Cheering on the collapse of republican government


A business article in today’s Berlingske Tidende examines what the spending bill passed by the U.S. Congress means for Denmark.

The facts presented by the article are more or less accurate, but they’re served to the reader in a way that raises some interesting questions.

When the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, made a surprise visit to the American capital, Washington, DC, last week, it was of course primarily to cement the close ties between Ukraine and the United States and to ensure popular support for the large economic and military contribution to Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion.

The timing was hardly coincidental, because just before Christmas, virtually everything in Washington was about the finance bill, and among the most high-profile elements was a new $45 billion aid package for Ukraine.

The spending bill had a total price tag of $1.7 trillion. The Ukrainian aid package therefore represented only 2.65% of the bill.

While there is still broad support for the aid among Republicans in the Senate, it looks different in the House of Representatives. Zelenskyi’s visit turned the finance bill into a Ukraine bill, making the contrasts between the moderate forces and the Republican Trump wing even clearer ahead of Jan. 3, when Republicans take power in the House of Representatives.

That’s an interesting bit of journalisming. On the one hand, it’s freely acknowledged that Democrats brought Zelensky in to help them sell the bill. It implies that tying the bill to Ukraine’s dire situation was a shrewd bit of marketing.

The article suggests it’s the “Republican Trump wing” that was behaving badly in questioning the bill, even though the writer has already conceded the whole Ukraine angle was just a marketing ploy to push the bill through.

“Democrats came up with a scam to push the bill through and Republicans had the effrontery to resist the scam.”

And it gets worse:

The 4,155-page spending bill sailed through the Senate with a large majority and on Christmas Eve was passed by a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, almost entirely on Democratic votes. Few people have read what they are voting on, and it is not unusual for surprises to appear later when added priorities have to be implemented.

Maybe we ought to be a little more critical of legislators passing bills they haven’t read than we are of those who oppose them?

Are we supposed to applaud legislators for signing laws they haven’t read?

Is that really a good thing? Something we want to encourage?

I read somewhere that democracy was hanging by a thread in America: are we going to reclaim it by having our representatives pass laws whose contents they don’t even know?

We all know the answer to that question: Nancy Pelosi’s famous “you have to pass the bill to find out what’s inside it” was the quintessential expression of the left’s contempt for the electorate.

The passage means that the future Republican majority in the House of Representatives has been robbed of an important opportunity to wreak havoc, because the budget is one of the laws that must be passed. Without appropriations bills, the federal government must shut down.

Would it really “wreak havoc” to stomp on the brakes and demand our legislators read the bills they’re passing into law?

America has had government shutdowns in the past: the most notable thing about them has been how little they mattered.

Belgium recently went almost two full years without a government, and yet Belgium’s still a thing.

The Republicans are now going to block more or less all legislation, but it is not until next year’s increase in the debt ceiling that the possibility of political blackmail arises again. Without an increase in the debt ceiling, the state cannot meet its debt obligations.

The first part of that sentence is remarkably biased. Republicans are not going to “block more or less all legislation.” They’re going to block more or less all Democratic legislation—which is precisely what they were elected to do. Presumably they’ll try to pass legislation of their own, more or less all of which will be blocked from passage into law by the Democratic majority in the other house of Congress.

Is Berlingske going to lament that Republican legislation is being “blocked” by Democrats?

And what’s all this business about “political blackmail” at the end of that same sentence? Earlier in the article we were told that the leader of a war-torn nation had been hauled before Congress largely as a dog-and-pony show to force Republicans into supporting a bill they largely opposed. Wasn’t that just another form of political blackmail?

Wasn’t it almost explicitly said that Republican opposition to the Democrat’s bill signified love of Putin or hatred of democracy? That’s a rhetorical question. I wrote about that phenomenon just last week. It happened.

I’d like to see American Republicans make leglislative reform a centerpiece of their 2024 strategy. It would probably require a Constitutional amendment to make it a law, but they could at least offer a pledge: “Give us majorities in the House and the Senate, and put a Republican in the White House, and the Republican Party vows that it will only pass bills that deal with one issue and are less than a thousand words long.”

Wouldn’t that be novel? A government passing only laws that could be read and understood by the citizens who are its actual masters?

Ain’t gonna happen, I know, but it would be nice if journalists at least could recognize that there’s nothing to applaud and much to criticize in the people’s ostensible representatives passing laws they haven’t read. It’s self-evidently anti-democratic—and stupid.

And dangerous.

But I guess as long as Democrats are doing it, it’s just swell.