Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fear and Ignorance

The current debate over the debt ceiling has left me stunned at the bullheaded self confidence of so called conservatives whose idea of a future America takes the form of a free wheeling laissez faire society in which all enjoy the totality of freedom from an intrusive government that would otherwise rule their lives. It's a facade behind which lies the reality of poverty for most, wealth for the few, the loss of civil rights and the probability of near dictatorial control of some over the lives of many.

The rallying cry is for small government as if smallness in and of itself is a good thing, and with no discernible interest in effective government. Sophisticated political operatives capitalize on a combination of fear and ignorance to manipulate the acquisition of power for their own benefit and the benefit of their employers.

One friend, an otherwise sensible person, expressed his growing fear over the idea of deficit spending and raising the debt ceiling based on nothing other than a gut response to what he heard on television and radio. Another acquaintance posted a note railing against the percentage of GDP absorbed by federal government revenues as if they were a subtraction from productivity rather than a component of productivity. He also got his numbers wrong, but that's another matter. He is one of those who wants federal revenues to be capped at 18% of GDP. What the magic of 18% is escapes me, and the whole idea of a revenue cap makes no sense at all. My guess is that he is also among those who believe that lower taxes are always and everywhere better than higher taxes. That only makes sense if you don't think about it.

A conservative commentator on CNN or PBS, can't remember which, kept echoing the old shibboleth that we were saddling future generations with nothing but government debt. It makes sense if you don't think about it. And, it would probably be true if the conservatives get their way on national economic policy. Deficit spending and national debt are important, and we must do better reining in both. Having said that, I would remind readers that the same "saddling the future with debt" argument has been around for a long time with not much to back it up. Consider, for instance, the debt incurred in WWII and Korea. It was enormous for the time, and it was said that it would impoverish the children of that era as they grew up. I was one of those children. My parent's generation, my generation and my children's generation have not been saddled with the payment of that debt. The economy grew to absorb it and also provide us with an opportunity to enjoy a comfortable style and quality of life.

That does not mean that a nation can be profligate with spending and debt. It does mean that effective government and policies that contribute to economic health are more important than hysterical fear mongering.

My own member of Congress, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, has consistently voted along the Tea Party lines. I used to accuse her of being a Boehner puppet, but given the last few days, I'm not so sure. Maybe Cantor pulls the strings. In any case, she first ran for Congress as an evangelical Christian. That claim has dropped into the background to be replaced by a double claim of quiet but consistent voting with the extreme right wing while mumbling kind and gentle bromides about veterans and farmers.

In short, it's not a happy time for the nation, and not a happy time for me personally as day after day I watch with stunned amazement at the growing political power of an oligarchy that is skillfully manipulating the ignorance of a frightened public. Reminds me of some of the French revolutions of the 19th century that always seemed to end up with another dictator of one kind or another.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

In today's (Sept. 18) Union-Bulletin there is a preliminary report on the committee assigned to realign the congressional and legislative districts to make room for the state's extra seat in Congress. The new district will be in the western part of Washington, of course, but all the districts will need to have new boundaries. One proposal,to which the readers of the paper are invited to comment, would remove Walla Walla County from its present place with Cathy McMorris Rodgers as its congresswoman to join it with the areas to the west, under the other Republican, Doc Hastings. Since you have criticized Cathy above, in your blog from several weeks ago, would you be more pleased with Doc Hastings? Dr B

Anonymous said...

That was a very shrewd and thought provoking analysis of the current political situation in this area regarding our ethical choices. I hope that this comment, at least, will meet with your approval. Dr B