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The Terrible Trio: Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump & Paul Ryan

The Terrible Trio: Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump & Paul Ryan (image cc/DonkeyHotey)

When Reality Exceeds Satire

John Atcheson

About 30 years ago, I tried to write a Swiftian satire. Nothing heavy, my target was designer jeans, which had become popular even though they used cheaper, thinner material than old-fashioned Levis, but charged more than 3 or 4 times their price. Did I say popular? Stores couldn’t keep them in stock.

So I made up a designer product that I thought was the ultimate in absurdity – jeans that had been worn by real cowboys, complete with patches, rips, and stains – sold at four times the price of Levis.

I was explaining to my then teenage daughter how a satire is meant to expose people’s foibles using humor, exaggeration or irony. She informed me that this was already going on “for real,” as she put it. Turns out, she was right, but the price tag for these damaged jeans was actually five times what you’d pay for a pair of sturdy new Levis.

Sometimes, reality outraces our capacity for satire.

Well, the Trump White House, the Republican Congress, and the states controlled by Republicans – which includes most of them – are a lot like those cowboy jeans, except there’s nothing funny about it.

In fact, Swift himself would have a hard time keeping pace with these moral midgets.

The whole Washington scene resembles an adult version of a zombie apocalypse.

We can start with the White House where we’ve got Moochy, brought in to stabilize the place, running around like a coke-crazed meth freak stabbing his fellow White House staff in the back, and giving unhinged profanity-laced rants to staid magazines like the New Yorker. You’ve got people jumping ship – or getting pushed off -- like rats from the Titanic with Priebus only the latest of 15 senior level departures from the Trump White House. Then there’s Trump himself doing a daily backstab on Jeff Sessions, in between tweets so completely psychotic you’d swear someone was making them up. Meanwhile, we’ve got a President who as a candidate, excoriated the revolving door between plutocrats and government in general and Goldman Sachs in particular, who’s put the revolving door on super spin, and just can’t seem to get him enough Goldman guys in his administration.

You’ve got Mitch McConnell spending virtually all the Senate’s time sabotaging the nation’s health so he can further redistribute wealth – upwards, of course -- while calling it health “care.”

You’ve got the Democrats who could have a clear path to victory by simply embracing progressive values, refusing to do so.

You’ve got States going belly-up because nothing trickled down when the magic elixir of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy once again failed to deliver. So, of course, we’ve got Republicans at the federal level advocating the same magic formula of tax cuts for the rich and corporations that’s failed at the federal level three times now, in addition to failing at the state level.

And finally, you’ve got “we, the people,” re-electing 97 percent of House incumbents and 93 percent of Senate incumbents, even though about three quarters of us disapprove of Congress’s performance.

In short, we have a national food fight on our hands, with all the decorum of a junior high cafeteria gone awry.

And the establishment media just loves it. Oh, yes, they cluck their disapproval of the antics, but they’re on it 24/7.

Meanwhile, stories that are far more important than our national food-fight aren’t getting much daylight. But, hey, the elite media’s job isn’t to report the news, it’s to generate revenue, and nothing does that like a train wreck.

But while we read all about the food fight, there’s almost no back-bench in our government agencies. Most are hollow shells with only a few political hacks in critical appointed positions.

So what?

Well, from national defense to climate change to environmental protection, our ship of state is rudderless at a time when we’re crossing dangerous straits.

For example, at NOAA, DOE and EPA, a few political hacks are gutting climate and energy programs and converting educational efforts into propaganda. This is a huge deal, and threatens our economy, our environment, indeed, our very existence.

Case in point, at DOE, Rick Perry requested a report on the electrical grid to support his claim that renewable energy and regulations were making the electrical grid less reliable. But when the scientists' draft of the report found that renewables actually increased the gird’s resilience and worse, that coal and nuclear plants were no longer economical, his political minions rewrote the final report to say pretty much the opposite. Can’t let reality and science get in the way of political bias.

The same report found that energy efficiency was saving the nation more than half a trillion dollars – but Perry’s politicized version of the study buried the finding. No wonder, with Perry’s budget request cutting energy efficiency programs to the bone and boosting fossil fuel budgets.

Meanwhile, over at NOAA, the press release for this year’s annual greenhouse gas inventory showed us headed for yet another record level of atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gasses, but NOAA omitted any mention of the fact that human use of fossil fuels was the main source of those emissions.

And at EPA, Pruitt is trying to assemble a "red team" to resurrect the climate “debate” at a time when no one is debating the science. In fact, the main debate these days is how much time we have left before facing irrevocable catastrophe.

Then there’s the fact that Trump has left senior positions at DOE’s Nuclear Security Administration empty, and the administration rudderless.

Climate change and nuclear weapons are existential issues – they alone have the capacity to wipe out civilization as we know it. And both are in the hands of ignorant political hacks.

Hard to get a laugh out of that – and just as hard to come up with a satirical riff on it.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson, 1948-2020, was a long-time Common Dreams contributor, climate activist and author of, "A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, "WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track". John was tragically killed in a California car accident in January 2020.

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