Especially if you’re a Democrat.
Did I say I was going to keep politics out of this blog? If I did, I reserve the right to an exception.
I just finished scanning the online version of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and took in as much of the Readers’ Comments as I could stand. I am hopeful that the comments from the right represent a minority fringe, but I have my doubts. I come from a state that elects Michele Bachmann, after all, and has an entire cast of like-minded bit players behind her. We even have a knuckle head governor, Tim Pawlenty, who is who he is today because of the progressive policies of better government all of us — rich and poor alike — enjoyed thirty years ago. Timmy has grown up, however, and moved from his roots in South St. Paul both in a real physical way, but in an even more profound and real ideological way.
And I fear that the country has done the same. I might have been getting at that idea when I wrote about the Sock Market a few posts earlier. Things are changing and it is hard to see how they are changing for the better.
By most indices, the United States is worst off today than it was 30 years ago. Reading the New York Times today was depressing. We have an out of control mercenary war in Iraq and Afghanistan that is costly beyond its economic impact. There are people running for major political offices — Senate and House of Representative seats — that don’t know enough about our government to cite any Supreme Court rulings or understand the implications of the Bill of Rights. Our economy is in shambles due to overly-leveraged derivatives and speculative investing, but recovery has been framed in terms of government spending and taxes. And we have a growing number of Americans willing to accept anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric as gospel even as it has no foundation or substance.
In short…I think we are becoming a nation of quitters. The GOP has become the petulant schoolyard bully who causes trouble and blames everyone else. No…perhaps Eddie Haskell is a better model describing today’s GOP. All smiles and sweetness while taking credit for undeserved praise and a mischievous troublemaker when no one is paying attention. I tell you what, it is time for people to pay attention.
Government is not inherently bad, but bad government is. (It is called a tautology.) We have bad government almost by design. Grover Norquist and others, riding on Reagan’s coat tails, took the “government is the problem” deception and rallied behind that to “starve the beast,” i.e., deliberate underfunding of government. If we cannot pay for it (because we underfund it by design), then we must cut it. A brilliant and obvious trick that most people don’t understand, not even now.
Government has become a problem because it has been vilified for thirty years and disemboweled because of it. We have become a modern banana republic, an almost state-less government for the wealthy elite who have as a result siphoned off increasingly more billions and billions for private accounts and foreign investors. Today, more than any other time since 1928 if not beyond, the wealthiest one percent hold more earnings and savings than ever before. Meanwhile incomes for both working and middle class Americans has been flat or declining in real dollars. We are witnessing the decline of the middle class.
So what has all of the supply-side, trickle down small government approach gotten us? Where is the benefit that the political right wants to protect and seemingly so many people are willing to support with their votes?
We have struggling schools and bridges that literally collapse into rivers. Issues like water quality and worker safety are getting worse, not better. We rank somewhere around 15th globally for college graduation rates and in no indice such as science or math do U S Students rank at the top. More and more people are facing financial hardship and people literally die because private for-profit health care rations care for the sake of earnings. (We are willing to squander billions to kill foreigners in misguided wars, but raise a fit if we want to spend the same to save lives of our own citizens. Something is amiss there.)
All you need is a little objective history, an understanding of economics, and some common sense to see how far we have strayed from smart governance. Government is our collective investment in what we value today and what we want for the future. It isn’t some black hole that steals freedom and plays Robin Hood with earnings and wealth. Does anyone really think that kind of negative approach built the strong government institutions that enabled so much success in our past?
And if government were such a bad thing, why do we thrive when government is strong? We have been demonizing government for three decades now and look at where we are today compared with thirty years ago. It isn’t good. Not by any measure.
We had eight years of George W. Bush and two years of Barak Obama. Impatience will kill us. We need to support the different policies that were so enthusiastically embraced by voters two years ago. We have, in fact, more than just George Bush’s faults to recover from. We have an entire era of limited non-progressive thinking to respond to. We also have a stubborn and destructive Republican Party set on nothing but failure. Since when has it been patriotic to plot failure for our country?
Nevertheless, in two years good things have happened. Not good enough, but better things can happen. It is hard to see, however, how better thing can happen if we allow ourselves a return to the failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place.