Blogs by Kalikiano Kalei
The wreck of the USS America...
5/27/2009 12:24:47 PM
Our ship of state, the USS America, is about to collide head-on with that massive, implacable iceberg of economic reality that some prescient intellects among us (such as Thomas Malthus, E.F. Schumacher, and Ivan Illich to name just three) saw looming menacingly on the future socio-economic horizon, many decades in the past. Although the entitlement cultists on the passenger list are already boarding the lifeboats, fully expecting to be saved from the frigid waters of economic chaos, they are about to find out that not only has the USS America too tragically few life rafts, most of them are full of gaping holes and prone to sinking, and the life vests are all made of lead.
California has just received bad news; very bad news indeed. In a recent referendum election, the state’s voters (30% of them, at least—a record low turnout, by most estimates) rejected 9 ballot measures, all proposed as ‘Band-Aid’ fiscal stopgap measures to staunch the massive state budget hemorrhaging that has resulted from a 50 billion dollar shortfall in state revenues.
The Wreck of the USS America…
The polar divisions that characterise the political process in the state may be simply summarized like this: the Republicans adamantly refuse to increase taxes and the Democrats adamantly refuse to cut back existing state public programs (a classic ‘Mexican standoff’?). Since early last year, both parties have consistently refused to discuss compromise in a rational and sorely needed manner. Thus, the actual (and urgent) needs of the state have fallen victim to the politicisation process, a complex quagmire of radically reduced inertial stasis resulting from profound philosophical and actualised dissociations with factual reality.
In a recent address, the Governator (‘Ah-nuld’ Schwartzinamer) stated that the overwhelming rejection of the temporary budget salvage measures by the voters amounts to a ‘clear message from the people’ that the state’s massive social support programs must be slashed to the bone and that past reliance upon simply raising taxes to cover the expense overages is no longer a viable option to entertain.
As a result of all the foregoing, the ponderous California state governmental bureaucratic infrastructure is poised to take most of the hits, with significantly large pending staffing layoffs, substantial program cutbacks, and even closure of some previously thought ‘absolutely vital’ (read: sacred cow) services (welfare, education, and healthcare) to the state’s population. Although all these measures would appear to now be unavoidable, it is highly ironic to reflect on the fact that most of the scrambling now being done to curtail the expensive program appetites acquired in prior decades is the direct result of the state’s elected legislators' failure to carry out the tasks they were elected to accomplish: chiefly, to establish a functional dialogue within which (sometimes painful but necessary) compromise solutions might be enabled, and to enact timely fiscal policies that would balance the budget in a realistic, efficacious, non-partisan, and rational manner.
Instead of accepting the need to work together and put extreme political partisan objectives temporarily aside for the greater benefit of meeting the state's urgent needs, both Republican and Democratic legislators have consistently refused to abrogate their respective political polarities and successfully balance income with expenses in a bipartisan spirit. The fact that the average citizen refuses to understand this and react appropriately (e.g. fail to condemn and severely censure the elected political representatives) is partly due to disingenuous public information efforts (i.e. lobbying), partly due to good old fashioned voter apathy, and sadly, at least in some part, due to sheer public ignorance and unreflective stupidity.
Beyond the obvious and egregious failure to act appropriately that may be directly attributable to the state’s legislators, however, are some facts that the unreflective masses seem incapable of grasping. The most basic of these relates closely to some of the most fundamental principles of what I am quite fond of calling ‘The Great American Experiment’ (American capitalistic democracy). I refer to the grossly oversimplified and misunderstood concept of ‘equality’ that is often regarded as being near synonymous (rightly or wrongly) with the applied principles of American Democracy, in much the same manner that most consider the words 'road' and 'super-highway' to be identical.
Far from being reasonably acquainted with the most basic or fundamental understanding of the political sciences, the average American is fortunate if he or she has ever read the founding articles of our vaunted constitution, or conducted a cursory academic investigation of how American Government actually functions. As is the case with most non directly job-related subjects of study in contemporary American educational curriculae (such as history, or other erstwhile ‘liberal’ arts that have little income generating potential), domestic political history has long since been relegated to the backwaters of modern education to the point where it has become waterlogged from neglect and sunken completely out of sight. The result of this, added to the highly 'job-trained', but grossly 'under-educated' nature of the majority of Americans in our modern society, has led to a catastrophically oversimplified concept of what the nuts and bolts operation of functional American democracy is all about.
Instead of grasping and comprehending the notion that a democracy, but its very nature, imposes very strict and often burdensome responsibilities on members of any supposedly ‘free’ society, the popular notion of ‘equality’ in America has undergone a gross transmorphing process in which ‘equal’ means ‘exactly the same as...’ (with ALL rights, privileges, and entitlements, irrespective of class, economic status, social standing, and/or other dynamics). This translates to a scenario wherein the meanest low-lifer gang-banger swimming in the scum-pool of urban life more often than not thinks he’s as good as (and entitled to the same respect and social standing as) a Warren E. Buffet or a Barack Hussein Obama.
Under the fluttering banner of this assumptive ignorance, and thanks to the altruistic inclinations of many in our society, the masses have today come to feel that they are somehow inherently ‘entitled’ to things that no clear-headed, logically rational individual could or would reasonably expect, anticipate, or construe as anything remotely approximating a ‘God-given right’ of equality. Politicians, in their habitual custom of shamelessly pandering to the various influential components of their constituencies (prompted by their personal agendas and/or political ambitions) in a highly vicarious, opportunistic manner, have lubriciously and co-dependently helped foster this mistaken understanding of ‘equality’ by initiating (over the decades) a broad range of compensatory social welfare programs that are intended to help erase (or at least make them fade from conscious awareness) the disparities between the privileged members of society and those who (although poor and ignorant) fancy themselves somehow equally entitled to the same benefits and considerations of productive and responsible citizens (despite, or contrary to their direct economic or social circumstances).
After decades of being persuaded by our elected political representatives that all Americans are 'equally entitled' (in every sense of that hideously distorted concept), through the mechanism of compensatory social assistance and feel-good social subsidies, the unavoidably brutal bottom-line realities of classical economic mechanics have finally caught up with the cloud of highly spin-augmented political horse exhaust that this social philosophical theory amounts to. In the modern ‘globalised economy’ that corporate business has suavely assured us is ultimately in the best interests of everyone, the recent radical economic plunge from grace suffered by all the developed nations (particularly ours, as prime ring-leaders of this P.T. Barnum-like economic flim-flam) in the current recession has curtailed that highly speculative, grossly euphemised optimism with all the 'full-stop' inertia-defeating efficiency of a solid brick wall.
As social programs and welfare costs (of all types, including most notably healthcare and ‘disadvantaged’ child/family support subsidies) have expanded (logarithmically), and as expenses have multiplied hugely, consequent to expansion of our diversely burgeoning population, we have finally reached the point where the post Vietnam American philosophy of ‘liberal social altruism' that has grown up to the left of center in America (and particularly in California) is about to become spontaneously dysfunctional in the extreme (as in ‘nuclear meltdown’).
Since the privileged and wealthy members of the upper 10% of the socioeconomic spectrum (understandably) refuse to lessen their elevated status by refusing to ‘spread the wealth’ (in a proposed attempt to more fairly deposit financial responsibility upon all citizens), and given the total (and in my opinion hugely shameful) failure of elected political representatives to take appropriate action independent of their selfish personal agendas, the only reasonable option left to avail at this late date is that of slashing present social welfare supports and subsidies to the bloody bone. This is exactly what is happening now in California, as Governator ‘Ah-nold’ prepares to slaughter our costly sacred cows of public educational support, comprehensive healthcare coverage for the disprivileged, and overly generous social (child & family) support subsidies.
Of course, this is not what the ‘self-entitled’ masses want to hear. Nor do they wish to be hit over the head with admonishing mantras such as ‘live within your means’, ‘maintain more realistic expectations about the quality of your life’, ‘consume less and accept the fact that everything has a finite limit', or even ‘know and fully understand the difference between your wants and needs’. What they desire is more of the same: gratis handouts to give them the illusion of socio-economic parity with those who are far, far above their social and economic class. After seeing how this expectation of entitlement all came about over the years, can one really blame them for their myopic ignorance of how things really work, elsewhere in the world?...beyond the fantasy world boundaries of the United States of Unrealityland? Especially not when every last commercial corporation in the United States has been feverishly dedicated to exploiting the entire population equally for the past half-century.
What does this rampant sociopolitical naivete say to any aware, educated, and analytically oriented person prone to thoughtful reflection? How about: “Hello! People are NOT all fully equal, and when did you first notice your cerebral matter turning into liquid faeces?", for starters. The unavoidable fact is there are (and always have been) distinct social and economic class disparities in our supposedly ‘classless’ and 'equal' America, and the common perception of ‘equality’ doesn’t really exist to any substantive degree after all the Fantasyland smoke generators and corporate fun-house mirrors have been boxed up and carted off. Outside of the constitution’s simplistically misunderstood declaration that Americans are all ‘Equal under the law’, that is.
As events continue to unfold and and as our accustomed economic growth expectations further unravel, the next weeks and months will surely continue to see a palpable surge in mass protests by flag-waving throngs of dimbulbs whose expectations of unconditional entitlement are about to suffer a world-class reality check. We will (at least here at the California State Capitol, visible from my office in the State Treasury) continue to be treated to daily rhetorical exhortations and demonstrations, such as have dramatically increased in recent months, as the state plunged deeper into virtual bankruptcy and fiscal insolvancy. If the hoards aren’t foaming at the mouth die-hard, conservative anti tax-increase Republicans (like those attending the recent ‘New American Tea Party’ demonstrations), then they’ll likely be far left of center social liberal Democrats, desperately playing the ‘diversity’ and 'union' wildcards in this high-stakes poker game over California’s (and the nation’s) future.
Meanwhile, folks, please don’t wrap yourself up in any more American flags, don't drape red, white, and blue bunting on yourselves or further jar our senses with those kitschy Uncle Sam top hats; above all, PLEASE don't define the blessings of American liberty entirely by your own painfully narrow-minded and exclusively partisan concepts of our national freedoms. Those of us who better appreciate the daunting complexities of the social challenges in reference tend to look upon such displays more as an embarrassing admission of simple-mindedness and puerile callowness than as thoughtfully framed expressions of refined logic, mature wisdom, and intelligent reflectivity.
[Note: Just after writing this, I accuidentally stumbled upon a most fascinating and astute book (right here on Author's Den, amazingly) titled Delusional Democracy: Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government (Paperback), by Professor Joel Hirschhorn (ISBN-10: 1567513808 ISBN-13: 978-1567513806). His thesis: That the "duocracy" that is America's political system of the Republican and Democratic parties has grown critically dysfunctional. Here is his assessment of how to make changes to save the nation, without overthrowing our present government. I highly recommend it, if you care about the 'USS America'. http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewwork.asp?id=16829
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