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Come on down and have a sit with me. Just a sit—a brief sit—so’s I can tell you a little story my daddy used to tell me when I was knee-high and tow-headed and didn’t know shit from Shinola about much of anything. Well, way back when, in those olden time days when folks lived out in the woods by themselves and there weren’t nothing to do but talk to animals and inanimate objects and such, there was this woodcutter. Now, back in those days there weren’t no such things as chainsaws and the like to chop trees down with, so he had to bring ‘em down with his own two hands and the help of a hefty axe. Only problem was, this woodcutter didn’t have an axe with him. Well, that’s not entirely true. The woodcutter had an axe head with him, but he didn’t have a handle, and without a handle an axe head’s nothing more than a cast iron doorstop.
So, the woodcutter lit off into the forest with his axe head in hand and walked along ’til he saw a grove of Oak trees in the distance. The woodcutter walked over to the grove and asked the trees if they’d be kind enough to spare him a small branch for his axe. The Oak trees huddled up and talked it over, eventually deciding there wouldn’t be no harm if they gave the man a little branch, especially if it didn’t come from one of them. “Go over that creek there and you’ll find a baby Ash tree”, the largest Oak told the woodcutter.“You can take one of its branches.”The woodcutter thanked the Oak and hopped over to the other side of the creek and tore one of the baby Ash’s branches from its trunk and ran home to whittle it into a proper handle. The next day, the woodcutter came back to the forest with his shiny new axe and chopped the ever-loving hell out of the big Oak that had given him the Ash branch. “Well,” the Oak tree said to his friends as the woodcutter chopped away at him, “I’m thinking maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to give that guy that branch.”
And that’s it. That’s the whole story and I think it’s a pretty damn good one myself. You see, I’ve always taken a shine to fables. Moralizing and chucking out life lessons and all that normally only works for me if somebody puts it in a nice story like that. Heck, even Jesus knew that much…or at least whoever wrote those parables down first did. Fables—parables—myths—these sorts of things stick around as long as they do because folks have a tendency to see all the flaws and mess-ups in other people before they do themselves. There ain’t no personal emotion in a fable. It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other if the tortoise beats the hare or if the boy who cried wolf gets ate up, so I’m able to see the message clearer.
I only bring this up in light of the passage late last night of a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill in the US House of Representatives. Dubbed the Cromnibus for it’s combination of 11 appropriations bills covering most of government spending for another year and a continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security until February, the bill squeaked through by a vote of 219 to 206 and will likely be passed by the Senate sometime in the next week. The Cromnibus caused a rift within the Democratic Party, with President Obama and 57 predominantly Blue Dog Democrats joining forces with House Speaker Boehner and all but 16 house Republicans to get the bill passed, while Senator Elizabeth Warren and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi led the fruitless charge to get the bill squashed.
The main reasons why the Cromnibus had most of the Democratic Party (and parts of the GOP) up in arms were two “policy riders” added at the 11th hour that would loosen campaign finance restrictions and cripple the already ailing Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act. On the campaign finance side, the Cromnibus has increased the amount that individual donors can give to a political parties and their congressional campaign committees from just under $100,000 to more than $750,000, a move that further turns the American political process into an Oligarchic farce, but is still not as bad as the Wall Street “reform” included in the bill. A portion of the Cromnibus, which was basically written by Citigroup lobbyists, would all but eliminate the “push-out provision” of Dodd-Frank, which was created to deter the risky derivatives trading that caused the 2008 financial collapse. More or less, it neuters Dodd-Frank and places America in a financial regulatory climate that’s pretty similar to what we had 6 years ago when Wall Street torpedoed the global economy.
Ultimately, the passage of the Cromnibus was the definition of everything that’s wrong with Washington: a 1,600 page bill that no one had time to read and fully digest that was filled with last-minute add-ins that had nothing to do with budgetary concerns and which ended in a “compromise” that nobody was really happy with outside of the entire financial sector and anyone willing to drop $775,000 on an election. The Obama administration has painted the Cromnibus as a successful compromise that kept the government running in the face of another shutdown and maybe that’s how they and a minority of House Democrats see it. However, in 5 or 10 years—no matter who is in the White House or who controls Congress—when the economy is knee-deep in another recession and the muckety-mucks at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase fly into town asking for trillions of dollars in government aide after recklessly investing the world into fiscal catastrophe, I want you to remember who it was that gave Wall Street the branch that made the axe that chopped the Oak down.