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By Tom Cushing

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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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"...On the Pavement, Thinkin' 'Bout the Government ..." Part One

Uploaded: Oct 15, 2013
Setting aside Dylan's badge-wearing man in a trench coat (laid-off in the government shutdown), I Have Been thinking about the government lately. So have others, like Senator Warren and Professor Reich, who've been busily stealing some of my thunder. Hopefully, there's enough left to justify this week's missives, today and Friday.

Across the entire population, Americans have an abiding distrust of government – dating from before the founding of the Republic. That's understandable, based on the motivations of its early European settlers (to say nothing of the experiences of those who were already here, or came unwillingly, under color of law). The American Revolution was fought to oust a tyrant King, and early attempts to organize the former colonies under Articles of Confederation called for a loose state alignment around a weak central government – kind of a prior-day European Union.

This desire to not be fooled again, to borrow another rock lyric ("meet the new boss – same as the old boss"), dominated the debates that culminated in ratification of the Constitution under which we govern ourselves today. In return for a stronger central government, the anti-federalists won inclusion of the Bill of Rights – the first ten amendments to the new document.

These consist of limitations on the power of the government, acting against individuals, or claiming "inherent" powers other than those enumerated in the document. The colonists had suffered mightily under political censorship, unfettered searches of their property and incarceration without charges – and many had been persecuted for their religious beliefs, often as against state-sponsored church institutions. They wanted, and got, further assurances that they weren't just substituting one brand of tyranny for another.

Frustration with government contributed to secession and the Civil War, which killed more Americans than any other armed conflict. 2% of the American population died in that conflict; no one alive was untouched by it.

Distrust can also be found in other great social struggles – over racial civil rights, labor organizing and wars like Vietnam. There, the government's might was often a tool of suppression – enforcement of Jim Crow laws, strike-breaking and prosecutions ("better stay away from those who carry 'round the fire hose"), and those Chicago police whose job it was "not to create disorder, but to preserve disorder," according to Da Mayor.

In the 20th century to the present, government has also been seen as intruding into private lives, via such matters as taxation to finance its burgeoning mission, regulation of conduct (employment, environment, firearms), relief/transfer payments, and compilation of data, ostensibly to keep faith with its baseline purpose of the common defense.

To be sure, that unease takes-on different aspects, depending on where you sit in the political spectrum. Lefties tend to worry about government involvement in issues like personal privacy ("phone's tapped anyway"), foreign adventures inconsistent with the best American angels, and undue influence of what Ike called the Military-Industrial Complex (now much broader than just Defense, and much more incestuous). They worry that current government policies cater to the affluent, and don't do enough to encourage a vibrant middle class and upward economic mobility ("twenty-years of schooling and they put you on the day-shift").

Righties, for their part, fulminate about the sheer size of government, its complexity, its profligate spending habits and its penchant for social policy intrusions like anti-discrimination laws and progressive taxation. In their loyalty to unfettered markets, they dislike the inefficiencies of operations not ruled by profit motivation, and regulations that constrain their business instincts.

They worry when government enforcement can't seem to keep the vandals from taking the handles. And they dislike government efforts at relief – whether for the aged, infirm or simply unlucky – preferring to put faith in a perceived meritocracy that has served them well, and relegate relief to the tender mercies of non-profit and religious institutions. I believe they call it "income redistribution."

So, with all this suspicion and doubt, bridging the entire political spectrum – why, then, do we care so much when government's health is imperiled via shutdown and threat of default? More on that in Part Deux.

Comments

Posted by Joany B, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Some might want to talk about right and left by resorting to heady theorists like John Rawls or Robert Nozick. Others prefer the inimitable political analyst Bob Dylan. I'm with Tom. Why labor over complicated heady stuff when Dylan makes everything so simple? When Dylan was a teen he dreamed of being a great general and even applied to West Point. This was before he became a sophisticated political and Jewish Christian thinker. I can't wait to hear Dylan's take on why people care about government shutdown and default. From Tom's piece we've learned so much already!


Posted by cardinal, a resident of another community,
on Oct 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Yeah -- it's an outrage, Joany. If I were you, I'd demand a refund for the entire symposium.

Bloggers are Not allowed to have fun -- it's in The Rules.


Posted by Joany B, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Dear Cardinal,

A little bit ruffled after the drubbing you took at the hands of the Utes?

At any rate, my husband has been furloughed for the past 2 weeks, and I'm likely to be furloughed at the end of this week. Maybe you and Tom want to come over to the house and join us and the kids, we'll blow up balloons, wear party hats, and sing old Bob Dylan tunes. Because it's all such a giggle, you know?

Light-Heartedly Yours,
Joany B


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 15, 2013 at 4:35 pm

It Ain\'t Me, Babe, or poor Cardinal either. And my boys lost to Penn State, so maybe we should All get together and drown our collective sorrows. I do wish you Shelter from the Storm, because The Times, well, you know.


Posted by Rosa, a resident of Birdland,
on Oct 15, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Juvenile remarks, bordering on tastelessness. I don't understand what the joke is.


Posted by Citizen Paine, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 16, 2013 at 7:02 am

Well Rosa, to paraphrase the philosopher Rawls, Lou: Default is a Hurting Thing. Welcome to the world that has been an awful reality for millions of your fellow citizens since the banksters caused the Great Recession, in 2008. Lost life savings, extended unemployment (far worse than furloughs), no prospect for retirement -- ever.

This time it's even worse, in terms of causation, because it's being intentionally caused by a tiny, fact-averse radical minority. And the long term consequences will be worse, too, if Boehner and the Gerrymanders aren't stopped. We'll all need Shelter from That Storm.


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 16, 2013 at 4:11 pm

How can you mention Bob Dylan and not mention drugs? Ha ha. Seems there's big differences in opinion on the role of government in that regard.

Don't forget other hot button issues like rights for illegal immigrants, abortion, gay marriage, "economic justice," affordable healthcare and housing as fundamental rights, globalization and international trade issues, indefinite detainment, public union rights, welfare addiction, and of course national debt.

Liberals think big government programs and regulations are the solution to our problems.

Conservatives don't like big government programs and regulations that don't work, are rife with fraud, abuse, and often do more harm than good (e.g. giant public housing complexes from the 50's & 60's that fostered crime & urban decay and ultimately had to be torn down, welfare programs that encourage people to have children without getting married, environmentally "friendly" light bulbs the contain toxic mercury, etc.)

This analogy sums it up perfectly: If the poor and middle classes were drowning, conservatives would throw a rope halfway and make them swim halfway to shore to get it. Liberals would throw the entire rope into the water until it sank to the bottom and then they'd run off to do another good deed.


Posted by Mick, a resident of Foothill Farms,
on Oct 16, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Some people just can't get no satisfaction. Or maybe the answer is blowin' in the wind. Don't ask me, I'm only bleedin'. Boy this is fun! Anybody can do it! Glad the Dems were able to stand their ground and not back down.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 16, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Mick -- that's the spirit!

S-P: I don't think you quite got that image right. The conservative would never even see his drowning fellow citizens until after he ran over them in his yacht. Then he'd decide it was their own dam' fault they were drowning, congratulate himself on his natural superiority, and try to send somebody a bill for fouling his propeller.

The liberal, OTOH, might suggest that maybe the Navy didn't need its entire stockpile of warehoused ropes, and try to get some converted to lifesaving. Lobbyists would immediately be deployed to protect and double the stockpile -- except for the one rope used to hang the liberal.

Anyway, this column is not about partisanship -- but about the fact that NObody in America really likes the institution of The Government. You can be counted-on, however, to interject a healthy dose of controversy. How'd that shutdown work out for you?


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Hold on a second. I fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard. "this column is not about partisanship" ha ha. That's a good one.

As for the metaphor, if those people didn't want to get run over by a yacht, then maybe they shouldn't have been in the water in the first place! Maybe they should take some personal responsibility for a change. Ha ha.

How'd the shutdown work out for me? What, me personally? I did ok. How about you? Most stocks are higher now than before the shutdown. So that's good. And during the crisis, I was able to harvest some capital losses. I added them to my stockpile, so I can keep avoiding capital gains taxes, including that new capital gains tax imposed by Obamacare. So, at least I got that going for me.

Seems those tea party dudes sure cleaned up. Ted Cruz's approval rating among tea party folks is up from 47% before the crisis to over 74% now, and donations are pouring in. Web Link

The people who really lost are those who aren't even born yet, who will inherit $17 trillion of debt—and counting.


Posted by Dirka_Dirla, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 17, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Cushing is a monumental Tool (notice the capiol "T") and his writings do not have an original thought. He is nothing more than a paraphrasing shill for the far left. Snooooozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzze! Boycot his garbage.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 17, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Why S-P, I can almost hear you whistling [Web Link Always Look on the Bright Side of Life] as you type. Thanks for the word on Mr Cruz' good fortune -- his approval numbers are approaching Charlie Manson's, within a Family that's alMOST as big! If this politics thing doesn't work out, and it won't, perhaps he should take a [Web Link Leap of Faith] into televangelism? He's a regular Nightingale among the credulous.

@dirkhead: long-time no-hear -- it's been fun. I remember when you used to spell your name consistently; those were the days! Just a word to the wise (find someone to explain the following) -- there's a heavier Moderation hand on these blogs now under the new format -- so you might want to devote a little effort to content, going forward. Just a smidge.


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 18, 2013 at 8:08 am

Terrorists, arsonist, extortionists, and now -- Manson Family. You liberals sure get creative with your insults. ha ha. What's next, puppy killers?

Before this crisis, 37% of Americans had a favorable view the tea party. Even after this latest media assault, 30% do. Web Link

30% is low, but it is still higher than the 20 – 22% of Americans who identify themselves as liberal. Web Link


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