I have had house guests. When I have guests I find it difficult to blog. It’s just as well as there isn’t much to blog about these days. The same old stuff seems to linger on day to day to the last syllable of recorded insanity: gun control, immigration, Iran, deficits, the budget, abortion, voting rights, and an out-of-control basketball coach. All interesting topics I guess, but wake me when anything actually happens.
It all reminds me of a story I once heard, I don’t remember when or from whom, and I’m sure it’s not a true story, but it goes like this: A rancher takes his young son out and stands him on a fence post. He instructs him to jump and tells him he will catch him. The trusting little boy jumps, the father makes no attempt to catch him. As the boy rolls in pain in the dust the father says, “Let that be a lesson to you, don’t trust nobody, not even your own father.”
I didn’t like this story when I first heard it, and I don’t like it now. But I’m beginning to believe there is something to it. I think Social Security is a perfect example of how you cannot trust anybody. First, we are reassured by some that Social Security is “off the table” because it does not contribute to the deficit. Now we learn that President Obama is offering to cut some Social Security benefits in order to arrive at the “grand bargain.” If Social Security does not contribute to the deficit, and if it is off the table, why should it be involved in such negotiations at all? Someone is lying here. Not only that, some keep insisting that Social Security is going to be bankrupt because there are no actual funds in the system while others insist it is fully funded and safe but will eventually need some fine tuning. This argument seems to hinge on the fact that Congress has borrowed money from the fund and spent it so it has no real assets. It is, however, as I understand it, still solvent because it has Government notes that are based on “the full faith and trust of the U.S. government.” Thus those who are telling us the notes are worthless are basically telling us the full faith and trust of the U.S. government is worthless. This is rather strange as these are the same notes we sell everyday to other governments who seem to believe in the full faith and trust of our government. So, who do you trust, nobody? It would seem to me in my apparent naivete that either Social Security is off the table and solvent or it is not. This unfortunately reminds me of my beloved father who was shrewd enough about most things but thought that Joe McCarthy must be right about his accusations because he would not be allowed to say them if they were not true. Sigh.
What has happened in our culture that we have come to distrust our government so readily? While I’m sure there have always been those who sometimes distrusted government this seems to have become a veritable epidemic of distrust. Personally, I think it probably began with Ronald Reagan who fed us the nonsense that “government was the problem.” If government was the problem that implied, it seems to me, that government was somehow dishonest. I don’t think the situation improved much what with Iran/Contra and with the first President Bush’s statement about “read my lips.” President Clinton certainly didn’t improve things with his various lies, especially about Monica. But no one could have done more to destroy the faith in government credibility than Bush/Cheney who never told the truth about anything, especially their illegal, unconstitutional, and criminal “war” with Iraq.
I can’t say President Obama is doing much to improve our trust in government, especially as he is apparently about to throw our so-called “entitlements” out the window in spite of his claims he would not do so. Social Security should not be a negotiating point, period, whether it is part of a “grand bargain” or not. I believe it is true Social Security has not contributed to the deficit, is separately and independently funded, is and will be solvent with some adjustments, and should indeed be “off the table.”
Medicare is a different matter. But it, too, could be saved and improved by gradually extending it to everyone, the most sensible thing to do to solve our horrendous problem of the most expensive least efficient healthcare in the modern world. But, of course, when you mention this relatively sensible solution for health care these days, many cry “socialism” and reach for their assault rifles, two dismal idiotic belief systems that seem to go hand in hand.
Culture with a capital “C,” that life style of refinement, taste, and true “civilization” has all but vanished in the United States. Culture with a small “c,” that is, as a functional system for providing basically instinctless creatures with the means for survival, food, shelter, water, etc., seems to have also been disappearing, except perhaps for the one percent. I think I understand what is going on and I can truthfully say, “I don’t trust nobody.”
But the life that no longer trusts another human being and no longer forms ties to the political community is not a human life any longer.