Friday, November 8, 2013

Warning: I Was Cynical When I Wrote This

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little."

~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

For my first quarter century of life I resisted the urge to trash politicians, to buy into the whole “Congressmen are a bunch of crooks” and “Washington is a cesspool” mentality. “Politics remains a noble profession,” I insisted to anyone who would listen – which consisted primarily of my mother – and you can’t condemn all officeholders because of the actions of a few. That’s unfair, right?

Clearly there’s no such thing as fairness anymore.

I finally stopped repressing my cynicism. Armed with the knowledge that comes from working directly for elected officials and on political campaigns combined with facts gleaned from television, newspapers and the net, I can no longer deny the truth: although not all candidates throw their hats into the ring intending to serve just themselves or the few, most end up that way. Absolute power does indeed corrupt absolutely. I’ve seen it. And money talks louder than a carnival barker or a preacher on Sunday. It buys favors from lawmakers and silence from staff.

I’ve written about this before, I know, and it’s not news to most readers or political observers. But I feel obligated to sound the alarm again lest anyone on this sinking ship we call the US of A remains unaware of how flawed our system has become, how dysfunctional and dirty and repugnant today’s public policy process really is.

(Click here to read, “I Pray that They’ll Pay,” here to read, “On Subsidizing Agribusiness and Giving Hungry Folks the Bird” and here to read, “Snap to It, Congress! Stop Spending So Much to Feed the Hungry!”)

Two things have compelled me to post this latest lamentation:

1. If you asked nine-year-old Nabila Rehman, who lives in a remote village in northwest Pakistan, how she felt upon traveling over 7,000 miles last month to testify before Congress about the U.S. drone attack that killed her beloved 67-year-old grandmother (and injured her and her older brother) a year ago only to be stood up by all but five Congressmen (the five who listened were Democrats), I imagine she’d admit to being surprised that so few American lawmakers would or could find time to listen to her heartfelt story. Of course it’s not possible for these busy men and women to sit down with every person who wants to bend their ears but if American foreign policy results in the murder of innocent civilians, one risks being labeled incompetent at best and insensitive and ignorant at worst when one skips an official hearing on the subject. (The United Nations estimates that 400 Pakistani civilians have been killed by U.S. drones since 2004.)

Not that the members of a body that enjoys a five percent public approval rating care a whole lot about labels.

Evidently young Nabila doesn’t realize that the Benghazi non-scandal and a malfunctioning website are far more noteworthy than the murder of her grandma.

2. I just read a story pointing out that through the Farm Bill, taxpayers have provided more than $11 million in subsidies to businesses connected to 50 of the country’s billionaires between 1995 and 2012. The subsidies – created to help family farms when the price of certain crops dropped too much – now go mostly to large farming corporations. And get this: in both versions of the bill currently under consideration in Congress, subsidies to billionaires increase – yet politicians have determined that we can’t afford to help hungry folks so they cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) and took food out of the mouths of 47 million Americans.

(Click here to read, “SNAP Benefits Will Be Cut for All Participants in November 2013.”)

I know $11 million is chump change to politicians and celebrities – that’s how much Kanye West and Kim Kardashian paid for their new 10,000 square-foot Bel Air mansion earlier this year; it’s just half of what New York Yankee Derek Jeter was paid in 2010; and it’s how much Michigan Governor Rick Snyder spent on his 2010 campaign – but that’s how much it takes to run the entire government of Somalia for a year. You could buy 122 houses in Lansing, Michigan; donate 63,583 men’s bicycles to charity; or feed 45,833 families for six months for just under $11 million. It’s not chump change in the real world.

I posted the following status update in Facebook the other day:

I just realized that all four of my kids have run for student council and can therefore be considered "politicians." I'm not sure how I feel about this.

In response, one of my friends chided me gently for buying into the “government IS the problem” mindset. Others reminded me that our children represent our hope for a better future, that they have the power to change the world and it bodes well for them to engage. I don’t know, though. My kids are still good. They’re not pessimistic or opportunistic or self-serving or calloused or jaded. They still believe in right and wrong. They still care about other people. I’d hate for them to be sullied by what passes for politics these days. I’d hate for them to lose hope and become hardened.

It’s my fault that everything’s so messed up, really. And yours. We keep electing these clowns. We passively accept the crap that the unscrupulous foist upon us, the conflicts of interest and the lies and the audacious commitment to the best interests not of constituents but of corporate overlords, the string-pullers and campaign funders and one percent of Americans who never have enough and have no problem taking from the lower classes to expand their wealth. We keep allowing ourselves to be distracted and discounted and turned against each other. Sadly, we’re okay with unfair and incompetent.

Sources: Huffington Post, The Guardian, New York Daily News,, Ann Arbor News, Centre for Research on Globalization,, Feeding America, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


  1. Just read this aloud to my husband. Loved it.

  2. My co-workers are asking questions like "what's it going to take to turn this around?" The usual answers keep coming up, and they boil down to getting money out of politics. But You know who doesn't want that? People with a lotta money. The class warriors have had it right all along, haven't they? Lucy Parsons: "Never be deceived that the rich will allow You to merely 'vote' away their wealth." Commitments to each other and to equality and truth would probably be good places to start. Hard to challenge Your observations, Pat. I learned somewhere that it is important to put principles before personalities. I hope I am young enough to fight on the frontlines with Your duly elected children. Love Ya' Brother.

  3. I am always cynical when I write, best way to be. That's usually when the truth comes out, as painful as it can be for all concerned. Too many platitudes everywhere. Always better to read some unvarnished truth, even if tinged with anger and bitterness.

    Politics is for the rich now, and the affluent Middle class. The rest of us have to fend for ourselves. But, you know what, sometimes that makes the rest of us not so privileged begin to care about each other, even if the selfish money grubbers in charge couldn't give a flying duck! Or words to that effect.