As I watch America go off the rails, one of the primary causes is that the solutions we are demanding to our problems are the wrong ones. We seem to be unable to really look at a problem in any rational way that is not tainted by politics and philosophy. The latest flap over the tragedy in Libya is a case in point. We want to point the finger of blame instead of understanding how we made an error that got four Americans killed. You see this behavior all the time in crime and punishment in the United States where if we just get revenge in our justice system, everything will be in balance again.
I have friends who just hate the Federal government. Look at all the stupid things they do they say. Government is just simply bad in their minds. But having served in the Federal Government most of my life, I know this is just not true. While we do some very stupid things, we don’t do them whimsically, we do them because there is a long history of how we got there, most of it being a reaction to some abuse and corrections demanded by the same people who then lament the bureaucracy. My point is not to argue whether government is good or not (self-evident) but that if we really want to fix a problem, we have to understand what caused it.
That brings me back to the very dangerous period we have entered into in the United States where at least in the Republican Party, solutions have to meet very strict ideology standards. Couple that with the he said/she said world we live in, devoid of critical thinking intervention, and we have a whole segment of our society that has created an alternate reality to what is really happening. And their solutions will make it worse because they don’t address the fundamental problem.
There were two interesting news stories today that made that point abundantly clear. The first was an article, Standard of Living is in the Shadows as an Election Issue, which was about us not really talking about what is the driving issue. But within that article were a couple of “facts” that show how we are attacking the right problems with the wrong solutions. First our average family income is down 8% since 2000 when it began to decline steadily. Kind of shoots holes in the Obama caused it thing. Then the article goes on:
“The recent stagnation has also led, economists say, to confusion and even scapegoating about the real sources of the problem. The causes that can seem obvious, and that often shape the political debate, are not necessarily the correct ones.”
It points out that scapegoating immigration for loss of jobs does stand up to the data and in states like California where there are larger populations of immigrants (legal or otherwise) income growth is faster. Go figure if you are a Republican.
But the best example comes from an op-ed in the NYT (The Austerity Trap) about Mitt warning that our prolifigate spending ways will send us down the path of Greece.
“What is more disturbing is that the comment displays willful ignorance about the lessons of Greece, and such ignorance can only lead to bad policy decisions at home. The lesson that should be learned from Greece is that its fiscal mess has been made far worse by severe budget cuts….If governments push ahead anyway with deep spending cuts, the result is only more economic weakness without the hoped for budget improvement. That has been the case in Greece and other nations of Europe, like Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Britain. If Republican policies to slash government programs while excessively cutting taxes were carried out here, the United States would experience a similar effect.”
Global warming also comes to mind, but enough. The point is that we want to find blame, scapegoats, and in the process we are going to make things much worse until we take a more reasoned and rational approach to our problems. This will not happen with the current crop of Republican ideologues who think taking us back to the 19th century and making women subservient to them will solve all our problems. What is truly frightening is that the polls show they have an even chance of doing just that if we don’t get out and vote. Need I say more?
Postscript: More Data to prove my point while the majority of Americans rush headlong in the wrong direction: The Economic Consequences of Mr. Osborne