Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Building government on pillars of sand
On Your Right
Hillary Clinton sets up a private server, conducts government business on it and is surprised when called to account. Yes, it contained classified information; ask the National Reconnaissance Office.
City fathers in Seattle raised the minimum wage for franchise workers and, mirabile dictu, some of the most vulnerable fry cooks and dishwashers rejoice at their new bounty. Others get fired, so their colleagues may be paid more. They are angry when it happens.
Barack Obama wields his “pen and phone” and, by fiat, orders that government contractors shall receive paid sick leave – beginning in 2017, when he’s not around to pay the bill.
California’s Governor Moonbeam proposes to cut California’s petroleum use in half in 15 years. Using the Bogeyman of Anthropogenic global warming, he proposes mandating changes to the state’s energy use so drastic that even Democrat state legislators are concerned about their effects on California’s working class and poor.
What do all of these things have in common, aside from their essential looniness? They all involve a flight from responsibility. They seek to de-couple causes — new policies, new government initiatives, new mandates — from effects — rising unemployment, wasted money and effort, economic dislocations, increased human misery.
From the president to local councils, it’s the same, sad story: “Not my red line.” I didn’t do it. We’re not responsible. The consequences — more violence, overwhelming tides of refugees, poor academic performance, fewer opportunities for low-skilled, no-experience, bottom-rung workers — they’re all someone else’s doing. Others will have to clean that mess up. Don’t look at us. Gritty reality should never be allowed to interfere with the workings of a beautiful theory.
Consider our “Reset” with Russia in the heady, early days of the Obama administration. Mistranslated though it was, the red button Clinton jokingly presented to Russian Foreign Minister Lavarov represented an intoxicating brew of gullible optimism and naiveté the administration and its would-be successors now wish no one would remember. Instead of becoming a liberal democracy, in the “Reset” era, Russia has befriended our enemies, threatened our NATO partners, sown instability and gobbled up significant parts of a European state — all without serious response. This is an entirely predictable result of a foreign policy of withdrawal, vacillation and projected weakness — yet there is not a scintilla of evidence that anyone involved will admit the whole business might have been the tiniest bit overdone.
Democrats are not the only violators. In 2010, when it became abundantly clear that this administration was bound and determined to have what it wanted and to hell with the consequences for the nation, the Republican establishment promised to act as a brake on the cliff-bound car if only we would give them a majority in the House of Representatives. We did, and they didn’t. Show votes don’t count in the house of Congress that controls purse strings.
In 2014, when we saw the president’s intention to run a government-by-fiat, we were told by the Republican establishment that a Senatorial majority was necessary to stop that practice. They got it, and the country got … nothing.
Now the Republican establishment wonders where Donald Trump came from and why he is doing so well. One wonders if there is any cure for so willful a failure to understand.
Avoidance of responsibility and denial of cause-and-effect are the stock-in-trade of contemporary politicians for two reasons:
First, because it works. It allows them to take feel-good positions and make meaningless proposals in the name of some abstract good, without paying the freight. Any proposal that takes effect at a later date is this sort of swindle: If it’s a good idea, it’s a good idea now — not when one is safely retired.
Second, it works because we allow it. Holding politicians to account is hard work. One has first to know what they have said and done and then one has to confront them if the results are not as advertised: “Do you really think that moving half of California’s economy to renewable energy in 15 years won’t harm the working poor? Why?”
In a media environment obsessed with celebrity and the thirty-second sound bite, this is increasingly difficult: It’s tedious. It’s not new and now. It’s a three-piece Brooks Brothers at the MTV Video Music Awards. And, because the flight from responsibility is so universal, it’s seen as Quixotic. “Sure, politicians lie. What’s the big deal?”
The big deal is, when celebrity and fashion replace responsibility and reason, we are attempting to build good and responsive government with pillars of sand. So will we continue to hire architects who say they can do exactly that? And, if we do, what are we, really?
More importantly, what are we going to do about it?
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily.
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