The tramps were burning a sofa in the fountain.”
I've always laughed at that line, from Charles Portis’ Masters of Atlantis, for its precise allegory of a civilization brought low. He’s talking about a mansion once magnificent enough to warrant a fountain; now here are some barbarians igniting the furniture for no particular reason. It’s better than “Ozymandias,” really.
I thought of it again while reading this piece in the New York Times. It explains how the government shutdown is not really an outgrowth of stupidity and foolish pride, as you’d think, but is the explicit goal a years-long strategy by certain of America’s uber-wealthy (spoiler alert: The Brothers Koch) to persuade the ignorant to destroy their own comforts.
It’s a nice bit of reporting, and depressing too, as all good reporting should be. I know smart people can persuade stupid people to do pretty much anything, but I’m still a little fuzzy on why billionaires like the Kochs even care whether the poorest Americans are able to afford health insurance.
What am I missing here? We’re not talking about buying everybody a swimming pool, for crying out loud. Aren’t the One Percent pretty much immune to the trifling concerns of the teeming masses? Why would they spend millions opposing something that might — worst-case scenario — cost them thousands?
I don’t know. But if you can believe John Boehner, it does look like the tramps have decided to burn the sofa. In the fountain.
(By the way, I’ve decided to pronounce Boehner’s surname as “Boner” for the duration of the shutdown. Or perhaps permanently, depending on how things go. Who’s with me?)