Powers that Would be Maneuvering in the Shadows

Nothing seems to make sense this morning. Congress has apparently gone crazy. The government is paralyzed. The political “news” is a ritualistic stage show where opposing “talking points” are endlessly exchanged.

On CNN, a woman with the unlikely first name of Poppy is asking “hard questions” about Obamacare. Why won’t the government tell her how many people have enrolled, she asks – over and over and over.  One after the other, weary sounding spokespersons tell her the information isn’t available yet because this kind of thing takes time. But she can’t get her head around the idea that it might take a while to gather and sort a flood of data from 50 states with a total population of more than 300 million. Her voice reflects lingering suspicion that someone is covering up something.

Meanwhile the polls show Americans are fed up. They blame everybody for the government shutdown and the threatened default on America’s debts. Everyone. Republicans are the most to blame, the polls show, but a lot of folks blame the Democrats, and 53 percent blame the President. Fifty-three percent! The numbers don’t add up, though. If I remember accurately, the Republicans also get more than 50 percent of the blame and the Democrats’ share is in the high forties.

I suppose that means Americans don’t really know which one actor in the current political drama wears the black hat. They suspect more than one – prhaps all of them. There’s so much talk. So much blame. So much spin.

Behind the scenes, dark forces maneuver. Occasionally, the media offer a fleeting glimpse of a shadowy figure or two. The Koch brothers – once again – get caught in the New York Times spotlight. But we know about the Koch Brothers.  We are not surprised that the coal-and-oil billionaires are scheming to block implementation of health care reform legislation. Of course it’s their money that paid for those disgusting ads showing a leering Uncle Sam as a deviate gynecologist and proctologist. In these perverse times it does not even seem strange that billionaire philanthropists who build opera houses also fund political pornography.

From the Far East comes muted word of a trade deal that could undermine American workers once again. According to reports, President Obama is one of the world leaders crafting the pact. No, I did not get this from a right-wing web site. It’s from Democracy Now, one of the few surviving sources of liberal commentary.

Here’s the introduction to Amy Goodman’s Friday program:

As the federal government shutdown continues, Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Asia for secret talks on a sweeping new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is often referred to by critics as “NAFTA on steroids,” and would establish a free trade zone that would stretch from Vietnam to Chile, encompassing 800 million people — about a third of world trade and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. While the text of the treaty has been largely negotiated behind closed doors and, until June, kept secret from Congress, more than 600 corporate advisers reportedly have access to the measure, including employees of Halliburton and Monsanto. “This is not mainly about trade,” says Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “It is a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establishing new powers for corporations.”

I’ve been hearing disturbing snippets about this pact. Ed Schultz, who is back on MSNBC, has been grumbling about the effect on American unions – and American jobs, for example. And other progressive pundits are worried about the secret surrender of American sovereignty to global corporations.

I am absolutely certain that President Obama would not knowingly conspire to harm his country. But I am also sure  President Clinton meant well when he led Americans into NAFTA. And look how that turned out.

It’s easy to spot bad guys like the Koch Brothers, but it’s a lot harder to tell when the good guys are being led down the garden path.

In these murky times, it’s impossible to know what’s really going on in those shadowy corridors of power.

Click here for the Democracy Now transcript.

Click here for the New York Times story.

Click here for more on the Koch brothers.