Whatever arcane rules and procedures of the Senate that Ted Cruz is wielding to get his way sure are mysterious, but no less so than what exactly the hell it is that he's trying to achieve in the first place.
I love the fact that, for some reason, he needs to get ten others to join him in some meaningless roll-call vote, and that he's no longer able do it. In fact, it reminds me of the stories my Jewish mother-in-law would tell of someone always coming to the house to try to persuade her husband, who was not all that religious, to join a "minyan" of ten adult Jewish men, the minimum required for prayer back at the temple. How big a deal could that prayer be, she would ask, if they had to work so hard to scrape together a quorum every time to do it?
And I'm sure that many former members of Cruz's cohort are starting to feel the same way. Enough with all this tilting at windmills.
What I also find mysterious are Ted Cruz's intentions. They say he's trying to position himself as an "outsider", but as intelligent as he is supposed to be (I can't get over the fact that he was a Rhodes Scholar), he doesn't seem to understand that the appeal of the outsider, to those looking for that sort of thing, is that maybe someone from anywhere outside Washington, someone so far un-seduced by all that confusing arcana of government, might just be who we need to send there to get done what we want done.
That doesn't describe Ted Cruz, since in the almost three years he's been there so far, he's become extremely proficient at taking advantage of the confusing rules, but all he's been able to get accomplished is to piss off all his colleagues. Why would those people want to elect as president someone who's become an expert at getting nothing done? And does Cruz ever even ask himself that?
In conclusion, a few observations on the theory of (a) blaming Obama for shutting down the government, and (b) the so-called "fungibility" of the money we give to Planned Parenthood:
(a) Every time the Republicans shut down the government, they deny that it was them, insisting instead it was the president's doing.
Back in my college world history class, I remember studying the Allied Bombardment of Hamburg during World War II, and the lesson that it taught the Allies -- that if the plan had been to persuade the local population to blame their government for bringing all this misery down on them, then maybe the bombers should have just stayed home instead.
The bombing, which took place over eight days in late July of 1943, "killing 42,600 civilians and wounding 37,000 in Hamburg and practically destroying the entire city", creating an unexpected 150 mph tornadic firestorm that soared to 1,000 feet in the air, "was at the time the heaviest assault in the history of aerial warfare and was later called the Hiroshima of Germany by British officials."
The hope, I read in one of my textbooks, was that Hamburg citizens, many of whom were known to be already disenchanted with the Nazi leadership, would turn on them if given a big-enough nudge. But instead, the citizens rallied around their leaders in the weeks following the raids, volunteering their own time to rebuild the damaged and destroyed the factories and war-making resources, and reunited against their real enemy -- that is, not being Hitler, but the Americans and British; the ones who had bombed them.
Since then, our military leaders have become suspicious of "collective punishment" techniques, designed to divert the blame. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but that stuff apparently usually backfires.
The moral of this story being, Americans are not stupid, at least most of them aren't. They sit there and listen to Republicans debating among themselves about whether they should close down the government and blame it on Obama, and so when it happens, they know who to pin it on.
(b) Another case of Republicans pulling wool over our eyes, thinking we won't notice, is this business about the funding of Planned Parenthood.
Yes, there are all sorts of polls that show that most Americans, even the Republicans amongst us, don't favor trying to deny money, mostly Medicaid reimbursements, to an organization that specializes in providing healthcare to women -- especially out in the boonies, where this healthcare is hard to find -- just because it also provides abortions, none of which are funded by government money.
Conservative Republicans, including Michigan Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, are very aware of this. Still, they brush that fact aside, as he did during a House hearing on Planned Parenthood a few weeks ago:
"Money is fungible," Sensenbrenner said at the hearing. "You and I know that."Is it? Not really, according to Amanda Marcotte in Slate:
The most important thing to remember is that Planned Parenthood clinics operate like any other medical clinic. A patient comes in, gets some services, and is billed according to what services she got. Some patients are eligible for federal money to offset the costs of some services. ...
For patients who are on Medicaid, the process is the same as with any insurance program. The patient's bill is sent to her insurer, in this case Medicaid. They pay for any services that are covered and she is on the hook for the rest. Since Medicaid does not cover abortion, any Medicaid patients who get an abortion have to pay the price in full, in cash.It's also important to note here that these Republicans are not trying to defund Medicaid or Title X at these PP clinics, just the funding for all the non-abortion services, such as x-rays and contraception.
Title X funding is a little trickier, because it is given as grants and not reimbursements, but works in roughly the same way. If a patient falls within the Title X income parameters, the clinic is able to pay for part of that bill with Title X funding. In this way, low-income patients can get, for instance, a pack of birth control pills that would normally cost $50 for $10. They can't obtain abortions in the same way, as Title X funding cannot go to abortion.
Republicans who tout the "money is fungible" line want you to imagine that Planned Parenthood draws on one big pot of government money for all its services. But since medical services are billed and funded individually, that's not actually how this works. For instance, if subsidies that discount contraception disappear, the price of contraception goes up, but the price of abortion will stay the same.Okay, let me try this another way:
Suppose I give my college-attending son enough money to buy a car, and also enough to buy auto insurance each year, but tell him he has to pay for gas out of his own pocket. But then it occurs to me! How can I be sure he's not filling his gas tank using the money I gave him to buy the car and pay for insurance? After all, isn't money "fungible"?
The answer, of course, is that it doesn't really matter, does it? I mean, I only agreed to pay for the car and the insurance, so I only gave him just enough money for those two things, which is all that matters. If he, for some reason, somehow used the insurance money to pay for gas, then he has to scrounge somewhere else for the cash to buy insurance, and might even get in trouble for driving without insurance. But what's that to me?
The conservative arguments about how this all works are not only wrong, they make no sense, assuming that even matters these days. Making sense is not longer meaningful; everything is symbolic with these people. Sensenbrenner and his posse are, like Ted Cruz, just finding ways of stirring the pot, even though polls show most Americans don't want them to do this. But the thing about polls is, most of the good ones are "scientific", and we all know what many Republicans think of science.
Landing on Planned Parenthood as this year's rallying point was probably an arbitrary choice anyway, since there seems to be a shortage of actually important issues they can agree on. And besides, as long as gerrymandering is there to make it possible for just enough from the crockpot wing of the Republican Party to win their seats, who even cares if the Republican brand is damaged? Voters don't vote for the party, which they dislike anyway; they vote for their local politician.
Given the constant infighting in that party, it could probably hold both houses, the Supreme Court, and the presidency, and they'd still fail to get anything done.
Which, in their case, is just the way I like it.