Cookie Warning

Warning: This blog may contain cookies. Just as cookies fresh out of the oven may burn your mouth, electronic cookies can harm your computer. Visit all kitchens and blogs (yes, including this one) with care.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mark Twain on Good (or Bad) Government

Today, I'm going to do something that I never (or rarely) do.  I'm going to talk politics for a moment.  If you're offended by this decision, or just disinterested, please forgive me, and know that my normal nonpolitical blogging will resume tomorrow.

During Mark Twain’s visit to Hawaii in May of 1866, he spent some time in Honolulu, where he observed how the then-sovereign nation’s capitol functioned.

“I have seen a number of legislatures, and there was a comfortable majority in each of them that knew just about enough to come in when it rained, and that was all.  Few men of first-class ability can afford to let their affairs go to ruin while they fool away their time in legislatures for months on a stretch.  But your chattering, one-horse village lawyer likes it, and your solemn ass from the cow counties, who don’t know the Constitution from the Lord’s Prayer, enjoys it, and these you will always find in the assembly; the one gabble-gabble-gabbling threadbare platitudes and “give-me-liberty-or-give-me-death” buncombe from morning till night, and the other asleep, with his slab-soled brogans [shoes] set up like a couple of gravestones on the top of his desk.”

Twain’s remarks seem harsh, and perhaps incomparable with today, as the United States' government pays politicians reasonable wages (aside from any donations or gifts from others that they may receive).  Nor do I feel comfortable labeling people like he does, as I try to view others as at least as intelligent as myself.  But I understand his frustration over all-talk and no-action, and must therefore admit my dissatisfaction with our present government.  President Obama has laid out his agendas, and drawn his proverbial lines in the sand.  Instead of acting to help our government meet our needs, Congress has continually refused to work with him.  This has resulted in all kinds of funding cuts in the last few years, during which ongoing programs are halted for weeks or months at a time. 

Every time a project geared toward our nation's safety or long term health is canceled or placed on hold, experienced personnel are redirected to programs with more immediate funding.  When the spigots get turned back on, so to speak, resuscitated programs hire new workers, spend weeks or months bringing them up to speed, and work until the next time Congress ignores a funding deadline, at which point the reshuffling of resources starts again.  (It should be also noted that revived programs usually end up with less money than before, further hampering their efforts).  The situation worsened this year, with federal employees having their wages and pay docked for a substantial portion of the year.  Now, even though the 2013 furloughs have finished (for now), the federal government has Shut Down, once more refusing to meet America’s present and long-term needs. 

In comparison with other governments, Twain wrote this of Hawaii in 1866:

“The mental caliber of the Legislative Assembly is up to the average of such bodies the world over—and I wish it were a compliment to say it, but it is hardly so.” 

As dissatisfied as I am with our present government, I'm uncomfortable with simply blaming the President or Congress for the constant funding cuts, or this year's forced federal furloughs and shutdowns.  Earlier this year, when Americans realized that forced federal furloughs would affect how long we waited in line for Security screening at airports, we informed our elected representatives in no uncertain terms that this was unacceptable.  Congress responded immediately to our concerns: but only to insure that TSA and FAA workers were exempted from furloughs. 

I wonder.  How much might the United States accomplish if we all cared as much about our health programs, scientific research projects, our domestic and foreign defense systems, and (perhaps most importantly, as they have to carry all this out) our federal employees, as we do about delayed flights, and how long we wait in line at the airport? 

Dragon Dave

No comments:

Post a Comment