund keeps enforcement pretty tight .)
So, bring it on. Every revolution has a decisive battle, and I’ll argue that the past half-dozen years have been a study in deferred conflict and appeasement (to use a Cruz-ism.)
A meltdown, preferably now over a shutdown, as opposed to three weeks from now over a national default, is a critical, unavoidable test of whether there is any level of mayhem that will stigmatize the apocalyptics badly enough to neuter them as a viable force. Put another way, a shutdown, with the entire Republican brand swabbed through the sewer (yet again), may — may — be the only way for the party’s ruling money forces to step in and slap down the rabble slashing the party tires. But I doubt a shutdown alone delivers the level of supreme wrath required to put an end to this stuff.
I give you a statement out today from Goldman Sachs, always the true embodiment of the governing ethos:
“It would be a mistake to interpret a shutdown as implying a greater risk of a debt limit crisis, in our view. It would not be surprising to see a more negative market reaction to a shutdown than would be warranted by the modest macroeconomic effect it would have. We suspect that many market participants would interpret a shutdown as implying a greater risk of problems in raising the debt limit. This is not unreasonable, but we would see it differently. If a shutdown is avoided, it is likely to be because congressional Republicans have opted to wait and push for policy concessions on the debt limit instead. By contrast, if a shutdown occurs, we would be surprised if congressional Republicans would want to risk another difficult situation only a couple of weeks later. The upshot is that while a shutdown would be unnecessarily disruptive, it might actually ease passage of a debt limit increase.”
I’d call that wishful thinking; that the Republican anarchists will be so chastised by reaction to a shutdown that they’ll dial back their rage at “Obama’s blank check” and forgo a debt limit fight. I see no way that happens.
What “adults” like Goldman Sachs — who are probably “shorting” the entire economy as we speak — are going to have to confront is that the self-serving Cruz, Bachmann crowd regards restraint as a form of satanic complicity. Their viability as cash-magnets decreases in direct proportion with the whiff of slackening of resistance to figures deemed illegitimate by the base, (and the base’s financial minders). If Goldman Sachs wants Cruz reduced to pink slime, they’re going to have to go directly to Cruz’s paymasters, and they’re not going to do that until Goldman Sachs quarterly earnings take a hit.
Financial Armageddon: It’s what the apocalyptics want for lunch. And since we’re going to have to go through some kind of apocalypse to have chance of sterilizing that crowd, we might as well do it now.