This has been an interesting week: an oil pipeline ruptured in Arkansas, flooding an entire town with dirty crude distilled from Canadian tar sands (yum!). There seems to be a news blackout in the area. Coincidence? Plus a gang of Atlanta teachers got busted falsifying test results to procure more government funding under No Child Left Behind. While it sucks when our schools are financially held hostage to the variable smarts of students, when certain other teachers refused to cheat, the guilty ones allegedly banded together to get the non-cheaters fired, then gave themselves bonuses for doing it. So… Go Directly To Jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Receive $200.
The first pangs of sequestration are starting to be felt in the private sector as de-funded programs downsize or shut down. Mostly it’s fringe programs or add-ons like unemployment benefit extensions, work aid programs, and services for the homeless. Some workers are being furloughed without pay (or permanently laid off, in the case of many teachers). Remember, this is just the beginning of the first year of sequestration effects: the law specifies nine more years of such cuts. Sure, it’s not too bad yet… but there’s more to come until sequestration is voted out (which it will be, to be replaced by another, hopefully more rational, budget cut package). Of course— despite the lack of a real budget, our intrepid Congress just passed a temporary spending resolution to keep the lights on (and their salaries flowing) for six more months. No surprise there.
I see a lot of hand-wringing and hair-pulling lately, as if our society has divided into two camps: those who go about their daily routines blindly trusting anything the popular media tells them to think, versus those who obsess over the scope of corruption in our businesses and government, and are daily drowning in despair over it.
To those worried souls I say this: we’ve been here before, and the nation managed to right itself and keep going. The words below are those of President Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, a Progressive, and a reformer, who occupied the White House in a similar era of capitalism gone wild, and made a difference:
“We demand that big business give the people a square deal; in return we must insist that when any one engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right he shall himself be given a square deal; and the first, and most elementary, kind of square deal is to give him in advance full information as to just what he can, and what he cannot, legally and properly do. It is absurd, and much worse than absurd, to treat the deliberate lawbreaker as on an exact par with the man eager to obey the law, whose only desire is to find out from some competent Governmental authority what the law is, and then to live up to it. Moreover, it is absurd to treat the size of a corporation as in itself a crime.”
“Behind the ostensible Government sits enthroned an invisible Government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day… This country belongs to the people. Its resources, its business, its laws, its institutions, should be utilized, maintained, or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest.”