There is an unusual unanimity in the media and among political pundits about the level of distrust with which the country has come to view the political class. It appears on the verge of outright “disgust,” threatening in an almost revolutionary way to obliterate a whole generation of professional politicians among Democrats and Republicans alike.
Establishment politicians from both parties still hope that interruptions and disturbances generating from a-political outsiders will collapse. We think they will be disappointed, especially on the Republican side, where discontent with politicians (even in their own party) is even more pronounced than among Democrats.
And now, after the government, Federal Reserve, Wall Street and media forecast slow but consistent economic expansion into 2016, should the Canary’s prediction of further economic weakness (The Canary predicted a recession in late 2015 to early 2016) coupled with disappointing Holiday Season sales, become reality, the public’s trust in all of those traditional societal pillars will, undoubtedly, further erode.
The country’s system of governance is now increasingly perceived as incompetent, corrupt or both, with widespread consensus that nobody looks out for the best interests of the nation, its citizens and future generations anymore. It doesn’t matter whether the Veterans Administration (VA) represents incompetence, corruption or both. What matters is that, even under a new administration, the medical care our veterans receive continues to deteriorate.
The VA is, indeed, a good example for how much governance has deteriorated. It was established in 1930 by Congress during the Hoover administration and, since, has become the largest integrated health care system in the U.S. with a whopping 152 medical centers. What makes this explosive growth of the VA system even more remarkable is that it occurred despite VA’s persistent failure to offer comparable levels of health care to other non-government health care systems. The medical community has considered the VA system a second-class health care system for decades.
Lesson I: Growth of government institutions is independent of performance. Once government services become the subject of criticism, every bureaucracy’s self-preservation mechanisms are activated which, if necessary, will include deception of public and Congress. The VA scandal demonstrates this, as senior administrators were caught falsifying appointment schedules to cover up the VA’s failure to offer veterans timely medical appointments.
Lesson II: Government institutions will lie and cheat to self-preserve. A new VA administrator was appointed, but recent media reports suggest that despite Congress granting it a considerable budget expansion, waiting periods for medical appointments are longer than ever.
Lesson III: Government institutions are incapable of self-correcting. While some senior administrators who falsified records were “allowed” to retire, none was indicted and none ended up in jail.
Lesson IV: As we witnessed in the IRS scandal for which nobody went to jail, the political class protects its own. Whether Democrat or Republican, administrations understand that executions of their programs are dependent on the good will of the bureaucracy. Prosecution of senior bureaucrats, therefore, is never advisable.
One would expect government to at least learn from its failures, but lessons learned at the VA did not lead to congressional reorganization of the VA. In good Washington fashion, more money was thrown at the problem by both parties, without any attempts at reengineering a failing government agency. Under Obamacare, the country doubled and tripled down on this failure by creating an even larger VA on steroids. It barely took two years to see subsidized insurance exchanges go bankrupt and insurance premiums rise far beyond inflation rates all over the cuontry. Even earlier supporters of Obamacare have second thoughts.
Lesson V: The political class does not learn from past mistakes because ideological believe systems and political expediency always trump empirical conclusions. In pursuit of empirically unproven programs, and in attempts to get elected (or reelected over and over), politicians from both parties are spending the country into oblivion. For the first time in the country’s history our generation is on the verge of leaving our children and grandchildren a country financially worse off than the one we inherited from our parents.
Corruption in the current political system is also well-demonstrated by the unbecoming spectacle of politicians after retirement or in between government positions being paid absurdly excessive speaker honoraria by commercial and political (often foreign) interests. Since no speech ever is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, influence peddling, the real motivation behind these payments is too obvious. Nothing demonstrates this better than the donations and speaker honoraria received by the Clinton Foundation, Bill and Hillary’s personal worldwide kingdom of political corruption.
It allowed them to go from “being broke” a little over a decade ago when leaving the presidency (to quote Hillary), to controlling hundreds of millions of dollars of “donated” assets, which allows them (as a not-for-profit at tax payer expense) to finance their own and their daughter’s opulent life style and maintain a publically-financed political machine of political employees, salaried by the foundation.
Despite Hillary’s denials in her current election cycle, the Clintons are also the best practitioners of crony capitalism. Nobody has done more for the big Wall Street firms than the country’s leading political couple, and few have argued as successfully for the bailouts Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street giants received during the 2008 financial crisis.
Interestingly, just a few days ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that major U.S. banks, almost all bailed out by taxpayer funds, significantly decreased their loans to small businesses in the third quarter of 2015 while increasing lending to Fortune 500 companies. Crony capitalism is, indeed, doing very well, and is more alive than ever after seven years of the Obama administration. It is the middle class (I.e., small business owners) that is suffering for lack of all advocacy in Washington at historically unprecedented levels of crony capitalism in the U.S. Small businesses just cannot afford Bill and Hillary Clinton’s speaker honoraria!
By exempting themselves from laws, the political class has also been highly successful in carving out special legal standing for themselves while rewarding themselves materially in ways other cannot. Examples abound: For example, five sons of the former Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid worked as lobbyists to Congress during his tenure and, amazingly, no law or congressional rule considers this an illegal conflict of interest. Yet, others under similar circumstances would end up in jail. For example, physicians are prohibited from utilizing laboratories or x-ray facilities for their patients if family members hold even minimal ownership in them.
Another example: Until very recently members of Congress were fully protected from insider trading rules, for which hundreds of regular citizens go to jail every year. When voting for legislation that may benefit commercial interests, politicians’ disclosure mandates are extremely porous. Yet, to go back to examples from the medical profession, physicians and scientists who receive just a coffee mug from a Pharma company have to disclose this fact before giving a lecture to colleagues, upon publishing a scientific paper or when applying for a federal grant. It is perfectly permissible for members of Congress and local politicians to accept luncheon and dinner invitation (aside of political contributions, of course), or go on all expenses paid junkets at luxury hotel resorts and golf courses; yet, physicians are no longer allowed to accept free meals at or paid trips to professional medical conferences.
It should not surprise that more and more of the country is increasingly convinced that the political class is up for sale to the highest bidder, whether it involves the country’s security and foreign policy (while his wife was Secretary of State, President Clinton seriously applied for a permit from the Department of State to give one of his highly paid speeches in North Korea), the economic wellbeing of its citizens, – especially of its middle class and, probably most importantly, the future of our children and grandchildren.
The people’s evolving disgust is also spreading to the intellectual leadership of the country, mostly concentrated in universities, Hollywood and media on both coasts. They are held responsible for many of the recent societal policy changes that have overtaken the country at surprisingly rapid pace, including the legalizing of Marijuana, gay marriage and increasing legislative secularism. The public does not understand why smoking cigarettes in public makes them outcasts yet smoking a joint is widely promoted and considered hip. They see one great social idea after another failing while consuming billions of the country’s treasury, and while poverty in the country is at its highest in decades. And after having elected the first black president to two terms, they find race relations at a tragic new low.
The intellectual leadership of the country is held responsible for all of these developments because it, with increasing arrogance, is propagating empirically untested social experiments of unprecedented size and cost (Obamacare, legalization of Marijuana, global warming, etc.), while the country is slipping into deeper and deeper economic and social malaise. Such moments of national malaise and lack of political as well as intellectual leadership have proven dangerous in history, as they have led to fascism and other forms of dictatorships in the past.
In the current election cycle, a record field of Republicans announced their candidacy for president and we at The Canary were pleased by their youth and apparent riches of talent. Concomitantly, we were disappointed by the lack of talent among Democrats, which made Hillary Clinton’s selection a foregone conclusion (unless she does get indicted by the Justice Department after all, which after the bail out of the IRS by Justice, appears much less likely than we had thought just a month ago). Unfortunately, the Republican candidates, have been disappointing and unoriginal until now, except for the three inexperienced political outsiders, Trump, Carson and Fiorina. On the Democrat side, Hillary has been Hillary: an untrustworthy, lying political operative, who will do and say anything to be elected.
Just weeks before start of the official primary season, the country faces rather bleak options for the 2016 election. We at The Canary, would have never thought the day would come that we wished Mitt Romney was running again. But that’s where we are at this point because the only other alternative appears to be a Trump/Fiorina ticket.