Wednesday, March 25, 2020

We Don't Need No Stinkin Government

The article Warnings Ignored: A Timeline of Trump's Covid-19 Response  on The Bulwark website provides a good summary of the mismanagement and incompetence of the Trump administration in dealing with the threat of a global pandemic.

The article Job Vacancies and Inexperience Mar Federal Response to the Corona Virus in the New York Times is quite disturbing for anyone who believes we need a functioning federal government.


If you are an ideological follower of Ronald Reagan, another celebrity turned president, then you agree with his statement that, "Government is not the solution to the problem, it is the problem". As the longtime GOP policymaker and influence peddler Grover Norquist said in 2001, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

I think a majority of people would agree on three things when it comes to government and taxes (1) they don't like government wasting their tax dollars (2) they would like everyone to pay their fair share of taxes and (3) they would like a government that represents the majority of people.

The last two items are not on the GOP agenda as evidenced by a tax act of 2017 (and decades of tax policy prior to that), widespread voter suppression, and statements from GOP figures like Reagan and Norquist.


The ancient Greeks recognized that a critical role of government is to organize people into a society. Neo-liberals, often incorrectly identified as conservatives, don't believe this. As Maggie Thatcher said, "There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families." You see how this works? There's no such thing as society so there's no need for a government to organize people into a society.

This Randian sort of ideology where the strong man/woman is king of the jungle is shown to be foolish human vanity when society is confronted with a global pandemic.

The wrongheadedness of the Thatcher/Reagan neo-liberal ideology is being exposed as this global pandemic shows that we actually are all in this together. Boris Johnson is now making it clear that there is such a thing as society while he is in quarantine due to being infected by the Covid-19 virus. Live and learn...


We foster good government to the extent we want a civilized society.

No one should be surprised that an anti-government, unregulated free-market, overly simplified view of the world, has led to the unraveling of our society. We've created a permanent underclass and lied to ourselves about a supposed meritocracy where children in schools that can't afford books are supposed to be able to compete. We've lied to ourselves that we can create a "knowledge" economy where everyone goes to college and works in an office. We are good at lying to ourselves.

We all have preconceived notions about things and then find evidence to support those preconceptions. Where we diverge is in the source of our evidence. Consider the source - the bible, the constitution, a national newspaper, a peer-reviewed journal, a conspiracy website, a partisan TV show - are of course all vastly different sources with differing degrees of fact, interpretability and relevance.

Political power is not obtained by convincing people of facts and historical lessons. Political power comes about by changing public "opinion". People are guided to "their" opinion by public relations experts in ways similar to how they are convinced to buy anything else. It's not a one for one since you can't sell Coke by making people hate Pepsi, but you can get a politician elected by blanketing the airwaves with negative ads targeting his or her opponent.

The psychological dynamics of influencing opinions to encourage a person to buy something or vote for someone are well studied and well known. Public opinion can be shaped by taking advantage of deep seated and primal impulses - fear, hate, anger, prejudice, greed, and sympathy. Public opinion (people) are moved by stories not facts. Mythologized stories of heroes and villains have been with us for thousands of years because they meet some deep human need.

The ideology that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher brought into government in the 1980's is the root cause of the hollowing out of the middle class in many countries. This abandonment of the middle class is the reason we see so many illiberal demagogues and political parties coming to power in various countries.

Years ago I used to marvel how Reagan was mythologized as the years passed and a rosy glow colored his time in office. I'm no longer surprised as I see the mythologizing of Donald Trump happening real time. Pundits, politicians and newspapers that warned us that he would be the most unqualified and worst president in history in 2015 and 2016, now tout him as a heroic embattled figure owning the libs, fighting fake news and standing up for the little man (as long as the little man is also a wealthy man).

One final thing...

Have you ever thought about how ridiculous the scare mongering those with money power use in their effort to maintain the status-quo actually is?

Take the example of that scary group Antifa. How much power do you think Antifa has? Or to put it another way - how much money do you think Antifa has? Do you think people with money power support Antifa? I'm not saying Antifa couldn't wield some power in a localized setting or in some unlikely future scenario form a nationwide movement. What I am saying is that Antifa is not about to invade Florida or wherever Grandma is watching Fox news from.

Contrast that with any group that is standing up for the status-quo. They have the support of big business, big money and big power. So what's the moral? I guess if you want to be afraid that the United States is going to lose it's democratic government it would be wise to fear, and hopefully stand-up to, those with money and power on their side.

If Fox News ever wants to change the "fair and balanced" slogan to something longer might I suggest...

"Convincing powerless people to fear other powerless people while genuflecting to the powerful people who take advantage of them."