By Mark Latham
We find ourselves as a nation in choppy seas in the aftermath of the patriots who stormed the Capitol to “Stop the Steal.” Joe Biden has control of the rudder and promised to right the badly listing U.S.S. United States. Should we now have a renewed sense of optimism that we’ll successfully navigate these rough waters with Papa Joe in the White House and the Democrats in control (barely) of Congress?
Well, let’s see. The Democratic Party has badly fractured with a substantial portion of its caucus beyond the control of President Biden and Speaker Pelosi. The party’s progressive wing even dared to hold the president’s infrastructure bill hostage unless trillions of more dollars that we don’t have are committed to expanding the social safety net beyond anything seen since LBJ’s War on Poverty. So it’s back to the negotiation table for the Democrats in the party’s longstanding effort to turn America into a far western suburb of Sweden or, ironically, the president’s very own party may doom the infrastructure bill that Biden so desperately desires to cement his legacy as the second coming of FDR.
Meanwhile, the man who heads our country’s other major political party, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, seemed perfectly content to allow us to default on our various and sundry financial obligations. A last minute deal was reached so that McConnell can threaten again in early December to furlough millions of federal employees and plunge the still recovering global economy into another disastrous free fall just in time for the holidays.
Perhaps I’m being too pessimistic. After all, there are hopeful signs that the uncompromising scorched earth politics at play in our nation’s Capitol may come to an end. Senator Ted Cruz, for instance, proudly announced recently that he was “emphatically in the Free Britney camp,” during his opening remarks during a congressional hearing entitled “Toxic Conservatorships: the Need for Reform.” Another encouraging example is AOC. The congresswoman stunned the paparazzi at the Met Gala, where a single ticket reportedly cost $35,000, by appearing in a lovely form fitting bed sheet that, in a stroke of creative genius, the designer had scrawled “Tax the Rich” on in vibrant red. No doubt the stylish AOC accented this creative piece of tax policy haute couture with a pricey pair of pumps from Christian Louboutin.
Also I shouldn’t forget the encouraging news on the climate front. It looks like finally Congress will act. With large swaths of the western United States now resembling a scene from the Book of Revelation, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia assumed responsibility for turning the president’s climate policies into legislation. With the senator’s deep personal and financial ties to the coal industry, we can rest assured that we’ll finally see the bold legislative measures required to successfully pivot from fossil fuels to less carbon intensive energy sources.
On further contemplation, perhaps its time to ask my trustee for a couple of million from my secret South Dakota trust so that I can hitch a ride to Mars along with one of the billionaire space cowboys before this little blue dot becomes thoroughly uninhabitable.
Mark Latham is a professor emeritus at Vermont Law School