One would hope that the strength of one’s convictions would be the motivation behind policy prescriptions and proscriptions. Alas, even the most casual observer of our political scene can discern that ‘convictions’ in the political arena are transitory, if not altogether illusory—as has always been the case. Overt and abject adherence to supposed principles that do nothing to advance the common cause of effective governance has driven this nation into a well of irresponsibility–and just as notably made us the sad laughing-stock of our foreign friends, adversaries, and competitors. Who is there on this Earth that can take us seriously? We remain powerful, certainly, but without any certitude of purpose or direction—which makes us a danger to ourselves and the world order. The fickle principles and mutable convictions of the intransigent members of Congress have led us to this dilemma, and they can lead us back. The trick is in defining what a principle actually is, and make it stick. (But then the charge of hypocrisy can be, and often should be leveled at our legislators—who all too often then only ignore the charge. Chameleons all!)
For one instance, the Republicans often insist that they have a core, even bedrock, principle of opposing any tax increase in any form. Supposedly, this is an effort to deny our government the resources to expand and/or limit its scope in our lives, among other purposes. The Democrats, for their part, generally insist that the debt burden that we have collectively accrued must not be shouldered on the backs of the elderly and the poor, or even middle class. Are these stands principles or more likely sops to their various constituencies? Paying our debts is a principle. Adherence to the Preamble of the Constitution is a principle. We do have an obligation to fund our government—that entity though which we “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”. Ah, but the rub is how to do so? How best to square this circle?
In this topsy turvy world in which corporations are people, money is speech, and guns don’t kill, perhaps it may behoove us all to accept the fact that our government does not receive its power and legitimacy from the consent of the governed, the people, individuals—irrespective of what one may have been taught in grade school. But rather it is the almighty dollar that wields and dispenses power and enables access to its purveyors. Let us no longer beat around this burning bush, but accept and embrace the situation. What then changes? For one, we as individuals need must realize that we should not fund our government as individuals—we don’t as it stands now so let’s get used to the idea. And let’s get used to the realization that we as individuals are by no means equal before our government. (We may be ‘equal’ before the law, but only if you have enough scratch to buy a high-priced lawyer.) Individuals have vastly different influence upon the levers of governance, most obviously reflected by the number of dollars under ones control. The remedy to our ills is obvious. No more freeloaders—not freeriding individuals but freeloading dollars. Each dollar should pay for its single and collective maintenance. The dollar achieves its value and worth through the good faith and credit of the United States. It is the both the power behind and the lubricant for every effort made in legislation and regulation. It is the reward of those self-same efforts. Those of us who care about maintaining the power, strength, and reach of the dollar—as we all say we do–must certainly accept that a certain amount of maintenance and insurance are necessary dues for such a situation to remain. Are there freeloading dollars now—most assuredly. But there is a way around this untenable situation.
Our acceptance and celebration of self-governance is one of the few aspects of our society and country on which we all agree—or at least to which we all pay lip-service. Most of us also extol the virtues of entrepreneurship, self-reliance, and capitalism. These two aspects of our national culture have been allowed to diverge.
On the first, we claim—falsely—that individuals matter and information informs the rational, engaged voter, who then casts a ballot based on his or her assessment of the issues and candidates. The most casual observer, and campaign consultant, knows that individual voters are swayed more by tribal instinct, misinformation, false equivalence, and faulty reasoning that a dispassionate appeal to facts and reason. That three high school graduates, and poor students at that, can have such an oversized influence on one of our major political parties only illustrates the shallowness of our political maturity.
On the latter, we claim—again falsely—that the received fruits of our labor are primarily a direct result of the efforts, diligence, perseverance, thrift, and better ideas put forth in the market place. These aspects are almost always necessary conditions of success in a capitalist society, but they are by no means sufficient. The slope of the playing field–defined by an individual’s education at the hands of parents and schools, access to resources, physical environment and infrastructure, and a hundred other influences great and small–all have a bearing one’s future success and mien. Great effort can overcome a steep upslope, most certainly, but to argue that the most successful in our society gained their position through effort alone does not bear scrutiny.
The dollar requires maintenance, but it is individuals who benefit. So, as individuals, no matter how one obtains the dollars in our wallets, purses, and bank accounts, each of those dollars should pay for its upkeep. But also, as individuals, we are the beneficiaries of the good or bad governance we award ourselves. By paying directly for that governance, rather than through secondary and tertiary economic activity (sales taxes/customs duties/etc.) we are more engaged in the actual performance of government—we are more motivated to get our money’s worth, so to speak. Our form of government is also the single aspect of our society in which we all participate—even if by apathy or disgust or dis-interest our participation is from afar. We are not all Christian Scientists, as we are not all Christians nor Scientists. We are not all Masons, Elks, bricklayers, or other noble beasts. We are not all Black Panthers or members of the Aryan Nations. But we are all Americans, and our first obligation is to ensure that our system of government—by, for, and of us–remains intact and able to function to meet its purposes and our needs.
Is it really too much to ask for some portion, say, 20 cents of every dollar we make go to the worthwhile purpose of ensuring that the remaining 80 cents keeps its value—the value which is dependent upon the strength and security of these United States? Should not all capital contribute the same percentage to the Capitol?
Or, we can keep the present tribal system where each industry, age group, income level, and other sup-group fights for its particular hand out or tax break. Thus making some capital carry the load while other dollars get a free ride. It’s work so well so far.
Be seeing you….