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Kevin Buck: Immutable politics in the U.S.A.

Democratic Voices

Posted: February 8, 2010 10:18 p.m.
Updated: February 9, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Reading the current headlines, surfing political sites on the Internet or listening to the television and talk radio pontificators’ opinions on the present state of our nation and the republic for which it stands, one gets the impression that we are once again on the eve of destruction.

The issue du jour is the economy, with reality-based people concerned about unemployment and the collapse in value of their investments, homes and retirement accounts. Republican politicians have latched onto this misery as one of the horses they want to ride back into power, turning the issue into deficit spending and the national debt, rather than the recovery.

Their hope is that the electorate will not remember that it was the Bush administration and GOP economic policies that got us here in the first place.

Trillion-dollar debt is OK if you are a Republican, but somehow wasteful if you are a Democrat. The political disconnect is astounding, more so because millions of Tea Partiers are buying into the faux issues and outright lies.

H.L. Mencken once observed that, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” And apparently nobody ever lost an election either.

Republicans can only win on this issue if they can paint the Democrats as spendthrift wastrels, pouring money down liberal, bleeding heart rat holes and make them forget the Republican’s own conservative, corporate and welfare for the rich rat holes.

The Republicans who are castigating President Barack Obama for his budget deficits are the same ones who tripled the national debt in the eight years of the Bush administration, and did so without a single whimper or whine about fiscal conservatism from the rank and file.

They brought us to the precipice of worldwide depression and economic meltdown.

I do not wholly blame former President George W. Bush and his Republican rubber stamps for the recession, just as I do not blame the Obama administration’s economic policies for the current deficits. There is something much bigger than politics at work here, something that no economic policy can control.

In 1969, Dr. Laurence Peter published the seminal book on how bureaucracies work — “The Peter Principle” — and how that affects the lives of every person who comes in contact with them (and that is everyone).

Peter’s work can be summarized in just one sentence: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”

What this means is that if a person works hard and does their job well they will be promoted, but that eventually they will be promoted to a job they are not suited for and cannot do well — their level of incompetence.

These people are rarely fired, but continue on in their new positions making life miserable for the rest of us. This is especially so in large bureaucracies like government agencies.

The immutability of the Peter Principle makes reforming, shrinking or making the government more efficient almost impossible for Democrats or Republicans.

Nobody hates big government more than Republicans, yet during the Bush administration not only did the government grow larger, it also created the largest new bureaucracy in history and added new layers of federal bureaucracy to an already suffocating and moribund educational system.

President Obama and the Democratic Party are faced with the same problem George W. Bush and the Republicans encountered when they were in power — it is almost impossible to limit or control an entrenched bureaucracy. And then to try to do it when the opposing political party is voting in lockstep against everything you propose — it’s a wonder anything is ever accomplished for the American people.

There is a measure of discontent among the Democratic base, generated entirely because of the perception Obama is not living up to his potential.

Obama campaigned on a promise of change and hope, and some believe he has not fulfilled those promises, but the way I see it, Obama is not Bush and that is a huge change for the better. And because of that one change there is still hope, and that’s a good thing, because when we lose hope, we lose everything.

In case you think all this is new, humorist and political commentator Will Rogers, who died in 1935, once observed: “Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.”

And so it goes.

Kevin Buck is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Democratic Voices” runs Tuesday in The Signal and rotates among several SCV Democrats.


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