Saturday, May 23, 2009

Are We Stupid?

In one corner of my mind--the one not preoccupied with jury stuff--I have been watching the threat of the imminent meltdown of the California economy. What was once amongst the most thriving of states with an enviable infrastructure and an education system to rival any other is now approaching bankruptcy. Our once vaunted system of schools, colleges and universities, already sinking low in comparison to other states, is now facing massive budget cuts that will ensure its further deterioration. Hospitals and medical clinics will likely be forced to cut back on already inadequate staff and services. The poor, the unemployed, the homeless will have fewer resources to protect them. Children, in this affluent society we have created, will go hungry every day because their pitiful lunch programs will be cut.

So the question is, are we stupid? The taxpayer's revolt that started in the 1970s and brought us Ronald Reagan has now become an unquestioned axiom of our political culture. Our Schwarzenegger was elected on the promise that he would never raise taxes. He would listen to "the people" and obey their wishes. Now that "the people" have roundly rejected his last hope for budgetary salvation, he swears that he will listen again, and start making cuts into the last lean meat of surviving social programs.

Friends, we have brought this on ourselves. We have chosen to believe, collectively, those who assured us that we could have all the services we need without paying for them. We have indulged in an absurd system of propositions and initiatives that purports to give voice to the people, without educating those same people to understand the simple connection between what we pay for and what we can expect to receive. We have kidded ourselves that this is true democracy, when it is in fact no better than mob rule. We have allowed greed and prejudice to substitute for reason and sane policy.

Democracy is nothing without education. The capacity for critical thought and responsible, sometimes selfless action is its most essential ingredient. The ability to see further than the day after tomorrow is also a useful attribute. Sheer, blind, thoughtless, self-first stupidity is a poison that has slowly been killing it here in California and throughout the country. I had hopes, with the election of our new president, to have finally perceived a glimmer of electoral intelligence. Now I wonder if I was simply kidding myself again.


roger said...

s colbert says "keep false hope alive."

indeed peter. whatever happened to the notion that the strength of a democracy depends on a healthy, well-educated citizenry.

we are, collectively, dumb and dumber.

the results of the latest election are being interpreted by the pols as indicating that the electorate will not stand any tax increases. what else could they say to cover up their ineptitude. so let's cut school lunch programs and keep the waste commission.

one place the republicans might be on the right side. (haha, a pun)

Anonymous said...

It's absolute lunacy. We've cut our collective nose off to spite Sacramento's face. What a long, sad slide it's been. Can we make the reforms necessary to make the state governable again?


Al said...

We need to repeal Prop 13 (and I say this as a California home owner).

Part of the problem though is that no one seems to believe that raising taxes will mean more than just raised taxes. There is little confidence that the money is really going to go where it needs to go.

I only moved to California three years ago (from Washington state) and I've often wondered how a state as rich as California can be so obviously bankrupt when it comes to services. You see it when you go to parks, etc.

Gary said...

Prop 13 protected home owners from being the single largest source of income for the state and when it was passed no other tax base was tapped to replace it over time. Replacement choices are larger taxes on anything that produces a larger carbon footprint. The answer in addition to the lottery, liquor and tobacco sales is a repeal of Prop

Our children will loose PE, art, science and other cultural programs for years unless the crisis management government in Sacramento gets it right this year. We are greedy and now we are going to pay the price to gain parity with countries like Japan and China. I am seeking employment in Shanghai and Hong Kong where the schools are far superior.

IlliniAlum said...

Yes, we are stupid. How depressing.

khengsiong said...

Agree that democracy is nothing without education. That's why many Asian countries, e.g. Thailand and India are struggling with democracy. OTOH, authoritarian China is doing very well.