The Garden Of Greed: Smoke & Mirrors & Fallen Apples genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak
In recent days, a number of parallel thoughts have led me to perpendicular roadblocks. Generally speaking, I'm struggling to identify the means to unmask the many misdirections being put forth in order to distract us from reality. If I'm to succeed, there are a number of problems to address.
One, not all of us are interested in embracing reality...and our reasons for our disinterest run the gamut. Two, those of us who aren't interested are vulnerable to misinformation and the efforts of those who prefer to disseminate carefully crafted rhetoric in short sound bites rather than reasoned and rational thoughts in expansive elaborations. Three, any effort to uncover more truth must do more than dismiss the deceptions of others; it must expose their underlying motivations and hold the attention of the ill-informed audience long enough to persuade them to reconsider. Lastly, one must overcome the propensity of the public to treat politics as a peripheral event that can be considered and concluded in a matter of moments by pushing a button in the ballot box.
A brief review of these obstacles suggests the odds of success are slim to none...at least in the current environment. The very fact that my words aren't apt to reach those I describe gives testament to my pessimism. It also supports my contention that our society is too slow to react...and frequently does so after too much damage has been done. Yes, while history suggests that our reactivity hasn't precluded progress, statistics tell us that our deviations create a pendulum effect whereby we lurch from one extreme to the other in our imprecise pursuit of the metaphorical middle...the point and place from which political prudence has the potential to marginalize partisan magnification.
With that said, let me provide some specifics. The first is the candidacy of Sarah Palin and the efforts to establish her as the embodiment of an adept ideological icon...regardless of quantifiable considerations. Here's the problem in the context of the concerns enumerated above. One, her candidacy meets the acceptability threshold of a segment of society regardless of reality. Two, her handlers continue to put forth paper-thin propaganda designed to dupe the disinterested. At the same time, many of those who have sought to expose her insufficiencies to the uninformed have chosen to create a caricature rather than identify the components of her intrinsic ideology that make her candidacy unacceptable.
This construct creates the mechanism by which the public reacts. Unfortunately, those reactions are apt to take one of two forms; either fully polarized or unacceptably intuitive. The fact that tortured tactics and suspect strategies are used by both sides to either disguise or define essence simply facilitates the degree to which the voting public's considerations and conclusions deviate from reality.
A look at the lead-up to tomorrows vice presidential debate provides ample evidence of this phenomenon. Those who fear the Alaska governor lacks the bona fides to bear the certain scrutiny that comes with a debate have chosen to focus on the fact that the moderator, Gwen Ifill, has written a book in which Barack Obama may receive favorable treatment. The goal is to make innuendo the issue...whether it be the fact that Ifill wrote the book or, by inference, the fact that Ifill happens to be black.
Once this tactic is unleashed, those on the other side of the equation are compelled to craft a counter strategy designed to return the attention to Sarah Palin and those doubt-raising examples that undermine her intellect.
Look, it's indisputable that politics is frequently little more than the art of illusion. The problem is the misdirection it facilitates...and therefore the misjudgments it initiates. Each time one of the parties ratchets up the irrationality of the rhetoric...and the other responds in kind...our collective connection to the relevant realities is reduced.
More importantly, when leaders move to increasingly embrace smoke and mirrors, the potential for error expands exponentially. It also create an atmosphere of skepticism and uncertainty that can paralyze a society. If that society is already prone to peripheral participation, the forces for correction are increasingly compromised. At some point, in the vacuity of leadership...accompanied by the acceleration of vacillation and the absence of interest...viability evaporates.
That brings me to the financial crisis and the esoteric efforts to construct an acceptable plan to address it. As I've previously noted, it's easy to become distracted by the back and forth of those in power...especially when the visible disagreements are simply window dressing for obfuscated objectives.
While members of the house went back and forth, the Securities & Exchange Commission, in the blink of an eye, altered its mark-to-market guidelines...a move that looms as a catastrophic decision. Suffice it to say that the decision will allow troubled financial institutions to alter the manner in which they account for the assets that underlie their dubious debt. Allowing these institutions to attach more optimistic values is a grave mistake that may well extend and expand the shake-out of toxic paper. This is the very mechanism that facilitated the pervasiveness of the Savings & Loan scandal in the late '80's.
I would relate it to telling a homeowner that they no longer need to rely upon standard appraisal methodology when receiving a mortgage from a lending institution. Instead, they can submit, and the lender will accept, alternative methods of determining value. Can you guess what would happen if this were the case?
Here's the fundamental problem we face as we approach the 2008 election. The reality available to those who seek to embrace it is limited by systemic subterfuge. Further, the lack of leadership lends to the conclusion that voters are expendable pawns in the high stakes pursuit of power and profit. The former fosters frustration and uncertainty while the latter reinforces disconnection and disinterest.
For those still seeking unfettered reality, Monday's rejection of the bailout by the House simply served to polarize the partisans and cloud the criteria by which one could make an informed decision. The subsequent cat and mouse calculations only confirm my concerns that those in power are in the process of removing what little fruit remains while asking the public to have faith in the shiny ornaments they're attaching to a troubled and teetering tree whose roots are rested firmly in toxic terrain.
At the same time, those with undue influence and those who hold power have absconded with the lion's share of the fruit it bore. Even worse, rather than level with the public, they are busy exiting through the back door with what few viable seeds remain...ever hopeful they can replant and reconstitute their garden of greed...replete with the fruitful money trees that serve and sustain their manipulative monopoly.
We voters are left to wonder if any of our political candidates are focused upon the interests of the public or if they simply see us as the means to power and profit. Many of us believe this election is about change and hope. If it isn't...and we end up with more of the same...the glue that has held us together will continue to be replaced by sugar coated gobs of gum.
That may give us something to chew on...but if anyone thinks it will be enough to sustain us, let me suggest we give some thought to finding the fence behind which the garden of greed will soon be hidden. After all, I'm sure if we holler loud enough, someone on the other side will toss us a grounder.