“Hello again, Peabody here.
“Yes Mr. Peabody.”
“Sherman, did I ever tell you about the time I went back to the year 2013 to determine what terrible affliction came over the United States of America and caused a catastrophic failure of an otherwise rapidly advancing, industrialized country?”
“Gee, no Mr. Peabody. It sounds awful.”
“Quite so, my boy, quite so. But rife with lessons to be learned. Set the Wayback Machine Sherman for 2050. It’s time for you to learn about political manipulation, hubris, and The Tea Party.”
“Golly Mr. Peabody, what does a tea party have to do with the downfall of a great and powerful nation?”
“Not A tea party Sherman. THE Tea Party. Sherman, we’re going to the classroom of Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award, Ms Shirley Weinstein-O’Hanrahan. The greatest history teacher of her era, she lectures frequently on the grievous mistakes made in the early 21st century.”
Our stop: 2050-An American History lecture-4th Grade Level: Required for all 5th Grade Students.
“Gee Mr. Peabody, I though you had to be much older back in those days to attend lectures.”
“Wrong my boy! Although the brains of the early 21st cemtury were stunted by all the chemicals that the foolish humans allowed to be spewed into the air and put in their food and water in the late 20th century, they eventually wised up and by 2050 most of the damage had been reversed. However, the criminal masterminds at Monsanto and Dow Chemical–along with the scurolous politicians that lied to the populace about the safety of the products– had been rather barbariclly force-fed their own toxic concoctions until their organs literally exploded.”
“Golly Mr. Peabody.”
“Golly indeed Sherman. Now, pay attention boy, the lecture is beginning.”
“The politicians who tweeted while America burned”. Yes, they were dismantling our society piece by piece with budget cuts. I’m sure that you’ve all acquainted yourselves with the history of social networks in the early 21st century in preparation of this lecture? So you know my reference to “tweets” on the Twitter social network? Right. Good.
By the year 2030 municipal governments had no more money for what were commonplace services just a few years earlier, so it didn’t just feel darker, it actually was a dark time. Most national parks, like the one in my native Vicksburg, MS began closing down more than a decade prior and were, by then, little more than overgrown kudzu farms with a lot of eerie monuments and statues that would seemingly crop up out of nowhere. In the southern region of what was then the United States, the southerners actually longed for the days when slavery of the darker humans was permitted and they were free to do whatever they so desired because they had a primitive form of economy that used paper and shiny metals…neither of which was actually worth anything or useful, for barter.
By this time, reports about great bridges crumbling or even collapsing are routine. The air in city after city hangs brown and heavy (and rates of childhood asthma and other lung diseases have shot up), because funding that would allow the enforcement of clean air standards is a distant memory. Public education has been cut to the bone, making good schools a luxury–which was exactly what the white minority wanted–and, according to the government’s Department of Education, two of every five students won’t graduate from high school.
Obesity is rampant despite so many Americans being hungry. Something about a REALLY stupid bill passed in 2013 exempting a ruthless food manufacturer, Monsanto, from lawsuits or liability of any kind for the damage to people who ate or drank their genetically modified products that dominated the food supply. Then there were the myriad drugs and growth hormones they used to fatten up the flesh of cows and chickens they ate, and they fished the great oceans until almost no fish remained at all. They had to resort to stronger, more dangerous pesticides on their plants that produced food because of the growing resistance by most vector-born diseases. Oranges, lemons and most other citrus fruits disappeared around 2020 due to a bacteria that wiped out the entire citrus crop of North America, which propelled Brazil and other more sensible producers of organic food products to the profitable heights once enjoyed in the United States.
Also by this time antibiotics hadn’t worked for years allowing the rapid spread of infectious diseases to the weakened population, and only the wealthy could afford to isolate themselves from the rest of the Americans that were sick or getting sick. And the vile, idiotic, Tea Party Patriots would nevertheless insist that it was just more liberal tree-huggers complaining about god’s plan, or some such drivel.
Lessons Not Learned in America
The once nearly bankrupt Eurozone, the UK, and even South American countries had banned the mentally deranged Americans from travelling to their countries. Oddly enough, it was these same areas of the world that learned their lesson just in time to save their own austerity-damaged, profit-driven economies while the stubborn and know-it-all Americans refused to admit the errors of their ways… until it was too late of course.
In 2030 – now, children, this is America a couple of dozen years years after the federal budget cuts known as sequestration were masqueraded before the hapless, mentally damaged Americans that were more concerned with new “apps” for their ridiculous smartphones than what was happening in their elected Congress. The cuts went on for a decade, despite warnings from berated economists who tried their best to educate the progressively lazier Americans. These Americans made no exceptions for effective programs that were already underfunded, like job training and infrastructure repairs. It was a very sad time. It wasn’t supposed to be this way…you understand that don’t you children? Right. Good .
“Sherman, pay attention. This is the part where the so-called Tea Party Patriots and their puppet masters began the real damage to the humans”
“OK Mr. Peabody.”
“Good boy, Sherman.”
“Now children, going back in time to 2013 – when the Sequester cuts began – no one knew what their impact would be, although nearly everyone across the political spectrum agreed it would be bad. Unfortunately for the Americans, a small group of wealthy businessmen had convinced a portion of the population that government, in any form, was bad and that government economics were somehow similar to individual or business economics. How the populace fell for that is still one of the major mysteries of that era.
Why? Because there was abundant and easily obtainable proof in Europe, the UK, and various other regions that austerity was a recovery-killer; albeit a slow, insidious one. Many individual Americans took to the internet, and wrote example after example in what were known as “blogs” –now remember that term children; it will be on the testing for you to get to the next grade–to try and warn otherwise clueless citizens of the folly of believing such propaganda outlets as FOX NEWS, the Heritage Foundation, and the Pete Peterson “Fix the Debt” Foundation.
The Tea Party was particularly susceptible to illogical and unscientific arguments because they believed the manipulatory rubbish that was passed off as “news” by the aforementioned propaganda arms of the wealthy bigots. Combined, they were actually intimate co-conspirators serving the relatively small group of wealthy power-hungry business magnates. Chief among the elite manipulators were the oil magnates known to most as simply as the Koch Brothers and a mysterious group of state and local advisers known only as ALEC who supplied most of the money and planning to bring down the government that had served the peoples’ will well, but for only a scant 200 years or so.
Now, children, do any of you need a bathroom break? Speak up, speak up if you do. No? Alright….continuing along then…now where was I? Oh yes.
As it happened, the first signs of unraveling which would, a decade later, leave the United States looking more like a third-world country, could be detected surprisingly quickly, just three months after the cuts began. In that brief time, a few government agencies, like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), after an uproar over flight delays, requested – and won – special relief from the Sequester budget cuts.
Naturally, the Department of Defense, with a mere $570bn to burn in its 2013 budget, also joined this “exemption” list.
On the other hand, critical spending for education, the elderly, the disabled, environmental protection and scientific research was not spared, and in many communities the effect was felt remarkably swift and had an enormous negative impact on the lives of the decent Americans who the Republicans described as takers, not makers,,whatever the hell that means…oops, sorry children for the profanity. Of course, the Tea Party Patriots cheered, sneered and got great joy from the suffering of their fellow Americans whom they saw as an inferior life form.
Pride Goeth Before The Fall
Robust public investment which had been a key to US prosperity in the previous century, was inexplicably ignored or downright neglected. It was once considered a basic part of the social contract and economics 101. As just about everyone knew prior to this time, citizens paid taxes to fund worthy initiatives that the private sector wouldn’t adequately or efficiently supply.
In the years leading up to this insanity, roadways and scientific research were shining examples of solid governmental undertakings, with interstate highways built and flights to the moon being the result of the government wishing to excel and to be proactive as leaders of the free world. In the post-WWII years, the country invested great sums in its interstate highways and what were widely considered to have the best education systems in the world, while research in well-funded government labs eventually led to inventions like the internet, a nascent entry into mas communication at the time. The resulting world-class infrastructure, educated workforce and technological revolution fed a robust private sector. But the scourge of the Tea Party kept picking away at the increasingly addled populace as a result of the slow chemical poisoning taking place from Monsanto and Dow Chemical.
And the confederates and Tea Party never stopped scheming. By the 1980s, the conservatives had once again gained a foothold with cunning, guile and using a second-rate actor with charisma and showmanship to lead the American sheep to believe in a brilliant con game known as “Supply-side Economics”. Again, you have to wonder how such a country with all the advantages the United States had could fall for such a crock of pure baloney.
De-regulations and protections put in place after a terrible economic downturn just a few decades prior–known as The Great Depression– were dismantled one after another, until another great economic tragedy hit. This one would prove to be too much for the educated economists to repair. Instead, they were ridiculed by ignorant and simple-minded memes that were easily sold to the gullible public over the mass medium called television.
Then The Fever Struck.
In the early years of the twenty-first century, a set of manufactured arguments for “austerity”(which literally meant self-denial), which had been gaining traction for decades, captured the Tea Party’s interest as a way to further punish and denigrate the less fortunate in their society which they saw as a drag on their own selfish desires. In 2011-2012, a U.S. Congress that seemed capable of doing little else passed trillions of dollars of what was then called “deficit reduction”, ignoring the damage this same exact strategy had done in the European cultures of the same time period.
One has to wonder at the abject daftness of the people of this era.
These across-the-board cuts in the governmental sector—set in motion by a political amalgamation concocted to manipulate the under-educated , fake grass roots movement calling itself The Tea Party Patriots–somehow took hold. The Tea Party quickly became pawns of an elaborate ruse by the power-hungry party known as Republicans to deride once-respected intelligence and empathy. And in August 2011, the Sequester was born and slated to kick in on January 2nd, 2013. Its intention was to be so damaging that the feuding political parties would have to work together rather than face the destructive across-the-board cuts of the Sequester.
Sequestration was never intended to take effect, but only to force stubborn and particularly unempathetic lawmakers to reason – ostensibly so that they would craft a less drastic plan to reduce the U.S deficits that had been pushed to the forefront of the population’s psyche as being the reason for all ills being suffered in the U,S. economy. As is now common knowledge, they, in fact, did not come to their senses. And with a weak,un-savvy, albeit well-meaning, President and a weaker liberal political party known as Democrats, gridlock set in and the die was cast.
Although Congress could have cancelled the cuts at any moment, the country never turned back and the downward spiral of recessionary economic contraction got a foothold and never let go.
It wasn’t that cutting federal spending at those levels would necessarily have been devastating in 2013, though in an already weakened economy any cutbacks would have hurt. Rather, sequestration proved particularly corrosive from the start because all types of public spending – from grants for renewable energy research to disadvantaged public schools to HIV testing – were to be gutted equally, as if all of it were just fat to be trimmed.
Even proven, effective monitoring systems for natural disasters, like flooding or volcanic eruption, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc., began to be shut down. Over time the cuts would be inescapable: $85bn in the first year and $110bn in each year after that, for more than $1tn in cuts over a decade on top of other reductions already in place.
Once lawmakers wrote sequestration into law they had more than a year to wise up. Yet they did nothing to draft an alternate plan and didn’t even start pointing out the imminent havoc until just weeks before the deadline. Then they gave themselves a couple more months – until 1 March 2013 – to work out a deal, which they didn’t. All this is, of course, ancient history, but even all these years later, the record of this brash recklessness is worth reviewing.
If you remember, they tweeted while Rome burned. Speaker of the House John Boehner, for instance, sent out dozens of tweets to say Democrats were responsible: “The president proposed sequester, had 18 mo. to prioritize cuts, and did nothing,” he wrote during many of his drunken stupors.
Of course he took no responsibility for letting the smallish faction of right-wing nutjobs under his so-called “leadership” lead him around by his orange nose.
As for his opposition party’s leader in the other chamber of governance, senate majority leader Harry Reid lamely tweeted back: “It’s not too late to avert the damaging #sequester cuts, for which an overwhelming majority of Republicans voted.” And that became the blueprint for a decade of American political gridlock. A sad, broken system that a mere shadow of its former greatness.
The Devastation Begins
Not surprisingly, the deadline came and went, and the budgetary axe began to fall.
At first, it didn’t seem so bad. Yes, the cuts weren’t quite as across the board as expected. The meat industry, for example, protested because health inspector furloughs would slow production lines, so Congress patched the problem and spared those inspectors. There was a sense that the cuts might not be so bad after all.
But as it happened, they didn’t have to wait long to discover the affect the cuts would begin to cause. The first of the destructive ripples began to spread quickly. “
One of the few geneticlly inferior children left in the world was in the back of the room was giggling and whispering to the little girl siting next to him,
“My great grand-daddy tole me that those liberals back then were fulla shit <chuckle>. He even called that b-b-black president, Obumma, a liar! hahahahahah”
Ms Weinstein-O’Hanrahan had no sympathy for slackers in her class however,
“MR. JOSEPH WALSH, IV! IF YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING TO INTERRUPT THIS CLASS YOU CAN THINK AGAIN. JUST MARCH YOURSELF DOWN TO PRINCIPAL HERNANDEZ’S OFFICE.”
As Mr. Joseph Walsh, IV walked down the steps toward the exit to Mr. Hernandez’s office, he was overheard muttering racial eptithets while digging boogers out of his filthy nostrils and eating them. Being his third such outburst during lectures, he would be sent off to the Re-indoctrination Center for the Mentally Deficient. Geneticists would try again to correct the genome structure of his geneticlly damaged brain cells. Despite his abhorrent tendencies, we all hoped he would fare better than his ancestors who all had been put down because of incurable stupidity.
Ms Weinsein-O’Hanrahan waited until Mr. Walsh had been escorted out of the auditorium, then continued.
“Now then. Where were we? Ah yes, the damage that began with the ill-advised Sequester cuts….
Cancer clinics in New Mexico and Connecticut turned away patients. In Missouri, Montana and New Mexico, shelters for victims of domestic violence were closed or went dramatically unfunded . In Massachusetts, Nevada and Alabama, public defenders were furloughed, limiting access to justice for low-income people. In Louisiana and Minnesota, public school teachers were laid off by the thousands. In North Carolina, Vermont and Mississippi, Head Start programs that benefited the poor shortened school years, while in Kansas and Michigan, low-income children simply lost access to school and healthcare entirely. In South Carolina, Rhode Island, Iowa, the Dakotas and Hawaii, substance abuse clinics shut down and thousands died needlessly.
The elderly were hit particularly hard because the Baby Boom generation was hitting its apex at this very point in time. Across the country, Meals on Wheels cut four million meals for seniors in need.
Only when the FAA imposed furloughs on its air traffic controllers did public exasperation threaten to boil over. Long lines and airport delays ensued, and people were angry. And not just any people – people who had access to members of Congress, not to mention the 3-day work-week privileged members of Congress who depended on flights to get to their homes where they could wield their status and favors for votes to keep their plush life-styles paid for by voters.
In a Washington that has gridlocked the most routine business, lawmakers moved at a rapid pace, taking just five days to pass special legislation to solve their, I mean the problem. To avoid furloughs and shorten waits for airline passengers(i.e., themselves), they allowed the FAA to spend funds that had been intended for long-term airport repairs and improvements. Flights left on time, the privileged do-nothing Congress wasn’t inconvenienced and everyone was happy – at least until runways cracked and crumbled and prices skyrocketed until only the wealthy were mobile.
The Pentagon, the military colossus of that era, in 2013 accounted for 40% of military spending globally and its outlays exceeded the next 10 largest militaries combined. But they also wanted a special exemption for some of its share of the cutbacks.
So in the end, meat inspectors, wealthy companies receiving subsidies, the FAA and the Department of Defense enjoyed special treatment, but the rest of the nation was not so lucky. Children from middle-class and low-income families saw ever fewer resources at school and doors of opportunity closed. The young, old and in poor health found themselves with diminishing access to basic resources, such as healthcare or a hot dinner. Federal grants to the states dried up, and there was less money in state budgets for local priorities, from police officers and firefighters to streetlights.
Looking back at a country that sank into eternal crisis, it’s clear that a rubicon was crossed back in 2013. There was then still a chance to reject across-the-board cuts that would undermine a nation built on sound public investment and shared prosperity.
At that crossroads, some fought against austerity. Losing that battle, others argued for a smarter approach: close unfair and discriminatory tax loopholes to raise new revenue, or reduce waste in health care, or place a tax on carbon, or cut excessive spending at the Pentagon.
But too few Americans – with too little influence – spoke up, and Republicans and the Tea Party would not have listened anyway. Canada rescued the United States from bankruptcy in 2035, saving the lives of hundreds of millions of starving, undernourished former Americans. The wealthy in America left to start their own country known as Kolobland, where polygamy was allowed and regulations and laws were set a local levels like they had always wanted. Not surprisingly, when the poorer Tea Party Patriots sought to join the wealthy Republicans in Kolobland, the wealthy had them eradicated calling them crude vermin and “sinners”.
And with that, the fourth grade class of Ms Shirley Weinstein-O’Hanrahan was given their next assignment, the study of another ancient history phenomenon known in its time as Facebook. It too was touted as a harmless social experiment that turned into a means for those in power to monitor and manipulate the masses. As the fourth-graders slowly exited the auditorium at Barack H. Obama grade school-Joplin, CanadAmerica, many of the children shook their heads and wondered aloud at the abject cruelty and primitive behavior of the Americans. “
“Golly Mr. Peabody, That was sad!”
“Indeed Sherman. It just goes to show you that haters, power-mongers and profit as the sole motivation can ruin even great societies. Now, set the Wayback Machine to go home Sherman. Time to get back to a happier time my boy.”
Harvey A. Gold