The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Hopeful, But Not Optimistic

In her inaugural column for 2015, Peggy Noonan writes:
Yuval Levin, founding editor of National Affairs, says, “Maybe you know the old joke that a Jewish optimist is one who says, ‘Surely things can’t get worse than this,’ and a Jewish pessimist is one who answers: ‘Sure they can!’ Those are the two sides of my thinking about 2015. But that said, I’m approaching the new year with hope, which is not the same as optimism. Hope is not the expectation that things will turn around for the better, but the belief that they can. It invites not passive anticipation but active repair and restoration. Our country has shown an amazing capacity to recover from setbacks because we’ve shown an ability to act on hope.”
Like Noonan, I approach 2015 not with optimism, but with hope. After six years of an administration that has done almost everything wrong, I think it's delusional to be optimistic about the country's leadership. And despite the massive GOP electoral victory in 2014, I believe we'll see only a small reduction in the obstructionism that was a senate led by Harry Reid, and if we're lucky, only incremental improvements in governance.

Andrew McCarthy identifies the true problem we all face:
What doesn’t work in Washington is . . . Washington — its officeholders-for-life, its strangling bureaucratic sprawl, its incestuous network of staffers and lobbyists, its naked cronyism, and its invested media.

The gridlock bewailed by Beltway insiders is actually a sign of political health, not dysfunction. Our constitutional system is designed to limit the central government’s influence — not because we don’t have serious problems but because those problems are best addressed locally, where their causes are intimately understood and their impacts acutely felt. However much good-government types despise gridlock, it does not signify an inability to solve problems but the reality that, for most problems, the solution is elsewhere to be found.
How true—the solution does lie "elsewhere." It lies in local control—of education, of healthcare, of entitlements. Local control of all things except clear national priorities—defense, national infrastructure, pure research, homeland security, immigration policy (enacted by the Congress, as the Constitution dictates) NOAA, the CDC, CIA, FBI, and NSA (for all of their failings) and a small list of other agencies that might have benefit on the national level. It lies in a massive reduction in federal regulations that strangle small businesses, a significant reduction in the size of the federal government with the concomittant reduction in federal taxes, freeing money that can be better and more efficiently spent by American citizens themselves. It lies in the elimination of the nanny state with its ineffective and wasteful "programs" that never, ever go away.

It means the realization that "eliminating fraud and abuse" (the montra of every politician) is a lie, told and retold to low information voters who are gullible enough to believe it. Fraud and abuse are, I suspect, a fixed percentage of the federal budget. The way to reduce them in absolute terms is to reduce the size of the federal government.

But will any of that happen. I'm hardly optimistic. One party has based its future success on continually growing the size, the scope and the reach of the federal government. Their clear intent is to grow the population of those who take direct support from the federal government and those who get their paycheck directly from the federal government. In so doing, they increase their base. It's good for the Democrats, but very bad for the country.

So ... 2015?

On the bright side, Americans have remarkable resiliency. The private sector and the people who work within it simply create workarounds for the intrusive roadblocks placed in their way by Washington. When disastrous, ineffective programs are created, the private sector often comes up with alternatives. I hope that that continues, and I'm optimistic it will.

But sadly, I suspect more of the same governance with a few bright spots here and there. Let's hope that the light that shines from the bright spots will illuminate the way for those voters who have bought into the canard that the federal government, and the federal government alone, can solve all of their problems. I'm hopeful, but not optimistic.