Monday, July 30, 2012

Historical Political Quotes, Contemporary Political Problems

A little quiz on quotes relating to politics in America, try to figure out who said it and when they said it:

1) In reference to why political parties have lost the confidence of the public: "Their machinery of intrigue, their shuffling evasions, the dodges. the chicanery, and the deception of their leaders have excited universal disgust, and have created a general readiness in the public mind for any new organization that shall promise to shun their vices."

2) Also in reference to why political parties have lost the confidence of the public: people "saw parties without any...difference contending for power, for the sake of power. They saw politics made a profession, and public plunder an employment. They beheld our public works the plaything of a rotten dynasty, enriching gamblers, and purchasing power at our expense."

3) "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except for Congress."

4) "The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employees, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy."

5)"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies."

6) "An election cannot give the country a firm sense of direction if it has two or more national parties which merely have different names but are as alike in their principles and aims as two peas in a pod."

Great quotes, all of them. Unfortunately, it seems as if we are living everyone one of them today. The interesting thing is that these quotes are quite historical, not contemporary:

1) According to the Real Politics website, this quote was from the book, "The Origins of the Republican Party" by William E. Gienapp and the quote is dated from 1855. The New York Times called it "dodges", today we call it "spin doctoring." The Times called it "universal disgust," we call it having Congressional approval ratings around only 20%. The Times called it "chicanery", we call it a variety of names including earmarks and outright corruption. It is remarkable how closely a quote from 155 years ago captures the nightmare we are living through today with our political class.

2) This quote is also from the Gienapp, also from 1855, and it appeared in the New York Evening Post. This also captures our current state of political affairs. We also see most of our politicians vying only for power, not for the opportunity to make the country better. With their high salaries, great benefits, many, many perks, our current day politicians fit the Post's description that politicians "saw politics made a profession, and public plunder an employment." Without term limits, our politicians see being elected not as a service to the nation but as a life time job. And their gerrymandering Congressional districts, rigging campaign finance laws, and handing out taxpayer dollars as earmarks allows them to ensure perpetual re-election, regardless of the quality of their work.

3) This third quote is from Mark Twain and is obviously well over a hundred years old. However, even back then he realized that the power allocated to politicians many times results in outright criminal behavior. Congressmen Traficant, Jefferson, Cunningham and other Congressional politicians have served time due to their corrupt and unlawful behavior while in office. How many former Illinois governors have either served prison time, are currently serving time, or are aggressively trying not to serve prison time? Charles Rangel and Maxine Walters, two current members of Congress, are likely to face a House Of Representatives trial within the next few months on ethics and corruption charges. The House ethics office has investigated or is currently investigating potential crimes by other members of Congress. The more you list out what has happened to our contemporary politicians, you marvel at how right Mark Twain may have been way back when.

4) This quote is from Woodrow Wiilson who said it early in the last century. At that time, he realized the influence that non-voting entities can and do have on government functions and corruption. Wilson called them "special interests," we call them lobbyists.

5) My source attributed this quote to Groucho Marx and is likely more than fifty years old also. Back then, even comedians like Groucho recognized that politicians were not any good at identifying the root causes of problems, if a problem even existed, and then putting together a coherent, efficient and cost effective plan to solve that problem. Our politicians are no different:

- Nixon declared War On Drugs in the 1960s and we are no closer today to having a coherent national drug strategy and policy than the day he declared war.

- Carter muddled through the oil crises in the 1970s and we are no closer to having a coherent, national energy strategy and policy than we were when we waited in long lines at gas stations.

- Reagan identified the problems with public education with a Presidential Commission in 1983 and 27 years later, U.S. public schools badly trail many, many other nations in the education of their children.

- Clinton presided through numerous terrorist attacks including the first World Trade Center bombing and the African embassy bombings and never came up with a coherent terror defense policy and strategy, resulting in the death of almost 3,000 Americans on 9-11.

- Over the years over 10 million illegal aliens have come across our borders with no politician able to come up with a coherent immigration strategy and plan.

Unfortunately, Groucho was right back then and he would be right today if he saw the incompetence of today's politicians.

6) This last quote is from Franklin Delano Roosevelt and is at least 65 years old. When you really come down to it, are the Republican politicians much different from the Democrats? Sure they each pick their friends and identify their enemies, e.g. Republicans are generally pro-life and pro-guns while Democrats are generally pro-choice and anti-guns. But when you look at their records, neither party has accomplished much of anything positive over the past fifty years. Just look at what we listed above under Groucho's quote: no solutions to the drug, immigration, terrorist, public school and energy problems. The only reason they pick their friends is to get money to finance their constant re-election, not to solve any meaningful problems.

While Obama the candidate promised change you can believe in, Obama the President is hardly any different than Bush. Obama drew down U.S. forces in Iraq but it was on the timetable Bush established. Bush set up the terrorist prison in Guantanamo and so far, Obama has kept it open. Our border still leaks illegal immigrants and we still have no new policy or plan for energy or public schooling. Bush enacted the Patriot Act and Obama basically rubber stamped its renewal. Gay rights are no further along under Obama than under Bush and the amount of earmarks in our national budget is as high under Obama as under Bush. The only significant difference between Bush and Obama is that the Obama administration has run up spending deficits orders of magnitude higher than Bush.

This is why the whole area of U.S. politics can get so depressing. The incompetence and corruption we face today appears to have been going on for a long, long time. The only difference may be is that government is so much larger, wasteful, and intrusive then it was in 1855 or when Twain, Roosevelt, Marx, and Wilson spoke their quotes above. That is why we need to find a way to start shrinking the size of government immediately in order to start cutting back on the corruption and waste that apparently is inherent in the genes of all politicians:

- Step 1 - start a government reduction process by reducing all government functions and budgets by 10% a year for the next five years.

- Step 2 - aggressively step up fraud and corruption activities in all government areas, hopefully including the investigation of fraud and corruption from our elected officials.

- Step 3 - implement term limits for all politicians in order to avoid the problem discussed in the Post quote above, i.e. politics should not be a profession, it should be a temporary calling and service calling.

- Step 4 - provide a process for systematically attacking and solving the problems that politicians have been unable to solve with their own capabilities and intelligence including illegal drugs, energy, schooling, and immigration.

By implementing these steps and actually solving some national issues for a change, hopefully we can generate a new set of American political quotes that will not be as negative as the historical ones discussed above.

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