14. HABITUAL POLITICIANS
As a contracted expression for "policy-making", politics evolved as a potentially better way to solve problems than resorting to violence. With violence, the disputing parties consistently end up with less after their disagreement. Policy making is productive if it solves problems, and it is destructive--like violence--if it does not, for ignored problems destroy people's jobs, homes and time.
Politics is not always better than violence in solving the problems of a collection of people; it may be just as bad or worse. When the latter situation arises, violence becomes rampant as people turn from an inadequate or incompetent policy-making process in order to achieve just solutions. Policy-making failed in every nation in which there has been internal strife or revolution. There are few nations, if any, that have not suffered from failed policy-making in which the entrenched politicians ignored or generated problems. America is joining this list.
The efficiency and effectiveness of a problem solution by policy-making depends on two factors. The first is how quickly the policy-making process becomes aware of the problem. No problem can be solved without knowledge of its existence, that is, "recognizing a problem is half the solution" as some would say. The second factor requires relevant diagnosis of the problem with all the symptoms properly integrated and without any irrelevant symptoms or information. Half-cocked policy-making does not dispatch troublesome problems, nor do corrupt officials solve problems when they concentrate on special interests. This chapter describes the failing of the national problem-solving process in the U.S., Congress, in terms of corrupt politicians bringing irrelevant, special interests into the process.
As a word, "politics" should never be used without a qualifier. People readily distinguish between conservative and liberal politics and between Republican and Democratic politics. These distinctions are meaningless compared to a more basic and encompassing qualification under which the these distinctions fall: modern politics. Politics in the modern world today means policy-making that fails to solve problems.
What is modern politics? And, what causes modern politics to fail as a policy-making process? Modern politics fails because of
??ce the consideration of factors irrelevant ??ce to solving problems.
The modern politicians themselves, whether of a liberal or conservative mold, Democrat or Republican, constantly bring irrelevant factors to the national problem-solving process. Their corruption and/or incompetence automatically imply that the factors considered during the problem-solving process will be irrelevant.
A recent, catastrophic example of irrelevant factors in national policy-making was the wooing of Congress in 1981 by the U.S. President in getting his budget passed. Arm-twisting intimidation and cheap bribery, commonplace in modern politics, were used in what was described as "a classic blend of stroking and threats by Ronald Reagan that brought his biggest victory as President." While his campaign theme was "more leadership", little did his middle-class backers realize that he would lead to a new level of inflationary trade-offs in order to get his program passed in April 1981, e.g., sugar, peanut and cotton subsidies. Will the promised, but questionable, three-year tax-cuts offset the money lost due to inflated prices in basic commodities? In political leadership, like political compromises, one needs to understand that leadership can be among thieves or among people.
Such victories may win political battles, but such strategies do not win wars against inflationary suffering: prices and unemployment. The very means by which Reagan's 1981 legislative victory was won will not whip inflationary suffering; the vapidity of this approach was evidenced in his continual absence from the budgetary process in the following years, despite a promise of going the "extra mile." Inflation indexes the cost of unsolved problems which Reagan's policies increase overall, and which Reaganomics showed monthly in both prices and unemployment. In the end, a policy-making process that coerces action will not win the war against problems or their cost.
Reagan's exhibition of modern politics required a partner; can one find hope in the way that Congress responded? Or, does one find a feeling of fear? The votes should have come from Presidential leadership in educating the Congressional representatives into doing the right thing for the country. Yet, as the following quotations show, the votes came from the legisflators looking out for themselves. They did not act for the country as they bent before the "stroking and threats" of Ronald Reagan. With a track record of making national policy on the irrelevant basis of their personal well-being, should not one fear for the future if modern politics continues to pollute the problem-solving process?
What was Reagan's "classic blend" of modern politics? For starters, of the lawmakers called in before the 1981 budget vote, "Nearly all went away impressed, many proudly displaying gifts of cuff links bearing the presidential seal." While it is doubtful whether any Congressmen were impressed enough to cast their vote solely on the presentation of another set of presidential cuff links from the new occupant in the White House, such factors are irrelevant in solving the national problems, and they should be neither given nor received in a policy-making process.
Similar to cuff-links are tickets to functions that should be totally out of the political arena. One would think that tours of the White House should be a right of a citizen. However, the modern politicians of both parties have required that a citizen ask his elected lawmaker for a ticket. As a political ploy in pressuring votes in 1982, members of Reagan's own party were threatened with a loss of White House tickets for their constituents. Of more substance, no doubt, in every Republican voting for Reagan's 1981 "National Recovery Act" was the threat of no campaign support by Reagan in the next elections; this intimidation was nullified by Reaganomics itself, for few Republicans wanted links with Reagan in the 1982 elections.
Nero--the fifth emperor of Rome--was the last actor to head a major power in the world; similarly Ronald Reagan uses all his stage skills to orchestrate a show that does not solve the problems at hand. Epitomizing modern politics, Reagan brings irrelevant factors to the bargaining table in the form of over-publicized, undercooked plans. Like a B-grade production company, Reagan has had many good titles for plays without plots, e.g., balanced budget, National Recovery Act, START, New Federalism, Caribbean Basic Plan and Crusade for Freedom [Democracy]. Reagan engages in political homesteading; dreaming of a great empire. He runs from issue to issue placing flags of ownership without ever once developing the substance of the claimed property.
Whereas Jimmy Carter, the previous character on the presidential stage, ludicrously promised "millions and millions of jobs", Reagan keeps concocting and delivering marginal half-cocked ideas. Talk's cheap, action counts. No where is the empty nature of Reagan's programs more evident than in two actions in the first week of July 1982 which repealed the cornerstones of Reaganomics: the largest tax increase in history and the hope by the Reagan Administration for consumer spending, not savings.
Both the Republicans and Democrats possess a certain modern attitude which explains why they will solve fewer and fewer of America's problems. That mentality is modern politics:
??ce the consideration of factors irrelevant ??ce to solving problems.
As the mentality grows with presidential yachts, tickets and jelly beans, more problems will cause inflationary suffering for the American people.
The modern politicians are akin to the divorced parents who use bribery or threats to coerce a child into agreeing with one parent instead of with the other. The issue of what is right or wrong is not considered; instead, the influence is "do it my way or else." As a result, the child or the nation suffers the lack of a relevant education into the moral, practical benefits of doing what is right or wrong.
For a child beset by irrelevant, feuding parents, it does not matter which one controls the child. The same is true of a nation beset by modern politicians. Both parents, whether Republican or Democrat, resort to irrelevant factors in raising the child, and both generate voids of relevant information within the child/nation, information needed to grow productively.
If the problems of America are to be solved, modern politics must cease polluting the national problem-solving process. Otherwise the problems will grow as the policy-makers increasing look out for number one in personal as well as political senses. Any use of the word "politics" within this book is synonymous with "modern politics", since most politicians bring irrelevant factors to bear on solving the nation's problems.
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