Our government is accelerating down the path to irrelevancy with actions that undermine our faith in its ability to govern.
For government to function properly, its citizens must have faith that it is capable of handling the affairs of state in a fair and evenhanded way that assures them of consistent treatment with a reasonable, common sense set of rules whose purpose is straightforward and clearly understood. A government grounded in common sense can survive the occasionally ill-conceived law or corrupt individual as long as its citizens can point to a clearly defined set of core rules.
This has been the case in America as we look to our founding documents for core rule guidance in the form of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. We understand that governments are inherently flawed due to the fact that they are created, staffed, and maintained by inherently flawed humans, but you do the best you can and hope you have enough checks and balances built into the system to weed out flawed behavior from those seeking to take advantage of the system.
However, corruption on the scale of individuals and small groups is one thing, but wholesale corruption of multiple large groups is quite another. Merriam-Webster defines corruption as an “impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principal,” “decay, decomposition,”, and as “a departure from the original or what is pure or correct.” It is by this standard that I refer to the deviation from the founders’ intent as corruption. The attitude of American citizens is decaying into one of cynicism and hostility towards government officials. People no longer respect police officers and other government officials as can be seen in the low approval ratings of Congress.
The Wall Street Journal reported on a federal investigation into police corruption in Tulsa, OK where police are accused of planting false evidence to secure convictions. MSN Money details how financially strapped jurisdictions are shoring up their depleted revenues by targeting travelers with speed traps. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ignored House rules to ram ObamaCare through against the wishes of a majority of Americans. The TSA is facing a backlash from travelers over its recently instituted X-ray and pat-down procedures that do nothing to improve security and are seen as the blatant form of government overreach that they are. And, let’s not forget the escalating violence on our Southern border as narcoterrorists increasingly encroach on sovereign U.S. territory while the Obama administration drags it feet in response. The list goes on.
These are not isolated incidents and reach all the way from local government up to the federal government. Our entire society seems to be condoning and embracing, or at least accepting with a shrug, corruption and heavy handedness as the new way to do business in violation of the principals of fair play necessary for its citizens to maintain faith in their government and way of life. We are descending back into the very quagmire of every man for himself that governments were established to overcome. Even a cursory review of the history of great civilizations reveals this common disturbing trend prior to the total collapse of just about every one.
When faced with this evidence, is it any wonder that Americans are increasingly hunkering down in bunker mode to avoid becoming a target on the government’s radar? Companies are hoarding cash and even returning some of it to shareholders rather than invest it in expansion due to the uncertainty of the business climate.
Lest you think I’m a pessimist, I’m encouraged by the pushback from the Tea Party movement of concerned citizens aware that our government is out of control and headed for the cliff. Awareness of the problem has been raised, concerned citizens are working the system, and elections are starting to have consequences. One thing I’ve noticed at Tea Party meetings is the fact that Republicans and Democrats come together united by a common purpose and engage in civil conversation over a shared set of concerns. The Tea Party movement has become the new center of American politics.
The covenant between citizens and government stipulates that citizens will act responsibly and government will protect citizens from internal and external threats. The federal government has overextended itself and faces trouble protecting us from these threats. Consider that there is a shortage of food inspectors, Border Patrol Agents, police, and doctors (remember ObamaCare just federalized the medical industry). Additionally, cutting the defense budget seems to be in vogue as a way to reduce current federal spending even though we are waging a war against terrorism or something. It’s funny how defense is always mentioned as the only area where cuts can be made and never Housing and Urban Development.
America is between the proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to finances, and the time has come to seriously prioritize government functions. As the government is spread ever thinner in an attempt to regulate every arguably justifiable problem, it becomes increasingly incapable of performing those functions necessary for our protection and monitoring the flawed humans in its employ whose actions slowly, but surely, undermine our faith in government as they are revealed to be out of control, over the top, and downright corrupt.
America needs a great awakening where citizens demonstrate that they will no longer tolerate unethical, unacceptable behavior by their leaders in pursuit of policies that pit one group against another at the expense of all for the sake of electoral success. The Tea Party movement has embodied the spirit of this great awakening and must persist in spite of the howls coming from those whose cushy existence is threatened by a realignment of the national political order.
Our society needs to reaffirm traditions that bind us together as a nation instead of tearing them down in a futile attempt to escape a perceived notion that they keep us from enjoying our fullest potential. We need to strengthen the notion of shame lost on politicians such as Charles Rangel who cynically refuse to be shamed and admit error as they’ve learned from Bill Clinton to ignore criticism of their behavior in order to survive scandal. Only by holding ourselves to a higher standard can we hope to restore faith in America and its institutions.