What Monty Python Can Teach Conservatives About Sequester Politics

A friend of mine recently pointed out that there is such a thing as a Monty Python YouTube channel, apparently begun by the group's surviving members because they were tired of “getting ripped off” by unauthorized postings of their movies and TV shows.

Where have I been on this? I love Monty Python, and I had no idea. The channel was begun in 2008, and so far has over a quarter million subscribers. Thanks to the channel, the viewer can watch all those hilarious Python bits, gags and scenes. Comedy nirvana, with the only price being the viewing of a brief antacid commercial.

One of my favorite Monty Python movies excerpted on the channel is Life of Brian. The film's stoning scene is actually very instructive for today’s Republican party. In fact, a comment made by the person about to be stoned should be front and center in the mind of every Republican who ever proposes cuts in government spending.

Sounds a little far-fetched, but let me explain.

The scene starts like this: in Jerusalem, 33 AD, a man is brought in front of a crowd holding stones, and a magistrate announces the defendant’s name and the conviction of blasphemy. The sentence will be death by stoning.

The magistrate yells out the charge of “blasphemer,” as the man was caught saying the name of Jehovah, and angrily points at the defendant. The defendant explains that he was merely complimenting his wife’s cooking, saying it was “good enough for Jehovah.” The crowd gasps, ready to start the stoning, and the magistrate yells “he said it again!” The prisoner says “what, Jehovah?” The magistrate shouts “hey, you’re only making it worse for yourself!” To which the man says “how can it get any worse?”

Then he begins dancing and crying out “Jehovah! Jehovah!” to the outraged crowd. But you can’t really blame the guy. If ever he had any inclination to say the name “Jehovah” out loud, he might as well say it now and as many times as he wants. He is about to get stoned to death for saying it anyway. At this point he really has nothing to lose, and it certainly won’t get worse than getting stoned to death.

Fast forward to the summer of 2011, in Washington, D.C., when President Barack Obama proposes, and the Republican House agrees to, a series of “sequester cuts” as a way to delay definitive action on raising the debt limit that was about to be exceeded.

The deadline eventually agreed to: March 1, 2013, conveniently after the 2012 elections, which would lead to automatic budget cuts unless a deal is agreed to before then. If no other agreement were made, the federal government would spend $85 billion less this fiscal year than originally planned, followed by $1.2 trillion cuts in increased spending over the next 10 years, half from defense spending and half from domestic programs.

Very few people thought that the sequester date would come and go without a new debt limit deal. Well, it did. In the days shortly before the spending cuts went into effect, polls showed that most Americans blamed Republicans for the sequester. Almost immediately after the cuts went into effect, White House tours were canceled, “due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration.” Republicans got the blame.

The sequestration was listed as the reason to cut spending in food inspections, Head Start, Meals On Wheels, schools in military communities, and, most recently, the staffing of flight controllers, causing flight delays all over the country. In all the sequester cuts, even though the administration made sure the public felt the pain of any spending cuts, Republicans were still blamed. Yet the cuts amounted to a total of 2.5 percent of total federal spending.

Granted, with current annual deficits of more than $1 trillion, spending cuts are needed, or, in this case, a reduction in the growth of spending. But if this is the way to cut bloated government spending, it is small potatoes indeed, despite so much blame being thrown around. Kind of like the man sentenced to be stoned to death for blasphemy, all because he said his wife’s cooking was “good enough for Jehovah.”

And this is how the man about to be stoned in Life of Brian so closely resembles today’s Republicans. For the minor misdeed of cutting spending a mere 2.5 percent, Republicans are sentenced to be metaphorically stoned in the polls. No doubt there are some Republicans in Congress who would like to make deeper cuts---this year’s federal deficit is still projected to be $900 billion, you know--but others in the GOP are probably counseling them “not to make things politically worse.”

But truly, how can things be any worse for Republicans?

Republicans need to kick up their feet and sing “Jehovah! Jehovah!” and propose even steeper spending cuts. They are getting the blame anyway, so why not make the cuts that really need to be made? So that is the plan, Republicans. Make the cuts that need to be made to get this budget in balance, and take your PR stoning like a man. After the blame you have gotten for these current minuscule cuts, you really have nothing more to lose. And the country will be much better off as a result.


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