I’ll use this snippet of dialogue from Dr. Zhivago as often as necessary to reiterate the menace to human beings unleashed as the result of the Republican Party’s capture by ideological purism, manifest radicalism and cultishly hermetic true-believerism. I warn you that at the rate Republicans are going presently, the degree of repetition may become severe.
In the scene, which takes place during the Russian Civil war after Zhivago, travelling by train with his family wanders into the forest while the train is stopped, Zhivago is snatched by soldiers in the command of Red Army commander Strelnikov. During the course of the interrogation Zhivago mentions that Strelnikov’s forces have burned the wrong village for selling horses to the Whites (the White Army). Strelnikov replies that it doesn’t matter which village was burned, “the point was made.” Zhivago answers, “Your point, their village.”
After the “Debt Ceiling Crisis” and the “Fiscal Cliff Crisis,” the sequester threat is the latest Republican point made at the expense of your burnt village. Whether you’re just an average villager whose income or job will be scorched by the resultant economic slowdown, or one of the individuals who will be specifically torched, meaning one of the 3.8 million long-term unemployed Americans who will lose a tenth of your benefits, which are a lavish $300 a week on average; or one of the 600,000 low income women who will lose access to the WIC program that enables you to care for your children under five; or one of the 1,000 federal law enforcement or 1,500 correctional officers furloughed; or one of the 1,200 air traffic controllers dismissed, or among the 10% of the FAA staff chopped; or your house gets leveled by a spring tornado and the billion dollar cut to FEMA means you best not be expecting help; or you’re among the thousands of Agriculture Department workers furloughed including 600,000 food inspectors…if you’re any of these then watch out for Strelnikov.
Another way of putting it is that if you are a member of the family of any of those directly affected, or if you fly in airplanes or you eat food, or if you prefer living in a town with adequate police and fire services, or you run a business that depends upon consumer demand and a healthy economy, or you work at a business that depends upon consumer demand and a healthy economy…oh hell, if you ever leave your house, or are just about anybody residing in these United States chances are extremely good that you will eventually be saying it was their point that was made and your village, if sequestration takes effect and stays in effect for long.
And what is their point? It seems to vary according to the point in time and which Republican is annunciating it but it is almost always that Republicans despise spending that does not redound to the profitability of the military industrial complex or to hegemonic corporations. It is almost always that 18th government is the best recipe for success in the 21st . Sometimes it is that Ayn Rand is God: that the maker elite forever are bedeviled by the taker masses of worker bees and that government coddles the wealthy and the powerful too little and the majority too much. It is certainly that progressive income taxes are always, forever, infinitely, in every case until such time as the universe expands to the breaking point bad, and regressive taxes such as sales taxes, and excise taxes and payroll taxes that bite the middle class have a lot to recommend them, really.
Their point never ceases to be that their own government is their eternal, inimical foe. Like ideological fanatics everywhere their point is that they will do anything to advance the cause, the pain and misery of millions incidental if it is noticed at all. They will say their point is that budget deficits are a wolf growling at the door and the national debt a scandal. Their sincerity is, ahem, questionable, given that if they actually gave a rolling coitus about the size of deficits, their presidents and their controlling congressional majorities would stop creating them and leaving them behind so Democrats have to clean them up. Republicans expressing righteous Elmer Gantry indignation against debt only when Democrats occupy the White House, though poignant, breeds little credibility.
Whatever evasive maneuvers Republicans may employ futilely attempting to bounce responsibility for sequestration off of themselves, as though they were rubber, and stick it to President Obama as if he were glue is undermined by the reality that Americans know precisely whom to blame: and it is Strelnikov. The nation is more than aware that the threat of sequester is the ransom Democrats and the administration were required to pay Republicans to prevent them from allowing default on the nation’s debt lo those months ago. And Americans in no way have been confused by Republican jitterbugging into believing that anyone other than Republicans is thrown into anaphylactic shock now by the mere suggestion of reasonable compromise.
Their point may be that government is eternally huge and awful and taking a giant, indiscriminate whack at its viscera feels extremely good no matter who gets hurt. But such robotic ideological oblivion from what is certain to be genuine human misery, massive inconvenience and entirely unnecessary economic pain is sure to be yet another reminder of the ideological rigidity of the Republican Party, so distant from the American mainstream. When the party whose political staple is deriding and belittling government inflicts a crisis that produces widespread realization among Americans of how valuable, if not indispensable government is, it is the mother of all boomerangs. As Republicans go from village to village setting each aflame, it may be their own hair that catches fire.