Keeping the Lights on

I was listening to the Rachel Maddow podcast. I like listening to her because I want what little political news I consume to be delivered with some snark and from the left.

It’s also a good reminder that there are no political solutions. I have a real-time filter for mainstream lefty discourse that keeps that point in the foreground. Tonight, it occurred to me to share it with you.

The political right has no illusion about government. They want foreigners, non-christians and other Others put in prison. They want to cage the hooligans and bomb the foreigners. They are on board with government’s mission. Tragically, this ends when their drooling toadying selves are inconvenient or unprofitable and they find themselves on the the business end of the police state they voted to errect.

The political left, though, has this bizarre fairly-tale that the government is like your dear old grandad, keeping the lights on for you when you’re out late, changing your oil, cooking you up an extra couple strips of bacon for breakfast.

So you’ve got to translate this stuff into reality-speak to understand what is being said. Here’s an example from the latest (as of Sept. 27. 2011) Rachel Maddow podcast where the topic is the latest instance of potential “government shutdown”:

The current government shutdown fight is over a continuing
resolution which is just a funding bill to keep the lights on, to keep the
government running. . . . under John Boehner, it looks
like they may just not be technically capable of doing the basic things
that need to be done to keep the lights on even when they want to.
They can`t keep the lights on. Almost literally. They do not seem
capable of doing just the basic things that need to be done to keep
government going and the electricity bill paid.

We all understand that “keeping the electricity bill paid” is a metaphor of course. But a metaphor for what? What is the primary “bill” that dear old grandad has to pay?

It’s the cost of running prisons, firing rockets from drones into crowds of people, and torturing peasants. But when you drop the metaphor, suddenly it becomes clear that the government should be fucking well be shut down:

The current government shutdown fight is over a continuing
resolution which is just a funding bill to keep dropping bombs. It looks
like they may just not be technically capable of doing the basic things
that need to be done to keep the killing foreigners when they want to.
They can`t keep imprisoning poor people. They do not seem
capable of doing just the basic things that need to be done to keep
government going and the war machine running.

Far less of a tragedy, when you put it that way.

But, dear reader, there’s another level of illumination here. That is this: if the government did shut down–which I don’t imagine it will, at least not on some media determined schedule–much of the forecast hardships would come to pass. Social security checks might not go out, national parks would close, the passport office would get backed up, Medicare reimbursements and federal disaster relief would stall. Federal aid to schools would cease, and all manner of licenses, permits, waivers and variances would be impossible to get . . .

But guess what, not one single goddamn bomb would go undropped. Not one less border patrol unit would be deployed. Not one prisoner would be set free. Not one IRS agent would be let go. Security theater would probably double. Foreign dictators would still receive armaments and their secret police, the latest torture training. Every aspect of enforcement and revenue collection would proceed unchecked, in many cases, in spite of the fact that bureaucracy required to comply with “the law” will be shut down.

The 90% of state activity that falls into the category of universally acknowledged disgusting, atrocious shit will stay right on track. The small fraction that provides some benefit to human beings in need of . . . benefits, will evaporate.

And that’s the point that any remaining true believers really need to focus on: each and every politician and each and every member of their staffs (staves?) and all the millions of people in all the agencies will agree to, or at least go along with, the cutting off of resources to people in need; rather than restrict, even a little bit, the waterfall of money going to defense contractors, bankers, financiers, foreign puppet states, the prison-industrial complex, and the countless other concentrations of capital that patronize the ruling class.

So anytime you’re listening media talk about “the basic things that keep government going,” “keeping the lights on,” “paying the bills,” or whatever the euphemism, translate it into the immutable and never ceasing functions of government: caging humans, killing foreigners, and handing over buckets of cash to the already filthy rich. Remember that these are not on the chopping block like social security, medicare, and the bureaucracies that provide the means for the non-ruling class to function without the threat of incarceration inevitably are.

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