The Reality Of Our Unreality

Many Americans are frustrated with the direction of our country, and their dismay is deepened by our inability to solve the many problems facing us today.  

Housing, medical care, pharmaceuticals, food, fuel, and higher education are all obscenely expensive. Our public schools produce hordes of functional illiterates and prepare few for college or career success. Violent crime and drug overdoses are shockingly common, and we are in the throes of a national epidemic of mental health problems that, at least in part, helps to drive both the crime and the drug use.

And from every corner of our nation we hear louder and more desperate pleas for government to solve all of our problems.

First of all, we must recognize that we already have plenty of government and government employees, so it should be plainly apparent by now that government—no matter how large it becomes—will never be able to cure what ails America today.  Government spending, government borrowing, and the government deficits that result have all been skyrocketing over the past 30 to 40 years, and the intrusiveness of the regulatory state has also expanded exponentially during this same time period.  

The insane growth of the role of government in our daily lives has been a boon to many industries and their lobbyists, who have figured out how to champion laws and regulations that manipulate the marketplace in order increase their profits.  It is no accident that virtually every life necessity has become more expensive as corporations have grown more powerful and unassailable; this is the natural outcome of Big Government’s capture by campaign contributors who owe their fantastic profits and wealth to government’s heavy handed and outsized role in picking our economy’s winners and losers.  

A larger government will always benefit the few at the expense of the many.  The micro-slicing of the regulatory state’s largesse has now extended to handing out cash and preference to groups of voters based on how oppressed they can present themselves to be, which is a handy tool for placating the proles who are otherwise being robbed blind by the super-rich that now own our country.  It serves the interests of the very powerful to have us scramble for the table scraps while they smugly gorge themselves at our expense.

The real problem facing America is that our monstrously enormous government—and the blatant and ongoing corruption it inevitably invites—is no longer focused on conducting the people’s business in a fair and cost-effective manner.  The core function of all levels of government is now to function as cash machines that discharge dollars based on the size of your campaign contributions or the number of votes that might be bought with the money that is dispensed.  

This problem grows in magnitude as we climb from local to state to federal government simply because the cash on the table to be snatched and spent is that much larger and far less accountable, so the rich and powerful typically set up their most important lobbying and influence operations in the capitals of our largest states and Washington, D.C.  To paraphrase the famous bank robber Willie Sutton, you have to go where the money is, and those sniffing around for government handouts and favors understand this all too well.

This reality relates to why problems never get solved: There is no profit to be made there.  Promising to solve problems—but never actually solving them—is a far more lucrative career path.  Chronic problems have a chronic need for cash; however, efficient and cheap resolutions provide few lucrative jobs, grants of money, or easy opportunities for political grandstanding.  Most importantly of all, persistent failures of policy offer lots of opportunities for finger pointing that endear you to your constituents and effectively forestall any opportunity for reasonable compromise.

Therefore, hotheaded rhetoric divorced from any effort at actual problem solving is typical, normal, and celebrated in the dysfunctional America that sadly exists today.

Democrats are never going to pay attention to lousy parenting or untreated mental health issues when discussing gun violence or drug abuse; Republicans will never ask why anyone needs a 100 round magazine to go deer hunting or might need far more mental health treatment than is now affordable.  Democrats will never advocate for raising academic standards, strict classroom discipline, or simply flunking lazy students in order to improve our public schools; Republicans are allergic to redistributing money away from affluent schools with huge property tax bases in order to help out our nation’s most cash-starved and dead-broke districts.  Democrats will never acknowledge that Black on Black murders are far more of a problem than White Supremacy or police misconduct; Republicans will often support law enforcement even if badge-heavy officers abuse their authority when apprehending suspects.

Money and power flows to the most implacable and unreasonable because those on either side of our yawning political divide prefer to bask in their self-righteousness and keep their ideological blinders firmly in place.  Meanwhile, while we are arguing endlessly about why a father would reasonably refuse to have his ten year old daughter in a bathroom with a dude in a dress or why anyone should be permitted to have an elective abortion at the very end of a full-term pregnancy, the corporate officers and lobbyists for America’s biggest industries are sipping Chardonnay in their summer houses and calculating the value of their stock options.

Our culture wars are real; our selfish and self-involved reactions to the differences that inevitably arise in the most diverse nation on the planet are completely unrealistic.  If every American thought the same and believed the same, compromise would be unnecessary, but clearly we are a heterogeneous nation comprised of individuals from every race, ethnicity, and creed imaginable.  Following divisive leaders who are using our differences to advance their own careers rather than showing true leadership by pushing for difficult and perhaps unpalatable consensus solutions is a disaster for all Americans—regardless of their political, social, and cultural beliefs.

Presuming that government can solve all of our problems by imposing solutions that are clearly one-sided and outrageously expensive is a harmful reflex.  In the best of all possible worlds everyone should be a little dissatisfied with the status quo, but we are instead encouraged to hate our neighbors and fight to the bitter end over every issue both big and small because money and attention follows hard upon screaming controversies.  Moreover. distracting us from the innate corruption of Big Government ably serves the purposes of those who are wangling tax breaks, raising the prices on basic goods and services by killing market competition, and demanding taxpayer cash for their pet projects and dubiously beneficial crusades.

To put it bluntly, we are suckers who are being programmed to endlessly battle one another while our pockets are being surreptitiously—and sometimes not so surreptitiously—emptied to make others stupendously rich at our expense.  Monopolies, artificially-created shortages, and government mandates that add to the costs of most life necessities are now facts of life in America, but we spend all of our time having idiotic arguments about whether we should prosecute shoplifters or allow school teachers to quiz adolescents about their masturbation habits.  If the answer to either question is not blindingly obvious, it is a clear sign that our culture wars are actually a proxy for a deeper and far more destructive agenda operating beneath the surface.

The basis of a great many of our problems is the attempt to turn government into the arbiter—and ultimate power—concerning every aspect of our lives.  Whether you are working within the government itself or making your living as part of the consultant and contractor class that writes the rules for their own benefit, the net result is an enormous—and often invisible—transfer of wealth from those who do the work to those who decide just how and when we are allowed to work.  

Much of the task of business managers today involves parsing mountains of regulations that exist to protect the wealth and privilege of those who have the wherewithal to buy a legislator who can insulate them from marketplace competition or unruly upstarts who might impinge on their profits.  Teacher unions, for example, pour campaign contributions onto state and federal legislators in order to ensure that students are trapped in failing and thoroughly uneducational public schools—so their union members have a steady paycheck.  By the same token, wealthy Americans work assiduously to make certain that zoning and environmental regulations keep them both surrounded with greenery and as far away as possible from those poor and middle class people who might want to live anywhere in their general vicinity.  

The bigger our government, the greater the likelihood it is being used as a form of legalized racketeering meant to keep the cash flowing into the pockets of those who have figured out how to use the power of government to help them keep or attain money and privilege.  Seen from this perspective, the recent battles over promoting diversity in school admissions, hiring, and job promotion throughout our nation can be seen as a battle over just whose privileges will be protected by government.  Removing competence from the equation demonstrates the intrinsic unfairness of the dictatorial powers now assumed by government and promotes ill will that spans the generations.  

The controversies that now swirl around the issue of promoting “equity” in education are a perfect example of this phenomenon.  Parents whose children are denied admission to competitive schools and colleges—or have seen academic standards discarded altogether as a tool for imposing student quotas based on race or ethnicity—will not soon forget the injustice done to their children.  Their anger will likely be later used to justify more heavy-handed government attempts to tilt the table and promote an elusive equality of outcome whose definition is wholly dependent on where the most votes can be found.

The ultimate goal of these educational battles is to reward those groups within our diverse nation that excel at capturing the enormous—and enormously unfair—powers inherent in our big, corrupt government, not on any basic American values of hard work and achievement, which are now deemed inherently racist in practice.  This inane attempt to make everyone equally stupid neatly mirrors a great many other bitter and ultimately self-defeating efforts by government and those private sector parasites who see both profit and power in discarding excellence in favor of unfair quotas.  These will accomplish little other than producing yet more racial animosity in our nation—while eroding any possible motivation to work or study hard.

Until we drastically shrink the size and role of government in our nation, our lives will continue to be captive to chicanery masquerading as high moral principle.  Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans can look forward only to growing poorer and angrier as the mechanisms of our democracy are deformed by money and self-interest into an autocracy run by a bureaucracy, one that owes its allegiance to everyone other than our nation’s citizens.