Friday, October 4, 2013

Let's Privatize Congress

When the government hires a private contractor to perform a government function, the official story goes, it saves money. The private contractors work cheaply because they do not get the contract, in the first place, unless they offer to perform a particular function more cheaply than government bureaucrats. But, in addition, the contractor has an interest in doing a good job in order to get their contract renewed. The basic assumption is that people work harder and better when their economic interest comes into play.
Well, we have a House of Representatives and a Senate which seem incapable of keeping the government going and to pass needed legislation, resolve pressing problems, and appoint badly needed judges and government employees. Why? Because they get paid whether they do any work or not. Even during the government shutdown, when 800,000 federal employees are going without their paycheck, Congressional representatives are continuing to get paid. So lets hire a private firm whose contract stipulates that they have to pass X number of pieces of legislation, including government budgets and raising the debt ceiling, immigration reform, scaling down military expenditures, and taking care of injured veterans, the poor, and the education of our children.
If they don't manage that we'll get a different private firm. Simple!
This is a challenging thought, that raises a serious question: Someone elected all these fanatics in Congress who care nothing for the people that voted them into office, but only care for some hazy, ill-thought out slogans--”small government”--(until a flood devastates your town and washes away your house. Then you want the government to bail you out, ASAP)--”the free market”-- (but not a free market in labor because we want to keep all those Mexicans out)--”accountability”--which means blaming the poor and often unfortunate for their plight.
Why does anyone vote for these incompetent ideologues?
I have lately had several opportunities to talk with people who were quite conservative. What struck me about them was that they were all depressed, full of anger and hatred. All the other drivers were heedless and incompetent, most Americans were either lazy, or stupid, or had terrible values. These conservatives I talked to felt isolated, beleaguered in a world they did not like and did not feel safe in.
This is not a scientific survey. I talked at best to a handful of people. But it seems reasonable to me to think that a significant number of votes for the truly destructive Congress persons that hold up all legislative activity come from people who, themselves, feel desperate and without hope. Only extreme positions, they think, have any likelihood of saving the day in a nation of slack, incompetent, spineless citizens.
To put this another way. The people elected to Congress are a sign of the pervasive alienation in our country. There is a widespread sense that everything is terrible, that the country and its citizens are lost, degenerate (“Gay marriage?? what will be next?”), self-indulgent and lacking the backbone, they think they manifest, having learned it from their parents in a happier time in America. Only radical measures promise to save us.
Many people are unhappy in America today and unhappiness rarely make us act well.
The big questions raised by our current political debacle is: Why are Americans so unhappy? The answer to that question is long and complicated.
But the political chaos confronts us with a question not often asked: what is it about life in America today that leaves a significant portion of our people despairing, angry and in a dangerously destructive mood?