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Inviting anarchism

Now on the website, our editors on the strategy of the Republican majority in Congress.

Initially, the House Republicans’ refusal to pass a continuing-funding resolution to keep the government open was tied to the unreasonable demand that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) be repealed, defunded, or delayed. … Recognizing that the ACA cannot be stopped, Speaker John Boehner has shifted his position and now wants the president and the Democrats to negotiate a budget bill that includes significant spending cuts before he will allow a vote on the continuing resolution. But earlier this year the Democrats already agreed to cut $70 billion from the budget without increasing revenues, only to have the House reject the bill. Understandably, the president and the Democrats are now determined that the government be reopened before they negotiate a final budget. If he were to capitulate to the House’s demands, the president argues, every future budget could be held hostage by a radical and unrepresentative minority in Congress, and the constitutional system would grind to a halt. If democracy is to work, a minority cannot nullify the legislative will of the majority.

Even worse, Tea Party Republicans are also refusing to extend the nation’s debt ceiling unless the president and the Democrats comply with their demands. This is an invitation to anarchism. If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling by October 17, widespread economic damage is almost certain. Whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, the vast majority of Americans are shocked and outraged that some in Congress are endangering the economic well-being and security of the nation, if not the world, in pursuit of their narrow ideological agenda….

“Americans,” Andrew Bacevich writes [in his book Breach of Trust], have “abandoned collective obligation in favor of personal choice.”… It is hard not to see this dynamic at work in the current political crisis. The Tea Party scoffs at the notion that “collective obligation” or “sacred civic responsibilities”—to provide health-care insurance to those who cannot afford it, for instance—might even exist. Rather, the movement upholds as sacred the right to be left alone.

Read the whole thing here

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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I agree with the editorial ... and with Bacevich. But what would you say to a Tea-Partyer who quotes the Pope:

Your Holiness, is there is a single vision of the Good? And who decides what it is?


"Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good."


Your Holiness you wrote that in your letter to me. The conscience is autonomous, you said, and everyone must obey his conscience. I think that's one of the most courageous steps taken by a Pope.


"And I repeat it here. Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place."

Father Imbelli: "(Man) must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience." The Catechism §1782, quoting Dignitatis Humanae 3 §2 And "A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his concience." The Catechism §1800

The pope was only saying what the Church has always taught, as some folks are wont to say.

The framers of the Constitution had no faith at all that humans would always get it right. They had faith that the majority would get it right more often than a king or an aristocracy or -- if it had occurred to them, I suppose -- a bunchy of panicky geese wearing tea bags on their hats. The framers, and subsequent generations, also built into the system safeguards to protect minorities.

No one ever intended that the safeguards would allow a minority to act like a pitcher who has given up dozens of runs (with senators, representatives and justices scoring in droves) standing on the mound and refusing to move until he is credited with a shutout.


Stipulate:  Ted Cruz is running for president - and he could very well succeed in getting the Republican nomination after this default stunt.  He doesn't give a wit about whether the economy crashes because his base - the hopelessly delusional old white folks - is desperate for any messiah who will confirm their blinded mythology of the world.  

But, my instincts tell me that any prospective Democratic woman candidate [I would prefer Elizabeth Warren, myself] will easily swat him back to Alberta where he came from.

[Did you see where Justice Ruth Ginsberg is not worried about staying too long at the party - presumably through the 2016 election - and having a Republican name her successor.  Ginsberg said that she is confident that the next president will be a Democrat.  An interesting insight from a woman with a unique perspective on politics given her perch on SCOTUS.  Time will tell ... ]

Rafael "Ted" Cruz - his actual given name; probably not American enough sounding for his Texan kicker constituents - certainly has demonstrated the necessary over-sized ego for imagining himself president.  We haven't seen this kind of clinically galloping narcissism since the heyday of Speaker Newt Gingrich [It still hurts to write that!]. 

Cruz's swarmy evangelical-preacher style - his father is actually one of those creatures - will soon wear very thin with most voters.  Especially if he is at the helm of the dead-ender Tea Partiers when they tank the whole world economy.

I think that Obama is going to win this political stare down with the Republicans.  In the end, the dead-enders will be swept from office, Nancy Pelosi will again be Madame Speaker, and Hilary will ride to the rescue on a white horse to save Western civilization a la Jeanne d'Arc.  [Is that a bad metaphor for Hilary? Perhaps?  I hope she doesn't end up "fut brulee."]

Or am I just engaging in wishful thinking???

Mr. Blackburn,

On this feast of John Henry Newman (quoted in the Catechism # 1778) I would not want to leave your quoted #1800 unhinged from what precedes and follows. Thus:

"Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them" (#1799); and

"Conscience can remain in ignorance or make erroneous judgments. Such ignorance and errors sre not always free from guilt" (#1801).

Had Pope Francis alluded to them, then Signore Scalfari would not have had reason to exclaim: "I think that's one of the most courageous steps taken by a Pope."

Congress has a favorable rating of 5 percent. Which makes Obama look terrific at 37 percent.

The problem is that there is a grain of truth to the R's resistance to this. Costs are going to increase - no doubt about it. Looking into my crystal ball, I can see problems galore with this whole Affordable Care Act.. This legislation was poorly thought out. They are wrong, however, because access to health care is, or should be a basic human right.

I just fail to see how the private market can handle the demand without individual people freaking out when they realize the costs of health care and when healthy people see their premiums increase. Before you know it, there is going to be a lot of animosity directed towards people who engage in or have preventable risk factors (weight issues/obesity, lifestyle such as smoking and drinking, etc.). Human nature is human nature.

I just don't understand how it is cost effective to hire a bunch of IRS agents and bureaucrats to chase down people who don't buy insurance, and then to fine them. How will this be enforced??

Apparently the employer mandate was deferred because employers were concerned with being able to cover the increase in cost due to their obligations.

Just defer the whole individual mandate thing and make it voluntary for the first year. See how many people sign up. If they don't and costs start rising, then we will have to think of another model.

I see single payer as the only viable way to ensure equity and fairness. Otherwise you have a two or three tiered system that is fundamentally unfair. 

George D, 

I am amazed that you give such an appraisal. We really do not know the costs of the new health care. There is noise from all sides and really one does not know what to believe. But whether costs will go up or down is still an unresolved question.

Well, I didn't expect to get away with proof-texting without being called on the hinges of my texts. Still, if someone doesn 't make the effort to inform his conscience, he or she is in big trouble, but once he or she has informed her conscience, even if it is wrong, she will be in bigger trouble if she doesn't follow it.

But the editorial isn't about conscience; it's about the rules of democracy. Democratic governments can be wrong (Prohibition, Vietnam, ignoring banking idiocies). There are ways to form majorities to correct their mistakes. But one of the ways is not for a minority, even if it is right (fat chance in this case) to force its will on the majority through non-democratic means. Anarchy is the correct word for that.

"I just don't understand how it is cost effective to hire a bunch of IRS agents and bureaucrats to chase down people who don't buy insurance, and then to fine them. How will this be enforced??"

George, in this computer age everyone is easily tracked down. It is not rocket science. 

First, how or why Fr. Imbelli decided to drag a not especially subtle criticism of Pope Francis into this thread escapes me. As Tom Blackburn says, this is a political issue.

Second, it has long been recognized by people like Michael Walzer that democratic liberalism has what he called an inbuilt  dissociative  thrust, puhing to an individualism that can, if not counterweighted, tend to anarchism. As the editors see, the Tea Party and libertarianism show scant regard for the need to counterbalance the emphasis on the individual with a significant emphasis on concern for the common good. Walzer associated this sort of emphasis with the associative thrust of much communitarian thought. In Walzer's view, this dissociative thrust isprevalent and needs regular counterbalancing. From ny standpoint, one of the bis political responsibilities of serious Christians is to promote this counterbalancing.

We all must obey our consciences ... informed or otherwise ... and be prepared to suffer any possible consequences.  Or, to quote a pithy aphorism:  there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Actually, i believe the correct term would be "fascist."  Servant of God Dorothy Day was an anarchist.  To mention anarchism in the same breath as this current crop of vandals is deeply offensive to true anarchism, which is perfectly consistent with the Gospel.  Benito Mussolini was a fascist, and specified that "“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”  

The current crisis has been bankrolled by wealthy individuals who are attempting to keep wages depressed and the rabble compliant by squashing a modest attempt (designed by more traditional republicans) to make the lives of workers slightly less dependent on their corporate pay-masters.  The minority of republican representatives who are carrying water for these class-warriors are anything but anarchists.  They are perfectly content to man the levers of state power, so long as that power is exercised  in their own short-term interests and the somewhat longer-term interests of their bosses.


I think a healthy dose of pragmatism is required here. The government is, one way or the other, ultimately going to have to pay for the provision of health care for people. It is just inevitable. The demographics of an aging population, increasing rates of obesity are all going to strain the private system. There is just no reasonable way to get younger, healthier people to share costs except through taxation which already exists and is the most efficient and clean way to handle this.

As I said in another post, when the Affordable Health Care Act was passed it was Democrats who controlled all chambers of governments. Universal, single payer, government paid for insurance was proposed and rejected. That is hugely problematic. I watched with disgust the spectacle of bribery, special favours for some states. Hardly a display of high minded civic virtue predicated on principles of equity and fairness!!

Forget this whole private insurance business!! Far, far better when these costs are more hidden through taxation. Tax liquor, tax cigarettes, tax luxury items, cable ( so called "sin" taxes!) and use those revenues to provide insurance and education and health promotion.

In this discussion of conscience, one question that still needs asking is:  do we have a right to have a mistaken conscience?  Do we have a right to be wrong?  I say:  not always.  Even the law recognizes that at times we have an obligation to know what is going on.  This all implies a duty to take seriously the criticisms of others, to be critical our own thinking, and to admit it when we've been mistaken

We have no absolute right to be wrong.

.  And, I think, our duty to think well also implies that we have a duty to think ahead to the possible consequences of our own positions.  An unwillingness to engage in foresight is, I think, at the crux of the Obamacare issues -- young people don't genereally look ahead to their own old age when they will cost the system more than they are putting into it.  The necessity to pre-pay for services is a very foreign one to many Americans.


I think talking about conscience in this Tea Party scam is absurd and silly. .. let's Talk about poker that you can see on TV. Bluffing is the name of the game and the GOP has more 'tells' that they are holding just a very small pair. If they fold [best bet] they lose all they have put in. If they 'go all in' and  default they will lose and be escorted out of the building[Congress]  never to return.

side bet on fold..

Jim Jenkins:


"Ted" Cruz

Ted is short for his middle name Edward which means "protector of wealth."

Of couse, Cruz is Spanish for cross. (No comment)

The Tea Partiers couldn't care less what the favorability rating of Congress is.  Thanks to gerrymandering, they can afford to care only about their personal ratings in their own districts.  That's what is motivating them to stand fast, because yokels tend to elect yokels to represent them.

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