It's official: the nation's policy wonks are obsessed with Captain America: The First Avenger. Sure, to some it's just a comic book movie that grossed $65.8 million over the weekend. But to policy wonks, the tale of Steve Rogers and the top secret research project that transformed him into Captain America is the perfect springboard for talking about the debt ceiling impasse, financing foreign wars, or 1940s segregation in the military. Behold: the wonkification of Captain America:
Captain America tackles the debt impasse Jim Moret at The Huffington Post has decided that Captain America is the only one who can save us from economic calamity. "His ideology is simple. It is not influenced by politics nor an allegiance based on lines on a map. He is driven by the principles of right over wrong," he writes. "Even when he is given superhuman strength, the Captain's main weapon is not a gun, but a shield, as he consistently sees his duty as one of protection. I wish we had such a champion in America right now, when we clearly need one." Good thought, Jim.
Captain America explains financing a foreign war While theater audiences were thinking about how boss the special effects of Captain America's Nazi-fighting battles scenes were, Think Progress blogger Matt Yglesias had his mind on the various incentives governments provide citizens to sacrifice during a war effort. "You see in the film that in order to fight and win a war, you need to be able to finance a war. And this is a multi-dimensional process. On the one hand you have patriotic exhortations to lend money to the government at sub-market rates. On the other hand, even as fighting men volunteer to risk their lives, scientists Howard Stark and Abraham Erskine are doing their own wartime service rather than focusing their energies on finding erectile dysfunction treatments."
Captain America forgets about segregation This is less of a "what Captain America can teach us" example, but we're including it as part of the general trend of Captain America debate. The American Prospect's Adam Serwer had one thing on his mind during the summer blockbuster: racial segregation in the military in the 1940s. "The cinematic version, which places the Howling Commandos under the authority of Captain America, gives an oblique reference to segregation through a shoutout to Jones's attending historically black Howard University but does not otherwise refer to segregation in any way," he writes. "That's because in the film, segregation doesn't even seem to have happened. White and black soldiers are shown serving together without incident, erasing one of the moral complexities of World War II--that American service members defeated a murderous racist dictator even as America was upholding a system of racial apartheid at home."
Captain America plays wonky professor National Journal's ace columnist Major Garrett took a decidedly geeky turn this month, appropriating the hero to explain the "vagaries of the debt crisis." He set up a faux-deb-crisis hotline between caller (read: a political novice) and Captain America (The Great Explainer of all things wonky):
Caller: Are we going to default?
CA: Not yet.
Caller: Is that all you’ve got?
CA: I have a shield and a cool uniform, and that’s more than President Obama and Congress have on the debt ceiling.
Caller: A lot of good that does. Don’t you care about the stock market, interest rates, unemployment, and a weak economy that could get worse if they don’t solve this?
CA: Of course I do. But I explain. Politicians and voters who elect them solve.
Caller: Can you explain Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s plan? I just heard about it on the radio.
CA: It’s not the solution, but in a nutshell it gives Obama an immediate increase in the debt ceiling to avoid a default. All he has to do is agree, up front, that increases in the debt ceiling must be accompanied by spending cuts, not tax increases. And he’s got to put his spending cuts in writing—dollar for dollar—for each debt ceiling increase: $700 billion, then $900 billion, and then another $900 billion.