Barely a week in, but how is 2024 looking for you? And now that 2023 is in the rear-view, how do you remember it?
As the country has slowly and surely recovered from the pandemic years, "Bidenomics" has slowly and surely pulled us away from economic turmoil. The almost universally predicted recession never happened, and it was due to take place twenty minutes after President Biden was sworn in. The markets have steadily climbed and remained strong. Unemployment is lower than it has been in half a century. Inflation has been a problem, to be sure, but coming out of the Covid years, the U.S. has done better in controlling inflation and shown greater growth in GDP than any other Western country.
Inflation has had an effect. (Notably, once prices rose, producers and distributors kept high prices even as supply became available.) Past the various supply chain problems and high demand that caused most of the inflationary spikes directly after the pandemic, the biggest long-term inflationary factor has been real estate and rental prices. Interest rates are high (set by the fed to counter inflation) and wealthy investors and venture capital have gobbled up real estate in urban areas across the country. Once captured, institutional investors can set insanely high rental rates, or put homes and apartments into short-term rentals. High rents and pumped-up housing prices (accompanied by those high-interest rates) have put a hurt on a lot of Americans. When your rent increases by four or five hundred dollars a month, and finding an affordable house to buy becomes impossible, there is little leftover for food, fun, and the ever-rising cost of health care.
(Insurance rates, due to climate change storms and fires are also adding to homeowners' and landlords' monthly headache.)
But if you gather your knowledge from conservative media, we're in the midst of the Great Depression. Body carts are being wheeled through the streets collecting the bodies of dead children whose parents could no longer afford to feed them. We're in the worst economic downturn in history (Fox and Friends will tell you) and no escape is in sight, unless Donald Trump, the Orange Jesus, is re-elected.
In 2023 Donald Trump became the first president to face criminal charges, indicted with 91 state and federal felony counts. This, of course, makes him the obvious front-runner (by almost 50 points) to be the Republican nominee for president.
But let's not talk about Trump. God knows you'll hear his name every day from now until the election, and unless things take a turn for the better, you might be hearing his name for the next five years. In other news:
2023 saw Tom Brady retire, (no really.)
Prince Charles got hitched in a ceremony described by many as "big."
The Supreme Court did away with Affirmative Action, while Justice Thomas and Samuel Alito have accepted gifts and vacations worth millions from wealthy benefactors who have cases before the court. (Conservatives remind us that these are not bribes, per se, but just a sign of respect.) The justices "don't want a lot. Just enough to wet their beaks."
After making his deal with the devil to be Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy won after the 15th ballot in January 2023. In October - not even a full year later - the devil (in the form of Matt Gaetz) came for his due. Gaetz decided to exercise the "fukk-u" clause in McCarthy's contract by repeating the phrase "Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-boo-boo" three times on the House floor, thereby removing ole Kev' from office. After Congress all but shut down for a couple of months during their desperate effort to find someone more horrific than McCarthy, they finally elected Mike Johnson, an obscure little election-denying weasel from Louisiana. Hailing from the relatively obscure dominionist faction of the House, Johnson has turned out to be more self-righteous than the uber-pious Mike Pence.
Who can forget Bud-Lite's fall from Conservatives' grace? Annheisser Busch set Republicans' hair on fire when they sent over a six-pack to an internet "influencer" who happened to be a trans-woman. The ensuing boycott crashed Busch's stock price and left Republicans without their beer, and, from a previous boycott, without football.
Fortunately for the NFL, ratings climbed back up through the retractable roof when it was discovered that Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was dating Taylor Swift. (Heh-heh, Taylor is dating a TIGHT END! Heh-heh!) TV viewers and stadium goers alike kept their eyes and cameras fixed on the VIP boxes, hoping to to get a glance of Ms. Swift who was busy calling plays for the Chiefs. As a result, the Chiefs are currently (as of this writing) in first place in the AFC West. No one is quite sure what their win/loss record is. It doesn't matter, Taylor Swift is there. From the Toronto Star:
The NFL has 27 million followers on Instagram; Swift has 273 million, or two or three times a Super Bowl audience. Swift’s Eras Tour is projected to generate $2.2 billion (U.S.) in North American ticket sales alone, and as much as $5 billion in economic activity, before she heads to Europe, Asia, and Australia. She could match the NFL’s annual take-home by the time she’s done.
There were other, very serious stories:
The Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas brazenly attacked Israel and killed over 1300 people, including women and children, and took over a hundred hostages, many of whom are still missing today. This resulted in a massive retaliation by Israel, who have for all practical purposes, leveled many parts of Gaza. They have not spared civilians in their retribution. It's a mess, the kind you can only find in the Middle East.
Wildfires destroyed Hawaii's old capital.
Hunter Biden was indicted for some alleged criming.
Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female SCOTUS justice, passed away.
But the big story of the year, the one that everyone talks about, the one that we can't get enough of:
SANTOS! SANTOS! SANTOS!
Sure, good Christian disciple Lauren Boebert was caught on camera illegally vaping in an upscale Denver theater during a live production of "Beetlejuice." She and her date (a Democrat, no less,) engaged in consensual mutual groping with a side order of fondling before they were unceremoniously tossed from the venue. That was a lot of fun, especially since she enjoys sanctimoniously preaching selective morality to others. Known to be adversarial and a master debater, it was nice that she reached across the aisle to offer a Democrat a hand. But honestly, LB pales in comparison to our favorite Congressperson this last year.
You know him, you love him, you can't hear enough about him. George, "Kitara Ravache" Santos. George was elected in 2022 to represent New York's Third Congressional District. After the election, he was immediately accused of lying about <gestures wildly everywhere.>
George claimed, among other things that:
He earned a college degree. Nope.
His mother survived 9/11. She wasn't even in the country.
His grandparents fled the Holocaust. Uh, they were Brazilian.
As a result, he claimed to be Jewish. Nope. And when confronted about this, he claimed he said 'Jew-ish.'
He worked for Goldman Sachs. Ha-ha-ha!
He earned 750K. Hmmmm, no, not that either.
Then the fun really began. A liar/grifter of Mr. Santos' caliber saw that his skills could make him a Republican superstar. He immediately started raising money for his next campaign. And by "raising money," I mean, "stealing money." He has been charged with, among other things:
Reporting to the Federal Elections Commission that he had loaned his campaign $500,000. (Nope. Hell, he had less than 8K in his bank account.)
Stole his own campaign donor's identities and used their credit cards to charge over 40K in goods and cash.
He would transfer that money to his personal bank account.
He took funds earmarked for campaign expenses and bought designer clothes and other goods and services for personal use.
He illegally obtained unemployment benefits meant for Americans who lost work because of the pandemic.
He faked a campaign loan to gain more support from the RNC.
Santos took the example that Donald Trump had given Republicans everywhere and exceeded all expectations. Sure, he was a little sloppier in the execution of his schemes, more careless in how he covered his tracks, but he got himself elected. And when questioned about the discrepancies, he cried out, "witch hunt!" (Sound familiar?)
The lying and the grift was brazen, but not terribly out of line for the party of Trump. It wasn't until the allegations of theft of his donor's money became known that there was even a hint that he should resign. You could hear party members defend him, or defend his right to legal process (though by then the illegality of his shenanigans were obvious) up until the time that the indictments rolled in. Only then did they demand his resignation, and eventually expelled him. (Not unanimously, of course. He still had an "R" vote to offer the House, when needed.)
For those who cynically suggest (and some of the time, justifiably) that "both parties are guilty of similar crimes and never pay the price,) let's remember U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) from this year. He has been credibly accused of taking massive bribes (we're talking gold bars, cash, a luxury car) to use his power to benefit foreign governments. The guy was practically a Republican about it. Unlike the GOP, though, Democrats almost immediately began to demand his resignation, and they did so publicly and without a succession plan in place. (Menendez is fighting the charges and has refused so far to resign.)
Sure, Santos was only aping the Big Orange Goon's bad example, though without as much style and none of the lawyer/PR budget that his mentor has. And other than eye-rolling and a few of the old guard muttering about the disgrace of it all, they let it continue until they suddenly didn't. There are plenty of Republican officeholders who have been accused of disgusting acts and serious crimes. "Witch Hunts!" Why did they finally chuck him under the bus, while protecting miscreants like Rep. Jim Jordan, Congressman Matt Gaetz, and of course, the Mango Molester from Mar-a-Lago?
Did you see the photos above? Of a much prettier George Santos dressed in red feathers? Yeah, maybe that has something to do with it. Edwin Edwards, a former governor of Louisiana known for his deep corruption and quick wit, once claimed (as he was barreling toward his election in 1983,) "The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy." That's still mostly true in Republican circles, but I would amend that and add "or caught in a feathered up, spangly red dress at a drag parade in Rio de Janeiro." It had become apparent that Santos was gay, and that can be somewhat tolerated in Republican circles if you stay in the closet or at least remain discreet, though that is becoming riskier all the time. (Think of that sad, misguided group of LGBT conservatives known as the "Log Cabin Republicans." They rarely get invited to the big people's table.) But you don't get to be seen in heels and lipstick at the drag time story hour.
Sad? Yes. The drag performer Eula Rochards who outed "Kitara Ravache" (George Santos' performer name) was fairly surprised to hear that he was a Republican. “It’s marvelous work [to be a drag queen]. He can’t discriminate against what he himself did, and if he does he is discriminating against me!” Sadly, Santos is a member of the Republican Party, the machine that makes discrimination a calling card. Santos even went so far as to recently post a social media message supporting Ron DeSantis' Florida policies banning the teaching of sexual orientations and gender identities in schools. He accused Dems of “wanting to groom our kids." Sorry, Eula.
Santos jumped into action after his expulsion from the House. He opened up a "Cameo" account (the app celebrities use to sell little audio and video snippets of themselves) and claimed he's made more money there than his six-figure salary in Congress.
He's also admitted that he may be trying to make a plea deal regarding the federal charges he faces. A trial might be a bit risky, facing a jury of folks who don't like to be scammed by well-paid politicians. A plea deal might avoid the real possibility of jail time.
If he does get tossed into the pokey, he might make some new friends who like spangly red dresses trimmed in feathers.
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And Happy New Year, y'all. Buckle up. Wear your feathers. It's gonna be a doozy.
Editor's Note: an earlier edition of this piece misidentified the former Governor of Louisiana as Edwin Evans. His name was Edwin Edwards. The article has been corrected. The Texas Outlaw Writers regret the error. Heads have rolled.