WE THE PEOPLE

I caught a snippet of a commentator interviewing a talking head, probably a politico. After lambasting Congress, she asked if he thought, ultimately, that the American people were responsible for the poor shape we’re in. I waited for the usual response, and wasn’t disappointed: No, we can’t blame the folks for the failings of the legislators.

It’s very unpopular (duh) to criticize the electorate, and no politician will cross that line; it’s like signing your own pink slip. But I’m not running for office, so I can afford to state the obvious: We’re a democratic republic, and we elect and re-elect the people who are failing us. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I suppose, then, we’re insane.

It’s true that in a country as large as ours with widely disparate views, it’s unfair to paint everyone with one brush. Perhaps a better term would be schizophrenic. It all comes down to the same thing: in the net, as a nation we continue to behave irrationally when it comes to our economic survival.

In the people’s defense, for decades we’ve done the same things with ups and downs and eventual recovery, so one might argue our profligate spending, unbridled borrowing, massive governmental expansion and its attendant “quantitative easing,” works. It’s easy to forget the government, in its protective financial bubble, is now an even larger part of the total economy. The debt and the corresponding interest payments are larger than they’ve ever been. The entitlements are bigger than ever with fewer workers per recipient. Most importantly, the culture has changed from one of deploring government charity to expecting it. But you can put a lot of layers of spackle and paint over a large, sturdy house like the U.S. and keep it looking quite spiffy until the moment the termite-ridden support beams give way.

In the 1980s Carter’s disastrous policies brought him the boot. In 2012, Obama’s ineffectual leadership under even more dire circumstances bought him four more years.

Money, the Prozac of the progressive era, whether you print more of it or steal it from a few wealthy people, ain’t gonna cut it for much longer. We need a good shrink.

Let’s start with the government.

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