The Wrong Path

 The American Family Gazette

Volume. I,   0911

 

Two articles in the Wall Street Journal this morning (10/30) caught my attention: The Column Capital Journal by Gerald Seib and an Opinion piece by Peggy Noonan. Seib’s Column was titled “Enduring Partisan Divide Stokes Skepticism of Washington”, and Noonan’s was “We’re Governed by Callous Children.” I usually at least scan Seib, but seldom direct my attention to what Noonan has to say.

Today, however, both Columns were devoted basically to the same general topic:  dissatisfaction with as well as a disheartened attitude towards government in Washington.  Now, neither of these conclusions seems to me to be a news-flash just in from across much of America.  On the contrary—and Seib highlights this—this is simply confirmation of an on-going attitude about and perception of government by Americans generally.  So, if this is the case, why am I highlighting these Columns here?  Two good reasons:

First, because both pundits’ Columns provide what I will call independent confirmation of just the issue around which The Gathering of the Clan, An Independent Political Option for America is written:  Politics as we experience it today is befouling government! Secondly, because Ms. Noonan’s piece highlights the Book’s division of American society into just three broad sectors: The people, generally; government; and capitalism, or more narrowly, big American business; what The Gathering of the Clan describes as an issue of Balance (with a capital B). Let’s look first at what Seib has to say.

He is reading, or re-reading, the tea leaves from a new  WSJ/NBC News poll finding Americans “holding in low esteem the government—and in fact much of Washington.” As I implied above, so what else is new? What may be new is that according to the poll the level of skepticism—even cynicism—is high by historical standards. As these numbers parallel those I use in the Book (1995 through 2007 figures, generally on this issue), I and probably many, find no real surprise here; just more of the same.

Seib points out that new congressional voting statistics show that partisanship is just as entrenched in the age of Obama as it was before, no matter Mr. Obama’s campaign rhetoric.  Point:  Bipartisanship under a bipolar political shuffle is largely a myth. It’s a worthy, worthwhile sounding pursuit—I would characterize it as a wild goose chase— that’s seldom attainable, let alone sustainable in a highly ideological environment, which is what we have had for some time. It falls largely in the same category as centrism: sounds good; would be good if possible, but just as the late Senator Hightower of Texas liked to say, “The only things you find in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos.” Centrism is declared and used primarily for election purposes.

And Seib has another bit of déjà Vu to share: Government continues to produces lots of smoke, but little fire.  Translation, per Seib:  “Americans certainly want their politicians to debate strenuously about important issues—the poll findings confirm this—but they also want them at the end of the day to figure out a way to compromise, come together and solve problems . . . For most of the past two decades, though, they’ve mostly seen the arguing part, not the coming together part . . . Congress is locked in a deep, partisan divide in which Republicans and Democrats rarely reach across party lines.”   Call me a “wet blanket” (or voice in the wilderness) but it’s hard to argue against ideology being an almost impermeable barrier that prohibits opposites from combining or even compromising. Viz. To settle differences by mutual concessions, politically, religiously or elsewhere.  I try to clearly make this a primary point in the Clan when discussing why politics today is getting in the way of government. Nonetheless, I continue to believe there has to be a way around this—and it isn’t bipartisanship.

Ms. Noonan’s Opinion piece DECLARATIONS continues highlighting America’s negativism towards government.  Only in her version, we are treated to the views on the subject from “capitalism”, not from polls but from people she has talked with (“I talked this week with a guy from Big Pharma . . .”).  She also talked with a gentleman from (big) Insurance who was “thoughtful, reflective about the big picture.”  He felt government doesn’t understand that business in America is run by human beings. His parting shot was to the effect that, “they don’t understand that if they start to tax me at 60%, 55%, I’ll stop.”[Author’s comment: Keep in mind, the nominal tax rate is hardly every the effective tax rate]

Okay; that may be fair, and it may be representative.  But recognize the source (and status) of the disheartened here. Her take-away from her conversations is that, “The biggest long term threat is that people are becoming. . . disheartened . . . and that it afflicts most broadly and deeply those members of the American leadership class who are not in Washington, most especially those in  business [author’s emphasis]. Translation:  Capitalism is not happy with the treatment it is getting! Okay.  That would seem to put them in the same boat with everyone else!  It’s unanimous:  America is pissed at government, up and down the social and economic ladder!

So, here’s the situation, the status quo, if you will:  Group number one, the people, generally, not happy. Group number three, capitalism, not happy. Group number two, government, probably not too happy either. But, fortunately or unfortunately, it’s their mission and responsibility to keep the other two groups happy. Not an easy task admittedly, but It’s a matter of necessary and rightful Balance (there’s that word again) in America. Ms. Noonan expresses capitalism’s opinion (apparently), to wit: “. . . our government, from the White House through Congress and so many state and local governments, seems to be demonstrating every day that they cannot make things better. They are not offering a new path, they are only offering old paths—spend more, regulate more, tax more. . . And in the long run, everyone—well, not those in government, but most everyone else—seems to know that won’t work.”  No, capitalism certainly doesn’t appear happy, and it’s government’s fault.

Well, as a basic booster of capitalism, I can and do sympathize. I agree with their view that government needs new paths to deal with today’s political, economic and social situations. But I also recognize (in my mind, at least) that capitalism, or big American business, is as much a part of our problem as it is a potential solution, possibly more.  Unfortunately, “new path” for them means ways to satisfactorily solve their problems, and that’s as far as it generally goes.  Nothing wrong with self-interest, up to a point.  But as I mention, Business is only one of three institutions to consider in a Balanced society. (May I recommend to you here Chapter Nine in the Clan; it covers this issue in detail).

So thanks to Ms. Noonan for posting capitalism’s view of things.  Considering the traditional editorial policy and readership of her Paper, this is neither unreasonable nor unexpected.  It is, however, in my view a somewhat unbalanced one. Nonetheless, the point is made, or remade:  Government is not getting a passing grade from this constituency, and much of this constituency is losing or has already lost confidence in today’s government. I translate this into, change is necessary.  I agree.

Seib’s column also drives home this point about necessary change, almost as bluntly, in his closing paragraph:

“The survey also makes it possible to identify the Americans who really say, ’A pox on both your houses.’  Some 13% of those surveyed said they had negative views of both parties.  Those folks are slightly more male than female, a little older than the general population, a bit more affluent and more likely to be Republicans than Democrats in their roots.  If you want to start a third party, there’s your base.”

What an invitation to open my spiel, my sermon regarding political Independents, and, per the title here, the why’s therefore.  But after going through all the above, seems to me it would be redundant!  Let me just leave it with the thought that this now largest electoral grouping offers the potential (Today, just the potential) to accomplish much of what both capitalism (Group #3) and the polls–Americans generally—(Group #2) perceive as necessary:  Political Change.

 

TR Harry
Windsor, 11/09

 

 

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