Guvment Got Evil

Government mistrust has reached dizzying heights in recent years. Government was long regarded as a sacrosanct entity, but now, calls to starve its power center and leave it a skeleton - once coming from the fringe - are coming from the mainstream and gaining ground everywhere you look.

Why don't people trust Government? Why are people going back to the tenets of personal responsibility, States' rights, deregulation and lower taxes? If you did a straw poll of a wide swath of Americans - blue collar workers, wealthy entrepreneurs, hedge fund managers, single income families, former State Governors - about their mistrust of everything Fed, you will probably hear the word 'taxes.'

The Tea Party began back in February of 2009, when Rick Santelli, a brash, opinionated CNBC editor and long time commodities trader, engaged in a now famous, somewhat disjointed on-air rant filled with broad, vehement condemnations of 'loser mortgagors' and anti-Government rhetoric. The movement gained footing soon afterward, followed by a groundswell of political support sweeping a huge number of small business owners, entrepreneurs and business leaders into the House of Representatives in 2010. Likewise, State Governors, former politicians, and real estate moguls jumped into the fray, declaring themselves part of the Tea Party. Michelle Bachmann, current Presidential Candidate, founded the Tea Party Caucus in Congress. The movement seemed unstoppable. It still is.

Despite this, there is a lot of disagreement about just what the Tea Party stands for. This may be because it stands for many different things, not the least of all is overall distrust of Government and laws that mandate Government regulation or intervention. There is a disturbing streak of xenophobia, racism, anti-immigration and intolerance intersecting with Tea Party in significant ways. It may not be proof positive that the movement itself is racist, but there's no doubting that the Tea Party has a needle mainlining anxiety over endless war, a distressed economy, taxation, the right to protect oneself, and other issues hugely important to all Americans.

The moral beliefs espoused by the Party can be assessed in the following ways:

* Government social policies force people to do things they shouldn't have to do. These policies tread on individual freedom and liberty. Therefore, they are wrong, and must be diversified and filtered through private entities, and into the hands of individuals. No one should be forced into anything, ever.

The strong individualist, Libertarian bent is palpable. There is a sense of revolt and revolution in those sentiments. The air is thick with promise of revolt and revolution (more on that in a bit) and words of revolt help to assuage the strong anxiety generated by the recession, the unemployment rate, and sagging wages.

* Government fiscal policies constrain and bind the effectiveness and growth of businesses. These policies also have the effect of preventing business owners from hiring, handing out raises, retaining valuable employees, and producing quality products. Regulations inhibit quality, fiscal growth, investor confidence, and stifle competition.

My wife met a successful, wealthy business owner on a plane to Chicago the other day. When discussing the future of his company and of the lives of his employees, he took on an almost magnanimous, patriarchal tone. He sees himself as a job creator, as a holdout for hope that the economy can improve, and in his mind, tax and spend policies waste his chances for growing his business and taking care of his employees. He's a classic Reagan Democrat: rode a Harley in the 70's, maybe smoked some pot, then came into wealth in the 80s and from thereon out, clung to politics that would preserve that wealth for his family. He's now a proud member of the Tea Party.

* Big Government wants to tax you into the ground, steal your home, impound your car, send you off to war, force you to buy health care, force you to contribute to someone else's well being when you are strapped enough as it is.

Nowhere in this National discussion on Big Government vs. Limited Government (noticed that it's either one or the other) is the real issue: corporate Lobbyists' influence in Washington and in campaigns. How we've managed to get this far along in a debate on the role of Government without a single mention of the mammoth influence of Big Corporations on public policy is beyond me.

The politicians getting us fired up about the evils of Big Government have benefited from it themselves, and often used it to their advantage while executing their respective offices. These politicians - especially Tea Party Republicans - take all kinds of stump time to outline what's wrong with Medicare, Social Security, public schools, Unions, mandatory vaccination, and Federal oversight of State level issues. There are major fixes due on many of these things to keep them viable, but putting a torch to them because they don't sync with a world view inconsistent with history, is insane. For instance, doing away with a wildly popular program like Medicare, or Social Security, because it isn't project so be sustainable under current conditions, is kind of like doing away with a position at a company because someone didn't perform it well enough. Why not just re-train the person, or hire a new one? Why the extreme thinking?

Corporations are in Washington to preserve the bottom line - profit - and to ensure that it continues unabated. This bottom line is the profit motive. The bottom line is not people. Corporate slogans would like you to think that people matter more, but it's all about envisioning endless opportunities for expanded profit, at whatever cost. Exploiting the tax code to generate more growth (i.e. wealth) is a strategy that has worked. So is taking business overseas. So is privatizing public utilities. None of those solutions provide long term solutions for quality of life for those other than that executives at the very top.

PACs are also part of the problem. Political Action Committees are ways for Corporations to sidestep campaign laws to donate huge, largely untraceable amounts of money to their favorite candidates. Between PACS, private donations, Congressional Lobbies, and other hand-in-pocket dealings, Corporations are able to send faux populist candidates to every small town in every battleground State in the country and convince the people that the popularity of the campaign has been earned not by Corporate donation, but by sheer will, popularity, and good ole fashioned elbow grease. That big slab of greasy, wrinkled ham down in Texas, Rick Perry? He'd like you to think he's a hard chargin' cowboy lookin' to settle a score with the intrusions of an unfeeling Government. In reality, he's a Corporate shill like the rest of 'em. These are the very Corporate influences that make Washington rotten.

People rail about how evil Government regulations are, but in fact, what people really despise is the indifference and lack of Representation they feel from their Government right now. People don't think Government is looking out for them. Is that because Government is instead looking out for itself and the politicians who comprise it? That's half true. Government has a puppet master's hand up its behind, and in turn, is looking out for private, for-profit enterprises that do not represent the people.

The evils of Big Government - and there are evils - are not borne from a desire on behalf of Government to take over your life, for sake of gaining power. If there was a single evil robot infused with evil robot A.I. at the center of Government, programmed to disenfranchise humans, then a real argument could be made for 'Government is evil because that's the nature of Government,' as many Tea Partiers assert.

However, the truth is, Government is evil because it's grown inefficient and bloated. It has been hijacked and infested by Corporate interests. Meanwhile, Corporations, their masters, their lobbyists, and their beneficiaries continue to vilify Big Government while continuing to use their influence to make Government do their own bidding. To them Government is useful, but as they tell you on the side, in their County Fair stump speeches, Government does nothing useful for you that the Companies they shill for can't do better.

By now, it's escaped no one that Congress no longer works. I've said this before and I'll say it again: if we campaigned really hard for campaign finance and PAC-related regulations, and continued to push for Lobby reform, I think we'd stand a chance at removing some of the Cancer from the way Congress works, and get the gears turning again.

In the meantime, here are some bullet points of my own. Consider it food for thought.

* What is institutional poverty, and where does it come from? What are some practical policy solutions for reducing it? Are there racial and class related correlations, however uncomfortable they might be?

* What is learned dependence, and where does it come from? Do social policies and outreach programs have any potential use in combating it.

* Are all wealthy individuals 'job creators?' Should be perhaps investigate what it means to be a 'job creator.' Just as it is unfair to refer to all poor people as lazy welfare cheats and drug addicts, it's also unfair to refer to all successful millionaires and billionaires, particularly those living on capital gains and investment interest, those who put almost no money into infrastructure, as 'job creators.'

* Are corporations saddled with more regulations less likely to pass down savings to their employees and communities. Conversely, are companies faced with greater regulation more likely to 'punish' their employees and communities? All evidence points to no. Look at the 90's. Much more regulation, and much more affluence. Look at now. Much less regulation, and none of that profit is trickling down.

This is a moral issue. Should we rely on individuals in the throes of poverty and learned dependence to help themselves up, or do we have an obligations as a society to craft solutions for those less fortunate than us?  Do we believe, as many do, that entering into poverty and allowing drug dependency and violence and unemployment to define us, is a personal choice? Or do we consider that it's more complex than that?

My belief is that people, while imperfect, are ultimately proud. Americans in particular are always out to prove what they're worth. My belief then, is that considering poverty, depression, chemical depression, learned dependence, and a shitty economy as important variables to consider when tackling society's ills is the smart course. Empower people to succeed rather than just throwing them an assemblage of tools, or worse, just lecturing them to get up, they might just surprise you.

Indeed, if the primary tenets of Capitalism were infused with any sense of moral righteousness and altruism and focused remotely on the long term benefits of the communities they inhabit and the human beings that drive their gears, Federal Regulations would be superfluous and wasteful. As it stands now, particularly with the way a corrupted Washington enables their worst instincts, Federal Regulation should be the least of our worries.


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