Explorations in Povertystan

I don’t know who to attribute the phrase “Poverty-Industrial Complex” to, but my hat is off to you, whoever you are.  It’s the perfect description of the entity that has controlled the federal government’s spending since 1965.  That is the year that Lyndon Johnson started the Great Society, an umbrella of social programs designed to eliminate poverty in America.  Fifty years on, it has shown itself to be anything but great, detrimental to society at large, and will, if left to continue, will snuff out all economic life in the nation within a decade.

“So if the Great Society experiment was/is so awful, why is it still around, and why has it been allowed to grow so much?”  The answers are both simple and predicable.  The typical democratic-socialist / Marxist answer to failure is always the same: We haven’t spent enough money!  Also, consider the fact that after a few short years, there are thousands of people who’s careers depend upon the existence of poverty.  Many of these people have no marketable or transferable skills.  Many are academics (again, no marketable skills).  Their income, as well as their prestige, absolutely depends upon the continuance of these programs.  If poverty is eliminated or reduced to a level easily manageable by local authorities, what would become of the hundreds of thousands (today: millions) of case managers, supervisors, processors, inspectors, and other “social workers”, let alone the consultants and advisors in the academic community to whom the poverty-industrial complex is a free laboratory to further their careers?  If the American automotive industry is too big to fail, how much more so is the poverty industry?

As the decades wore on, it became obvious that “temporary assistance” had become a permanent generational institution.  Beginning with the Clinton Presidency, workfare became a popular buzzword.  The first rumblings of the middle class had begun to be heard.  It had finally hit home that it wasn’t the government paying for these benefits, it was the taxpayers.    Both Republican and Democratic representatives were beginning to hear from their constituents: What happened to the “temporary” part of temporary assistance?  Able-bodied welfare recipients were expected perform some labor to help offset their upkeep.  This was completely gutted from legislation by Barack Hussein Obama and his Democratic henchmen as soon as he took office in 2009.

Now, over fifty years since since LBJ’s Ohio University speech of May 7, 1964, the federal and state governments have over one million Americans employed in the poverty-industrial complex.  This is direct employment only; it does not include consultants, think-tanks, and others paid through grants and stipends to “study’ the poverty problem.  In fiscal year 2013, federal and state agencies together spent 2.3 trillion (yes, trillion) dollars on seventy-nine separate social programs.

In one way, and one way only, the Great Society has succeeded.  It has employed a million people with no apparent skills.  Unfortunately, these recipients of career employment were not the wretched poor the Great Society was created to care for.

 

 

What if the Answer is “None of the Above”?

My wife and I had a very interesting conversation with a gentleman this past weekend. In the bar of a hotel in suburban Washington, D.C., we met a man who shared our interest in vintage fountain pens , but the topic quickly turned to international relations and the current Presidential contest. It was obvious that we had more than Mont Blancs in common. My wife asked: “So who are you supporting in the Presidential election?” The answer was one that I suspect is uttered every hour of every day all over America: ” I can neither support Clinton nor Trump”.

This is my dilemma.  While I am quite sure that Hillary Clinton would be better for our “big power” relationships, she would, if she continued Obama’s policies, endanger American citizens by her insistence upon opening the floodgates to Middle-Eastern “refugees”,  while taking the gates completely off the hinges on our southern border.  She would also continue to balloon the national debt by enlarging “programs” to feed, clothe, and house a plethora of (mostly non-white) citizens and residents who find actual employment to be an inconvenience.

Donald J. Trump has a proven record in the real estate development world.  Sure, like all developers at his level, he’s had a few duds.  Democrats can’t understand that a few failed projects doesn’t mean that he’s a failure.  But since it is not government, can we expect Democrats to actually understand it?  All said, that is not Trump’s most damaging issue.  Donald’s achilles heel is his inability to focus on anything other than insults to himself or his family.  He just finds it impossible to stay on message in his campaign.  If he can’t stay on message to promote his agenda, what will he do once ensconced in the White House?  making politics personal is what Trump does best, but that is the last thing that any sane human being wants to happen in a national security crisis.

I am looking for a candidate who has the vision to repair the nation’s economy and the level-headedness to navigate through dangerous international waters.  I guess I’m going to have to look at 2020 for that.

Irretrievably Broken

It doesn’t really matter in the long term whether Trump or Clinton wins the 2016 Presidential election. Both Left and Right are now screaming at their computer screen and tearing their hair. Just hear me out.

Americans think short-term.  So do Western Europeans.  This is why Europe lost 100% of its colonial wars.  This is why the United States spent 10+ years in Vietnam with nothing to show for it except 57,000 dead Americans.  This is most certainly why the Islamic State exists today, when less than 10 years ago, Iraq was a pacified country.  There is something in the Western/Christian mindset that just won’t easily allow for long-term thinking.  I will leave it to historians and sociologists to explore the reasons for that.  In West vs. West conflicts (WWI, WWII European Theater, etc.), things play out with some predictability because mindsets are similar on both sides.  In East vs. West conflicts, such as the Korean War, Indonesian Independence War, the long struggle for Indian independence, and most visibly the Vietnamese “conflict’, the forces of the West were continually baffled and out-thought by their Eastern counterparts.  But that is really a subject for a different time.

I said earlier that the Western/Christian mindset does not easily adapt to long-term thinking, not that it can’t adapt.  It has occasionally done so with great effect at various times in history.  At the turn of the 20th Century, educational and social “reformer” John Dewey and other budding socialists/communists decided that a workers revolution could never actually take place in America, but through influencing education, especially public education, eventually the population would cry out for socialism.  They knew that this would take generations.  They knew that if they gained a firm control over public education, it could not fail.  For the most part, they succeeded.

We are currently living through the final results of Dewey’s experiment.  In the United States, as in most nations with coastlines, the majority of the population lives on or near the coasts in crowded urban zones.  In the US, we often refer to the ACELA Corridor – the Atlantic coast between Washington, DC and Boston, and the “Left Coast” of California, Oregon, and Washington, as the prime territory of the Democratic Party.  In between, or fly-over country, as the beltway pundits named it in the 1980s, we have a majority of Republican/conservative voters.  The various representatives of these two populations, while seeing America’s problems and possibilities from different angles, were always able to work together to solve the problems and advance the possibilities.  Neither side got everything, but each got something.  At some point in the last 20 years, this broke down.  While there were several factors contributing to this, the force driving the wedge was economic.

As Margaret Thatcher said; “Socialism is great until you run out of other people’s money”.  When you have a large majority of producers, and a small number of takers, the welfare state can be supported indefinitely.  When the number of takers reaches 20% or so, you’ve got problems.  When it reaches 47%, the problems have you.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently – this is all about power.  They (Democrats, SJW’s, the poverty-industrial complex) want you to see the “poor” as unable to survive “with dignity” without the overarching reach of Big Government.  But they don’t want you to see Big Government, they want you to see concern.  This is how they retain political power.  This is a constitutional republic.  There is no delineated right to “dignity” in the United States Constitution.  That may sound brutal to those educated to believe everyone should get a trophy, but it is a fact that cannot be avoided.  If you want dignity, you create it for yourself.  It is not bestowed upon you.

So at one end we have producers, who are not only the engine of the economy, but the funders of the welfare state.  At the other end we have an interesting coalition of takers and the über rich, who are, in the first case living off the labor and sweat of the producers, and in the second case absorbing the power given to them by the takers at the polls and relieving their “White guilt”.  There is resentment where there was once community.  There is hostility where there was once a bond.  Happy talk is just that.  There is no cement, no adhesive, that can return these two populations to unity.  Where there was a crack, there is now a gulf.  Our republic is irretrievably broken.

There are a number of ways this cycle can end, from a massively destructive civil war to divorce in which groups of states go their own way, both economically and politically.  The only sure outcome is that no realistic outcome will see this nation as united as it once was.

May you live in interesting times.

 

 

Americans No Longer Participate in Democracy

Remember what Ben Franklin told a woman when asked, when leaving the last Constitutional meeting, what they had created?  “A Republic, Madam, if you can keep it!”  Did you hear the word “democracy” in there anywhere.  I didn’t.  While many had input into the Constitution, it was James Madison who was the primary author.  Many people think it was Thomas Jefferson, but he wasn’t even in the United States at the time, but was serving as Ambassador to France.  Madison was fearful of democracy.  So were most of the other creators of the Constitution.  Democracy is rule by the “lowest common denominator”, or, as Madison would have put it (and Franklin did) “Mob rule”.

For democracy to work, people have to educate themselves on the issues of the day, from foreign affairs to  infrastructure needs.  They then have to register their opinions with their representatives.  “But we have lives.  We have to take the kids to soccer, go to work, etc”.  It’s really quite simple.  If you are too busy to participate in democracy, then you don’t need it.  You might not even ever know the difference.  If your taxes go up, how many of you write, call, or email your Congressperson?  If you don’t, you really don’t care.  It has been reported that about 12% of American voters actually communicate with their Congressperson and/or Senator at least once a year.  For those who communicate on a more regular basis, it’s in the low single digits.  So see? You really don’t give a damn, do you?

The people who are very active in politics are on the fringes.  The far left and far right wear out the phone lines, email system, etc.  And so guess what?  They get far more attention than their numbers warrant.  Who can blame them?  They are working the system.

This is NOT a democracy.  It was never created to be a democracy.  Between Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, the early Twentieth-Century SJW’s convinced America’s educators that we were, or should be, a democracy.  Now, one hundred years later, everyone believes it.  There is a certain segment of the aging American population who believe America can be one harmonious, peaceful society if we “just believe”.  Rainbow radiation and unicorn farts.  My advice is work hard, stay vigilant, and have several full mags on hand.  Oh, and don’t inhale unicorn farts!