JACK SPENCER: Politicians have been ‘faking’ voters for too long
Here are the opening lines to an old song:
Said it is only a paper moon - Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make believe - If you believed in me.
Say it is only a canvas sky - Hanging over a muslin tree
But it wouldn't be make believe- If you believed in me.
This song is titled, “It's Only A Paper Moon.” Perhaps the subtitle should be “Whispers of a Politician,” or “The Anthem of Modern Government.”
Most political rhetoric is hollow, shallow and insincere. Very often, its only substance resides in the imaginations of voters predisposed to believe in a particular politician or cause. However, millions of voters having been swayed left or right, cannot resurrect fatally flawed policy. In the end, a paper moon is no more than colored paper, regardless of how many voters have been fooled.
In recent elections voters have chosen rhetorical fantasy over hard reality. This "disconnect" is what has put us on our current path.
What feedback would be expected if we asked voters for their overall opinion of politicians and bureaucrats? Chances are the overwhelming response would be negative. This is likely to be the case whether a voter is liberal, conservative or any shade between.
Yet, turn around and ask if government should do more, and many – perhaps a majority – of these same voters will say “yes.” Here is the "disconnect" once again. Too many voters have failed to see government for what it actually is. It is just the sum total of the very politicians and bureaucrats that so few trust. Letting government do more, is like handing over your house key to someone you strongly suspect is a con man. This is a recipe for disaster – and that's exactly what we're getting.
Our national debt is at $16 trillion. The unfunded liabilities of legacy costs across the U.S. equal more than $70 trillion.
How much is $1 trillion? It's unfathomable. Hold out your hand and imagine a four-inch stack of one-thousand dollar bills. That stack would equal one million dollars. To reach $1 trillion, the stack would have to be 67 miles high. Our debt equals 86 times that much.
One is tempted refer to this debt as a gathering storm. That description, however, is insufficient. The debt crisis is the entire horizon filled with approaching hurricanes, stretching unmeasured distances into the looming night.
Does anyone remember prewar Germany, when inflation was so high that entire lives' savings couldn't purchase an egg? Does anyone remember what sort of leadership that level of financial collapse led to? Oh wait, we nearly forgot, no one teaches history anymore.
Many readers might recall a little phrase from the past, “fake it, until you make it.”
Virtually everyone has “faked it” a few times in their lives. It has happened when a job assigned to you wasn't clear in your mind and you really weren't sure what you were supposed to be doing. So, for a while, you pretended everything was under control. What else could you do?
Behind the facade was the hope that, eventually you'd figure it all out. At some point in the future you assumed that it would all make sense. However, sooner or later, most people reach a limit. At some point they stop faking it and finally say, “Hey, we don't know what we're doing.”
Unfortunately, for many in power today, “faking it” has no such limitations. That's apparently the case with the majority in Washington, D.C. To admit that they don't know how to deal with the debt crisis would be admitting that even government must yield to economic reality. So instead, they just “fake it,” and pretend that everything is still under control. This is what it seems to have come to - leadership by denial.
Meanwhile, the mainstream news media feeds the "disconnect" by putting the focus elsewhere. In reality, the debt crisis is so huge that no one may know how to handle it. However, it's obvious that, if there is a cure, it must start with spending cuts. Compared to our debt, the pathetically modest cuts under the "sequester", are like chipping at Mount Everest with a nutpick. Yet, look at the fuss the mainstream news media made over them.
Watching the mainstream media's lack of coverage of the debt crisis is like visiting acquaintances and noticing a 100-pound tarantula in the corner of their living room. “What's that?” you ask in alarm. But your hosts just make casual conversation about the weather and the basketball game; then offer you a cup of coffee.
After protesting several times, your hosts finally acknowledge the tarantula. “Yeah, it's really scary,” they say. “Eventually it could attack everyone in the house. In fact, it is potentially a menace to the whole neighborhood. We should probably do something about it. But for the time being we're just trying to ignore it.”
Then they notice some mud has been tracked on their new carpets. And that gets them very upset.
Switching gears to the state
Last week, the Michigan House passed legislation to accept a $30 million federal grant for implementation of a healthcare exchange. Such exchanges are a component of Obamacare.
Passage of the legislation, House Bill 4111, was criticized by some conservatives. Based on the wording of the news release from House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, which announced and explained the vote, House Republicans were expecting a strong negative reaction.
However, the healthcare exchange was last year's front-line battle over Obamacare. It was basically resolved when President Barack Obama won re-election. In 2013 the front-line state battle on Obamacare is over Medicaid expansion – not the exchanges. Considering the fight over the exchange in 2012, the confusion was understandable.
Jack Spencer is Capitol Affairs Specialist for Capitol Confidential, an online newsletter associated with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (MCPP). MCPP provides policy analysis. The political analysis represented in this column does not necessarily reflect the views of the Mackinac Center.