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The so-called fiscal crisis in Washington is nothing but politics. Even though Congress and President Obama claim that the country is out of money, politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to be able to come up with money for pet projects.
An investigation by Senate Republicans found that the Labor Department had enough funds to spare to promote unions and collective bargaining overseas. Republicans learned that the Department had given $2.2 million to the Solidarity Center (an AFL-CIO organization set up during the Cold War to help workers in Communist countries) to promote unions in Haiti and Peru. Obviously, this makes little sense; the Cold War is over, and Haiti and Peru are not Communist countries. Worse, the unions in those countries are probably Marxist organizations hostile to the United States and sympathetic to Fidel Castro.
So why does the Labor Department have enough money for such questionable activities? The answer is obvious: Promoting unions worldwide is a pet project of an important Democratic constituency that can always be relied upon to write campaign donation checks—the AFL-CIO. The politicians don’t seem to be able to find enough money to fund programs average Americans count on, like unemployment insurance, but they can fund pet projects.
Those who think Republicans are any better should take a look at military funding. Congress has budgeted $436 million for an improved version of the Abrams battle tank even though the Army doesn’t want it. Tanks have little place in modern warfare, but they are big money to defense contractors so Congress has added them to the budget. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have a reputation as budget cutters, but they are demanding the Army spend over $400 million on a weapon with little or no military purpose because the tanks are built in Lima, Ohio.
This whole affair shows how dysfunctional our political system has become and how hostile it is to the interests of average Americans. Well-connected special interests can get unlimited amounts of funding for their pet projects, yet funding for basic government services is being cut.
The federal government no longer exists to serve average people; it exists to serve special interests. The main focus of Congress is to keep tax dollars flowing to supporters no matter what the cost. Unions and corporations can now get virtually unlimited amounts of funding from the federal budget. Deficit spending continues because it benefits them.
Particularly loathsome is the way that Congress can magically come up with money when voters get angry. Now that summer vacation season is looming, the Senate has suddenly found enough money to pay air traffic controllers. The controllers were supposed to be furloughed as part of the so-called sequester. Yet Congress has decided to end the furlough, at least for the summer. The reason for this was that Congress was afraid of the backlash if the cuts would really lead to 6,700 flight delays.
All the Senate did was give the Transportation Department the authority to move money around so it could fund the controllers’ salaries and makes cuts elsewhere. In other words, the Senate has proven that the fiscal crisis is largely a fraud. It could be ended with a little flexibility and common sense.
Obviously, the other budget problems could be solved with this common sense approach, but they won’t be. The reason that won’t occur is that it would expose the political theater in Washington as a shallow charade.
What Does This Mean for You and Your Family?
Basically, the budget battles in Washington mean that average people can no longer rely upon the federal government. The government no longer exists to serve average people, and politicians have little or no interest in the problems of average families.
This means that a lot of the government benefits we’ve taken for granted in the past, including food stamps, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and the Veterans’ Administration, could disappear or be reduced to insignificance. A lot of families could find themselves with no money to buy things like food and healthcare in the near future.
Worse, we could see massive cut backs in basic government services like education, highways, mass transit, law enforcement, and military training to pay for special interests’ pet projects. A big target could be the pay and benefits of the enlisted personnel in the armed forces, which, unlike the federal workforce, are not unionized.
We’ve already seen a situation in many American cities, such as San Jose, California, where basic services like libraries, the fire department, and police patrols have been cut to the bone to cover the cost of union pensions. Citizens can longer get the basic services that their tax dollars pay for.
In the near future, citizens or volunteers might have to do things that the government provided in the recent past. An example of this can already be seen in many of our communities, where churches have had to start providing food and monetary help to the poor because government no longer does it.
The worst case scenario of government dysfunction will be a complete breakdown in government services and civil unrest. This is not a fantasy; it happened in some major American cities, including New York City, during the 1970s. It is happening in Greece right now. We could see something similar occur on the federal level.
The Politics of Dysfunctional Government
The worst part of the situation is that it is entirely political in origin. President Obama and the Democrats want the fiscal impasse to continue because it makes the Republicans in the House of Representatives look bad. They think they can pick up control of the House in 2014 if they can draw out the “crisis.” Republicans want to continue the crisis because it makes Obama and the Democrats in the Senate look bad. They think they can win control of the Senate and possibly the White House in 2016 if the gridlock stays in place.
From a political standpoint, neither party has a real incentive to end the gridlock. It benefits the leadership of both parties and the special interests that they are beholden to. That means the political crisis gets drawn out and fuels popular frustrations with government. It will lead to a growing radicalization of the general public and disillusionment with government and democracy.
This will probably mean more protest groups like the Tea Party and Occupy, more civil unrest, and an increase in domestic terrorism. Average people frustrated by their lack of power will turn to violence. The violence is just as likely to come from the left as the right. The media is ignoring the fact that violent anarchism is becoming popular and fashionable on the left.
Such an artificial crisis can eventually become a real catastrophe because the crisis and the compromises designed to prolong it can upset the entire political situation. That’s exactly what happened before the Civil War; politicians wanted to preserve the corrupt U.S. political system built on slavery because it benefited them. Instead of dealing with the problem of slavery, the political leaders of the nineteenth century made a series of compromises designed to preserve it.
The compromises made the situation worse and ended up angering both the supporters and opponents of slavery. This fueled popular frustrations that boiled over into violence and civil war.
Civil Unrest Possible
I doubt the current situation will go that far, but it will fuel a lot of anger and frustration. Instead of civil war, we’re likely to see a period of domestic terrorism and violent civil unrest similar to that of the 1960s, particularly if large segments of the population think government no longer works.
Average families should get prepared for this by saving enough money to live without benefits and laying in enough food and provisions to survive for several months. Staying clear of those places most likely to be centers of civil unrest, such as state capitals, might be a good idea as well. The situation will probably sort itself out, but not before we see some real harm done and a lot of suffering on the part of average Americans.