The United States of Apathy.

February 29, 2012

Americans thrive on nostalgia like Star Jones does public appearances.

Consider that a silent movie won this year's Best Picture Oscar. Which may a good thing. Perhaps it expedites the Darwinian end game I've long predicted. Eventually, most actors will be born with no capacity for original thought. When you're paid to parrot the lines of others, stick to that for which you're paid. Even if it only holds true in election years.

But, I digress.

Americans view the past in much the same fashion as we do vacations. We repress a lot. The food poisoning. Jelly fish stings. And yellow fever. Choosing instead to selectively recall long walks on the beach. Sunset smooches. And the all-you-can-eat crab leg buffets.

If nostalgia is a crime, then book me, Danno.

I often remember the good ol' times when we were largely left to our own devices. Free to transact, create, donate, venture, manage and profit in any ethical way we could.  Free to lead our lives.  Profit from good decisions.  Learn from mistakes.

Alas, those days are done.

Last week's issue of The Economist ran a feature story entitled, “Over-Regulated America.”  The piece deals with the current trend towards the intervention of government bureaucrats, posing as babysitters, in nearly all areas of our lives.

Shutting down children's unlicensed lemonade stands. Forcing interior designers to pay for licensing and certification. Requiring consumers to file a report if a vending machine dispenses candy bars without proper labeling. Requiring railroads to place an "F" at the front of trains, just so we morons can tell which end is which.  Seriously.

The founding fathers were highly sensitive to the idea that government, whenever possible, will usurp the power of the people. So they crafted a constitution that called for a series of checks and balances to prevent the creep of the government into all areas of our lives.

Today, the idea of checks and balances means that you write bigger checks and the government ensures that the budget is never balanced.

Consequentially, the onslaught of government creep, regulatory overhauls and lack of political leadership has brought public apathy to new extremes. (Or is it the other way around?)

Federal politicians enjoy better healthcare, pensions and legal standards than the rest. Even as they achieve little in the way of spirited leadership,  fostering personal liberties or anything resembling fiscal sanity.

The Patriot Act.  The Volcker Rule.  Sarbanes-Oxley.  Dodd-Frank. Health Care Reform. Each equating to additional red tape, and fewer decisions that the average family has to make.  If the mission is to achieve a nation inhabited by mindless consumers who vacillate between the mall, kids' soccer games and Monday Night Football, mission accomplished.

We have become so apathetic about the fungus-like creep of government into every area of our existences that we are losing the capacity to think.  Thinking is so 1980s.

There is a government agency responsible for establishing standards for each area of our lives.  By 2030, my grandchildren will be living lives analogous to a series of connect-the-dots activities, requiring little in the way of creativity or problem solving.

Among other virtues, the United States was founded on principles of liberty, an open and competitive marketplace, and the right to make something of oneself--if one chooses to do so.

Today's government is more concerned with policies that are "fair." Eradicating the chasms between the haves and have-nots, even while they often end up constraining the dos and enriching the do-nots.

Our Federal government has become a bloated, over-reaching mess. Why do you think they work in a building called the Rotunda?

And while many of our political elites are good people, many of them would date an albino just to make themselves look tan.

The denizens of D.C. strive daily to justify an ignominious existence, much like the middle managers of any bloated, over-staffed enterprise where the activity level is high, yet the productivity is not.

Yet, through it all, the public says little. Barely looking up from ESPN, or The Real Housewives of Poughkeepsie. Like a bunch of frogs in a pot. The heat slowly increases, yet, we care little until it is too late.

We have developed a cruise-ship mentality. And eventually, the Federal government will deliver. Providing us with an itinerary that tell us where to be, what to do, and when to be there.

Analysis and thoughtful contemplation have never been more important.  Because so much of what's reported is not precise. Or just wrong.

While the Federal government tells you that inflation remains low, we see deflation in the things we own and inflation in the things we need.

While the Federal government talks about growth and spending cuts, the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio recently hit 101%, though we heard little of it.

While the Federal government talks about a strong-dollar policy, it floods global markets with dollars, so ensuring the devaluation of the currency and eradicating the spending power of our fixed-income dependent senior citizens.

While the Federal government talks about energy independence, it forces Americans to buy overpriced fuel from the authoritarian loan-shark regimes of the Middle East.

While the Federal government plans for 3% or better average economic growth over the next six years, we see last year's growth at 1.7%, with few prospects for improvement in the near future.

Someday, we'll care enough to act. Till then, we'll continue to simply act like we care.

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