John Boehner Exits Congress’s ‘Fall From Hell’
House Speaker John Boehner, under constant sniping from his far right flank, finally hit the ejection button. This leaves the House in search of a new Speaker, presumptively but not assuredly Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, as Congress enters what Politico predicted would be the “fall from hell.” Politico:
In fact, lawmakers have teed up a hellish final few months of 2015, as a series of high-stakes deadlines looms on everything from keeping the government open to doling out money for roads and then, for good measure, raising the federal government’s borrowing limit.
Mix in a contentious vote on President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal in mid-September and the first attempt by a GOP-led Capitol to raise the debt ceiling later in the fall or winter and you have a perfect storm of deadlines with little time to meet them.
I did not know that one could fall from hell. I had supposed Hell to be rock bottom.
The Catholic Church virtually invented — and, courtesy of Dante, mapped — Hell. Thus it bodes auspicious that the Pope gave his benediction to a joint session of Congress. Right after that personal triumph the good John Boehner announced his exit.
What’s up with the disarray? The New York Times’s resident conservative Ross Douthat recently provided an exceptional thoughtful take:
The Republican Party’s basic problem right now is that the party’s own voters really, really don’t like it, but more than that they dislike it for a wide variety of different reasons, in ways that don’t map neatly onto what we’re accustomed to thinking of as the Republican divisions of the past.
Let’s get bipartisan. The agony overtaking Hillary Clinton is at least as striking as what is occurring within the Republican Party. As Bill Kristol recently observed, “Republicans have a problem, while Democrats have a crisis.”
There is a “Unified Field Theory” — and antidote — for the political disarray in Washington. It deserves more exploration than it yet has received. What’s really going on? “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Voters are distressed by the failure of the political elites to generate an economic climate supporting our interests — prosperity — and values — fairness. The American Dream, which relies upon both, is badly off track.
America is struggling through a period of economic stagnation comparable in duration to the Great Depression. As I previously wrote here:
A Saturday Evening Post reporter asked, in 1932, John Maynard Keynes if there had ever been anything like the Great Depression. Keynes replied, “Yes. It was called the Dark Ages and it lasted 400 years.” While the Great Recession is not so severe as was the Great Depression, it begins to appear that the world is enduring something that could be called “The Little Dark Age.”
This stagnation is at the root of the political disarray. The political elites flounder around with, at best, half-baked recipes to resolve it.
Proposed solutions, such as they are, lean toward either prosperity (for the haves) or fairness (for the have-nots), but not, as under Reagan and Clinton, both. Side issues such as immigration are mostly naïve shorthand for the scarcity of jobs … for which immigrants, legal and not, are perceived as competitors. Everything becomes incendiary.
There appears one ready pathway out. If Congress begins prominently to confront the root cause of the Little Dark Age it will begin to change for the better the political, as well as economic, climate for America. Time for Congress to take up the role of monetary policy as the root cause of our stagnation.
Congress finally has started making real progress in the right direction. Time to take it to the next level. How? Pass pending legislation focusing on the Fed.
To return to the theme of the “fall from hell” Washington appears stuck in the Eighth Circle to which Dante assigns Falsifiers. Dante consigned alchemists and counterfeiters to the bottom of this next-to-lowest circle of Hell. As one commentator on classical literature notes Dante there encounters:
… an alchemist who extracted large sums of money from Alberto da Siena. Griffolino extracted money by promising Alberto that he would teach him to fly like Daedalus. When Alberto discovered he had been tricked, he had his “uncle,” the Bishop of Siena, burn Griffolino as a sorcerer. Griffolino is not punished for sorcery, but for falsification of silver and gold through alchemy.
As for counterfeiters, Rep. Ron Paul, himself a prophetic critic of the Fed, reportedly once kept a sign on his desk stating: “Don’t counterfeit, the Fed hates competition.”
As for alchemists, a long time ago — on August 15, 1971, to be exact — President Nixon succumbed to the blandishments of his Treasury Secretary John Connally to “close the gold window.” The promise was to make the economy fly. The dollar was converted from currency to money. The promise proved false.
Two elements of the “Nixon Shock — a 10% tariff and wage and price controls — promptly were dismantled. Only the arbitrary “Federal Reserve Note Standard” remains as a lingering artifact of that old policy debacle.
August 15, 1971 was the day the American Dream — of equitable prosperity — began to die. The Federal Reserve Note Standard was, in fact, an attempt at a sort of modernist alchemy. It set the stage for the subsequent flat-lining of median family income. Now to turn that around.
Surely the Establishment wishes to restore job creation and equitable prosperity, and, with these, its prestige. There is a very respectable and growing body of opinion attributing the long period of stagnation to bad monetary policy. Thanks to that growing consensus we now have a real opportunity to get the economy moving again.
The Federal Reserve appears to be losing mystique. As previously noted here, The Washington Post’s top monetary reporter, Ylan Q. Mui, has reported on the consistent wrongness of the Fed’s economic predictions. These have become, she implies, the laughingstock both of Washington and Wall Street.
Recently the Post’s resident political cartoonist, Tom Toles, lampooned the Fed with a cartoon of three Federal Reserve Governors gazing into a toilet described as its “crystal bowl” and labeled “wage-price spiral.” One governor remarks, “but we fear the downward direction may soon reverse to clockwise.” Toles’ marginalia sketches them saying “maybe we should jiggle the handle.”
The Fed’s halo noticeably is dimming. Word’s getting around. Before recess House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was handed a gift by Reps. Hensarling, Huizenga, Garrett, and Brady with the full committee passage of the Centennial Monetary Commission, H.R. 2912, and Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization Act, H.R. 3189.
There is abundant evidence that good, rather than easy, money holds the promise to end the Little Dark Age of stagnation. Good money can provide sizzling job creation. Good money was instrumental in creating jobs under Reagan and Clinton.
By bringing these bills to the floor of the House McCarthy, and, as a capstone to his really fine legacy Boehner, could lay the foundation for a game changing shift of policy back toward equitable prosperity and greater political harmony. Congress has the power, and, now, the legislative vehicles, to begin resurrecting the American Dream.
Let us hope that the onrushing “perfect storm of deadlines” will not distract the leadership from this historic opportunity to pass both the Centennial Monetary Commission and FORM and thereby start the process of braking its, and our, “fall from hell.”
Originally posted on Forbes.com.