Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Politics, economics and reality

I'm depressed to see so little recognition of economic reality by our politicians in Washington, and by the news media who are supposed to be keeping us informed of the state of the nation. Both are examples of abject failure.

Even commentators who should know better are still pontificating about political parties, as if they really mattered any more. For example, Richard Miniter writes about 'Why The Democratic Party Is Doomed', while George Will maintains 'Tea Party Gaining: Just Needs Obama Out Of Office'. Both seem to forget that it was the Republican Party and President Bush, not the Democrats or President Obama, that accelerated the wildly undisciplined, out-of-control spending in the early years of this century that led us to the nightmare fiscal situation in which we find ourselves. Sure, the Democrats and President Obama have spent more in the past three years than any sane person would; but they were simply continuing a tradition begun by their opposite numbers. Neither party is guiltless; both parties share responsibility.

Theodore Dalrymple, a commentator for whom I have the greatest respect, writes about Britain in City Journal:

For some politicians, running up deficits is not a problem but a benefit, since doing so creates a population permanently in thrall to them for the favors by which it lives. The politicians are thus like drug dealers, profiting from their clientele’s dependence, yet on a scale incomparably larger. The Swedish Social Democrats understood long ago that if more than half of the population became economically dependent on government, either directly or indirectly, no government of any party could easily change the arrangement. It was not a crude one-party system that the Social Democrats sought but a one-policy system, and they almost succeeded.

. . .

Wherever one looks into the expanded public sector, one finds the same thing: a tremendous rise in salaries, pensions, and perquisites for those working in it. ... In effect, a large public service nomenklatura was created, whose purpose, or at least effect, was to establish an immense network of patronage and reciprocal obligation: a network easy to install but hard to dislodge, since those charged with removing it would be the very people who benefited most from it.

. . .

The legacy of Britain’s previous government, which expanded the public sector incontinently, is thus an almost Marxian conflict of classes, not between the haves and have-nots (for many of the people in the public service are now well-heeled indeed) but between those who pay taxes and those who consume them.

In this conflict, one side is bound to be more militant and ruthless than the other, since taxes are increased incrementally - and everyone is already accustomed to them, anyway — but jobs are lost instantaneously and catastrophically, with the direst personal consequences. Thus those who oppose tax increases and favor government retrenchment will seldom behave as aggressively as those who will suffer personally from budget reductions. Moreover, when, as in Britain, entire areas have lived on government charity for many years — with millions dependent on it for virtually every mouthful of food, every scrap of clothing, every moment of distraction by television — common humanity dictates care in altering the system. The extreme difficulty of reducing subventions once they have been granted should serve as a warning against instituting them in the first place, but in Britain, it appears, it never will. We seem caught in an eternal cycle, in which a period of government overspending and intervention leads to economic crisis and hence to a period of austerity, which, once it is over, is replaced by a new period of government overspending and intervention, promoted by politicians, half-charlatan and half-self-deluded, who promise the electorate the sun, moon, and stars.

There's much more at the link. I recommend Dr. Dalrymple's article very highly. His comments can be just as easily applied to our situation here in the USA.

Note that it doesn't matter which political party promises 'bread and circuses' at public expense. Both parties do it. It was the Republican party that passed huge increases in farm subsidies, to benefit its constituents. It was the Democratic party that passed Obamacare, with its enormous subsidies to special interest groups supporting that party. Both parties are equally guilty of misusing taxpayers' money to subsidize those who support them.

The problem we face isn't which party is in power, or which President is in the White House. It's to elect politicians who will:

  • be faithful to their oath of office;
  • listen to their constituents and vote according to their wishes; and
  • will educate themselves to understand the reality of the problems confronting us and work to resolve them, rather than allowing their parties to dictate to them how they should vote in the interests of the party.

I don't give a damn what party a candidate may belong to, as long as he or she meets those three conditions. If they do, they'll have my support.

Regrettably, I think such candidates are few and far between. The Tea Party movement has had the beneficial effect of producing more of them in conservative ranks. Now we need an equivalent to the Tea Party on the left of the political aisle, to produce similarly responsible candidates in liberal and progressive ranks. Believe me, if they're there, people like myself - who aren't loyal to parties, but to principles - are much more likely to support them than we are to vote along party lines. I'm a mixture of conservative and classic liberal in my political outlook: but I'll vote for an honest, principled progressive, meeting the three criteria above, in a heartbeat, rather than for some of the RINO's and ideologically hidebound conservatives that currently waste their breath and our time in Washington.

Of course, there are still all too many people who'll vote the party ticket, no matter what: but they're part of the problem in this country, not the solution. If even 10% of the electorate will vote for principle rather than party, we'll see a major transformation in Washington. Let's make it happen!


1 comment:

Mikael said...

I take a bit of umbrage to the reference to the swedish social democrats there, as they didn't rack up the debts, like the USA has done, sweden is one of two countries that actually adhere to the european union's debt rules: deficit under 3% of GDP and debt under 15% of GDP.

And when the social democrats were last in charge we were running a budget surpluss, that the current rightwing government has been using for taxcuts.