Politics is something I really try to avoid as a writing topic. Mostly because it’s annoying, and venal, and usually showcases some of the absolute worst that America has to offer.
But this recent mortgage crisis, which has morphed into a financial crisis that threatens our biggest financial companies — i.e., our entire financial system, more or less — has really caught my attention.
And it really, really, frosts my gourd. Here’s why.
The root of the whole thing lies in bad policies invented out of whole cloth by people who are driven to “change the world”, and don’t really care if their policies are unrealistic and pretty much guaranteed to fail.
People who either (a) don’t understand free markets, and how government subsidies always push prices up, or (b) who do understand this, privately, yet publicly advocate for these bad policies.
In either case, they should not be deciding how to spend other people’s money. Our money.
And why would they publicly advocate for policies that are sure to fail? Because they know it isn’t their money they’re gambling with, it’s ours.
Tax dollars. That’s why they don’t care if their wonderful plan is guaranteed to fail: it isn’t their money they’re gambling with.
Stop and roll that ’round in your brain for a while. Imagine you had a credit card for which other people were responsible for paying the balance. Other people you don’t know, or care about. Would that affect your spending decisions with it? Of course it would.
Imagine further that you had some shady friends who cooked up some scheme to line both his pockets and yours, even if it failed miserably at accomplishing anything of value. Would you spend other people’s money on that? Be honest!
Politics today is literally a public trough, where taxpayers are forced to hand over 20% (or more) of their income at the point of a gun, and then politicians, lobbyists, and other drains on society dip their arms in up to their elbows.
All of them. Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t really matter. Corruption is endemic, and that is bad enough, but it gets worse: it goes hand in hand with bad policy, because bad policy is often just another name for a scheme that enriches a few and soaks the taxpayers.
Stated another way, it sure does appear that many of these wonderful ideas like the Community Redevelopment Act are just fronts for corrupt money-making schemes under government sanction, funded by taxpayers.
There is a real disconnect here between how Washington really works, and how we perceive it. We like to believe our politicians are public servants, like Jefferson or Washington, but the reality is they’re more like Huey Long or Mayor Richard J. Daley.
Still better than Idi Amin, yes. Gotta give them that. But far from the public servant concept that we are still in love with, and that really doesn’t exist any more.
And it doesn’t exist because it can’t. Money, in the form of lobbyist influence, is too pervasive and too entrenched with the same people who make the laws that would outlaw that influence. This is what we call a conflict of interest.
And corruption is endemic not just in Washington, but often in various other state and local governments as well.
Among the many reasons to dimiss Barack Obama, one of the best is his background in Chicago and Springfield politics, which have been two of the most corrupt, power-mad local governing bodies for decades. I’m really trying to understand how anybody can support a candidate for any elected office who rose through the ranks of some of the biggest political cesspools in the country.
But enough about him, this isn’t really about Obama. It’s about corruption, and how that is the far more important divide in this country than Democrat vs. Republican.
Think about it. I tend to support more Republican policies than Democrat, just because I believe (mostly) that free markets are good, even for poor folks, and I am (mostly) socially conservative, and I believe in a strong military and Jacksonian foreign policy. This set of attitudes limits me to the GOP, even though I dislike much of the GOP’s ineptitude and, yes, corruption. In some alternate universe, I could support a Democrat who believed in all of those things, but there aren’t any. Free markets? Right … show me a free market Democrat. Strong military? Socially conservative? I don’t think so. They cashed those chips in a long time ago, in favor of a coalition of special interests. The man all Democrats claim to admire, JFK, could not win a primary in that party today.
But other people have different opinions on some of these things. And that’s OK, though you’re wrong.
We might disagree on this or that, but as long as we all go to work every day, and raise our families, and don’t scheme to steal other people’s money, then we are more alike than we are different.
Right? Doesn’t that seem like the more important distinction to draw, rather than a few policy differences that are really more theoretical, at best, anyway? At least, this is the view I’ve come around to.
So what does this mean? It means Republicans should spend more time and energy being suspicious of all politicians, not just Democrats. And it means Democrats should spend more time and energy being suspicious of all politicians, not just Republicans.
Because if you don’t, then you are implicitly supporting the way it works today, i.e., getting ripped off on a constant basis by people who pretend to care what you think: “yeah, right, whatever, just give me the money. Hurry up, will ya?”
Author Thomas Frank wrote a book a few years ago that was critical of conservatives, called What’s the Matter with Kansas, theorizing that they support candidates and policies that are bad for them as individuals. Maybe, maybe not. But then what about liberals, supporting corrupt Democrats and their policies, that cause huge government bailouts and are bad for them as individuals? How many trillion dollars do you want to spend in order to help you feel good about yourself?
Corruption, people. It’s about corruption. And until we wrap our brains around that idea, we are giving away power to politicians who then use it against us.
No thanks, I’m really trying to cut down.