Quotes of the day

“That’s what Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told me when I asked if a credit rating downgrade is more likely because of the way the long, drawn-out process unfolded in Washington.

“‘I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. I think this is a good result but a terrible process,’ he said. ‘And again, again, as the world watched Congress step up to the edge of the abyss it made them really wonder whether this place can work.'”

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“Any doubts that this country has an insular, inept, and cataclysmically dysfunctional political class were erased long ago, but it bears repeating that only in certain elite precincts could any of the debt ‘deals’ discussed over the last month be seen as anything but a juvenile, cosmetic solution to a real and titanic problem. That problem isn’t going away simply because the political crisis may be pushed (the president hopes) beyond the 2012 election…

“Members of the political class pat themselves on their backs for coming up with a deal that is ‘the best deal they could get.’ The dominant media coo about the statesmanship and sobriety that supposedly pulled the nation from the economic brink, permitting us all to return to our mundane pursuits. But the spending will increase and the liabilities will mount. The day of fiscal reckoning will continue to approach.”

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“Republicans and Democrats have just negotiated away the future of our children behind closed doors. The big compromise on Capitol Hill features elaborate triggers, tranches, Hornswogglers, Snozzwangers, Super Duper Commissions that will make the Snozzberries taste like Snozeberries, and a whole bunch of other convoluted gibberish that will, no doubt, come with loopholes and create entire new bureaucracies. What it doesn’t do is fix the problem…

“Isn’t it curious that when Democrats wanted to push through a $1 trillion stimulus plan that enriched every social engineering project in the country they got it done? Isn’t it amazing that Democrats had the willpower to ram through health unpopular Obamacare which changed
our entire health care system without any compromise whatsoever?

“Why can’t Republicans find a similar backbone? Why can’t they fight for the people who elected them?”

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“Make no mistake about it, what we’re witnessing here is a catastrophe on multiple levels.

“It is, of course, a political catastrophe for Democrats, who just a few weeks ago seemed to have Republicans on the run over their plan to dismantle Medicare; now Mr. Obama has thrown all that away. And the damage isn’t over: there will be more choke points where Republicans can threaten to create a crisis unless the president surrenders, and they can now act with the confident expectation that he will.

“In the long run, however, Democrats won’t be the only losers. What Republicans have just gotten away with calls our whole system of government into question. After all, how can American democracy work if whichever party is most prepared to be ruthless, to threaten the nation’s economic security, gets to dictate policy? And the answer is, maybe it can’t.”

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“The odd thing about the Tea Party is that it uses Washington to attack Washington. This is a version of Hannah Arendt’s observation that totalitarian movements use democratic institutions to destroy democracy. (This is what Islamic radicals will do in Egypt.) Note that the Tea Party is nowhere near a majority — not in the House and not in the Senate. Its followers have only 60 seats in the 435-member House, but in a textbook application of political power they were able to use parliamentary rules to drive the congressional agenda. As we have known since Lenin’s day, a determined minority is hands down better than an irresolute majority.

“The Tea Party has recklessly diminished the power and reach of the United States. It has shrunk the government and will, if it can, further deprive it of revenue. The domestic economy will suffer and the gap between rich and poor, the educated and the indolently schooled, will continue to widen. International relations will lack a dominant power able to enforce the rule of law, and the bad guys will be freer to be as bad as they want. Maybe the deficit will be brought under control, but nothing else will. I worry — and I envy (but will not forgive) those who don’t.”

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