Sacred cows. Ideas in which we are so vested that we refuse to challenge them. Allowing them to forever graze on the pastures of mental apathy.
In politics, sacred cows are oft defended with logic-defying zealotry. Political careers are made on the defense and continuation of such ideas, regardless of how ineffective they may be.
Compulsory public education. Various vote-buying schemes disguised as welfare safety nets. America's bloated defense budget. The benefit of unions to the U.S. labor force. The mortgage interest deduction. America's two party political system. Mustaches.
Many blindly accept the notion that these ideas are in the best interest of the nation. The truth is often completely the opposite. Yet, we are too lazy to perform the analysis required to determine their viability. Do these commonly accepted yet ultimately questionable traditions remain because of their beneficence for all, or their importance to the few?
Like to their bovine namesakes, most sacred cows are the equivalent of slow, docile beasts, grazing upon the hillsides of our lives. Frequently seen, rarely challenged.
Special interest groups, and the politicians in their pockets, work very hard to perpetuate these ideas. Going to great lengths to tar and feather anyone who questions them.
As in politics, Wall Street protects sacred cows which, when held to the scrutiny of analysis, begin to wither for the ineffective ideas they are.
Bigger is Better.
There was a time when size translated to security. Strength. The ability to endure. Well, 2008 eviscerated that idea.
All but a few of the largest banks and brokerages stared into the fiscal abyss, only to be pulled back by the hands of government bailouts. Bear Stearns disappeared. Lehman Brothers went belly up. Merrill Lynch was inches from the same path but for the fact that the company president reached a midnight-hour agreement with Bank of America.
Great American companies like GM, Chrysler, Ford, Delta and United Airlines, all of which have teetered on the precipice only to be pulled back by generous infusions of taxpayer largesse.
Bigger is not better. Just more entrenched. Translating to more constituents with a financial interest in maintaining the status quo.
Need proof? Look at our government.
One in six Americans currently works for the Federal government. One in six! Can that be positive? One of America's greatest attributes has always been its focus on liberty, free will and entrepreneurial vitality.
Do these attributes continue to resonate when one in every six is employed by the government? The same government that has rung up a budget deficit that attaches a $200,000 mortgage to every living American? And this mortgage comes without a home. In fact, without any real assets. Just a $200,000 bill that both of my sons will be paying off for the rest of their lives.
In addition, that same government is providing nearly 50 percent of the nation's homes with some type of government assistance. Medicare. Social security. Unemployment insurance.
Is that conducive to liberty, free will and entrepreneurial vitality?
Meanwhile, even as government employees, pay outs and expenditures reach record amounts, 63 percent of Americans feel that the nation is on the wrong track. Flatly denying any correlation between big government and big optimism.
Some sacred cows are actually sacred calves. New ideas, already sacrosanct.
Consider the Federal efforts to "stimulate" the economy. Our president, freshly arrived in the Oval Office, spent nearly $900 billion to jump start the economy. The payoff? Unemployment increases and GDP goes nowhere.
The Federal Reserve Banks engages in (at least) two rounds of "quantitative easing" whereby the U.S. dollar is devalued and the prospects for preventing the forthcoming inflation is unknown. The payoff? Unemployment and GDP go nowhere. Yet, the stock market jumps through the roof.
Currently, a third round of quantitative easing appears certain, ensuring further market gains.
Meanwhile, business owners refuse to hire because of continuing uncertainty around the impact of the Affordable Care Act on their income statements (article link here).
So, a government bent on the idea of redistributing wealth from the haves to the have-nots is permitted time and again to pump up the stock market (invariably helping wealthy investors nationwide), and enact legislation that all but ensures a nationwide hiring freeze in the midst of an extended jobs recession (invariably denying jobs to a middle class desperately in need).
Still, nobody raises a finger. Nobody objects. Why? Sacred cows! Those guys in D.C. know what they're doing, right?
In the movie Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio's character asks, "What is the most resilient parasite? ... An idea. Resilient... highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain, it's almost impossible to eradicate."
Such are the power of sacred cows. Such is the interest of politicians in their preservation. Once accepted, they defy eradication. Regardless of how meritless they may be.
Finally, sacred cows often leave sacred cow pies. You can't believe in one without stepping in the other. In the end, it's a bunch of B.S.