Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Demosclerosis by Jonathan Rauch
If you want to understand why our government seems to be ineffective, and not paying attention to us, you might want to read this book. I had a hard time finding it, as the library doesn’t carry it & it’s been out of print for a while. My only regret is I wish it had been updated since 1993 Clinton times, as there are some juicy charts and statistics in it. The big surprise here is that we have met the culprit, and he is us! The author describes how in the last 30 or 40 years we have gotten too much democracy, in the form of Special Interest Groups, or Lobbyists. Since about 1960, this has spawned a huge Parasite Economy, consisting of lawyers and others who represent all the thousands of special interests. Everyone (You & me. Aarp, AIA, etc) is a member of some group who spend millions wresting favors (Money) from our government. Our poor pols cannot make any decisions on their own, if they want to be re-elected (and they do). If a group wants them to pass a law, another group is there to thwart it. This became very evident recently when I heard Gov. Brown say he had to check with the legislators and the lobbyists regarding the possibility of a certain move. Check with the LOBBYISTS?
With such a system, old programs are almost impossible to eradicate after they are useful. As soon as a new president comes into office with the brilliant idea to eliminate obsolete programs, a hoard of lobbyists are activated to keep it. With so much money being tied up in these programs, there is no money to begin any new, useful programs.
Although Rauch, like any intelligent critic, suggests ways that we might be able to get out of this gridlock, it is a pretty weak argument. I, for one, believe it is an impossible dream (I have a Dream! An impossible Dream!).
Just this week, a prime example of the problem surfaced in an article about "An Expensive Lesson." Regarding student loans initiated by Pres. Johnson in 1965, who as part of his wonderful "Great Society" (During Vietnam?) Initiated a program to promote education. Johnson pledged an amount that seems trivial now, $1.9 million to states who could leverage it up ten times to back student loans up to $1,000 for 25,000 students. They even said something about Technical Schools, which no one takes seriously.
Today, this has all metastasized into a huge, federally guaranteed loan industry.
Some students owe $300,000, and they still can’t get a job that they studied for. My ex-wife owes about $60,000 , as she has been a professional student for decades and now is too old to work. More than 10 million students took out loans last year. They may owe about 757 Billion and yet there is no method we have to cut back such a program. We can only augment it and suffer the consequences, or our children can suffer it. The pols have fiddled around with this default problem and claim that it won’t cost a us anything.
Yeah. And I’m going to get a good deal on the Brooklyn Bridge.

We’ve all heard that newspapers sell because they print bad news so I decided to put my scientific brain to the test. This morning I went through the paper and categorized each news item into Positive, Negative, or Neutral. The results were not staggering. Good News occurred seven times, Negative News was reported 37 times while Neutral was only two times. I didn’t consider the Sports pages as I am too biased and consider all sports News a Negative item.

America! The Land of More Than Plenty!
I am getting really tired of the plethera of choices we are having to make regarding our 2nd basic need , food (Wine is 1st). The beer section in my local Safeway is getting out of hand. When I was a kid, we had only about four beers to choose from (Pabst, Ace & a couple others) Of course, we only bought quarts of the stuff, as we were major consumers. Now look, every week I go there, I find an another brewery added to the twenty existing. Now that I don’t mind too much. After all, when I started making beer in 1975 it was against the law to make your own beer. I had to travel about 100 miles to a store to buy equipment and used a Canadian pamphlet for the recipes. (India Pale Ale). What upsets me is the potato chip section, about thirty feet long with every conceivable type of chip you can imagine. I only want plain but sometimes they don’t have that. I can’t buy Mother Goose anymore as the last time I only got Original, or as it turned out, reconstituted chips! Just when I discovered Safeway had a 70% chocolate bar for $2,50 made in Switzerland, they only had four kinds, each with a different herb or some other idiotic flavor. What’s wrong with plain, good 72% chocolate? That’s like using the Holy Grail to slurp up Bud Light.

To run the country. The president of the US wastes an enormous amount of time meeting with various groups, conferring honors , and all kinds of ceremonial functions. Every time there is a minor disaster he has to drop what he’s doing, appear on the scene, and say,"why yes, this looks like a disaster". Why can’t he send out the head of The Department of Disaster to check it out? No wonder presidents can’t get anything done as they promised in their campaign speeches. They all say it. "If elected, I will cut back government, cut old, non-productive programs"etc. Then when election time comes around, all bets are off. The Prez just forgets about his desk, gets on his planes and barnstorms around for about a year or more, when he will usually get re-elected (Remember, he has more money than God to spend at this point).
Recently, I read that in Britain, you could not campaign before two months before the election.
Do you think we could convince our politicians to change to that?