“Who's In Charge?” - Part 1 - The Elite Have No Clothes
Caveat: I'm going to toss barbs at both sides of the political spectrum in this multi-post series, but, honestly, most of it will fall on the Left: that's where more of the obviously guilty are easily spotted. That said, I'd like to point out there are more than enough folks bouncing around on the Right that do EXACTLY the same things. And I'll poke at them early and often to prove it. There's plenty of blame to go around, but assigning (or dodging) blame accomplishes nothing and its not my purpose. These ideas are not unique or original to me: bits and pieces can be found in many articles and commentaries, as well as a novel or two. I do agree with the points raised, whether I like them or not. In spite of appearances, this diatribe isn't about Democrat-vs-Republicans, conservative-vs-liberal, or even or left-vs-right: it's a social commentary. In short: things are a mess, we've done it to ourselves, and fixing it will be painful. People are (finally) starting to realize that some serious changes are needed. The Real Problem has two-prongs: (a) the changes required are/will-be extremely painful, difficult and challenging, and (b) there are way too many folks who don't like the fact the unwashed rabble is rising up at all...
Let's begin with a trip back to the fall of 2008... Over-leveraged investment houses are starting to have financial problems. A real estate bubble - created primarily by politicians on both sides in support of partisan and personal political gains - is starting to unravel and will burst. In a panicked response, the Republican and Democratic parties, the heads of major corporations (mostly financial), and multitudes of editorial pundits from otherwise extreme odds (from the Wall Street Journal to The Nation magazine) jointly decided spending over $700 BILLION of taxpayer monies to buy "toxic assets" was the only alternative to a "systemic collapse" of the entire US economy.
President George W. Bush, his would-be Republican successor John McCain, and the Democratic-party winner in the 2008 election, Barack Obama were *all* in agreement on this point. And, just to keep things rolling - they, their cabinets, and cohorts in Congress, jumped up to implement an unprecedented commitment of around 10 TRILLION dollars (that the Treasury didn't have) which *had* to be spent Right Now to 'stimulate' the economy. The voting public which installed them in office got ZERO explanations about how the the difference between the assets' nominal and real values happened in the first place. They also failed to explain (or even seriously consider) why letting the market itself define these asset's real value and adjust matters into winners and losers would totally collapse the country as a whole. In the face of what has become a monumental financial burden on the next several generations of taxpayers - the public objected loudly, forcefully and immediately - usually by margins of 3 or 4 to 1 against this outrage.
Ignored from the beginning, the taxpayers got their nose rubbed into a stinky pile of Reality and finally realized that NO ONE in EITHER PARTY or would take their objections seriously. Worse, the vast majority of pundits (on all sides) didn't hold the bureaucrats feet to the fire, WHICH IS THEIR JOB. The common folks in the hinterlands were justifiably upset that decisions about THEIR money was being made in bipartisan backroom deals, attended only by self-interested parties who *all* had their hands in the trough. And they hit the ceiling when they confronted the fact that laws affecting the most minute details of day-to-day life were being voted on by people who had not read them - and the politicos thought this method of conducting the country's business was just fine, thank you very much. And please get back to work - we need the tax revenue.
This situation - as much as anything else - lead to the birth of the Tea Party movement. And take a moment to note I'm talking about “taxpayers”, not just “voters”. You see, the taxpayers - the ones footing the bill - also started to recognize they were becoming outnumbered by the masses who existed solely to vote themselves largess from the public pocketbook. And these leeches were becoming ever bolder in their claims upon the productive efforts of others.
While the common folk were still reeling in shock from this hideous revelation, the power brokers suddenly changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries - but (again) refused to explain why to the unwashed masses footing the bill. In effect, they were operating as though it was their right to decide ad ho on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public's understanding.
Now, after the rumblings among the citizenry became unavoidably noticeable - just after the 2008 election - most Republican office holders began to argue against TARP, against bailing out the auto industry, and against the several new "stimulus" bills. They suddenly and quite hypocritically had developed an aversion to the summary expansion of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens.
Now that they were able to quickly recognize a film-flam shuffle after being kicked in the face a few times, the American people had every reason to believe that many Republican politicians were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition. And the self-promoting agitators sweetly did this with the clear and obvious motive of trying to latch onto a ground-swell of public dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy to prop up their own selfish ambitions. You see, the public (slowly) realized the Republicans had been more than happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Only the direction was different, not the tactic.
For the first time in decades, taxpayers began to understand that the differences between Bush I - Clinton - Bush II - Obama were matters of degree and direction, not substance. In fact, for the last two years (2009-2010), the entrenched, establishment Republicans only showed a desire to ever-so-slightly modify the (Obama) government's agenda, and were even eager to join hands across the aisle with Democrats to hatch new and grand spending schemes (if only the Democrats would let them join in the fun).
Orrin Hatch aspired to be Ted Kennedy. Lindsey Graham set aside his legitimate questions about climate change simply for the sake of appearing to be on the Right Side of History. Republicans were just as guilty as Democrats in claiming superior insight into highly technical matters, and each side showed a disturbing tendency to treat average Americans as if they were nothing more than spoiled, whining and annoying children who needed to be spanked until they assumed their proper place in the political food chain (e.g., as the food). The vast majority of the Republican party did not rise up against the bureaucracy simply because they already were (or wanted to be) part of the Ruling Master Class. This so-called “upper crust” of the “best-and-brightest” had devolved into an inbred, self-serving and self-promoting bureaucracy in its worst form.
Throughout history, in America - and just like everywhere else - some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But only recently did those who drew their money and status from different sources became predictably of the same opinion on any given matter. No longer was "bureaucrat" a dirty word. Ditto "social engineering." The schools and universities that formed yesterday's elite imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed.
The Intellectual Elite had carefully crafted an educational system that exposed people to the exact same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. And, worse, it vigorously objected to independent thought in all forms. There can into being a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins - e.g., against “minorities” and the “environment”, and saints - e.g., working for “the public good” (while lining their own pockets). They have been taught to always use the Right Words while avoiding the Wrong Words. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, so did their own fame and fortune pushing them up ever higher.
Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, has never held a non-government job. Whether formally employed in government, out of it, or halfway (i.e., becoming a lobbyist) , this ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. And these elitists recoil in terror at the simple prospect of having to even listen to that majority of otherwise functional Americans who are not oriented to see government as a be-all-end-all.
This country has indeed separated into a class-based society. Not rich and poor. Not the haves and have-not. Instead it is divided into those wish to rise in control of the public arena and those who wish to be left alone and remain private. While most Americans pray to the God "who created and sustains us," the elite prays to ITSELF as "saviors of the planet" and “improver of humanity”. These two distinct groups battle of "whose country" America is, over what way of life will prevail, and - more importantly - who is to defer to whom and about what.
And, just as the only Republican which Democrats will claim to actually admire once said (who was quoting from the Gospel of Mark), "if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand."
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Coming next time in the “Who's In Charge?” - Part 2 -
Vox Populi, Vox Dei or “My God, How did we get in this mess?”