Free Markets, Free People

The “cash for clunkers” era of government failure

While perusing a Frank Bruni op-ed in the NYT, I ran across this:

Conventional wisdom says that better unemployment and job-creation numbers could save Democrats. But many Americans aren’t feeling those improvements. When asked in the Journal/NBC poll if the country was in a recession — which it’s not — 49 percent of respondents said yes, while 46 percent said no.

Got that, despite what 49% believe, the country is “not” in recession?  Why?  Because some obscure organization (NBER) that determines that has said so.

But here’s a little clue, if 49% believe that, no matter what is declared, how does one suppose they’ll act when it comes to their own little piece of the economic pie?  Yup, that’s right, like we’re in a recession.  In other words, it really doesn’t matter whether or not the recession is “official” or not, like Bruni says, but then seemingly ignores, “many Americans aren’t feeling those improvements”.  That’s because vastly more than the “official” unemployment number remain unemployed.  Then there are the underemployed.   They don’t give a rip what NBER says.  They know how they’re living, how their lives have changed and what they’re facing.  Which is why you see:

There’s a feeling of helplessness that makes the political horizon, including the coming midterm elections, especially unpredictable. Conventional wisdom has seldom been so useless, because pessimism in this country isn’t usually this durable or profound.

A feeling of helplessness has never been something, at least in my life time, that this country has ever had.  I’m sure during the Depression, there was certainly some of that, but then, I wasn’t living then.

The interesting point there though is the Depression is where the citizens of this country began to look more toward government as an institution of hope.  However misplaced that was, it is indeed what happened.  FDR.  The New Deal.  Yatta, yatta, yatta – for years it was credited with pulling us out of the economic pit we found ourselves in.  Popular myth had it that without government we’d still be mired in a substandard economy (nevermind the growing body of evidence which puts the onus of the Depression on government failure).  Of course, in reality it was WWII that pulled us out.  But that myth was popular and a certain segment of the political sphere nurtured and grew it.

Well, as I’ve always said, reality has a way of bitch slapping fantasy at some point in time and that’s pretty much what has finally happened in the last 6 years.  Reality has set in.  The myth of big government being able to handle such a crisis has been blown to hell.  Result?

In the most recent of Sosnik’s periodic assessments of the electorate, published in Politico last month, he wrote: “It is difficult to overstate the depth of the anger and alienation that a majority of all Americans feel toward the federal government.” He cited a Gallup poll in late June that showed that Americans’ faith in each of the three branches had dropped to what he called “near record lows,” with only 30 percent expressing confidence in the Supreme Court, 29 percent in the presidency and 7 percent in Congress.

There should be no surprise for anyone in those numbers.  None.  Big government has failed.  After all the promises, all the money, all the “policies”, all the assurances and all the faith put in its ability to handle any crisis, especially the economic crisis, the myth has exploded. The gullible, who have believed the myth all these years,  now feel angry with the institution into which they put so much faith.  It was literally a secular religion for some.

Well if there’s a silver lining in all of this mess is the fact that in the future, when this myth again tries to reemerge, we have an era to point to which demonstrates its bankruptcy.  We’ll call it “the cash for clunkers” era of government – when government came up a clunker.

~McQ

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