Hunter

House Republican comes out and says it: Forcing tax cheats to pay up would 'cost' them billions

Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace, inflicted on us by the state of South Carolina, has been running a bold new online ad condemning Democratic plans to boost funding for the Internal Revenue Service. Why, you might ask?

"Biden's policy will double the size of the IRS at the cost of billions of dollars in unpaid taxes. We should stabilize our nation's economy first."

While @z3dster has done us the solid of parsing out what the hell Mace's word shrapnel was meant to actually mean, it's still worth stewing on that odd language. "At the cost of billions of dollars in unpaid taxes?" At the ... cost? But going after tax cheats is widely recognized as being a net federal win, because just a little money allocated to investigating the most prolific tax-dodgers results in much larger revenues when the dodged taxes actually get paid, so—ooh. Ooooooh.

Right.

What the House Republican is saying here is, of course, boosting IRS capabilities will "cost" the wealthiest tax dodgers in the country billions of dollars, and forcing rich tax cheats to pay what they owe will harm the economy so very much that we shouldn't even think about it until we've "stabilized" everything else first.

You've heard of trickle-down economics? This is trickle-down tax fraud. If we don't let rich Americans who have more offshore bank accounts than you have spoons get away with their current level of financial crimes it is all of you who will suffer, because that money being paid in taxes won't be going to buying new yacht chandeliers, or underwater television sets, or the spiffy new uniforms the upper classes want you to wear while hunting you for sport.

Instead, that money will be going to the government, and the government will probably waste it on stupid things like rebuilding roads in places you don't live, or saving coastlines you don’t visit, or giving you better childcare options after your name comes up in the to-be-hunted-for-sport lottery.

In any event, what Mace is suggesting is that American financial criminals have been hiding so very damn much money that attempting to collect it could destabilize our nation's very economy. Shouldn't be done! Too dangerous!

Oooookay?

See, our problem here is that we're taking a Republican message literally instead of treating as the propagandistic word salad it is intended as. It’s not meant to make sense. Mace may or may not distance herself from the premise of her own self-promoted statement after she's gotten sufficient mockery for it, but it was crafted not to make an actual argument but to burp scary-sounding words at Republican base members primed to react to them without thought. "At the cost of billions" is meant to invoke the notion that it will be costing the nation money, rather than bringing it in. "Stabilize" is meant to invoke the notion that the nation's economy is currently not stable, when all the facts and figures suggest that the economy is now actually in pretty darn good shape.

Things are so good, in fact, that ports are being clogged with the stuff Americans are now wanting to buy and (mostly anti-labor) economic grumps are warning that if we keep raising wages and recovering from pandemics then we'll summon the Inflation Monster, so central banks need to start taking a few good golf swings at worker knees before things get out of hand. And that’s all while the pandemic is still raging around us.

The "Biden's policy" bit is also rote party schtick: While nigh-on everybody who is not personally evading taxes or being lobbied by people who do all agree that returning IRS funding to something approaching normal is both necessary to curb now-rampant tax dodging by the wealthy and an enormous government gain, calling it "Biden's policy" is intended to portray the move as partisan rancor, or spreading socialism, or otherwise controversial.

It's all gimmick. Republicanism may no longer have policies of its own, but each new congresscreature is in tune with the larger movement's dictionary of cult phrases and contrarian phrasing. Going after tax dodgers will "cost" you money. Doing the "Biden policy" on anything will further "destabilize" the glorious f--king paradise of corpses and lines for toilet paper gifted to us by Dear Crabby-Ass Leader in his final year.

Rep. Nancy Mace may be new to town, but she and every other newly elected House Republican gained their current position by telling the ever-outraged base whatever they wanted to hear. She's in a bit of hot water over that at this precise moment, in fact, being roundly mocked for a particularly comical Sunday show circuit that saw her both undermining vaccination efforts on Fox News while claiming to support them on CNN.

It's all a game; there is little effort being put into attempting to discern what policies would best serve the nation here, and flopsweat-level effort being put into selling the base on the nation that whatever policies actual experts come up with are most certainly an effort at "socialism," an attempt to abridge your "freedoms," or a flat-out conspiracy to harm you because the "elites" will do nigh-on anything to oppress you, whether it be bamboo-laced ballots or firefly chemicals in your vaccines or arresting "patriots" whose only crime was attacking the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress in a seditious attempt to cancel the results of a United States election.

All that said, we're not going to get anywhere if we ignore it all and let the Maces of new Republicanism fire off chaff meant to invoke primal reaction while breezily evading the part where nothing they said made any actual sense. So we're all ears, Rep. Nancy Mace.

You say going after tax cheats will "cost billions"—who ya aiming that statement at, representative?

Because the only people who will see a "cost" when going after prolific tax fraud are the folks doing the actual crimes. Is that who you're going to bat for here? Did they send someone to your office to make that case?

And you're saying American tax cheats are costing the rest of us so much money that making them actually pay it would threaten to destabilize the entire economy?

Oh, do tell. That one's worth a floor speech. We all really want to hear you explain that going after institutionalized tax evasion by people who can hire more lawyers than the IRS has available investigators would threaten our very way of life. There haven't been many Republicans with the guts to make that argument in public, but you made it a sponsored online ad.

Please explain, representative. Give it your best shot.

This GOP senator is in hot water over millions in 'loans' to his 2018 campaign

During his 2018 run for the Senate, Republican Mike Braun was getting a lot of attention for a campaign strategy that relied on self-funding, sweetheart loans from allies, and "creative" accounting to dodge federal election laws. Over three-quarters of his campaign war chest consisted of "loans" to the campaign; he'd continue to prop his campaign up with his own money until the campaign's end.

Braun has been in the Senate for two years now, and the Federal Election Committee (FEC) has finally managed to come to some conclusions on which parts of that were illegal and which weren't. The answer? The Braun campaign's accounting wasn't so much "creative" as it was outright shoddy and improper. Over $8.5 million in "loans"—a massive chunk of Braun's total spending—that violated campaign finance laws, including $1.5 million in "loans" from Braun's own company. Millions more in donations and disbursements were misreported, as well as six-figure repayments to Braun himself afterwards.

If it looked crooked during the campaign, surprise! The FEC agrees with you, and is demanding the Braun campaign answer further questions about all of it.

Braun is now flailing a bit in his response, as might be expected. His campaign's defense was to claim to the FEC that their campaign treasurer, Travis Kabrick, had suddenly up and vanished on them. Sorry, he "has not been able to be located since the end of 2018." So ... sorry?

You see where this is going, right? Of course you do. The Daily Beast looked into this claim, and The Daily Beast found Travis, quote, "within minutes." They were able to call his current place of work, find his social media accounts, and get his contact information.

"His mother said in a phone call that she would pass along a request for comment," reports the Beast.

While it is very good news that a single news outlet was able to help out Mike Braun and his campaign after their multiyear battle to hunt down the man they're now attempting to pin all the shenanigans on, the scope and egregiousness of the violations would seem to make the campaign's claims nonsensical. It wasn't the treasurer who arranged an allegedly illegal $1.5 million "loan" from Braun's self-owned company to Braun's political campaign. It wasn't the treasurer who cashed checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements for supposed "self-funded" donations. And it wasn't the treasurer who was making the calls when companies associated with Braun's top allies were providing $7 million in unusual and conspicuously unsecured campaign "loans."

So Braun himself is in more than a little hot water here, and the campaign's going to have to answer for campaign finance "mistakes" that point not so much to accounting errors from an unskilled finance team as they suggest a truly massive improper funding operation from Braun and his political allies.

Will anything come of it? Who the hell knows. We've gotten used to lawmakers breaking whatever campaign finance laws they want to and, at worst, paying a few fines after the fact. But the "me and my corporate friends are going to finance the majority of my Senate campaign with corporate 'loans' provided with no collateral or assurance of repayment" is not an accounting error. It's buying a Senate seat. It's the sort of overt corruption that all of the laws were designed to prevent, and Mike Braun seems to have just waltzed right over the law to do it anyway.

Josh Hawley thinks he can make telling his base to stop watching porn a major political campaign

As his ally Ted Cruz launches another conservative crusade against a freakin' puppet, Sen. Josh Hawley, most famous for abetting an attempt to topple our nation's government, announces his own new political theme will be "masculinity."

Yes, this is Josh Hawley we're talking about. Yes, this is the campaign theme he's going to adopt after he claimed in a speech that more men are watching porn and playing video games these days because of "years of being told" that "their manhood is the problem."

We still don't know how that might work, by the way. One might think that current generations are playing more video games and watching more porn these days (if they actually are) due to the notable trend of The Internet Exists. Apparently, though, conservatives believe their menfolk are drowning themselves in Mario Cart and internet porn because the local Costco refused to take "three wicked flexes, five grunts, and one opening of a really tight screw-on cap" in lieu of payment.

Or something. "Our manhood is under attack" is one of those weird conservative tics that is both so omnipresent and so poorly described that it's become something of a chupacabra to the rest of us. Maybe it exists, maybe it doesn't, all we know is that in conservative circles it's known for marathoning PornHub while whining about how unappreciated it feels.

In an AXIOS interview, Hawley attempted to explain what the hell he's on about:

"Well, a man is a father. A man is a husband. A man is somebody who takes responsibility."

Yeah, okay. That narrows it down. Not quite the crack narration of "man, woman, person, camera, TV," but it definitely qualifies as a series of words. Feels a bit like the first-pass lyrics to a Disney Mulan song?

"I think you put together lack of jobs, you put together fatherlessness, you put together the social messages that we teach our kids in school, I think we've got to confront that and its effects."

Conservative men are watching porn because they're sad about what their kids are learning in school? Okay, now you've really lost me. I'm beginning to think Hawley arrived at his new theme of "masculinity" by picking words out of a hat.

Now, there is something that's a bit troubling about Sedition Josh's gravitation toward "masculinity" as his own self-chosen political theme. Josh Hawley is widely known to be very ambitious. Hawley has already taken multiple actions to ally himself with the Big Lie, claiming election fraud that doesn't exist in service to an attempt to nullify a U.S. election to allow a would-be strongman to retain power regardless of the vote totals.

And the movement Hawley has been attempting to wedge himself into the leadership of considers hyper-masculinity to be a very important thematic element. Paranoia over supposed lost masculinity both helped create and helped sustain European fascism of the last century, a sort of "brittle manhood" widely acknowledged by scholars as a central theme of fascist thought.

Donald Trump was a spectacularly unlikely exemplar of that "new man" idolized by the fascist right. He may have been an out-of-shape golf cheat who couldn't masculine his way down a flight of stairs, but he was unrelentingly crude, was openly contemptuous and cruel toward women, and personified the sort of crass belligerence that the conservative far-right idolizes as a path toward restoring male dominance over the too-uppity womenfolk. The man may have been the first president to hint at his own penis size during a televised presidential debate.

Who are the avatars of conservative masculinity today? Thickheaded bullies who don faux-military apparel and storm government offices while waving flags in support of people who are worse. Hawley wants to insert himself into that discussion as he did the Big Lie itself, latching on as a way of convincing the common rabble that whatever they believe, he's willing to shout about it.

But Hawley may, ahem, be misunderstanding what his supporters are yelling. You're going to climb up in front of a crowd of male Trump supporters and tell them the problem is that they're watching too much porn these days? Really?

Ehhhh. Well, good luck with that.

Really, though, while it once may have been uncanny how Donald Trump and his team managed to bumble into each of the core themes of fascism solely, or at least it seemed at the time, due to his own uncontrollable narcissism and insistence on surrounding himself with conservative C-listers, there is nothing bumbling about the Republican adaptation of each of those themes one after another, polishing them, assembling them, and marketing them as what the party now stands for—the beliefs that its candidates must abide by to remain in good standing with the movement. The explicit propaganda of the Big Lie, claiming that the last American presidential election was "rigged" or "stolen" as means of undermining a democratic vote that the party knows well and true that it lost, has now become party mandate. The themes of a great replacement jeopardizing American greatness (and whiteness), "attacks" on white conservative masculinity, and above all the growing belief among the Republican base and their pundits that violence is both justified and may now be required to reform American according to their beliefs—these are all overtly fascist themes.

It is not likely that Hawley will be that new fascist avatar, no matter how much he wants it. His performances are too insincere. His contempt for the other is too obviously pantomimed, not at all like the true guttural hate that Trump and his top allies revel in. Hawley may be a prep-school version of a hoodlum, but the movement wants the real thing.

Trump's election saboteurs were paid for by his campaign. The 'privilege' debate is over

We've known for some time now that the "official" attempt by Donald Trump's inner circle to find a strategy for nullifying a United States presidential election was deadly serious, was plotted for many weeks, and featured some of the top Republican criminals in the country. Rudy Giuliani gave up stovepiping false claims against Joe Biden's family invented by corrupt European oligarchs for this one. Bernard Kerik took time off from whatever the hell he's been doing, since he got out of prison, to join up. Steve Bannon was spurred into action even though it'd take time away from his day job of bilking Trump's base with fake border wall schemes. Anyone who was anyone in the GOP crime family was working all the knobs.

Mar-a-Lago's resident golf cheat is now claiming that those team attempts to nullify Trump's removal from office were a matter of "executive privilege," private deliberations, and advice given to him as the nation's pretzeldent. These claims didn't fly from Day One and are no closer to becoming airborne today. There is no "executive privilege" recognized for ex-presidents, as he is no longer in government. "Executive privilege" specifically cannot be used to cover up crimes, and what the House Select Committee is currently investigating is the crime of obstructing a U.S. election through violent and nonviolent means.

It also won't count as "executive privilege" when it wasn't being done as part of your "executive" duties to begin with. The Washington Post has a new piece targeting that point, noting that Giuliani and Kerik's attempts to dodge House demands for information on the plot suffer from a rather glaring weak point: It was the Donald Trump campaign that footed the bill for the team's posh Washington hotel "command center" and other expenses.

The attempt to nullify a U.S. election was being paid for by Trump's campaign, not by Trump's administration. Giuliani and the others involved can pound sand on any thought of invoking an "executive" defense for Team Sedition.

The details laid out in the Post are gorier, of course, with the team racking up huge bills while Trump threatened to stiff them (as usual), Fox News shouting-head Jeanine Pirro personally intervening with Trump and team to convince them to reimburse Giuliani and Kerik (did you remember that Pirro's husband is another cog in the Republican crime machine, one who would get a last-day Trump pardon for felony tax evasion?), and the Trump campaign eventually paying out "more than $225,000" for steep hotel bills and travel expenses.

Everyone involved is an absolutely terrible person, either a felon or within hand-shaking distance of felonies, and it was all the sort of incompetent mess that Trump's bottom-feeders specialized in. The point, though, is that the team's attempts to nullify the election by inventing a new vice presidential power to simply declare that the election didn't count was decided to be an offshoot expense of the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

And that means there is no "executive" to invoke for an executive privilege claim. Team Sedition was acting on behalf of Trump's political campaign, not his administration.

In practice, not a lot of this matters. Trump's executive privilege claims were nonsensical from the start; the only real test is whether the team's absolute contempt for U.S. laws and the investigative powers of Congress will result in consequences. The new rule of Republicanism is that legality or illegality doesn't matter, because even international extortion or assembling a violent mob are allowed so long as you have sufficient allies in government to ensure no investigation takes place.

If Congress wants to get to the bottom of just how the violent mob that Trump's team assembled on January 6 intersected with the rest of the Trump White House and campaign's efforts to intimidate Mike Pence and Congress into nullifying the presidential election's results, it's going to have to start throwing people in jail—and soon. Come next November, there's a very good chance enough pro-sedition Republicans will be elected to Congress to shut down the investigation and bar even the Justice Department from probing the day's events further.

Come next November, there could very well be a Republican majority in place that would order the minting of new coins commemorating the seditionists as new American heroes. The clock is ticking here.

Long story short, the foot-dragging by the Biden Justice Department and by the House itself is getting more dangerous by the day. There is yet no serious belief among the insurrection's orchestrators that Congress will pursue them if they simply refuse to testify, and—still—there are zero plausible claims that any of Trump's pro-nullification plotters have protection against congressional demands. Dust off the powers of inherent contempt and send the Sergeant-at-Arms off with enough pairs of handcuffs to do the job. The nation can't claim to have laws if the nation's elites never find the stomach to enforce them.

Conservative propaganda in Montana shows how close the nation has teetered toward fascism

Here's an entire New York Times story about a genuinely bad, malevolent person. It's not framed that way, of course, because Neutrality, but the Times tossed a reporter in the direction of Great Falls, Montana, to give us another report from the Trumpian underbelly of America and once again, it's a paranoid, conspiracy-obsessed, strategically dishonest sh-tshow that explains a lot about why the True Americans nesting comfortably in Trumpism have steadily been gravitating toward fascism as a matter of natural course.

The Times story is a long explainer about Rae Grulkowski and her quest to keep local civic-minded Montana residents from getting a token amount of federal funds by designating a chunk of the state a "national heritage area." It's a largely meaningless designation that provides minor federal funds to help preserve local points of interest and boost history-minded tourism. A bunch of Montana folks got a bee in their bonnets about it, part of the general True American suspicion that the federal government is evil and just out to trick people (thanks again, Ronald Jackass Reagan), and it became the local version of critical race theory, and hydrocorto-whateveritall, and ingesting horse dewormer because some friend of a friend of a cousin of an Online Influencer said horse paste cures gunshot wounds or whatever the latest version of that theory is.

But here's the thing: Rae Grulkowski—hero of the paranoid Montana class and partial impetus for Montana's reporter-attacking Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte's theatrical ban on the federal government from creating any such heritage designation in the state—attacked the civic-minded proposal by lying her ass off, constantly, inventing or perpetuating a web of fabricated claims that the tourism designation would, in the Times' telling, "forbid landowners to build sheds, drill wells, or use fertilizers." It would ban septic systems! It would raise taxes!

And it was all utter bullshit. As the Times noted and gave evidence of, Grulkowski was lying about all of it.

It was a local campaign dependent on crafting outright propaganda against something she didn't personally like, disseminating it to people who didn't give a damn whether it was true or it was false, rallying a crowd of like-minded liars to attack the opposition with furious disinformation, and turning it into the next Farm Bureau and Republican paranoia campaign in which allies compared the National Heritage Area program to Hitler and nobody involved can stammer their way through any plausible defense of the nonsensical claims they're making.

So then, what are we to make of this? Well, Grulkowski and her allies are flat-out liars, that's for sure. They have disseminated provably false information as a political strategy, and local Republican (Trump) voters snorted it all up like ideological cocaine. Team Lying Bullshit has done its level best to make the lives of those evil civic do-gooders miserable.

It's only in the very last quarter of the story that we get to the kicker that explains all the rest of it: Rae Grulkowski is apparently a "QAnon" devotee, according to The New York Times. She claims to believe in conspiracies about "child trafficking that leads to everything," and believes that Donald Trump won the November election even though he most demonstrably got flattened, and thinks Black Lives Matter supporters were the actual culprits behind the Jan. 6 insurrection, and there we go. She appears to be someone who read a lot of hoaxes on Facebook and turned them into a personality, just one of a new "movement" of Americans radicalized by a single company's eagerness to monetize the nation's most deep-seated paranoias.

Well of course someone who believes an assortment of the most malevolent, antisemitic, racist, pro-fascist conspiracy theories being passed around the internet is going to be similarly loose when inventing anti-government reasons to oppose whatever her neighbors are doing. But—and this is the crux of the Times story and the lesson to be taken from all of this—it worked.

It worked, because of course it did. The propaganda effort was overwhelmingly successful, enough to gain the support of conservative state lawmakers who did not give a damn whether the claims were true. Nobody involved appears to have given a damn whether they were promoting lies. The invention of propaganda was the core strategy: taking a minor civic issue and turning it, through lies, into a new conservative touchstone.

The lying part is the most consequential "value" at play here. "Heritage" designations have nothing to do with any of it. Nobody gives a flying damn whether or not local historic landmarks get new plaques or whether they don't. The important part is for local Republicanism to stick it to anyone who tries to do an inch of good by inventing whatever lies are necessary to do it.

In battling a largely meaningless recognition of the area's rich history, Grulkowski was following the playbook of Steve Bannon, and Stephen Miller, and Donald Trump himself. It is the fascist playbook: If the facts are against your beliefs, ignore those facts and lie. Create new "facts" that will galvanize the movement despite their fraudulence; rather than seeking the consent of the governed by explaining why the movement's ideas will solve current problems, manufacture a new reality in which the "problems" are whatever hoaxes the movement needs to produce in order to justify taking whatever actions the movement wants to take.

We are in a world of danger when flagrant political lies can so swiftly result in success rather than condemnation. That is the endgame to all of this. If a government can be established that governs the nation through fraud—and it is happening, in each Republican-held state using provably false election hoaxes to justify new voting restrictions, and in the establishment of Facebook as the nation's new news source, one in which false information is treated by the company as marketable entertainment rather than a poison, and in the pre-disgraced thug of a Montana governor adopting an anti-government propaganda campaign to attack a federal government program instituted by Ronald Reagan himself as a supposed secret attack on True American rights—then elections are already irrelevant.

Central to battling all of it, however, is to recognize that Rae Grulkowski disseminated lies in order to attack an action she didn't like; she did so while wallowing in an absolute sea of other lies. She succeeded in mustering a populist revolt against better people and better ideas by lying, outright, about the thing she was fighting against. Now, says the Times, she has further political ambitions, given that her equally toxic and cowardly neighbors proved to be so furiously supportive of her campaign of lies.

This is a person who should be scorned. This is a person who should be shunned, boycotted, considered a crackpot, and treated with universal contempt. This is a person who is attacking democracy itself, by attacking it at its root premise: Whatever civic challenges are presented to the voters, they must be based on truth. Democracy is meaningless, is absolutely meaningless, if each election is a competition not of competing solutions to civic problems but of the inventiveness of each campaign in creating new hoaxes and convincing the governed to believe them.

Instead, we get national debates over whether some of the most infamously dishonest people in government have been treated too roughly if private restaurant owners do not want to serve them. The pressure is not to shun liars as anti-American, anti-democracy propagandists seeking to manipulate public opinion through rampant dishonesty, but whether we are allowed to direct any scorn their way at all.

How did it come to this?

The short answer might be Bernard Goldberg. Goldberg was one of those who made a name for himself insisting that American journalism was intrinsically "biased" against conservatives, a claim which is now taken as a central movement tenet because it fits pleasingly with every other movement theme of displacement and victimhood. The evidence for this "bias," even decades into the claims, was almost always an assertion that because conservative ideologues were not given exposure equal to actual issue experts, it amounted to oppressing the conservative "side" of an argument.

Ideological claims, in other words, were being shortchanged because journalists were looking to scientists, medical experts, historical data, and other providers of hard facts rather than letting lobbyists, think-tank heads, and other professional political provocateurs speak with equal authority and at equal volume.

From there conservatism moved to a very successful crusade to reformulate "news" so that facts were always debatable, so long as there was a single professional spinner who could be paid to claim they were. The cable networks, especially, transitioned from that into new forms that rarely gave scientists or other experts a voice at all, preferring instead to pit one pre-determined ideologue against another for orchestrated spats in which nobody could be proven to have lied because the segment would be over before any actual journalist or expert could even phone the studio.

We moved on to public bellowing about "the elites must respect my beliefs," where "beliefs" consisted of believing that climate scientists were sabotaging world government or, eventually, that livestock dewormer was a miracle cure for a pandemic hospitals themselves could not keep up with.

But it was the Goldberg camp that insisted that liars and propagandists should not just be heard from but also treated with respect. That if there was a conflict between facts and conservatism, then it was biased to highlight one over the other. It was treated as a given, from the beginning, that conservatism was a counter to scientific and policy expertise. It was treated as a given that conservatism was the rightful and just opposition to such expertise.

We have reached that conservative promised land. All of the news now follows the formula of pitting ideologue against ideologue, the facts wedged in somewhere—or not, depending on the journalist—but with no reproach given to those who insist that the facts are something else. The paid propagandists and crafters of outlandish, impossible lies are now treated with impeccable respect by the media. The American people are taught to treat professional liars as dignified combatants—nay, true Americans, speaking powerful emotions in the face of uncomfortable, irritating data.

And, after hounding media relentlessly into giving respect to professional fraudsters, the conservative movement itself has now shed from itself everything but the professional fraudsters. The lies are the movement; the movement is defined by the lies, and shifts as rapidly as required to adopt new ones.

You need not look at anything beyond the last election to see that. Respecting, or actively propagating, the anti-American hoax that claims Republicans secretly "won" the last election only to have it stolen by invisible forces, is now a requirement inside the so-called "conservative" movement. Trump lied constantly, about everything, in genuinely malevolent ways, and he was a product of both Bernard Goldberg's insistence that sneering know-nothings be given media respect and the shouter who finally erased all further attempts to pretend Republicanism was anything but a collection of spite-based antipathies and hoaxes.

But Rae Grulkowski is, genuinely, a bad person. Steve Bannon is a liar, a propagandist, and a hack. Stephen Miller is a white nationalist who crafts propaganda demonizing immigrants to justify brutality against them. Mitch McConnell is a relentless liar, one who flaunts his absolute contempt for whatever ideal he blustered about a month, a week, or a day beforehand in order to invent an entirely opposing one. Sarah Huckabee Sanders promoted fraudulent information as a professional, and ideological, career move. Donald Trump is quite possibly the most loathsome sack of malignant neuroses to ever have shuffled through Washington and that is saying something.

Creating hoaxes for the purpose of manipulating public opinion is contemptible, evil behavior. It deserves fury. It deserves the scorn of the entire nation; journalism, and political media especially, should have such seething contempt for the propagandists that exposure of each lie and value judgments about those that perpetrate them should be, as they once were, the profession's central ambition.

It is not enough to point out that this or that person is fabricating a hoax in order to deceive their fellow Americans into holding a new political position. Those that do so are enemies of democracy. They are, in the true sense of the word, anti-American. They are frauds. They are doing direct harm to their neighbors, their towns, their states, their nation. They are ideological soldiers seeking to do harm to the government by taking, from the public, the ability to use their vote as means of steering that government. They are anti-civil rights. Their propaganda is stealing democracy by stealing votes by stealing political debate itself so that voters simply cannot discern what government is doing, what the parties are doing, what the issues are, where the dangers are, and where the future catastrophes lie.

These are all bad, evil, rotten people who need to be shunned with ferocity. They do not warrant respect. They do not warrant civil treatment. They do not warrant malicious burbles about how dare Americans seek consequences for their fraud; newspaper editors should be devoting themselves to identifying each face and name and lie and treating them as public enemy, not both sides denizen.

These are the footsoldiers that will end democracy, if we cannot throw them from our civic spaces and treat them with the contempt that hoax promoters deserve. These are not the days of tar and feathers, but they can certainly be the days of belittlement, consequences, and public reproach. These are the vapid, self-serving cowards whose lies spur domestic terrorists to violence, and who kill Americans by the thousands by pushing fraudulent information about a deadly pandemic. These are not people who lie of happenstance or impulse, but people who specifically seek to bend government through a pattern of anti-American deceit.

There is no neutrality to be had in reporting like this. Someone who manipulates American politics by lying to the American public is acting with malevolence; reporters should feel a civic duty not just to expose them, but to strip them of the usual deference and pleasantries. Treat propagandists with more scorn than those who craft financial hoaxes to prey on the elderly, or those who hide the deadly effects of a product so that they may sell more of them. The propagandists are attacking the soul of our very democracy. To hell with them. Shun them and those who enable their plots out of greed, ideology, or apathy.

Conservatism has now reached Bernard Goldberg's promised land in which facts and malevolent fictions are treated as equals. The movement itself has become a mass of hoaxes cowering under a red hat. If it cannot be condemned as a fraud, it will grow in power until it strips all truth from around us.

Sunday shows are a relic of a lazy low-stakes era

On one of the now unwatchable Sunday "news" shows, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd introduced a segment on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by—I'm just kidding. It wasn't about the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a segment about the most favorite of all Sunday show segments, and indeed largely the only segment any of the Sunday shows ever do: How will This Thing, the major news of the day, Affect Mah Politics?

"The economy's inability to fully recover from the shock of COVID-19 is both an economic story and a political one," intoned Todd.

The economy's inability to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic is in large part due to anti-distancing, anti-mask, vaccine-skeptical, pro-virus-spreading policies from Republican politicians who have been using conservative frustration with safety measures as a rallying cry for their own careers, resulting in a new wave of overwhelmed hospitals and dead victims that was entirely preventable if sociopathic politicos had not turned pandemic crisis protocols into the latest spite-riddled "culture war."

"All those economic problems add up to a big political problem for the president. Is all of this his fault? Of course not, but it is now his responsibility. And he and fellow Democrats are in real danger of suffering some serious political consequences. Mr. Biden ran on a promise of a basic return to normal—or at least a path to normalcy. But with the midterm elections just over a year away—"

Stop. Just stop. Fine, we get it. We're doing this again. Republicans continue to get their constituents killed at elevated rates; let's now turn to our panel of experts to determine what the political implications of Republicans killing off their constituents will be for the Democrats who, uh, failed to convince them not to die to own the libs.

"Whadda think, Bob? Think all those surviving family members are gonna punish Democrats in the midterms?"

"I dunno, Steve, but between that and Americans quitting their dangerous bullshit pandemic poverty-wage jobs to look for better ones, there's real chaos out there on the streets. And it doesn't look good for anyone waiting for a Tickle-me-Elmo toy because the container ships are real backed up over on the left coast. And what if Republicans decide to start shooting constituents in the face? That'd look real bad for Joe Biden, who's run on a platform of not shooting people in the face."


And it ain't just that. Another of the Todd segments scraped up another entry in the "obsessively arch-right fascist Trump supporters still like Trump" press compulsion. Hey, the guy may have attempted to end our democracy through hoaxes and violence, but a bunch of Jesus-punchers think, if anything, that just makes him even more awesome.

We've been here before. This ain't new, and Matt Negrin, in particular, has brought all the necessary receipts and then some to show that Chuck Todd's Meet the Press, in particular, is a relentless promoter of Republican frames, one that uses the "panel" format to mix hard-right Republican strategists and figures in with neutral journalists while studiously avoiding Democratic guests. Most insipidly, Todd has been a prime rehabilitator for the Republican supporters of an election hoax that led to a violent insurrection.

Why? Is that "neutrality"? Is it "news"?

The problem with Meet the Press is the problem with all political journalism: It shouldn't exist. It's lazy. It's cheap, hackish, phone-it-in programming cobbled together because doing journalism is hard but talking about the "political implications" of any news story is easy. Ask how the ongoing mostly Republican-state COVID-19 crisis is affecting social programs and you'll have to do research to find out. Ask whether the stance of anti-mask politicians like Ron DeSantis is morally defensible and you'll have to expose your own moral convictions.

Ask how the widespread death and economic chaos will affect the political winds when whatever-the-next-election-is rolls around, though, and you don't need to know a damn thing. It's easy. It's trivial. Pick out whichever guests will most reliably say something "exciting" and you've got yourself a show.

"Hey, Trump campaign spokesguy Jason Miller, the price of chicken went up by ten cents over the last six months. How do you think that's gonna play among [spins wheel] Evangelical voters in [throws dart] Wyoming?"

"I think this is great news for Donald Trump, and I'd also like to mention here that Wyoming Evangelicals are also very worried about Joe Biden's surrender to the mole people that happened last Thursday but that nobody here is reporting. Also, Joe Biden eats children."

"Thanks, Jason, we'll have to leave it there."

Anyone can opine about politics. It requires no expertise. It requires little thought. On television, where nobody in front of or behind the cameras gives a particular damn whether or not a guest just lies outright to the nation because they'll already be three lies beyond that one before anyone else can get a word in edgewise, there is absolutely no penalty for being wrong. Or lying. Or undermining democracy. Or egging on violence. Or anything else.

The Sunday shows are the worst thing politics can be: no-stakes. It is all just a game, a little game among the wealthy professional class to fill time while questions of morality and decency are pooh-poohed as the naive domain of the common rabble. True political journalism covers democracy and fascism as neutral ideological combatants; considers death ancillary to poll numbers; judges economic policy based on the analysis of whoever has the most money to spend on analysis; considers false propaganda to be Reasonable, if it can be made Effective; and, above all, dodges all policy considerations in favor of meta-debate about which political figures will most have their images buffed or tarnished from the policy's defeat or acceptance.

Would it be economically wise to avoid a worldwide climate catastrophe that sinks Florida, burns much of the West to a cinder, causes widespread crop failures, and renders certain parts of the globe literally uninhabitable if the air conditioners fail? There's not even a question! Set aside every moral and environmental question, and you're still left with the unambiguous case that moving national energy policy toward less-polluting alternatives will save the country from unfathomable economic costs in the decades to come.

We're not going to get that conversation on Meet the Press, ever, because no non-journalist booked on Meet the Press knows a damn thing about it. We're not going to get the kind of hard-edged reporting that the profession idolizes in fictional stories but shudders with contempt at providing itself, reporting in which political figures are confronted about their astonishing ineptitude in managing this or any other of the existential issues of the day.

We will get an unending parade of professional know-nothings to discuss how Joe Manchin's posturing or Bernie Sanders' gruffness might bump off-year poll numbers in the span between now and the future crisis, because that's the sort of talk that allows charlatans who don't believe in anything to have opinions on everything.

I'm tired. We're all tired. These shows are astonishingly tired, shambling along like brainless zombies wandering past thickets of political violence, environmental cataclysm, mass disease, widespread government failure, and the alteration of the nation's democratic discourse into, literally, an arena of professional hoax-promotion. The old formats were designed for sleepier times when the nation could coast along, ineffective and only a little bit corrupt, with no wars that affected the Important People or economic tragedies that the Important People could not weather. Now that we have passed through decades of ambivalent puttering to come face-to-face with genuine crisis, we learn that none of the shows are built to grapple with crises. They were a child's toy, a little playground in which the powerful could snip playfully at each other on camera before going to eat in the same tony restaurants and golf at the same posh resorts. They were not meant to tackle true problems—only to provide small, timed skits showing what tackling problems might look like, according to the fictions of the day, while making sure that none of it ever truly solved anything or even moved the conversation forward.

Those are not the formats in which a nation can grapple with a pandemic that will likely kill a million of its citizens. It would be farcical in the case of, say, a predicted asteroid strike or supervolcano eruption. It would be rendered so grotesquely absurd, if God Himself were to saunter down with a message or if alien life punched a hole through dimensions to invite us to dinner, that it would pass only as low comedy. Nobody on these shows gives a damn if the nation falls or the atmosphere burns. It was only meant to be a club for idle banter, nothing bold enough as to even scrape the lines of are laws based on overt bigotries bad or just a cultural choice, the sort of vapid dorm room debates on "are seat belts good" or "does unleaded gas represent government tyranny" that nobody involved would give two shits about, on their way home from the studio.

Meet the Press found itself confronting an actual insurrection—and folded. It couldn't cope. It had no tools for the job. So Chuck Todd invited the insurrectionists onto the program and helped redeem even election hoaxes, party-backed propaganda and candidate-organized insurrection as a reasonable political choice to be made. Not because he or anyone else involved gave a particular damn either way, and not because they did not, but because there is no Sunday morning format that can handle violent insurrection except as fodder for the professional know-nothings to banter aimlessly about. It was never meant to have actual stakes. Nobody, in any of the network executive suites, even knows what such a thing would look like.

The QAnon movement was always based on neo-Nazi conspiracy theories — now the mask is slipping

We have noted in the past that the "QAnon" movement is not a set of new conspiracy theories, but a recasting of some of the most popular neo-Nazi, white supremacist, antisemitic themes of the last century for broader conspiracy consumption. Nazi-era antisemitic conspiracy theories declared that "Jews" were secretly controlling the world, that they were working to undermine governments and cultures, and that they drank the blood of children in secret rituals.

QAnon's version is identical: A shadowy cabal of "globalists" is secretly controlling the world, is working to undermine governments and cultures (for example, through a "great replacement" of Americans with new nonwhite immigrants, as supposedly funded by wealthy Jewish American George Soros), and is secretly trafficking children to harvest compounds from their blood. The most bizarre of Nazi and neo-Nazi themes have found eager new homes in the brains of supposed "real" Americans who have invariably settled on the same targets and solutions as their neo-Nazi enablers: Round up the "globalists"—meaning liberals, socialists, Democrats, those who fight for LGBT rights, those who treat immigrants with decency—and jail them. "Lock them up." Purge them.

The "everyday" Americans who have adopted QAnon beliefs as their own, insisting that the "child trafficking" or blood "harvesting" or something-something George Soros conspiracies are real, are Good Nazis. They are the sort of citizens who made Nazi Germany tick. They are sweet, patriotic parents of somebody, or children of somebody, and all they know in life is that their enemies must be defeated, even if defeating them means toppling democracy and/or supporting the most incompetent of tax-dodging lying rapist perverts.

Whether they can be reformed once they've gone down that rabbit hole is a subject for others to engage. Myself, I expect not. Human beings do not accidentally fall into believing their not-white or not-Christian or not-Republican neighbors are barely human saboteurs plotting behind the scenes to do whatever evil you might imagine. They started out that way, then fell into conspiracy holes that were pleasing because they ticked off all the boxes their previous paranoias needed to tick off.

The movement itself, however, has been drifting back to the rawer antisemitism that first crafted it.

VICE News reports that John Sabal, the influential QAnon promoter who will this week host a major QAnon conference at which four aspiring Republican lawmakers are scheduled to speak recommended on Sunday to his followers a notorious neo-Nazi conspiracy film blaming Jews as the architects of communism, World Wars I and II, and the sabotage of Naziism. "The most important historical film of all time," Sabal touted.

The posts were removed after they were "highlighted by extremist researchers," reports VICE—and Sabal claims through his partner that he never actually watched the film or knew that it was antisemitic. And yes, this is the "QAnon" provocateur with enough clout to collect Republican candidates from across the nation.

This isn't an isolated incident. VICE reports that other QAnon figures have similarly embraced the film, though none as prominent as Sabal has been. The "Q" movement is also attracting much attention and support among German neo-Nazis, who after all have a closer connection to many of the Q-adopted tropes now being exported by American conspiracists.

It hasn't stopped national Republicans from courting conspiracy leaders and allied militias, either.

QAnon may have taken some of its heaviest hits from being uniformly and absurdly wrong in all its preelection and post-election predictions about, well, everything, and from its top founder and likely Q pretender Ron Watkins, who distanced himself slightly after Trump's loss. (He's now running for Congress himself—in Arizona, of course.) That doesn't mean it's dead.

It's unclear, however, if QAnon believers are becoming more enamored with antisemitism than they once were or if the movement is sloughing off now-bored, less-radical Americans, leaving behind a more radical, neo-Nazi-adjacent core. Conservatism in general is increasingly flirting with antisemitic speech and candidates: In Idaho, a Republican with a long history of antisemitic speech, one who claims "all Jews are dangerous," is enjoying his local party's support for joining the local school board.

Extremist rhetoric in general is being rewarded rather than scorned by Republican voters. It's probably not surprising that the Republican slide into fascism could not help but stoke the same antisemitic sentiments that past versions have relied on. The QAnon, Trump, and Republican movements are all coalescing into one ball of hate and hoaxes; in the House and Senate, party leaders are at worst helping to promote the conspiracies, and at best remaining silent in efforts to ride the hate to new election victories.

Marjorie Taylor Greene’s campaign is in bad shape — but Matt Gaetz’s is even worse

Back in July, we learned that the joint promotional tour of Rep. Matt Gaetz (linked to a Florida sex trafficking operation that led to the indictment of a key ally) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (booted off all House committees by her fellow Republicans for promoting sedition-based violence) was hemorrhaging money, bringing in a mere $60,000 after spending $300,000 to get it. Now we know that it's not just their nationwide self-promotion jaunt that's bleeding money: Their overall campaigns aren't faring much better.

Could it be that while their base, the frothingest far-right of the far-right, is willing to defend sex trafficking and violent rebellion, they're not willing to put their wallets where their mouths are? Maaaaaybe.

A new Mother Jones report highlights the latest financial reports from the two campaigns, and none of it looks good. As for that joint promotional tour and PAC, Mother Jones reports that the latest filings show it to be "nearly broke," with only $13,000 left in its accounts. It probably didn't help matters that the pair found themselves regularly being thrown out of venues after event center organizers got cold feet about hosting them, either.

But it's the campaign records that are more intriguing. In Greene's case, she's still bringing in significant cash, but it's how the cash is coming in that's getting alarming. For the last three months, 70% of Greene's fundraising haul went right back out to the people and companies doing the fundraising; it appears Greene's campaign is now fully mired in the sort of sketchy high-cost, low-reward fundraising pushes that have plagued other, similarly sketchy Republican campaigns. Greene "spent more than $1 million to haul in $1.5 million," reports Mother Jones. That's big money, but it's mostly big money for the direct mail consultants and others sucking up most of the cash Greene's remaining donors are willing to contribute.

Gaetz, though, is another story. It appears that the fringe Republican base has decided that promoting insurrectionist lies is less bad than being an accused sex trafficker, because Gaetz's fundraising has been dismal. Gaetz's fundraising numbers have gone into the red, with $527,000 raised in the last three months on $627,000 of expenses. His campaign fundraising, in other words, lost him $100,000.

Despite Gaetz continuing to enjoy the steadfast support of fellow congressional perverts—sorry, "House Republicans"—such as Jim Jordan and the like, there are signs that Gaetz's actual voter base is losing interest in propping up the not-yet-indicted, still-insufferable sleazeball. All three of Gaetz's most prominent fundraising channels have crashed and burned in recent months, with his Greene-partnered Sex and Violence fundraising tour going bust, his recently released book absolutely tanking, and now his campaign itself in a nosedive.

And it's not like Gaetz can count on the Republican Party to boost his book sales with one of their infamous bulk book buys. They're waiting this one out. The number of people who want to see books by accused sex traffickers in their party gift bags are already low, and if he's indicted it will be lower still.

This is all fine and good, but what does it mean for Greene and Gaetz's actual reelection chances? It's too early to say. At minimum, it means the national Republican base is growing cold on both of them; while being a violence-adjacent, crime-adjacent, or overall performatively gross person used to have a bit of cachet for the base, that description now applies to so many new Republican stars that Greene and Gaetz barely register anymore. They're expendable figures to a base being overrun with fundraising requests from dozens of other would-be Republican leaders who have similarly impeccable credentials when it comes to Dear Leader worship, advocacy for sedition, or being a dumpster fire of humanity's worst compulsions.

If either of the pair find themselves in a real cash squeeze, they won't necessarily find the party running to come help. Both, however, have the advantage of coming from two of the most deplorable-friendly districts around. Greene may yet find that her pro-sedition, violence-suggesting stances are now her Republican Party's mainstream position come 2022, and coast back to office for her bravery in suggesting her political opponents be met with force before it became the default party position. Gaetz's local voters may be tiring of giving him cash, but when push comes to shove most of those Florida Republicans would gladly put even a convicted sex trafficker back in Congress if the alternative was, well, anyone even marginally less gross.

There's not really much chance that their Republican voters will abandon either of the two, and it's entirely possible that the more desperate and paranoid the pair act, the more the deplorables of the fringe right will rally to them. From these most recent fundraising totals, however, we can see that neither Greene nor Gaetz are really "inspiring" that nationwide deplorable base like they once did. There are other sex traffickers the far-right can rally around. There are plenty other fascist rabble-rousers. There are online Ponzi schemes to invest in, and gold coins to buy, and "survival buckets," and all the other products conservative mailing lists bombard their readers with.

Maybe the Greene-Gaetz base spent all their money on ammo and survival buckets and just don't have anything left to give?

Saudi royals gave Trump tiger and cheetah furs as gifts. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says they were fake

The New York Times has a new story about the Trump administration's lax policies on foreign gift-giving, and it may not surprise you to know that Team Griftabout was just as indifferent to this particular bit of the Constitution as they were all the others. Accepting gifts from foreign leaders (or foreign anybodies) is strictly barred in the Constitution if you're an elected official, due to its close proximation to bribery; as such, the process of receiving such gifts is complex and bureaucratic and requires either paying for the things received (seldom done) or handing them over to the federal government as official federal government property.

You can see immediately why these rules would especially grate for the team of unapologetic grifters and grubbers that make up Trump's inner circle. And family. And general reason for existing. True to form, the Times reports the last administration was frequently sloppy about the whole process. Yes, yes, we'll all need a minute to recover from the shock. Have you recovered yet? Good, let's move on.

There are two tidbits the Times sussed out that are particularly intriguing. The first deals not with gifts from foreign leaders but gifts intended for foreign leaders. You might remember that Trump was originally scheduled to host a G7 summit at Camp David last year; that summit had to be canceled due to the runaway COVID-19 pandemic. In preparation for the meeting, the government prepared "gift bags worth thousands of dollars" to present to each foreign leader, the sort of high-value knickknacks that pass as diplomatic flattery in these circles.

In the last days of the Trump administration, "many" of those still-undelivered bags, as well as other presents, were missing. Allegedly, "career officers" in the State Department "saw their departing colleagues leave with" them.

However, the Times reports that at least some of the contents of the gift bags featured Donald or Melania's signatures, which probably drops their actual value to approximately that of a Mars Bar or a half-finished coffee. Who's going to want a "marble trinket box" with Donald Trump's name plastered on it? It's like a little coffin of shattered dreams.

Anyhoo, all of this is building up to the good part, and there is a good part and we're only getting to it now because we all know it's coming but needed to get in a comfy spot so we can savor it properly. Amongst the more problematic gifts received by Donald Trump and associates was an approximate crapload of swag given by the Saudi royal family in appreciation of Donald making Saudi Arabia the destination of his first foreign "presidential" trip.

Featured in the haul were "three robes made with white tiger and cheetah fur," as well as a dagger that "appeared" to have an ivory handle. Very illegal! Not good! The United States does not allow the trafficking of materials made out of endangered species!

Naturally, the Trump administration did jack-squat with this information, failed to properly disclose them as required, and eventually handed them over to the General Services Administration on Trump's last full day in office. (Why it couldn't have been done before then is a mystery; was the Trump team still looking for ways to keep the furs, along with the presidency, even on the team's very last day?) The Times reports that the gifts were eventually (properly) seized by U.S. Fish and Wildlife this summer, and that—good news, everybody!—it turns out they were fake.

Yeah, that's right. The Saudi royal family, the ultra-wealthy murderous dictators whose lifestyle consists of extravagant spending and a bunch of other things that they consider it illegal for anyone to bring up, gave Donald Trump fake tiger and cheetah pelts. It was a dye job.

And this is perfect. Couldn't possibly have ended in a better way.

What is Donald Trump, after all, other than a fake rich person? He is a reality show host whose incompetent burbles were famously edited into a reality show about bein' rich and bein' decisive, but the man's wealth is a small fraction of what he claims it to be, and his idea of "luxury" appears to be eating Big Macs inside rooms that have been spray-painted gold and adorned with plaques claiming imaginary things happened there.

They didn't give Trump the expensive pelts of endangered big cats. They gave him expensive-looking fakes, knowing he'd be pleased as punch with expensive-looking fakes. (And it's not clear the "ivory" dagger is actually ivory, either.)

Sure, then. We'll go with that. Finally, a bit of good news: There are at least two endangered animals out there that were not killed for the sake of this now-sedition-backing buffoon's pleasure centers. It was all fake, like Trump himself was.

Not the most important thing in the world, to be sure. But it's fun to remind ourselves that even the foreign leaders who were most obsequious towards Trump had his number from day one. Faker.

Republicans demand the debt ceiling be raised — and promise to block Democratic attempts to do so

The nation is now used to seeing political standoffs whenever the time again comes to raise the now-infamous "debt ceiling." The nation is also generally aware of the dynamic that plays out each time the United States needs to raise the artificially set debt cap in order to keep paying the bills that Congress itself ordered the nation to pay: During times of Republican governance, Republicans hand out tax cuts to whoever the steady rotation of lobbyists in their offices tell them to, draining federal coffers. During times of Democratic governance, Republicans scream loudly about the money being spent on Actual Things, proclaim themselves outraged at federal deficits, and vow that they will absolutely not be a part of this fine mess that their yesterday selves got us into.

I'm not sure there's been any past Republican effort as lazily nihilistic as the one that's currently forming, however. The seemingly unanimous take of Senate Republicans, as guided by (of course) Sen. Mitch McConnell, is that the debt ceiling of course needs to be raised as rote responsibility of government—and that Republicans will absolutely block attempts all attempts to do so so that Democrats have to do it without them.

It's not a "we must reduce the debt" stance. It's not an attempt to play chicken with the nation's credit rating or an attempt to shut down government this time around. The Republican position this time is that while this paperwork may be a necessary part of government, it's better for Republicans to not do that governing so they're just ... not going to.

On Tuesday, Sen. McConnell turtled to reporters that Senate Republicans were "united in opposition to raising the debt ceiling." Party cranks had previously promised to filibuster any legislation raising the ceiling, thus cutting off both the notion that the ceiling could be raised with Republican votes and the ability of Senate Democrats to even bring such a bill for a vote.

What do the still-paycheck-collecting Republicans want Democrats to do instead? They want Democrats to ram a new debt ceiling number through using reconciliation rules, the process that Republicans have been calling autocratic and democracy-ending in any other context. It's all a game to them, nobody's pretending it's anything different, and it's all laced with the same propaganda claims that Republicanism is now reliant on.

Sen. Ted Cruz was blunt when declaring the Republican position last August: Democrats "have 100 percent control and ability to raise the debt ceiling on reconciliation. And the only reason they wouldn't do so is to play political games."

Republicans don't intend to use their position to negotiate anything. They just don't wanna do it so they're not going to. Instead, their plan is to make Democrats do all the governing, then run midterm campaigns blasting Democrats for doing it. CNN reports that McConnell's intent is to make Democrats "own" a newly raised debt ceiling by forcing them do it through unconventional means, after all but a handful of Republican senators wrote a letter declaring both that the nation "should not default on our debts under any circumstances" and that if "Democrats threaten a default" it will be their fault for not ramming it through despite Republican attempts to block it.

See, I worry here that I'm not fully conveying the full asininity of the Senate Republican position. They're in broad agreement that the nation can't default on its debts, they're in broad agreement that therefore the debt ceiling should be raised as it has been every other time it has come up, and they're in broad agreement that they're going to sit in a corner screaming song lyrics and pressure cooker recipes while everybody else gets on that. As legislators, they don't want to do this bit of government so they're just not gonna, la la la, the rest of you are suckers for caring.

O … kay?

Oh, they still get their paychecks either way, of course. You can spend 20 years in the Senate doing nothing but carving swear words into your desk and you'll still get the same paycheck. Keeping the government running is not technically part of the job, it's just a little bonus you might give your constituents if you feel the alternative would result on a local run on feathers and roofing tar.

In any event, because none of this would be complete without Republican lawmakers simply lying their asses off about even the most basic functions of government, Republicans do intend to pretend that the debt ceiling is tied to new Democratic spending and not past congressional edicts. CNN gives us the immediate example of Sen. Joni Ernst blubbering that with new Democratic budget proposals this new hit on the debt ceiling is "their own making." Yet again, for the people in the cheap seats, this ain't so. The debt ceiling is governed by spending authorized by Congress in the past. It is a result of the laws already written, apportioning funds in the way the Paul Ryans of the past demanded during White House Rose Garden celebrations proudly celebrating new deficit spending. Sen. Joni Ernst is just lying on this one, as is the party's current style.

So far, all of this looks like it will be turning out extremely Stupid, with nobody from either party willing to do anything more than the usual routine of scheduling votes, blocking votes, holding press conferences about the votes, and generally puttering around with as many time-wasting antics as each individual senator can muster energy for. It does look like Democratic leaders intend to force a Senate vote on the debt ceiling, Republicans intend to filibuster it, we will gradually inch toward the crisis of government not being able to pay its bills, and at the last minute or shortly thereafter Democrats will construct some mechanism for getting it done despite Sens. Deskcarver and Flamepants feigning outrage.

What should be done, since Republicans now have evolved into the position that the debt ceiling is from now on only going to be raised during times when future voters boot just enough Republican senators to allow it to happen, is a full wipe of the very premise of a "debt ceiling." It is a construct. It is a fork-in-electrical-socket of the House and Senate's own making, a way for preening elected officials to blackmail the rest of the country by threatening to push us into it if just one more child gets one more slice of government cheese than the richest bastards of the country deem appropriate.

So then, Democrats, just erase it. Don't just boost the cap to whatever number will put us in this same position 10 or so months from now; get rid of it. Set it to a billion trillion quadrillion dollars and be done with it. That also can be done in reconciliation, since Republicans are demanding the Democrats use reconciliation to address it, and will defuse this particular bomb so that Ted Freaking Cruz and friends cannot blackmail government every damn year in order to boost his fundraising numbers.

The sheer amount of new debt America has piled on as a result of having to cope with shutdowns and near-shutdowns can't be small, either. It turns out governance, like health care, is a lot cheaper when you don't wait for every last bump and nick to turn into a full-blown emergency before dealing with it.

End this farce. Republicans cannot govern, Republicans don't want anyone else to govern, Republicans continue to flip random levers of government in the hope that the damage done will be something non-Republicans cannot easily fix. There is Too Much Shit these days for this little comedy routine to still be a core part of the national lineup. We need this time for debating more important things, like seawalls and pandemics and an explanation as to how the most incompetent White House in a century managed to come so very close to orchestrating a coup.

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