One of the things I try to do is to make a distinction between ignorance and stupidity. Everyone is ignorant about something, or even many things. Ask me about quantum physics, and I’ll be able give you a brief “Popular Science” summary, but not in any way, shape, or form will I have a real knowledge of it, particularly the math. There’s a host of things I’m ignorant of, and I’m quite aware that I’m ignorant about them, as well as that I’m ignorant about things that I’m unaware exist. Ignorance is correctable. I can learn, and after working on that, I won’t be ignorant any longer about that particular thing. Stupidity is something else. It’s not just ignorance, although that can be a factor, it’s unwillingness to learn, even from experience. The old saying “once burned, twice shy” means that you learned something. You get burned, and you’re careful around heated items in the future. Stupidity is “just how many times do you have to be burned to know that hot items will burn you?” In reading through various news reports after the shutdown was ended, I realize that there is a group of Republicans in Congress who are giving stupidity a real workout.
In my last post, I talked about the initial reaction of many conservatives that the shutdown was “a good thing,” only to find out that it wasn’t … for them. There was a lesson from back in March when the sequester, an across the board cut took effect. Suddenly things that many conservative areas, and in particular many conservative politicians, took “for granted” turned out to be not just government funded, but unnecessary. Suddenly that park your constituents depend on for business was opening late, the airport you use to fly home with doesn’t have an air traffic controller, local businesses and schools feel the pinch as military base cut spending, and it turned out that an awful lot of people wanted those things. I said back then that
Well, they asked for it, and they’re getting it. And they’re screaming their heads off about it. Maybe the lesson will sink in this time, or it’ll have to be repeated.
It didn’t. The same politicians went right ahead and pushed a government shutdown, and took the country to the brink of default, because, depending on which story they were using at the moment, they had to stop Obamacare or stop runaway government spending, etc., etc., etc. The sequester’s lesson that their areas were disproportionately dependent on government spending didn’t sink in, and once again they got burned again, along with their constituents. “Necessary aid” didn’t arrive, parks closed, needed permits weren’t available, expected funding didn’t arrive, idled government workers stopped spending, and you know what? It was once again the “solid red” areas that took the brunt.
Now the shutdown has ended and the debt limit has been raised, and what did they gain from that? Nothing. So what lesson did they learn?
For a certain block of House conservatives, the ones who drove Speaker John Boehner toward a government shutdown and near-default against his will, the lesson of the last few weeks isn’t that they overreached. Not that they made unachievable demands, put their leadership in an impossible position, damaged their party’s position with the public and left a deep uncertainty about whether the GOP conference can recover and legislate.
No, what they’re taking away from the 2013 crisis is: They didn’t go far enough.
Seriously. If only they had been “truly conservative” and stood together, they really believe that they would have “won.” That despite warnings from economists, business leaders, financiers, and just about everyone else that defaulting on the federal debt would be disastrous, it would be not like that at all. It would bring stability to the world markets, even! That’s besides the problems the shutdown was causing in their home districts, along with the tanking of the Tea Party brand with most voters.
Despite several examples that government is necessary, that it’s a “bad thing” to let the government default on its debt (even unconstitutional), they still believe that the shutdown was a good thing and that default wouldn’t have had any real impact. Which is a failure to learn from experience, despite getting burned numerous times. That’s stupidity. Which leads me to the title of this post. There’s a group of these people sitting in Congress. We should stop calling them conservatives, or Tea Party Republicans, and call them what they really are: The Just Plain Stupid Caucus. Because that’s what they are, just plain stupid.