Friday, October 31, 2014

Political disease of narcissism infecting both Washington and Ottawa

There is a political disease that seems to have crept into the body politic in both Canada and the
United States...oh it has been here for a while now, and periodically someone rails against it, almost as one would a spike in abdominal pain from an unknown intruder, and then, after some antibiotics, the pain subsides, and whatever caused it, the urgency of the problem dissipates with the pain.
Normally, with a medical pain, lodged within a single human abdomen, and carried along the spine to the brain, the individual ponders the potential, walks with it for a few days or weeks, until it returns and then, (perhaps sooner if the patient is a female) decides its time to ask the doctor to help find the source of the pain.
However, in the case of the body politic, there is no single 'brain' or consciousness that considers the problem anything more than symptomatic of a cluster of potential causes....there is no specific test to determine the degree of severity of the political disease. There is no literature that would take into account the kind of political culture that has bred this disease. There is no doctoral research grant from a funding philanthropy that consider the problem worthy of the expenditure of making a grant available for a vetted research candidate. The media thrives and depends for its very survival on the
"pain spikes" that provide opportunity for their reporters to write the headline-grabbing story of a single angry political candidate, or even a single angry political pundit. Sales of newspapers and ratings for television news, and even U-Tube viewings...all spike, predictably a few days following the rant, as others climb on the "band-wagon-of the-day" as if that were a legitimate and responsible response from a serious and engaged citizen, especially in a democracy that depends for its very vitality and survival on such people. The needs, however, of a serious democracy are quite literally antithetical to the needs of the news corporations whose scribes (fewer and fewer) are deployed to provide the "fault line" between the two vector forces: government and shareholders who demand dividends.
The democracy requires reporters who are willing to risk the wrath of their editors, and their boards of directors, when they uncover information that suggests the body politic is severely ill. It also depends on the candidacies of men and women whose primary and almost single goal and purpose in letting their name stand for election is to generate information, debate and discussion in the public arena about the merits and demerits of specific proposals without regard for their own political careers.
However, over the last three decades, although conceivably longer, we have witnessed a stream of political candidates whose political life, but certainly not their public utterances, demonstrate a single-minded commitment even compulsion to seeking, acquiring and sustaining their membership in the elected portion of the government.
We are watching on both sides of the 49th parallel, a charade that demonstrates this theatre of chicanery.
In the United States, Republicans running for election (or in most cases re-election) have decided and declared that the real enemy is Barack Obama, the same president whose policies they have derailed (except the Affordable Care Act, passed with the Democrats had a majority in both The House of Representatives and the Senate) and now they decry his "failure of leadership" as the mantra by which to seduce their voters into turfing whatever Democratic candidates they are running against. Republic Governors seeking re-election, some of them eyeing the White House as the next step in their political careers, even use the Ebola epidemic of West Africa, as another example of the incompetency of the Obama administration, and impose quarantine restrictions on returning medical workers, when there is no evidence of symptoms, and no scientific evidence that those workers are a danger to anyone.
Good politics, perhaps, if you are bent on gaining personal power, but clearly another of the many scare-tactics that they deploy to compound the angst that is already so extant in the hinterland, for so many other reasons, including an economic recovery that still has not addressed the minimum wage issue nor the gaping and growing gap in income disparity. When asked if in the election upcoming on Tuesday of next week, upon being re-elected himself and the Republicans took control of the Senate in addition to the House of Representatives, Senate Minority leader McConnell would work to undermine everything the president tried to get accomplished in his last two years, McConnell responded that he wanted only to "work for the American people". Nancy Cordiss, the CBS respected and highly professional reporter asking the questions, let McConnell off the hook and did not press him for a more specific and detailed (and clearly not forthcoming) response.
It was that same McConnell who declared when Obama was first elected, that his goal and that of the Republicans in both Houses was to "make Obama a one-term president"...a goal that he and the Republicans failed to achieve. Republicans, however, are clear that they would, if given power in both houses, declare a "green light" to the Keystone pipeline, so eagerly and narcissistically sought by their financial backers in the oil patch, thereby vacuuming even more cash from the pockets and vaults of those backers for this election.
In Canada, a different and perhaps even more "crass" strategy has just been announced by the Prime Minister, one full year ahead of the next federal election. He has announced a child support payment for all children up to age 6 of $160 per month.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has unveiled a package of family-focused tax cuts worth nearly $27-billion over six years that will shape the political debate heading into the 2015 election campaign.
The combined measures are worth about $4.6-billion a year and include income splitting for families with children under 18 and an expansion of the Universal Child Care Benefit, which delivers monthly cheques to families.
The Universal Child Care Benefit was a key pledge of the Conservatives’ 2006 platform, and delivers $100 cheques every month to families for each child under six. The government announced on Thursday that the monthly amount will rise to $160. Also, parents with children aged 6 to 17 would begin receiving monthly cheques worth $60 for each child in that category. (Harper boosts monthly child benefit, unveils income splitting plan, by Bill Curry and Steven Chase, The Globe and Mail, October 30, 2014)
Having fought with the federal bureaucracy, cutting well over 10,000 jobs and gutting some essential services in information gathering at Statistics Canada and environmental protection, using the argument that austerity is required to recover from the financial crisis of 2008-9, while all the while feathering the consulting job opportunities for Conservative-government acolytes, Harper is now facing a sizeable "surplus" at least half of which he is now spending to seduce Canadian middle class families into voting with the government in October 2015. His and his government's retaining of power is the agenda that drives this announcement and all other announcements that will flow forth like the hot lava threatening a small town on the main island of Hawaii, threatening the survival of the democratic organism that attempts to continue to pulse in Ottawa.
And the shape of the debate that Harper has imposed is one that has to respond to his proposals, reducing the opposition parties to keeping the cash-cow "giving the milk of political largesse" in order to compete on a playing field that the politicians need for their own narcissism, rather than the country needing to improve the lives of our people.
This argument is not to denigrate support for child care, especially when too many parents make wages that do not permit them to afford high-quality, reliable, trustworthy child care. However, the Madison Avenue gurus of slick and targeted advertising have so seduced their political clients of the benefits (to those very clients) of such measures, that they too are part of the gravy train that is blocking the flow of healthy political oxygen at the heart of the democracy. Between the K-Street lobbyists (most of them retired or defeated members of the Capitol Hill Club, and the Madison Avenue gurus, now linked to and enmeshed with the social media whiz-kids, funded by their corporate cheque-writing financial mentors, who are effectively running both countries.
And we all thought Russia was and has been for decades one of the most corrupt governments on the planet. Rich oligarchs have made off with the cookie jar, following the demise of the Soviet Union, and the results have not been "pretty" for the Russian people who do not have gigantic offshore bank accounts or real estate holdings. And the vote is clearly much more rigged in Moscow than it is in either Washington or Ottawa. However, how far behind are both North American countries?
As citizen participants in our own governments, we have to wake up to the chicanery and the blatant and manipulative strategies, words, actions that we are being fed by our political class, tell them it is less nourishing and more dangerous that a steady diet of Big Mac's and Coke, and let them know that their personal political futures are not the most important issue facing either country.
We are going to suffocate in our own Carbon Dioxide, lose our coastlines and our capacity to grow food, and slide deeper into the slime of the menus of the politicians if we are not courageous enough to purge both their agenda and even their names from the elected "oligarchy" we are quickly generating in both our capitals.

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