Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No Simple Solution

A friend of mine sent me a reference to this Washington Post article about the origins of the debt ceiling and deficit debate. I don’t have any real argument with what it has to say, but it sort of presents the "Tea Party" as if it was the creation of the febrile imaginations of a few sick minds in Washington, but in actuality it is our own desires gone bad and turning against us.

Describing this "Tea Party" nonsense as a cancer is pretty apt, because like a cancer it is not an outside infection or something that arose from whole cloth. It an extremist form of the policies embraced by the American voters for the last four decades plus, which is a strong aversion to paying taxes. For decades, politicians of both parties who have advocated tax cuts have gotten elected to office, while those who have not done so have lost. You can’t really blame candidates for drawing conclusions from that.

Sure, it is extremist and it is perverted, but it not appear from nowhere.

The aversion to taxes does not prevent Americans from demanding services from their government at an ever increasing pace. States no longer are willing to build their own highways or mass transit, for instance, they want the federal government to build those things for them, and the success of federal legislators is almost entirely dependent on how much federal funding they bring to their home state. Federal funding, it should be noted, generated by taxes that the voters did not want to pay in the first place.

Sadly, this Tea Party and the issues it represents is almost the least of the problems we face, and it is distracting us from problems that reflect what is beginning very much to look like a dying empire.

There are the wars we are fighting for instance, and not just Afghanistan but Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Bad in themselves, they should be seen as the symptoms of a far larger problem because there is no sensible explanation for them. "Denying them space in which to plan their attacks." Give me a break. Even Orwell would not have dreamed up that nonsense. These wars are being fought solely for the projection of power abroad and the protection of power at home.

There should be great concern about the degree to which our constitution is being violated, both by Congress and by our executive in myriad ways, begun under Regan and accelerated under every president since. Obama has taken those breaches to even new heights with violations more brazen than any president since Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. Since elected we have him starting wars, authorizing the extra-judicial killing of American citizens... The list is just too long to go into, but we should have known that he had utter contempt for the constitution when he voted for telecomm immunity before he was elected.

There is the deterioration of Congress into a perpetual reelection campaign, with legislation a process of "carve out" benefits for individual states. Not one federal legislator even pretends to know what his job is, as every one of them proudly proclaims "My job is to serve the best interests of the people of my district." That is a gang of greedy thugs fighting over the carcass of a dead nation. The job of a federal legislator is to represent the principles of his district in serving the best interests of the nation as a whole.

Then there is energy crisis and global warming which cannot be separated and which, when not being ignored, are being approached in precisely the wrong and useless manner. We're talking about cars with better mileage, and windmills and solar power providing cleaner ways to power the existing way of life.

We cannot preserve our present way of life. I can't recall the numbers, but at one point this nation was something like 5% of the world's population and was using 25% of the world's resources. We had the expectation that the rest of the world would one day raise itself to our standard of living, but do the math. The rest of the world cannot come within hand grenade distance of our standard of living without running out of resources.

Well, we are there. The rest of the world is catching up with us and so is reality and we are finding out what an alcoholic finds out when he stops drinking - reality sucks. What we want to do about that is to dive back into the bottle. Good luck with that.

We aren't going to solve this problem with talk about "clean energy." We cannot keep doing what we are doing but just somehow "do it cleaner." There is no "cleaner" way to live wastefully. We have to change our expectations for our standard of living. We are simply going to have to adjust downward. The only question is, are we going to do it gracefully, or are we going to do it in the form of a collapse?

Going back to the original issue, in the long run the Tea Party isn't going to win. Unfortunately, the alternative isn't all that much better, and that is sort of the least of our problems anyway.

1 comment:

  1. I hate to agree with you because that means I am as depressed about the future as you are. Maybe everyone in our age bucket has always tended to see the present against the backdrop of what we remember (and to some extent, have forgotten) of the world as we knew it 50, 75 years ago, when it was a somewhat simpler and slower changing world.

    You and I both see the underlying human nature issue: selfishness. That's not likely to change, no matter what we do. I think it could be somewhat blunted, though, if parents worked harder to instill values in their children. Not sectarian values, but simply things like consideration for other humans. Some of such teachings wouldn't stick, but surely some would. But I'm afraid it's more common for parents to show, by their own behavior, how much they care for material wealth and prestige. Unless that changes, I see little hope for a better world.