The governance of children

The US government is on the verge of shutting down, as Congressional Republicans toy with the livelihoods of nearly two million federal government employees and President Obama tries to cast himself as “the Mediator in Chief.”

The Republicans claim their motivation is fiscal sanity, but it’s really about telling women what to do with their you-know-whats and not telling polluters what to do with their you-know-whats. And Obama seems more concerned about shoring up his “centrist” re-election cred than remaining true to the values he espoused in his first campaign.

It’s easy to become inured to the kind of political posturing and cynical horsetrading we see in the nation’s capitol, but why aren’t we mad? I mean, really mad? And why aren’t we mad at both parties? Hell, why aren’t we mad at ourselves?

Republicans claim to be serious about getting our federal debt under control. But how serious can they be when they refuse to touch military spending, which is about 1/3 of total federal budget expenditures and half of estimated tax revenues? US military spending is 40% of the all global military expenditures, is nearly seven times as much as the Chinese spend, and is equal to the spending of the seventeen next biggest military budgets combined.

No, of course, much better to go after the $350 million in federal funding of Planned Parenthood, a whopping half of 1% of military spending.

Now Congressional Republicans aren’t the only ones playing games with numbers and our future. Last week, President Obama unveiled his Administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.

In Obama’s announcement speech, and in the plan itself, much was made of the fact that the US produced more oil last year than since 2003.

When President Obama took office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day.   Today, he pledged that by a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third, and put forward a plan to secure America’s energy future by producing more oil at home and reducing our dependence on oil by leveraging cleaner, alternative fuels and greater efficiency.

We’ve already made progress toward this goal – last year, America produced more oil than we had in the last seven years.  And we’re taking steps to encourage more offshore oil exploration and production – as long as it’s safe and responsible.   And, because we know we can’t just drill our way out of our energy challenge, we’re reducing our dependence on oil by increasing our production of natural gas and biofuels, and increasing our fuel efficiency.  Last year, we announced ground-breaking fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks that will save consumers thousands of dollars and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

Again, it’s important to understand the numbers.

US oil production last year may indeed been higher than any year since 2003, but it’s still 43% lower than our peak year of production in 1970. And to meet those production numbers, we increasingly have to drill tens of thousands of feet down in the ocean (Deepwater Horizon, anyone?).

Keep in mind, too, how much oil we consume. Five and a half million barrels/day is enough oil produced in a year to get us from New Years Day to Tax Day… about 106 days’ worth. The “ground breaking fuel efficiency standards” the Obama Administration is touting is the equivalent of about 95 days of American oil consumption. And the goal of 1 million electric vehicles by 2015 is 0.04% of the total number of passenger cars and trucks on the road.

Obama’s blueprint for energy security mentions climate change exactly once, when global warming arguably presents the greatest threat to our security in human history. Unveiled in the midst of a nuclear crisis not seen since Chernobyl, the plan continues to promote coal, natural gas, and nuclear, all of which have significant environmental and human health consequences. Conservation on the other hand? Using less? Meh.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some good stuff in the Blueprint for Energy Security. Just like there are some good recommendations coming out of Republican circles to address the budget deficit. But the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle simply fails to meet reality.

On an almost daily basis, the American public is presented with false solutions, rhetoric, and partisan bickering. The only conclusion I can come up with is that one or both of the following is true:

  1. Our elected officials think we’re too childish to speak to honestly about the complex issues and choices we face.
  2. Our elected officials are, themselves, too childish to govern.

But here’s the thing… When it comes to facing these daunting economic, energy, and environmental crises, we’re all going to need to grow up. And fast.

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7 thoughts on “The governance of children

  1. This is the best summary I’ve seen on this topic. It’s all there, without the incoherent rage I tend to descend into. I shall bruit this about. Thank you.

  2. It is very charitable to characterize our elected officials as childish. The fact is that what is childish is playing along with the charade of campaign finance as being anything but bribery. The purpose of business is to make a return on investment. Any business that gives money to a government official expects to make a return on that expenditure . A campaign contribution by a business is a bribe. Elected officials swear to represent the people. Our laws are not being enforced. The laws are to protect the country and the people. Those who swore to represent the people and fail to enforce the laws are criminals.
    You might also look at the top chart that compares US defense spending to the rest of the world. Ask yourself how a group of foreign combatants with box cutters could fly a plane into the air space of our nation’s capital and attack and kill our military forces at the very headquarters of our defense department.
    This whole thing is a bit beyond childish.

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  4. The reason the American people are treated like children is because we act (and vote) like them. Every election in this country since the early 70’s has depicted a popular consensus that we like the programs the government provides us, AND we like tax cuts at the same time. When the people of this country grow up and decide what amount of government they want to pay for, then we might have a Congress that reflects that. As it is, we have representatives in Congress elected by the people of this country that like the “spin” of “taxes are bad” while still wanting cheap energy, cheap food, pleasant highways and infrastructure, top dollar security with a military that guarantees us all of these privileges at the expense of the rest of the world.

  5. Asher, you left out the third (probably real) explanation:

    The ‘government’ of the US performs its function well enough, in fact, but that function isn’t the one that we’re all lead to believe.

    The real power in the US empire(such as it is; not all that much in reality and declining steadily too, despite all the delusions of grandeur)sits with the gics — the gangsters-in-charge — who are all self-selected members of the hyper-rich, small, special-interest, self-perpetuating minority class who own most of what’s ownable in your imperial state, and who are therefore running it; well, as much as anyone at all is in charge, that is.

    In the main, this class is interested only in continuing to grow their already enormous wealth-piles, and the power and status that go with those piles, inherently.

    The gic class are sociopathically indifferent to genuine good government, according to the US constitution and the rule of law. Their only — genuine — interest is in the protection, maintenance and expansion of their private WealthPowerStatus, and in keeping their cattle under just enough practical control to keep us quiet, and doing what they want us to do.

    These cattle, of course, are us: the average citizens of the US, plus all the other common people of the world whom the US imperial power can manage to control.

    That’s quite a sketchy control, of course; just enough to exploit with utter ruthlessness — and with insane ecological recklessness — our productive labour, and the natural resources of our countries.

    No more control than that is needed, or sought. Certainly, the gics are not in the least interested in genuine good governance, for the general good. What do gangsters care about such things!

    Meanwhile, the largely irrelevant clown-shows in Washington, and in provincial sub-capitals of the empire, such as London, keeps most of us commoners — well, enough of us enough of the time, anyway — confused and distracted with insubstantial shadow plays, of only the most marginal relevance to the real sauve-qui-peut, loot-everything-that-can-be-looted action of the imperial gics, at the declining end of their moribund empire.

    These propaganda shadow-plays are carried on mainly by three institutionalised strata of gic-servants: The blinkered, usually know-nothing hacks of the corporate ‘news’ media; the bulk of the tenured, and thuse tamed, denizens of Academe; and the pocket-politicians, who will remain always in the pockets of one faction or another of the gic class, just as long as their own pockets are kept comfortably full.

    It isn’t the psycho- and sociopathic children in the Washington clown-show who are running things; they’re just the smoke’n’mirrors curtain, behind which the real ruling action goes on. As long as popular attention remains fixed on those venal, largely-delusional fools, we miss what’s really going on in the true corridors of power for which they merely front.

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