Saturday, September 17, 2016

Thieves, small and big

Long ago a philosopher observed, "it is in the nature of man to hang the small thieves and to elect the big ones to public office."

If we go with the content offered by candidates, asking a citizen to vote thoughtfully this fall is like asking a physicist to do herpetology.  One, it's mostly irrelevant, and two, the choices are lizards.

The Issues:  Important issues are complex and changing.  For example:

  • Persistent poverty, economic inequality and immobility, explosive growth for the top 10% and stagnation for the bottom 90% for the last forty years.  Today, 20%+ of our children live in poverty, and it's been that way for a long time, but it doesn't have to be.
  • Both liberals and conservatives know that terminating a pregnancy ends a child's life.  Improvements in in-utero observation and fetal monitoring have shown the well-developed child at mid-term and forced the recognition of deliberately ending that life.  Now we're stuck with having made it legal to end a child's life for the convenience of the mother among other perhaps more supportable and less selfish reasons.
  • The supreme court is on the cusp of being redefined or permanently ensconced.  Conservative or liberal, it's on the ballot for us to decide.
  • The economy is changing faster than economists can monitor and manage.  We crashed the world economy with the Great Recession, and we haven't quite done anything to ensure it doesn't happen again.  Banks bigger than countries got bailed out, fines were charged and paid to governments, and the citizenry bore the losses.  It came out of your pocket and mine and went into the pocket of the wealthiest 1%, and we didn't get so much as an apology or any reason to believe it's over.
  • Social and political unrest are spreading around the world, in part at least because of the political and economic actions of western nations.  Violent extremism continues on the rise, but the root causes are unaddressed.  We see the top level response of shooting back at the bad guys as though they came up with their position for no reason.  We see little support for understanding and negotiation.
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is a major concern as part of our international relations with other economies.  The agreement is over 5,000 pages long and tediously complex.  Specific criticisms include detrimental impact on Japanese agriculture to the point of ending the national industry.  Unable to compete with foreign suppliers, farmers worry that they'll be put out of business.  It happened to Mexico as more than a million farms were closed by competition with North American corn producers. The list of specific concerns is long.
  • ... and many more.

Trickle-down didn't.  Welfare wasn't.  Fanny and Freddie failed.  More than One Child got Left Behind; in fact, except for the children of the wealthy, most suffered loss.  The cheerleader who said, "WE CAN," couldn't, and now, neither can the rest of us.  Government sanctioned fiscal policy and partisan squabbling over the national debt crisis have tanked the economy twice in recent years while the financial sector (now the nation's largest industry) extracts hundreds of billions out of the economy.

Occupy Wall Street is just another round of citizens asking hard questions a bit more emphatically.  

There are no credible answers coming from either party, there are no reasonable responses to the fragile state of the global economy which their best efforts have given us, and there are no particularly believable leaders moving toward reasonable change.

Sound familiar?  Almost biblical?  I suspect that some (not all) of our current leaders are doing their best amidst the failures to serve the American people, yet their efforts seem to be more of the same.  The Republican alternative offers no more credible solution to our functional failures than does this administration.

The gap between rich and poor continues to widen, and the trend is now visible in the global marketplace.  Countries are in many cases prospering, but their increases are going exclusively to the wealthy few.  The trend includes the capitalist democracies.

The choices:  the candidates from among whom we must choose our leadership leave a lot to be desired.  They both suck, at least according to each other.  Each accuses the other of various disqualifying attributes, and they're perhaps mostly right.  As Douglas Adams pointed out, we must choose from among the lizards.  We all hate the lizards (as we should because they're despicable of course), but that's the choice we're given, and if we don't vote, the wrong lizard will get elected.

We're flawed not so much in intent, perhaps, as in structure.

To be fair, both sides have attempted good initiatives they hoped would serve well.  For example, social aid programs have in fact addressed some immediate problems and many folks in need were given a hand up out of poverty. The same programs (since more is better) have gone on to do more harm than anyone imagined was possible.

Personally, grass-roots-driven change appeals to me.  Not that it's likely to make the problems go away, of course, but if we choose, then we'll own the problems and perhaps be a bit more thoughtful about the process.

So, is it time to think about re-engaging our political process personally?  Kinda looks that way, doesn't it.  Heard anything meaningful from your representatives in Congress lately?  It's been strangely quiet there since the debt crisis screw up, if you ask me.
"Suppose you were an idiot.  And suppose you were a member of Congress ...  but I repeat myself."
from a letter fragment, 1891, Mark Twain 

They're not idiots, of course.  Arrogant, perhaps, 
hubristic, out of touch, and inappropriately 
influenced by money.
And polarized!

It's a little frightening, considering the government's attitude toward such, to discover that I am perhaps more of a dissident than a party acquiescent.  Not interested in being tasered or maced, but definitely had enough of disinformation (lies), market mismanagement (theft),  and patchwork solutions (rule by doodoohead fiat).

Lizards politicians play for position,
coming out on top is the intent.
Patriots understand the goal
is the well-being of those
whom they serve.
Any overlap between the two
is purely coincidental.
If you're a Republican because you think they're the conservative bunch, it's not really that simple anymore.  You'll perhaps want a better reason.

If you're a Democrat because you think they're the liberal, human rights oriented, environmentally sensitive bunch, they're not so easily defined now. You'll perhaps want to reexamine that position.

Simple debates on issues are perhaps informative, but promises are often shelved after the race.  What the parties actually do when they're in power is more revealing.  Both groups are more complex than their simple campaign slogans suggest.  Perhaps there's a different reality behind that fa├žade.  

One candidate inadvertently admitted to having “both a public and a private position” on Wall Street reform ...

The historic differentiations in the two-party system have less effect on their performance in office than we might expect.  Many, perhaps most issues have succumbed to power plays and influence purchase.