I spent most of the last four months without cable TV or internet, and no regular newspaper. I’d like to tell you it made life perfect, but in truth, I missed all of them and was looking forward to returning to Florida to get a media fix.
Now that I’ve had it for the last ten days I wish I was Punxsutawney Phil and could crawl back into my burrow for another six weeks. Nothing has changed. I had forgotten how bombastic and pointless our national political dialog has become. We are a nation of Nero’s, fiddling away as the country burns down around us.
There is only one reason to have a government, and that is to solve problems. Does anyone think that is what our political class is doing for us – solving problems? I honestly don’t think I know a single person – either on the left or the right - who feels that way. Everyone is frustrated.
I have more sympathy for the Tea Party-types than any other segment of the chattering classes. At least they seem sincere in their belief that the government has to be smaller. And does anyone actually believe we’d be worse off without Departments of Education, or Energy? Can you name one thing they’ve done for us? You have to at least give them credit for making Mitch McConnell’s life miserable.
As for the Republicans, well they are what they are. At least they are transparently in the pocket of big money and the closest they come to making a secret of it is to say it is because the economic benefits will trickle down to working class people. It’s a lie, but it is consistently told.
The Democrats are the worst because they so often disappoint. Like their hero Bill Clinton, they fall so far short of their potential it breaks your heart. You know the biggest political lie of the last couple of elections? It was “you should vote Democratic because Republicans don’t believe that government can do any good, and so they govern poorly. Democrats believe in good government and govern well.” Now there is some world class bullshit, as George Carlin might have said.
With their man in the Oval Office and an unbeatable majority in both houses they had two once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to show us what good government looks like. The first was the stimulus bill, which could have put hundreds of thousands of people to work rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, but instead, became a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stick American taxpayers with the bill for every two-bit Congressman’s pet porker project, Harry Reid’s monorail from LA to Las Vegas, for example.
A now, with our bridges still falling down, and millions of people in need of jobs, there is zero chance of another stimulus bill because no one – Republican, Tea Bagger or Democrat – believes Congress would spend the money wisely. What is their latest approval rating – like 16%?
The Dem’s second great opportunity to show what great government could look like came with health care reform. After wasting months trying to look like they were good guys, willing to compromise with the GOP (which I doubt they really were, but it’s moot now), they ended up cramming a bill down the Republican’s throats anyway. But instead of a well considered, rational plan that any American could understand, we got yet another 1000-page plus monstrosity of a bill that most of them never read and none of them understood, pushed through at the last minute. And now they’re crying in their Chardonnay that the plan is being misrepresented by their opponents. Boo-hoo. You should have done it right. Then the voters would have understood. Instead you’ve got to send President Obama out again on one of those inane “backyard real-folks” tours selling health care reform months after the fact. Jesus – what losers.
And then there’s the Faux Financial Reform Act, the legion of Goldman advisors surrounding the President, and his misguided Afghanistan plan. If this is good government we might as well elect Sarah now and get it over with.
We don’t even talk about the really important issues in the public debate. (When was the last time you heard a serious discussion of the defense budget?) In fact it’s not a debate; it’s just one interest group shouting at another. This is good for cable TV and the internet; it provides very cheap programming and builds audiences, because we don’t really want to listen to ideas that conflict with our own version of reality. There’s no other way to explain Fox News, MSNBC or about a hundred thousand political web sites and blogs. As the Doobie Brothers told us many years ago:
“But what a fool believes…he sees
No wise man has the power to reason away
What seems…to be
Is always better than nothing”
We don’t discuss issues we wrap lies in a thin veneer of half truths; we don’t solve problems we build Potemkin solutions that are politically mollifying but substantively meaningless. What’s it going to take to change things? The financial crash didn’t do it. Two failed wars didn’t do it. Katrina didn’t do it. How bad do the schools have to become? How much more dependent on imported oil do we have to be?
Just talking about it, knowing nothing will be done is degrading in its own way. I long to do something real and tangible, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear. I’m going back into my burrow.