Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Whatever Happened to Government?

Either I am terribly old-fashioned and completely out-of-date or the idea of government or governing has essentially disappeared. I thought that we, the voters, selected representatives to become leaders who would effectively (or maybe not entirely effectively) manage the country, decide on issues of importance, plan for the future and the defense of the country, and in general act in the public interest with respect to budgetary matters, health care, education, environmental protection, super structure, foreign affairs, and what-have-you. I thought this was true of both of our political parties. This does not seem to me what our elected representatives have been doing for the past few years. So what have they been doing?

Certainly they have not been governing, effectively or not, during the entire administration of President Obama. They have not been governing at all. They have divided roughly into two camps, representing the respective political parties, one of which has devoted its entire attention to attacking Obama and trying to ensure he will not regain a second term. I would like to say the other one has spent their time trying to defend Obama, but unfortunately it is somewhat more complicated than that. But even if they have not been always directly defending Obama they have for the most part attempted to defend many of his policies, most of which have always been standards of the Democrats: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, public education, and so on, the very programs the Republicans have consistently opposed (conveniently now as they think this will help them destroy Obama). The Republicans announced early on in the Obama Presidency their number one goal was to prevent Obama from having a second term. They said they would vote “no” to anything and everything, and have done so. I do not believe there can by any doubt about what they have been doing and this raises the basic question, is this “governing?” The answer clearly is “no,” whatever it is, it is not governing.

I cannot believe the Founding Fathers ever conceived of a system in which two political parties would spend the bulk of their time trying to wrest power back and forth from each other. I think Mitch McConnell, when asked about Republican strategy, said something to the effect of “Isn’t that what has always been the case?, “ implying that the party out of power has always tried to unseat the incumbent. The answer, unfortunately, is “yes and no.” It is obviously true that with elections for President every four years there is always a contest to see which candidate will win, but this does not mean, nor has it ever meant, that governing the country would cease in order for one candidate to win. Important affairs of state were not ignored, actions were not suspended, government did not cease while one party concentrated exclusively on destroying the other. The obsessive, single-minded destruction of a President has never before led to the abandonment of government for years at a time.

Why has this change come about? I’m sure it has to do with the fact that influence has come to be a commodity, just like pork bellies, sugar and corn. Our representatives not longer represent their traditional constituents but, rather, the corporations that fund them and in return expect to get their way when it comes to legislation and the rules of the game. This has become so obviously true it has now been accepted as “just the way it works.” If there was ever any doubt about it the Supreme Court put it to rest when they declared that Corporations were Persons, the most absurd and devastating to democracy decision ever made (by a court itself part of the ongoing corruption).

We no longer have a functioning government, if by government is meant a system for managing public affairs in the best interest of its constituents. What we have is a kind of Mafia-like criminal conspiracy that does what the various Corporate Godfathers decree. In its simplest form it is a scheme to take money from taxpayers and give it to the already wealthy and powerful, essentially laundering the money through various defense and other industries. It has echoes of a protection racket, too, in that Representatives do what they are told or face the threat of not being re-elected. It is a system where money is not only considered speech, it actually talks.

I basically despise Newt Gingrich, whom I consider a completely dishonest, hypocritical, arrogant, pompous windbag with a fantastically self-exaggerated reputation as an intellectual. But in the spirit of “Even a blind dog finds a bone sometimes,” I think he did actually stumble on a potentially good thing, and truly kind of mysterious win-win situation. He said that when it comes to immigration policy we should strive for a “humane” solution. Some think this will doom his chances for the nomination because the Tea Party will not tolerate anything humane when it comes to immigration (or much of anything else). But from my standpoint, if it does doom his nomination, that would be a good thing, a win. On the other hand if he did (he won’t, but if he did) win the Presidency we would have a more humane immigration policy, another win. Good on ya, Newt!

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

Tao Te Ching

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