One overarching problem many Americans have always had with the political class is that there seldom, if ever, seems to be a plan behind their madness. They seem to careen from crisis to crisis, wasting time and our freedom, but never solving anything. All of their efforts seem quite shallow, never understanding the root causes of a problem and never understanding the potential, unintended consequences of their actions, consequences that are usually bad.
In looking at the word “politicians” recently it came to me that one reason they may never plan ahead and execute a good plan is that if you rearrange the letters in “politicians” you end up with the distressing phrase, “Lo, it is panic!” No wonder they never get anything right, they are always working in a panic mode. Consider:
– At the end of the Bush administration, it appeared that the financial system of the world was going to crash. Important, supposedly smart people, in both the Republican administration and the Democratic controlled Congress had no idea the financial system was about to implode and obviously had no plan to deal with such an implosion. Recall Bush officials, Reid, and Pelosi warning us that unless the $700 billion TARP bank bailout was passed within days, the world economy would collapse. Obvious panic.
Shouldn’t the political class and the government agencies it runs have had some kind of contingency plan ready for just such an event? They did not and they ended up throwing together a costly rescue and bailout package that was hastily deployed, inefficiently handled, and as we have pointed out in this blog many times, was totally unnecessary. Lo, it is panic.
– As most know, Egypt has been undergoing riots and protests over the past week or so with Egyptian citizens marching in the street demanding political changes and more individual freedom. A White House statement concerning the situation was issued last Saturday where President Obama “reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint, supporting universal rights, and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt.”
This comes off as a very weak, very generic response. These words would have had a lot more force and meaning if they had been part of a diplomatic plan all along to promote freedom and democracy around the world. To issue these words after a friendly dictator is about to fall sound hollow and forced. It is apparent that the protests caught the administration by surprise and that the Obama administration really has no plan to deal with what could become a very inspiring or a very dangerous situation, not only in Egypt but also in Jordan, Yemen, and other Mideast dictatorial nations. Lo, it is panic!
– Going back to last spring, it is pretty obvious that the political class had no plan in place on how to deal with oil disasters such as the BP oil rig that exploded. The Interior Department, EPA, and other government agencies showed very little coordination among themselves, the offending companies, and local officials, trying and testing different solutions after the explosion happened. One would have hoped that a plan and contingencies would have been thought through beforehand, not making up solutions as they went along and as more and more oil gushed into the Gulf. Lo, it is panic.
– A recent article by New York Post reporter Charles Gasparino was summarized in the January 28, 2011 issue of The Week magazine. The article reviewed how 50 to 100 U.S. cities and towns may actually default on their municipal bonds in 2011, a symptom of cities that have badly managed their finances over the past decades. Default on municipal bonds was unheard of until recently.
Not mentioned in this article is the fact that over forty state governments still have serious budget shortfalls which may endanger their bonds and bond ratings. Despite this impending financial disaster, all levels of the political class, Federal, state, and municipal, apparently have no plans in place to deal with this dire situation. Wait until the first city defaults. Lo, it is panic!
– In his recent state of the union message, President Obama called for additional spending to be made available for education in this country. However, just three months before his speech, the Associated Press reported that President Obama had then stated that more money alone cannot fix our failing public schools. The obvious question is what has changed in that short time frame? What plan has the President put together that will make those additional funds, if they are ever allocated, a worthwhile investment when just three months ago he said additional money was not the only answer. Where is the plan? Lo, it is panic.
-There is an ever growing and ever more menacing drug cartel problem and violence just over our southern border in Mexico. Several months ago a U.S. citizen was killed by gang members as he jet skied with his wife in U.S. territory on a lake that abutted Mexico. In the past week, a Texas missionary was killed as she and her husband tried to drive away from drug cartel gunmen at an illegal roadblock. Last year the Associated Press reported that gunfire regularly comes across the border into El Paso when drug cartels have shoot outs in Mexico. Mayors, judges, and police officials are regularly killed by drug cartels in Mexico.
And the latest indication that the political class has no plan for dealing with this growing and serious problem, the Associated Press reported on January 27, 2011 that video surveillance cameras on the border captured on tape how the cartels are getting their contraband across the border into the U.S. The tape showed cartel members driving up to the border fence, backing up their trucks on which they had installed a catapult and then catapulting their illegal drugs over the fence to waiting comrades on the other side. If there is a plan for dealing with this issue, we certainly have not been told and neither have the cartels. When catapults are defeating the billion fence the political class built on the border, there is no plan or forethought. Lo, it is panic.
– The biggest set of unintended consequences have come from Obama Care. While the legislation was over 2,000 pages long, the unintended consequences may end up being much larger:
* In an August, 2010 Fortune magazine article, an interview of AT&T Chairman Randal Stephenson revealed that AT&T may drop its corporate health insurance coverage for current and retired employees since it was less expensive to pay the Obama Care fine than it was to continue the program. Other companies, e.g. Verizon, John Deere, and Caterpillar, have made the same assertions (Fortune magazine, May, 2010).
* The Wall Street Journal reported on September 3, 2010 that MacDonalds may drop their health care plan for their hourly employees due to legal ramifications from Obama Care.
* The New York Times reported on November 21, 2010 that Obama Care was spurring health care companies to merge together. This would likely result in less competition and higher health care prices, the exact opposite that the legislation was intended to do.
* The New York Times reported on November 9, 2010 that the new health care rules implemented as a result of Obama Care had been waived many, many times just months after it was implemented. Thus, Obama Care could not even anticipate these waiver issues just months after approval. Pitiful.
Reason magazine quoted Congressional Budget Office reports that even with Obama Care, 21 million Americans will still be uninsured by 2016.
Great plan, or absence of a plan. A piece of legislation that was supposed to increase coverage and reduce health care costs is likely to decrease coverage and increase costs. Lo, it is panic.
– The political class was very proud of itself when it passed the financial industry regulation reform plan last year. However, it is difficult to believe that you actually have a valid reform plan when two of the biggest consumer financial pieces of the industry, car loans and home mortgages, were excluded from the legislation. This is like saying you had a great dinner but only ate the rolls; the soup, salad and main dish were not included in the meal. Plus the fact that the main culprits in the housing crisis, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac avoided additional regulation but still cost the taxpayer billions of dollars in subsides every month means that there really was not a plan. Lo, it is panic.
Enough, you get the idea. Ask yourself, name one plan that the government has put into place, and managed by the political class, that has been timely, effective and reasonably priced. There is no plan for energy independence. There is no plan to fix our failing public schools. There is no plan for securing our borders and replacing our failed war on drugs. There is no plan to get government spending under control. There is no plan to make Social Security solvent. There is no plan to win the so-called war on terror. There is no plan to deal with citizen uprisings around the world. There is no plan to contain the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran. There is no plan. Lo, it is panic.
How do we get out of this panic mode? Several of the following would be a good start:
Step 1 – reduce the Federal budget by 10% a year for five years so that politicians work on far fewer but far more important issues. One sub-step within this step is a complete, ground up review of government functions and the development of contingency plans for every possible issue in all government functions, contingency plans that are tested and adjusted before the crisis hits, not after.
Step 2 – remove politicians from Congressional committee seats when those committees fail to plan ahead and avoid crisis in government areas they are responsible for.
Step 3 – implement term limits for all politicians so that we get a fresh set of minds and ideas into the political system every few years. Those politicians that have been in office for 20, 30 or more years are now officially part of the problem and panic. They need to be removed so that one term replacements can come to power and see if the can plan any better. A good plan should not be contingent on who is running the show, it should transcend who is in charge. Otherwise, you end up with the same, short term, sup-optimal panic induced operations we currently suffer through.
We pay too much in taxes to be ruled by panic stricken and panic directed politicians. No matter how you spell it, we are not in a good space as a result of their panic and sole focus on their next election.