The apparatchiks, you see, are different from you and me…
As the Government Shutdown of October 2013 fades away into the history books, there are two lessons that the American Left desperately wants the country to forget.
Oh, the Left is fine with American voters retaining a vague memory of the event – “The government was closed; people didn’t get their checks, it was the Republicans’ fault, of course” – but the Left doesn’t want every aspect remembered. They certainly don’t want the really important lessons to be retained. They’re praying that we forget, as soon as possible.
So, while it’s all still fresh in our minds, let’s remember:
One: The Private Sector is Dangerously Dependent on the Public Sector
Even before the shutdown began, the alarm bells were sounded: if there’s a shutdown, think of all those people who won’t get their checks… think of all those contractors dependent on government projects… think of all the concessioners and tour bus operators who’ll suffer when there’s no government building or memorial to visit.
As soon as October 1 arrived without a budget deal, the Obama administration worked feverishly to define “essential” and “non-essential” in a way that would ensure that any closures would cause the most direct, tangible harm, particularly to people for whom the American public would feel compassion.
The administration knew that the American public opposes “nameless, faceless bureaucrats” – but if they could show that others besides those bureaucrats are being hurt too, then that might turn public opinion against the Republicans who were so feverishly working for fiscal responsibility.
So, the administration shut the memorials, the museums, the battlefield sites. Tourists who had planned trips to Washington might cancel now, and that would hurt area hotels and restaurants. They closed government offices where private janitorial firms worked, and where private vending machine businesses stocked the vending machines all over town. They barred renters from their own homes, and even barred children from their own schools, if the access went through any federal land.
But even these aren’t the greatest of shocks. During this shutdown, we slowly realized that if hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats don’t get their paychecks on time, those among them who rent their apartments might be unable to pay their rent, so their private landlords would suffer too. Those among them who have mortgages might miss a payment, so private banks would suffer too.
Those among them who normally shop at the malls, dine at restaurants, buy cars from car dealers, go to movies or the legitimate theatre, might not do so for a week, or two, or three, or four.
And all this would harm not just the bureaucrats, but also these private businesses who never before realized how terribly dependent they are on the government. They think of themselves as honorable private sector entrepreneurs, as landlords, shopkeepers, restaurateurs – but darn it, they’re just as dependent on the king’s coin as are the welfare recipient and the resident of public housing, albeit indirectly.
And yes, there are still those businesses who are directly dependent on government, the contractors and vendors who win government contracts, provide services to government, sell the government the supplies and equipment that keep the myriad sinews of an overgrown leviathan moving and stretching.
The Founding Fathers never intended for Washington D.C. to grow so huge that we would ever fear starving it this way. But yes, this is the point we’ve come to: where cutting the size of an overgrown public sector has its most immediate effect in hurting the private sector.
And the statists know it. The statists are able to rub their hands with glee, knowing that anything an outraged electorate does to try to squeeze the government will provoke an immediate outcry from their fellow private sector participants. The voters are forced to choose between making long term progress at severe short term risk to people we respect, and forsaking the long term progress out of compassion for those dependent businesses, thereby allowing the growing cancer to continue unabated.
The solutions are obvious, however depressing: we must either be willing to watch our fellow private sector contractors, renters, and other entrepreneurs suffer along with the government, or we must convince them to gradually – or better yet, speedily – free themselves of their dependence on the business of government and government employees, so that they won’t be harmed when we cut government. A hard choice, but it had better not be an impossible one, or we may be doomed.
Two: The Political Class – And the Press – Prioritize Their Compassion Differently Than You Do.
A successful fundraiser, salesman, even beggar, knows that there are different ways to appeal to a potential donor. Some people feel sorry for children, and open up their wallets gladly when a picture of a poor child appears on the screen. Some get weepy over puppies or kittens. Some good people reach for their checkbooks the second a handicap is mentioned, or the poverty of the third world, or the tragedy of disabled veterans.
You can learn a great deal from someone by paying attention to what tragedies they respond to, and what they expect others to care about. Politicians have their own favored causes – some campaign hard for the rights of a specific group, as our Founding Fathers intended. Our system is a balance of factions; each legitimate faction deserves some representation, to ensure that government doesn’t abuse or neglect its legitimate interests.
The current Obama economy (we can’t call it a recession, technically, but we sure can’t call it a recovery either) is therefore instructive, more so since the shutdown than ever before.
The recession began virtually as soon as Nancy Pelosi took over the House in 2006, and there has been no respite since. Constant changes in the way that inflation is counted (don’t count food or gas prices, as if the poor’s greatest expenditures were unimportant), and the way unemployment is counted (don’t count people who’ve given up looking, or had to step down from full time jobs to part time work, or were forced into early and unwilling retirement, due to a lack of available jobs) have caused this to be the worst economy imaginable for millions of Americans.
The Right pleads their case; the Right argues constantly for measures that would lower the cost of energy and increase the job opportunities of the unemployed and the working poor. This is the American Way, after all; unleashing the limitless opportunities provided by a free market and a limited government.
The Left dismisses these efforts, doing everything possible to raise the cost of energy and decrease job opportunities. The Left shows their peculiar brand of compassion by consciously turning whole sectors of society into a dependency class.
The coal miners, the nuclear power industry, the roughnecks on oil rigs… lumberjacks in the north, ranchers in the west, boatmakers in the northeast, medical device manufacturers in the midwest… the landscape is strewn with the remains of Democrat Party policies from coast to coast. The pleas of these groups fall on deaf ears as the Democrats in power choose their environmentalist extremism, nationalized healthcare, global warming poppycock and other left-wing ideology over the needs of suffering citizens.
But there is one group whose difficulties truly do tug at the heartstrings of the Left – and that’s not just the politicians of the Left, but the mainstream media as well – the residents of the Federal City and its metro area. Oh, the Left believes in equality all right, but remember: the people of Washington DC and the beltway suburbs are SO much more equal than the rest of us.
The American people are suffering. We have seen business starts plummet, whole industries laid low by the policies of the past five years, and the Left doesn’t support anything to help them.
We desperately need business tax reform, full repeal of obamacare, an end to illegal immigration (and a moratorium on legal as well, for a while, so we can assimilate the poor legal immigrants already here and struggling). These things are obvious obstacles in the way of suffering Americans, but the Left neither acknowledges their challenges nor offers to help – outside of offering them government checks, to tide them over until a recovery arrives that the Left intends, with all their power, to permanently forestall.
But there is one group whose troubles are noticed by the Left, and the shutdown shone the brightest spotlight possible on that group.
Before the shutdown even began, the Left warned us about their suffering to come. “Government employees won’t get paid!” they shouted. “The Washington DC region will lose tourist dollars!” “Washington restaurants will be emptied! Waitresses won’t get tips!” They hoped to terrorize the Right into capitulation out of compassion for the capitol area, and were so shocked when it didn’t dissuade us, they doubled down. Every day of the shutdown, that was their battle cry. No compromise, no negotiation, no effort at fiscal responsibility. No rational political dealmaking must occur until the people of Washington were saved from this awful situation.
And that might seem honorable, to an extent. Such devotion to the workers and entrepreneurs of the region would seem respectable… but for the fact that we’ve never seen such devotion to workers and entrepreneurs before!
The Left doesn’t shed tears for waitresses at restaurants in the business district of a midsize American suburb, when its surrounding office buildings are emptied by bankruptcies so there’s nobody left to have business lunches. But they shed tears for waitresses in Washington DC when its clientele might be out of work for a week.
The Left doesn’t shed tears for the hotel owners and theater companies at tourist destinations around the country, when the government has publicly slammed corporate meetings and industry conventions and shamed companies into cancelling them, or scaling them back to mere local meetings, leaving the convention centers and tourist spots to suffer a desert of bookings. But they shed tears for the hotels in Washington DC and the curators of the Smithsonian museums along the Mall, for losing just a week or two of work.
The Left doesn’t shed tears for the American architects, building contractors, and remodelers, all over the nation, who have seen reductions in business startups and expansions reduce their construction business as well, or who have seen unlawful competition from construction crews of unprosecuted illegal alien labor undercut their prices and rob them of business. But they shed tears for the local Washington area contractors who might see a fortnight’s postponement of a guaranteed job on some government building on K-Street or Georgetown.
Why is the Left’s reaction so different in this case? Because, just as the American Flag is the symbol of America for a patriot, the metro area of Washington, D.C. is the symbol of America for the Left.
Real Americans view this nation as the home of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the brilliant ideas of the Founding Fathers.
But the Left views this nation – every nation – as the property of the leviathan State, and a leviathan State needs a capitol city, shining and powerful, vibrant and active, always moving, always regulating, always controlling.
Just as the very thought that the wheels of government might stop moving for a while is a peaceful image for an American, it is the greatest of Halloween terrors for a statist. Washington D.C. is the Left’s Versailles, their Moscow, their Beijing.
The Washington Mall is their Tenochtitlan, where the serfs of their empire must be ritually sacrificed on the steps of the EPA, the FDA, and USDA buildings, as on the Latin American pyramids of old, to keep the people in their place, to keep the gears of the leviathan state well lubricated, to keep the private sector in terror of its omnipotent shaman-rulers.
So when the same thing happens to Washington that has happened without notice to the rest of the country, now they MUST notice. The Left can tolerate unemployment, decay, bankruptcy in flyover country, but not in their Roman Forum, their Acropolis. The statist is nothing, after all, without his State to worship.
The shutdown should therefore be instructive to the rest of us, the people of flyover country, because we see at last, more clearly than ever before, that the Left sees this as a nation of two Americas, the serfs and their rulers.
We are two Americas indeed: the people of a huge nation, and the people of a ruling city, a capitol where the wise elites live. What happens to the rest of our 300 millions, the Left takes in stride without notice. But don’t dare to touch the ruling city. Don’t dare to interfere with the home of the elites, the superior caste; it’s blasphemy to say a word against them, a violation of the Geneva Convention to tie them down, even for just a week or two.
Worst of all is that the politicians aren’t the only ones with this view. The mainstream media holds it as well, so they report this warped viewpoint as if it were right and true, for a nation that never intended for its government to play such a role in the lives of its people.
That’s bad. But one thing would be worse: if the American people were to join them in this viewpoint. Our Founders designed a nation in which the national government works for the people; the Left is trying desperately to change America into a nation in which the people work for the government.
We must learn this lesson while it’s in front of our eyes. If you’ve ever lost your job, or been furloughed as a corporate cost-saving measure, did the Democrats feel sorry for you, the way they felt sorry for the Washington bureaucrats those two weeks?
If you’ve ever seen your business suffer, did the Democrats feel pity for you, and clamor to save your business, as they clamored to defend the balance sheets of businesses in their capital city? No, not once?
The Left elevates Washington D.C. and its environs to the status of a Mount Olympus. We must return this nation to being one in which the people only worship the one true God, Divine Providence, who led us to freedom and inspired our Founders. We must learn the lessons of this shutdown, and no longer serve an all-powerful leviathan State.
Copyright 2013 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade lecturer. A former county chairman of the Milwaukee County GOP, he has now been a recovering politician for over sixteen years.
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