Sequestration: A CIA-like 'Coup,' a Shadowy 'Plot,' or Merely 'mindless anti-government fanaticism'?


As the universe begins to cave in on itself, Inception-style, because of today's tiny one-year trim in federal spending, enjoy some Grade-A paranoia from your betters.

Former labor secretary Robert Reich fingers the conspiracy:

Imagine a plot to undermine the government of the United States, to destroy much of its capacity to do the public's business, and to sow distrust among the population.

Imagine further that the plotters infiltrate Congress and state governments, reshape their districts to give them disproportionate influence in Washington, and use the media to spread big lies about the government.

Finally, imagine they not only paralyze the government but are on the verge of dismantling pieces of it.

Far-fetched?  Perhaps. But take a look at what's been happening in Washington and many state capitals since Tea Party fanatics gained effective control of the Republican Party, and you'd be forgiven if you see parallels.

New York Times columnist David Brooks recognizes stoopid when he sees it:

So let me reject what the Republicans are doing. I have more ambivalent feelings about what the White House is doing. But the Republicans are doing the worst of all possible worlds. This was designed to be stupid; it magnificently achieves that. […]

[T]he Republicans are in a position politically where they have to show the country they're mindless anti-government fanatics….This is a piece of mindless anti-government fanaticism, which doesn't separate the good from the bad. It just cuts.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews points to the obvious parallels with CIA coups during the Cold War:

Isn't that what the Republicans did back in the old days? If they didn't like a government somewhere — Guatemala, Iran, the Dominican Republic, Chile — they just brought it down….Guess what, Republicans are now using the same tactic here at home. If they don't like who we've elected president, they find some way to undermine the government, discredit its leaders, whatever it takes to destroy it.

Washington Post faith-blogger Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite laments that this is "what happens when an ideology of greed as good triumphs over either common sense or core religious values":

The Tea Party ideology of small government, no new taxes (especially on the rich), and hyper-individualism is what is broken in our country. It's as simple and terrible as that. And it is this ideology that we must confront in the strongest possible biblical and theological terms and reject.

We will not have an economic recovery, a thriving middle class, and the ability of the poor to lift themselves out of poverty, until we, as a nation, reject this appalling philosophy.

And Daily Beast columnist Michael Tomasky wraps himself in the flag of empricism while slamming his media colleagues for refusing to objectively report that Republicans are "extremists":

Just as today's Republican extremists benefit from the silence of conservative pundits, they also gain from the credulousness of mainstream figures who keep pretending that today's GOP is a responsible party within the normal American political traditions. So that when the GOP takes a radical position on the sequester and Barack Obama a reasonable one, both are accorded equal seriousness, even when facts have to be ignored to do so. […]

Those positions are not equivalent. To write as if they are equivalent is to perpetrate a lie. Or at least two lies: in the immediate case, the lie that the Republicans are engaged in anything resembling good-faith bargaining; and in the broader sense, the lie that the GOP is a normal political party by our historical norms, just a slightly more intense version of the Democrats of the 1980s or the Whigs of the 1840s. They are not that. They have a radical vision for American society, and while they know they must operate within democratic bounds to try to achieve that vision, they have none of the normal respect for legislative give and take that has characterized American political parties through most of our history.

Just imagine what would happen if we cut government all the way back to 2008 levels!

Reason on the sequester here. Re-read Jesse Walker's classic 2009 piece on "The Paranoid Center," and pre-order his book, The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory.