The ruling parties in Washington have played their game of political brinkmanship once more, with the ginned-up tension ending predictably. Budgets, debt ceilings, and default became urgent topics of discussion. The usual suspects dusted off their doomsday statements. The drama grew until an “imminent government shutdown” was once again ”narrowly averted”.
The structure of this kabuki theater is much simpler than we’ve been led to believe. It reduces to one unit: dollars. The debate distills no further. Yet the significance of that simple common denominator – the dollar- within the larger game is chronically underestimated.
A country’s currency is crucial to the exercise of power, whether it involves exchanges between two citizens, between many companies, or trade between nations. But currency deals in numbers. And numbers are pragmatic methods of measurement. They don’t try to tell us which god to believe in.
In shutdown dramas, numbers are used to buttress the prerogatives of top-down political control. Since dollars always deal with power, they live on the vertical axis of the political circle, whether they’re drawn to the top pole (as in this case) or to the bottom (where the citizens are empowered).
Our political elites – planted firmly atop the circle – now require massive quantities of the green stuff in order to dispense favors to the groups that keep their centralized system in place. Those groups include government agencies, activist organizations, global corporations, and supporting nations. Whenever the threat arises that the federal fire hose might dispense those favors with less force, the elites choose to tax the common worker further. If that proves insufficient (as it usually does in recent decades) they confiscate from America’s future citizens by debasing the currency through money printing.
This reverse Robin Hood repossession scheme can’t occur in broad daylight, though. Political cover must be constructed to sidestep a backlash. Commoners must be made to understand that it’s all done for their own good. Thus, we witness Nancy Pelosi’s linguistic gymnastics this week, asking for her colleagues to focus on ”values” rather than on numbers or dollars.
Readers of this blog know that an accurate model of political partisanship reduces to two Fundamental Questions. One question addresses power. The other deals with values. One is objective. The other subjective. Every American answers both questions. And every American weighs one against the other.
These two questions are at war. They engage in constant conflict with one another to establish which will be dominant. We collectively choose, over time, which one will act as alpha in our era.
Fortunately, when the participants are intellectually honest, sincere compromises and coalitions can be forged between these two very different foundations of the political system. The conflict can be harnessed.
But that’s not what Pelosi was attempting to do. Hers was a ”nothing to see here” approach. The Speaker chose diversion, rather than acknowledge the unprecedented power grab inherent within the latest spending proposal.
This shell game is being perpetrated by many players in Washington DC – not just Pelosi. The party politicians publicly tell us that one Question (Values) is far more important …… often posturing as if it were the only subject worthy of discussion. Meanwhile, they privately focus their attention on accumulating vast amounts of centralized control (Power).
Their approach has begun to wear thin, though. The jig is almost up. Pelosi’s focus on values is from a bygone century. Growing numbers of citizens now see the Power Question as the issue that must be addressed. Despite the best efforts of America’s propagandists, they’re choosing empowerment of their fellow citizens over the centralized dictates of a political and corporate elite.