Byrd: The lighter side of the shutdown


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It’s always important, even in the darkest moments, to keep a sense of humor. It’s clichéd but true that life can be hard, cruel, and punishing, and if you don’t attempt to mine some sort of levity out of even the worst of circumstances, you’ll end up spending most of your time curled up in the fetal position.

That being said, it’s pretty hard to extract laughs from the recently ended government shutdown, a shutdown that left many of the nation’s citizens without basic services. The shutdown was responsible for the closing of Head Start programs, the suspension of WIC nutritional benefits to families, the furloughing of thousands of federal workers, government employees working without pay, the elimination of Meals on Wheels food services for low-income seniors, the suspension of food and workplace safety inspections by the USDA and OSHA. Not to mention that it ended with a useless, temporary compromise, and the general fact that this shutdown exposed why our electoral system is essentially broken and undemocratic.

Just a whole bundle of laughs right there, huh?

Luckily, this whole depressing affair has provided one bit of rich comedy that can uplift our weary souls, if only for a brief moment.

Some über-rich campaign fanciers are having their horrible schemes blow up in their faces.

It’s apparent that the very, very, very wealthy people who bankrolled Republican/Tea Party efforts to attain and maintain a majority in the House were absolutely livid when the members they helped elect spearheaded this government shutdown, which these wealthy people knew was absolutely horrible for the economy.

Slate’s Dave Wiegel has pointed out that the Koch brothers, the founders and funders of a massive, far-right, faux-grass-roots empire that funds Tea Party candidates (such as Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith, who just compared defaulting on U.S. debt and plunging the world economy into depression to the American Revolution), through groups such as Americans for Prosperity, distanced themselves from the shutdown. They remained mostly quiet as the representatives they helped elect pontificated about how this shutdown was totally awesome. 

Other notable rich people were more publically incensed at the actions of the GOP Congress. As a piece in the New York Times  this past week put it, “… the country’s most influential business executives have come to a conclusion … Their voices are carrying little weight with the House majority that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions helped build and sustain.”

Someone grab the world’s tiniest violin.

It’s pretty obvious what transpired here. In the wake of the vitriolic opposition by the far right to the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s wealthy decided to bankroll Tea Party candidates whose ideological opposition to any and all operations of the federal government would help them maintain their power, prestige, and wealth in the form of lax regulatory standards, opposition to unions, and other positions which enrich a small group of American oligarchs (while also creating widening and dangerous levels of inequality that further impoverish low-income Americans and erode the middle-class, but whatever). Essentially, they funded the Tea Party for pragmatic, not ideological reasons.

But now these rich people have seen that the politicians they elected are, for all the faults of their basic tenets, ideologically pure and don’t really feel like listening to anyone who wants to restrain them, not even their financial handlers. Their anti-government ideology is all-inclusive, detesting the programs big business hates (regulations, union protections) and the ones it likes (corporate welfare, subsidies, the government not shutting down and the economy totally collapsing).

This whole episode of rich funders experiencing a jarring case of blowback is both completely hysterical and also shows that the ultra-rich aren’t exactly the innovative, forward-thinking people our society likes to pretend they are.

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