The Lord Of The Three Rings Circus

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re a fool, a gullible sheep, or as some would say, a useful idiot. Yup, I’m talking to you. If you’re reading this article right now and you’ve already made up your mind as to whether I’m a genius or a moron just by reading the title, then, sorry to be the one to have to tell you, but YOU are what’s wrong with this society.

If you are the kind of person who votes for a candidate based primarily on what letter appears next to their name, then I’m here to tell you, your problem isn’t with the “D” or the “R”, but with the “L” on your forehead…loser. That’s right, I’m calling you names. I mean, it seems like that’s what it’s come down to. When I read the papers, listen to the radio or watch the news, I don’t hear anything of substance any more. It seems that what our political system has boiled down to is a shouting match, where a bunch of fifth graders see who can use the most colorful language and call the other kids the worst names.

Here’s a drinking game for you college kids: try watching any of the news shows and take a drink every time someone says the word “radical” or “ideologue”. It’s a double if you hear the word “draconian”. Throw in terms like “nut jobs”, “socialists”, and “zealots”, and you’ll probably be passed out by the second or third commercial break. I think the name calling officially hit rock bottom when several politicians and members of the media took to calling the Tea Party “hobbits” during the recent battle over the debt ceiling increase.  After all, if you’ve read any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books or seen the Lord of the Rings movies, you know that the hobbits are the good guys; it’s the hobbits who actually save the world from evil.

What does that say about society when politicians are so wrapped up in their own messed up system that they can’t even come up with appropriate insults anymore? They’re so out of touch with reality that they pay a huge compliment to an entire group of people they’re actually trying to belittle. Given how much effort politicians spend distorting the English language, it’s no wonder they get confused by the meaning of a social reference from time to time.

The powerbrokers in Washington employ lots of people whose solitary focus is on shaping an argument or manipulating dialogue in order to sway public opinion. By the time your local representative takes the stage, or stands in front of a television camera, they’ve been well briefed on what words work well to get their point across. It’s not just name calling, by the time they’re done with a speech, it’s even simple definitions that don’t make sense anymore. They know all too well what phrases work in which districts and what symbols tug on the heartstrings of the American people.

It’s gotten to the point where, I’m guessing, they spend more time trying to figure out how to sell their plan to the general public than they ever do actually putting the policy together in the first place. That’s how we end up with politicians who suggest things like, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.” Getting things done is beginning to take a back seat to making things popular, and convincing people of your results isn’t nearly as important as selling them on your intent.

The next time you hear a politician say we need to “tax the rich”. Ask them how they plan to do it, since in this country; we tax INCOME, not WEALTH. Increasing the tax rate only sticks it to the people who take home the big paychecks, which, more often than not, aren’t the people you would think of as the super rich. Most of the truly wealthy live off of investment income, not big paychecks, so an INCOME tax increase barely affects them at all.

And for all those people who buy into the concept of those rich paying “their fair share”, ask yourself, what is “their fair share”? Have you ever heard a politician actually give a percentage? Why can’t they say what the new tax rate should be? The same thing applies to generic terms like “cut”, “cap” and “balance”. What qualifies as a “cut”? The latest debt ceiling plan came with lots of “cuts”, but in reality they were only cutting back the increases in government spending. If a program got $10 million this year, and was due to get $12 million next year, but instead got only $11 million, they call that a “cut” of $1 million (Actually, they call it a savings of $10 million, since cuts are usually amortized over a ten-year span, while spending is only analyzed year to year). So, was that really a “cut”? Would you be happy if your teenager told you, “Yes, I spent $200 on these blue jeans, but I was planning to spend $250. Aren’t you glad I saved you the $50?”

Paul Ryan came up with a plan to help “balance” the federal budget last year, mostly by transferring the responsibility for Social Security and Medicare onto the individual States. While I agree that there is too much bureaucracy, this is like trying to pay off your Visa bill by putting everything on your American Express. Since the states aren’t allowed to run deficits… Ta-dah!!! The budget is now magically balanced.  Now don’t you feel more fiscally responsible? Yeah, me neither.

Washing your hands of a problem doesn’t make it go away. Coming up with a new catchphrase isn’t enough to solve America's problems. Words just don’t mean that much anymore, and calling someone names never was a productive way of challenging their opinions or disproving their policies. As the saying goes, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never solve the healthcare crisis. It’s time to take the gloves off and stop beating each other up. It’s time we stop twisting the English language and start tackling the real problems. We need leaders, both public and private, who don’t just give a good speech, but get the job done, and it all starts when we stop letting the colorful rhetoric we seem to like distract us from the critical results we truly need.

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Volume 7, Issue 17, Posted 8:32 AM, 08.24.2011