Monday, September 30, 2019

Crying "Wolf!" has endangered our entire nation


I'm sure most of us know the ancient fable about the boy who cried "Wolf!".

There was a Shepherd Boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. It was lonely for him, so he devised a plan to get a little company. He rushed down towards the village calling out “Wolf, Wolf,” and the villagers came out to meet him. This pleased the boy so much that a few days after he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help. Shortly after this a Wolf actually did come out from the forest. The boy cried out “Wolf, Wolf,” still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again lying, and nobody came to his aid. So the Wolf made a good meal off the boy’s flock.

Journalist and satirist H. L. Mencken applied the lesson to politics:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

However, he failed to add that if enough politicians raise enough imaginary hobgoblins, sooner or later the electorate stop listening to them.  They come to regard every one as yet another example of crying "Wolf!".

I fear that domestic US politics has now reached that point.  Our politicians - on both sides of the aisle - have raised so many alarms, and decried each other so stridently, and postured and pimped themselves and each other to such an extent, that most of us no longer believe them.  We regard them all as "swamp creatures" or "political prostitutes", and want the whole damned lot of them swept away, never to return.  Just this weekend, I heard several close friends express the ardent desire to impeach every current politician, bar them from office, and replace them all with "new blood" - with no exceptions.  I couldn't disagree with them, in all honesty.

The current impeachment crisis is a perfect illustration of this.  I'm completely open to having any President investigated honestly and impartially for any potentially illegal or criminal activity.  That's Congress' job, and they should do it.  However, when that same Congress has postured, and primped, and jumped up and down and screamed "Wolf" for the past three years, is it any wonder that many of those listening no longer believe its accusations?  When an Adam Schiff makes up his allegations out of whole cloth, in front of the camera, and expects them to be believed, why should we give him any credibility at all?  And when a Jerrold Nadler abuses his office to impose partisan politics upon what should be an impartial legislative forum, and does so openly and continuously and rampageously, why should we trust him to even give us the correct time of day?

Of course, that's not confined to Democrats.  When Mitch McConnell blocks a Presidential SCOTUS nominee (Merrick Garland) for a blatantly partisan political reason, then turns around and glibly refuses to do the same if a similar situation should arise under a President he favors, it speaks volumes about his hypocrisy.  When Republicans in both the House and the Senate point fingers and shout and scream about Democratic Party policies over illegal immigration, and the latter's failure to pass legislation to solve the problem, they carefully fail to point out that they, too, have consistently, even when they were in control of both Houses, failed to pass legislation to fix the problem.  They preferred to "punt" it to future generations whilst blaming their opponents.  (As I've said many times before, I'm neither Republican nor Democrat, and I distrust both political parties equally.  I'll also point out both parties' inconsistencies and fraudulent positions, without fear or favor.)

The current impeachment imbroglio has so many unmistakable signs of deliberate, malicious planning, to the point where one can call it a "conspiracy" without exaggeration, that it's impossible to take it seriously.  The basic plan was openly discussed even before President Trump's inauguration.  It's partisan politics, pure and simple.  I don't trust a word the Democratic Party is saying about it.  They've lied so consistently to the American people, and cried "Wolf!" so often, that their credibility is shot to pieces.  However, the same applies to the Republican Party.  Their own actions and words condemn them just as surely, on many other issues.  The political mainstream in America has discredited itself, and frankly, I don't see any way in which it can redeem itself.  It's too far gone.  If Congress should impeach President Trump tomorrow, I'd regard it as yet more partisan political posturing, rather than a meaningful, serious attempt to defend American politics.  I no longer trust Congress to act rationally, honestly or forthrightly - and that applies to both sides of the aisle, whoever is in power.

For that matter, I expect financial self-interest to corrupt our politicians at least as much as (if not more than) partisan politics.  I'd like to see every politician forced to account, in detail, for every cent he or she earns, in any way, while in office.  If they can't explain their income satisfactorily, and prove beyond reasonable doubt that none of it came from legislative shenanigans or the misuse of their political office, then they should lose it.  All of it.  For a quick (if slightly out-of-date) overview, see "Changes in Net Worth of U.S. Senators and Representatives".

If a new political party were to arise tomorrow, with its only policy proposal being to impose stringent term limits on any and every elected office (I suggest 3 terms for Congressional representatives and 1 term for a Senator, both amounting to a maximum of 6 years in those offices), and kick out every politician who has already exceeded those limits . . . I'd vote for them in a heartbeat.  They couldn't be worse than our present politicians, and at least they'd hold out the hope for a regular infusion of new brooms to clean out the Augean stable that the Capitol has become.

Unless and until that happens, the only thing we can do is to vote for the least damaging option(s) open to us.  That's a pretty poor option, but nothing else is available through the ballot box.  The other options are all worse, in the sense that they'd replace the ballot box with something a lot more dangerous and unpredictable.




Peter

13 comments:

Noname Smith said...

I notice the Japanese appear to be having some success in placing earth-launched equipment onto the surface of a asteroid. I wonder what they would charge us to direct one toward earth; the proper size asteroid could turn everything inside the Washington beltway into a smoking hole in the ground and we could name it the McConnell-Schumer Memorial Crater but I doubt future politicians would be smart enough to take the hint.

As for term limits, nice try, Peter, but inadequate as it treats only the symptom, not the disease. The issue is not how many terms one serves in Congress, but the lifetime committment to politics that leads to multiple Congressional terms.

The limit needs to be on the maximum number of terms one may serve in any elected office in a lifetime. One starts by running for dogcatcher, parlays the money and power connections that brings into a run for city or county council, then state rep or state senator, then lines up donors for a Congressional run, and PRESTO ! we have an entire political class that's never done anything else BUT elected office.

"No individual shall serve more than 5 terms, or portions thereof, in elected office in the United States, no more than two terms of which shall be in the same office, and any such service shall constitute lifetime prohibition against receiving any remuneration or payment from a government in the United States, with the exception of salary, benefits and retirement commensurate with rank in the United States' Armed Forces."

Make sure they've had to work for a living first, cut 'em off at 5 terms lifetime max, then send 'em back to having to earn their own living. I'd even be willing to discuss requiring the two terms being non-consecutive or a one-year mandatory hiatus between different offices.

Eric Wilner said...

Alas, replacing the politicians on a regular basis with people chosen at random out of the phone book would not suffice.
As the bumper sticker has it: "No matter who you vote for, the Government gets elected."
The unelected Deep Swamp rejects anyone not of the swamp or (as we're seeing now) of a competing swamp.
Unless we somehow replace Congress with an all-new one dedicated to abolishing those autonomous parts of the Executive Branch that don't actually answer to the elected Chief Executive, not much will change. With spending on autopilot, reduced spending increases hysterically denounced as drastic budget cuts, and the evergreen threat of "Imagine what would happen if we didn't have all these government agencies at full strength!", well, prospects for reform are bleak.
Then, too, I have to wonder what portion of the electorate is on board with the cult that worships politicians as gods.

stencil said...

Responding to Eric Wilner --

There would need to be a multipart approach... First, implement Mencken's plan of choosing candidates for the legislature by lot, and offer those elected the choice of serving their terms empanelled or imprisoned; then, deny the franchise to anyone who receives funding from government, at any level - from foodstamps and AFDC to military pay and pensions.
.
The only problem I have with that scheme is that the government employees would all be moonbarking zealots.
.

sdharms said...

if voting mattered, they wouldn't let us do it.-- Mark Twain

Larry said...

Peter, I think you mean Adam Schiff. Peter Schiff is a pretty good guy, or at least the well-known one is. Adam "Schiff-for-brains" Schiff is what the dog crapped on before you accidentally stepped in the mess.

Peter said...

@Larry: Thanks. Fixed it.

Glen said...

Peter,

I expect that term limits would make the Party much more important. Still, it might be an improvement.

The most drastic need is to prune the federal workforce. You can't have congressional oversight in such a huge organization. There should be at least a 40% reduction in the number of federal employees within 50 miles of the Washington Monument.

All federal workers in DC should be fired every 4 years. The vast "professional" civil service workforce has proven to be a danger. Tossing them all out would make them less of a threat.

Such federal workforce that is really necessary should be dispersed around the country.

Bob Gibson said...

I try to follow along with your 'vote for the person, not the party' approach. Unfortunately, the party affiliation of a candidate *matters*. An Iron Range Democrat from Minnesota is likely more 'conservative' than a Republican from, say, New York and I would have very few qualms about supporting them on an individual basis, but once they get sent to DC they will be expected to toe the Party line. If they fail to do so, they will lose their chance to get prime committee positions*, Party support (possibly to the extent of the Party 'primarying' them out of office next election), access to big Party donors, etc., so they would have to have nerves of steel to hold their own course.

*Yes, I know that 'freshman' Congresscritters don't get prime committee assignments, but if they are too maverick they lose the chance for them even as they gain seniority.

Thomas W said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas W said...

The problem here occurs in any large organization. Unfortunately, term limits for Congress will likely strengthen the "deep state" as Congress spends much more of its time just figuring out what to do (see the TV show Yes, Minister).

Similarly, limiting federal employees to 4 years employment will leave government agencies constantly trying to figure out what they're doing and likely result in far more arbitrary enforcement of laws and regulations than today.

Moving federal employees away from DC might help a bit, but it's also subject to politics. Thus today the proposal is to put the BLM headquarters in Grand Junction, CO. That's a town of 60,000 served by a small regional airport (16 flights per day) or a 3+ hour drive to a major airport. The fact this move is political is shown by the fact that a fairly small number of people will be at the "headquarters", most will instead be in Denver. Moving agencies out of DC makes some sense but let's move them to a place where they can better do their job, not where a politician can gain the most votes.

Unfortunately, there isn't a simple solution. All large organizations create entrenched bureaucracies and are very, very hard to shrink in size. While term limits, etc. are a nice idea any practical proposal I'd guess roughly half the population will disagree with it (or treat it as strictly a way to gain power as Republicans did in 1994). Too many people today consider any policy flexibility to be akin to treason rather than trying to work toward an (imperfect) consensus.

Beans said...

Cut salaries to the level of a clerk, and freeze their accounts. Any money at the end of the term that is more than they can account for by normal means (interest, selling a house, inheritance) gets immediately donated to the Treasury.

That might be one way to do it.

Making senators appointed by the State, not the people, would help, too. (Election of senators by the populace has been shown to be a failed experiment. Oy vey, a truly failed experiment.

Make it a law that government workers cannot work for foreign companies for 10 years after they leave government service, any government worker, including military and most especially the elected ones, their staffs and anyone from the State Department.

No, I take that back. Anyone from an elected office, their staffs and anyone from the State Department is barred forever for working for foreign interests.

Quartz said...

The corrollory of the Cry Wolf tale is "Don't tell the same lie twice."

BillB said...

I am using a part of Peter's post as an opening to express something I think happened regarding the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the nomination of Merrick Garland. The last three years have changed my view on this. I initially accepted that Antonin Scalia's death was just natural causes. I have since because of the exposure of the Deep State actions come to the belief that Antonin Scalia was very skillfully assassinated. I looked into the follow up which was very poorly done; Scalia's cause of death was not given a proper forensic review. The County Judge of Presidio County, which here in Texas is the chief officer of the county, pronounced it as natural causes as there were no signs of a struggle based on a phone call with the U.S. Marshals that came to the ranch he was at. She did not order an autopsy which you would expect in the death of such a high profile individual who died so suddenly and unexpectedly. Note that Presidio County is a deep blue county politically. I cannot explain why the family did not have an autopsy done.

After the Deep State revelations, I believe that Antonin Scalia was ordered to be assassinated by some at the very highest levels of the previous administration to allow a Leftist nominee to the court, or at least one that would lean Left primarily on gun control, before the 2016 elections because they (Deep State) wanted an insurance policy in the Supreme Court just in case their candidate, Hillary Clinton, was not elevated to the Presidency. This was even against other Democrat candidates at the time though primarily aimed at some of the Republican candidates.

I believe also that Mitch McConnell's refusal to bring Merrick Garland before the Senate as nominee was done because he had some information and belief that the previous paragraph's actions were taken even though he invoked the Biden Rule. However, as a consummate politician and leaning to the Establishment, he did not want to put his knowledge or beliefs to the public. He may have also been secretly threatened against making such accusations as any proof would disappear and he might suffer too, like getting hit in the face by an exercise machine as happened to Harry Reid.

I will reiterate that the exposure of the Deep State on-goings have brought me to this conclusion. I fully believe that what McConnell did was fully justified, even if he had no knowledge, based on prior precedence by former VP Joe Biden when he was a senator.