The Debt Ceiling, Political Theater, and the Fire Sale of America

As a people, Americans have been stuck in a version of the movie ‘Ground-Hog Day’ for more than 40 years, give or take. It’s been a consistent, and deliberate, recycling and fine-tuning of the same reality over, and over, again. There has been no improvisation that altered the direction of the story line. There has been no creative rewrite of the script to try and turn a ‘B’ movie into a cinematic classic. The producers and director have simply doubled-down on the scenes that worked for them. There has been no introduction of a new character that did anything more than add a new form of delivery for the same old lines that were provided. All there has been is a constant remake of the status-quo.

However, that status-quo, pushed to its limit, is creating a severe imbalance. It’s as if the directors favorite scene of a movie is made longer and longer each time the movie is remade, until, after a few remakes, it’s just one long monotonous scene; a monologue that serves only the directors interest.

Actors have their own style of delivery. They can add spice to certain scenes, bring characters to life, and turn words from a page into quotable lines worthy of endless impressions; but I think we’ve had enough Bogey impressions of “play it again, Sam.”. They can be the good guy, or the bad, and switch back again, regaining your empathy, all within that 2 hour feature film. But, no matter what they do, it will be the directors and producers, behind the scenes, that will make all the choices, and do all the editing, and decide exactly how each scene, and the movie itself, will end.

The media provides the trailers, the teasers, and the tid-bits of information that keep you lining up at the box-office and glued to the screen, ready to see what might happen next. Political parties, like fan clubs, allow the audience to feel involved, important, and truly meaningful in the careers and lives of their stars. People work so hard to make sure that their favorite gets the leading role rather than a supporting role, or relegated to member of the general cast or chorus, as if it will actually make a difference in how the script is written or the movie ends.

The only extras in this production are in the audience. They are the ones that fall for the audience participation ploys that have been meticulously choreographed and scripted to elicit very specific preordained responses. The actors are all very well paid by the executive producers to win or loose as directed, and to be the hero or the goat as prescribed. The actors are allowed very narrow parameters to improvise, and only on certain issues (like wedge issues and culture-war distractions), ones that don’t affect the movies bottom line or general plot.

For decades now, the director and producers have been the same, and the movie keeps playing over and over with only slight variations on the theme. Groundhog day had more variety; at least Bill Murray’s character kept learning and improving himself. In this movie, it continues to be the same failures and near misses that culminate in an ending (every two or four years) that promises nothing more than a sequel, or the next soap-opera like episode, with all the same dynamics and gags, and the same ‘to be continued’ ending each time. But, as long as the crowds keep showing up, and paying the admission price, Groundhog day will keep playing… again, and again.

Had the crew that produces this political theater been in charge of Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character would have remained the same obnoxious, friendless professional. Except, with an endless supply of do-overs, and with this production crew, he would have found a way to own the network, all of the real estate in the town, including mineral rights and the utility companies, and been able to continue on being obnoxious and misanthropic while getting everything he wanted. He would have then tried to ‘get the girl’ (Andy McDowell) by giving her the largest house in town, on the largest plot of land that he had extorted, and make her the head of the network, the county clerk, the mayor, or even a state representative. There is no moral to the political version of the story. There is no personal growth and enlightenment. There is only the acquisition of money and power.

The debt ceiling debate is nothing more than a theatrical instrument to give more to the corporations and financial interests while making it look like a close battle and a narrow victory. Like the budget battle in the fall that got continued tax benefits for wealthiest, this will simply end up being another windfall for corporations by keeping their taxes low (even if raised a nominal amount as a ‘concession’), their responsibilities non-existent, and their potential profits unlimited.

The real scam, or theatrical distraction, is that the content of the debate is not what’s important, at least not solely. For the most part, it really is just a distraction. The fact that the debate even exists is really the main emphasis in the plot. The impact on the American economy, and the country’s credit rating, is the real goal; and that is being accomplished more by the debate itself than by the purposefully convoluted content of that debate.

While everyone is worrying about what the content of the agreement will be, the extension of the debate has had the desired effect. Americans think they are poor, and individually many are being impoverished as part of this story line. Global financiers now, because of the supposed debt ceiling crisis, have an excuse to lower America’s credit rating (increasing their profits on America’s debt), and the price of buying up America’s land, resources, public services, and utilities will go through the floor. Americans, having been convinced of their poverty, and need for desperate measures, are being tricked into selling off their country at fire-sale prices.

So, get ready for the twist in the plot, and perhaps a surprise ending. It will be as if, while you were watching Groundhog Day in the theater, someone sold your seat out from under you, auctioned your car in the parking lot, and the deed to your home… and then cleaned out your wallet or purse before you were allowed to leave. This is shock capitalism at it’s finest. They’re going for the whole enchilada. But, unlike what they’ve done in their dress rehearsals in the ‘third world’ countries they’ve created, using military force and propped up dictators, this time they’re using all the sophistication of a Hollywood production. Lights, camera, action… you’re broke.

So, we hope you’ve enjoyed the show. There are no refunds. Please take your food and beverage containers with you as you exit through the back of the theater, and into the cold, wet, dark alley. The last one through the door can get the lights, and try not to let the door hit you on your way out.


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