A Slow American Civil War?

Items today about

  • The debt ceiling crisis and the deficit scolds
  • This Modern World on teacher bots and the debt ceiling, among other things
  • How the latest mass shooting suggests an American ‘slow civil war’

NYT, Paul Krugman, 8 May 2023: The Cowardice of the Deficit Scolds

Krugman has long called out the deficit alarmists as oversimplifying things, perhaps deliberately (in order to cut funding for social programs), and as I recall his general argument is that the size of the deficit itself doesn’t matter so much as its relationship to the economy in general. Also, government isn’t run like a business, or a household; e.g. many households run deficits for years — mortgages. But let’s see if I can find more specific to quote from in this piece, which is oriented, of course, around the current debt ceiling ‘crisis,’ which is of course a crisis of the Republicans’ own making.

Few things about the looming crisis should come as a surprise. Anyone expecting a MAGAfied Republican Party, most of whose supporters don’t believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected, not to weaponize the debt limit — a strange feature of U.S. budgeting that allows Congress to pass spending bills, then refuse to pay for them — was delusional.

…Well no, nothing here about why the worry about the deficit, per se. But he does mention business organizations like “the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, [and] supposedly nonpartisan think tanks like the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget” and then says this, with some links to earlier columns.

Now, I used to mock these groups as the Very Serious People and deficit scolds, suggesting that their real agenda had more to do with shrinking social programs — and reducing tax rates! — than with genuine concerns about debt.

I will check out these earlier pieces to identify his argument about deficits. Also, I have his book Arguing with Zombies which has pieces about this…


As an aside, see the latest This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow. Can I link the image? I suppose so; someone did so this morning on Facebook. With comments about the debt ceiling.

“We also know that the ancient legislative branch engaged in ritualistic battle over something called the ‘debt ceiling!’ One political party was willing to risk a global economic meltdown in order to force budget cuts to social programs for the elderly — back when people actually survived to old age!”


Since compiling a bunch of links during my morning web browsing (a half hour plus beginning around 9am), this is the one that has struck me, mostly for its subtitle.

Salon, Chauncey DeVega, 9 May 2023: When a mass shooter is a white supremacist. Does it even matter?, subtitled “This is what America’s slow civil war looks like”

It’s difficult to keep track of all these mass shootings. Which one was this? Oh, the one at the Texas outlet mall. The shooter jumped out of his SUV in the parking lot and starting shooting randomly (there’s video of this, with a huge black truck in the foreground pulling out of its parking space and driving away quickly). The assailant used an AR-15 assault-style rifle, of course, and was identified as one Mauricio Garcia. Right wing sites like Newsmax did a cursory google search and posted photos of the wrong Mauricio Garcia (Forbes). But we expect nothing more from them.

But my interest here is the idea of a “slow civil war.” Maybe no armed rebellion — the split between red and blue states is absurd (see my 22 Feb post) — but slow cultural trends that go one way in some states, the other way in other states.

(The article criticizes the New York Times for obscuring, behind language like “the motive for the attack remains unclear,” the shooter’s motivations, when all sorts of evidence points to the shooter being a white supremacist with neo-Nazi beliefs. But that’s an aside. Salon has a fairly left perspective (and I try to take this into account), while NYT tries to be middle-ground and impartial, no matter what the right-wing thinks; NYT is criticized from both directions.)

Here’s what the article says, by pointing to an earlier Salon piece: “After Trump comes others”: Author Jeff Sharlet explains why “neofascists are not going to stop”, subtitled: “It’s worse post-Trump than it was during Trump’s presidency”

I think what we understand is that these neofascists are not going to stop, because why would they stop? The pleasure is in transgression. The pleasure is in going further. There is no ideological position to which they are loyal. There is no policy to which they’re loyal. They’re going to keep going. There is no movement per se but transgression. And as soon as something becomes normal, they’ll go further. The folks who imagine “Handmaid’s Tale” as the end zone, no, whatever it is, you have to go further. Now, this is the good news too, because a movement of ultimate transgression is going to burn out. As a society and country, America is going to experience and have to go through fascism. We’re not in it now. There’s a fascist movement now. It drives me crazy. People say, “Well, it’s not like the Hitler regime.” No, it’s not. That was a regime. We don’t have a fascist regime. We could with a fascist movement. It’s worse post-Trump than it was during Trump’s presidency.

Well, maybe. The article ends,

There will be much more blood. America’s slow civil war continues, and it may likely soon speed up and explode with Donald Trump’s second run for the White House. To this point, they’ve been largely undeterred and in no way stopped.

You have been warned – again.


What I do see happening is not a build-up to a literal civil war — how would that work, all the yokels from the red states somehow bringing down the big blue cities? And taking over a government they don’t understand? — but a dissolution, or partition, of the states into various flavors of red and blue. The assemblage of states into one hue or another will mean that people will not be able to travel among them with adjustments to their behavior and outlook. Sort of as in that movie Green Book. In some states you are free; in others you need to clamp down and conform. That’s the future of the US.

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