Where's the Party?

I’ll admit it. I’m considered somewhat of a dork among my friends.

It’s not because I’m a computer wizard (far from it), nor is it because I’m addicted to video games involving animated fighting of fantasy creatures. It isn’t because I’m a champion Dungeons & Dragons player, a widely published author of Lord of the Ringsfan fiction, or because I drive some little electric roller skate of a car — although this one thing alone would qualify me…

It’s because every year in January, I watch the State of the Union address, instead of the NFL playoffs.

All right, so maybe I am a dork.

But since an informal personal poll in my group of like-aged friends showed that I’m one of only a few that watched the speech in real time (not including my colleagues in the publishing world, of course), that makes me a dork who’s at least somewhat in touch with the American political process…

And as troubling as it may be that a lot of American 30-somethings seemingly aren’t paying much attention to the goings-on of our political machine (clearly, they aren’t — look at how sporadically they vote), it’s nowhere near as troubling as what was in the State of the Union address itself — and what wasn’t.

Statists of the Union

Along with most of America, my feelings about George Dubya have been pretty wobbly of late. Not that they were ever as cheerleader-ish as many of my critics would claim…

However, I’ll admit there have been moments when the man’s, uhh, uncomplicated leadership has loaned a much-needed singularity of vision to certain political endeavors, in my opinion. His was the opposite of Carter’s “analysis to paralysis” style — and a refreshing change from Clinton’s finger-to-the-wind, ask-the-wife-first, what-they-don’t-know-can’t-hurt-’em method of governance.

I say “was” because Bush has clearly morphed — like most modern lame-duck American politicians — into a shapeless, spineless entity more worried about his legacy than his country. Borrowing a page from the Democrats’ playbook, Bush has tailored his rhetoric and agenda toward not principles or leadership, but appeasement and capitulation to those in power, and a more favorable depiction among those who write tomorrow’s accounts of today’s history…

Seriously, all partisanship aside (literally — I’m feeling like a man without a party these days), I want those of you reading this who actually watched the State of the Union address to ask yourselves this question:

If you somehow didn’t know that George W. Bush was a Republican president, could you have figured it out by what he said in his speech?

I’ll tell you right now that I couldn’t have, at least not by any of the yardsticks the GOP likes to claim as its own. Aside from a token bit of nebulous rhetoric about erasing the deficit and balancing the federal budget — laughable coming from the mouth of what has to be one of the biggest-spending, government-bloating presidents in history — many of Bush’s talking points sounded like some of Bill Clinton’s, and Al Gore’s, from various speeches during their tenure…

Only not as well (or even as convincingly) articulated.

That’s one of the main reasons I’m writing this rambling discourse today: Because I’m alarmed at the fact that the rhetoric of the two dominant political parties in the U.S. today seems always to inexorably blend together when there’s a balance of power between them in our government — like a pair of amoebas mating…

Actually, I’m not alarmed. That’s what they do, politicians. They test the wind, kiss each other’s butts, line each other’s pockets, and then tell us what they think we want to hear while telling each other whatever pays them the most. And we all know it. What’s worse, we’ve all grown to expect and accept it. What disgusts me about it is that they all tell the same lies, just at different times — yet ALWAYS toward the same goal: a bigger and more intrusive government.

In this respect, at least across the span of the election and reign of the current administration, the Democrats are far less deceptive than their Republican rivals. Though they try to understate it in election years, most times, the left makes little effort to conceal its desire to expand government — they see it as the cure to all our ills. The GOP, however, rides to power on the votes of millions of Americans who cling naively to the hope that it is the “smaller government” party it claims to be…

Then it legislates and spends us into the governmental equivalent of a diabetic coma too!

And in this State of the Union speech, I heard not only the same old lies in frilly, updated verse, but also a whole pack of new ones that I find so brazen and absurd I can’t stay quiet about them. Here are just a few of the low spots, for me…

The Speech As Spin

Aside from being one of the least meaty State of the Union addresses I can remember, Bush 43’s latest effort rung throughout with a kind of desperation, in my opinion — not the desperate will to persevere in policy leadership against newly empowered political adversaries, but the need to simply be a relevant part of changing policies that are well beyond his control.

Though well delivered (for him), the speech smacked more of issue ownership than initiative. In other words, the status-quo “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality that so frequently pervades two-party American politics. A few examples…


Dubya spoke with conviction about a return to “spending discipline” in government. But does this mean “spending cuts”? Because I didn’t hear much in the speech about what programs, entitlements, or benefits are in line to get the ax. In the address, Bush never makes the promise to actually trim any spending at all. Instead, he appears to be relying on future tax revenues computed from his own rosy economic forecasts to eliminate the federal deficit and balance the budget — without raising taxes.

Yet in the real world of an ever-older American citizenry coupled with a draining invasion of parasitic illegal immigrants (from a free benefits standpoint), his pledge to restrain the spending appetite of the federal government seems contradictory to his stated desire to “fix” Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid with nothing more than “good sense and goodwill.” Again, without raising taxes.

It takes MONEY to bail out these programs. That means other programs have to go or revenue has to increase. Simple as that. Since Bush seems unwilling to do anything but expand programs and entitlements (not to mention tax cuts), where is this money going to come from? Especially in time of war?

Let me be clear: I’m all for tax cuts. They worked to stimulate the economy in Kennedy’s era (he was a fiscal conservative, you know), during the Reagan years, and have arguably worked in the current administration. But how overheated would our economy have to get to sustain tax cuts AND new programs AND a massive benefits bailout AND an expensive war?

Is a boom of such scope even possible, never mind likely? More importantly, were it to occur, would the government REALLY be able to resist the urge to fritter away all that shiny new money squaring the books, instead of on a bunch of programs aimed at increasing your dependence on them?

Uhh, no.


In keeping with Bush’s tone-deafness toward those who got him into office, his plans to double the size of the Border Patrol and to fund “new infrastructure and technology” run contrary to what the American people want — on both sides of the political fence (but especially on the right). A Rasmussen poll in 2005 revealed that more than 60% of Americans favored the construction of a barrier along our nation’s southern border. Surveys closer to the election pegged this number at as much as 80%. Candidates from both parties promised strong action on illegal immigration in the run-up to the 2006 midterm election, with the border fence an oft-mentioned solution…

Yet here we are, talking about the same old stuff. Increasing the Border Patrol. “Guest worker” programs. Employer accountability. These things all expand the scope and reach of government, and increase spending in all the wrong ways — yet do nothing to curb the influx and cost of illegals who come here not for work, but for the free benefits and instant citizenship status for their babies.

To be fair about it, BOTH parties want the illegal tide to continue unabated. The Republicans want it for cheap labor for businesses and the Democrats want it to expand dependency on government, which translates into votes.

But think about it: If ever there were an opportunity for Bush and the Republicans to redeem themselves in the eyes of the people, it’s with this issue.

The GOP already knows that most Americans want the fence. It’s far cheaper and more reliable than expanding the Border Patrol, and people know it. You’d think that even if Bush doesn’t want the fence in his big-business heart of hearts, he would at least aggressively push for it rhetorically to make the Democrats show their true colors by shooting it down…

But NO, he’s got to roll over into the great wishy-washy middle ground that inevitably prevails for both parties. Meanwhile, we pay out ever more in benefits to illegals, lose ever more in taxes from under-the-table wage paying, and STILL live with the most lax border security imaginable!


Here’s a gem: Bush is going to cut U.S. gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years. Did you see Cheney’s expression in the background as the Prez unleashed this one? Was that a smirk I saw?

Yeah, this’ll happen. Our country’s population is exploding exponentially. Air travel is such a god-awful pain in the ass that people are driving more for vacations. Cities are expanding into greater and greater sprawl, so commuting distances are getting longer and longer…

Aside from this, “hybrid” gas-electric vehicles aren’t proving as fuel-efficient as they’re touted to be (look this up — it’s true). Ethanol takes more energy to produce than it saves and is a bona-fide nonstarter, as almost any of my Agora Financial comrades can tell you. Hydrogen “fuel cells” are potentially decades off — if manufacturers can work out the safety, range, and supply issues. And although rechargeable electric cars may someday indeed curb gas usage, they would increase consumption of air-polluting coal for electricity generation, not to mention present environmental challenges from this battery disposal.

Basically, this is nothing more than an attempt at issue control. The Republicans know that rank-and-file Americans (especially tomorrow’s voters) are turning greener, and are against dependence on Middle East oil — yet they’re also unwilling to tolerate ramping up domestic oil production…

So they try to rebrand themselves as being on the cutting edge of conservationist policies t A) garner future votes, B) steal some of the opposition’s core thunder, and C) be able to blame a Democrat Congress when this ridiculous proposal fails.

It’s just more of the same type of typical political rhetorical game-playing that marks the Republocrat party that’s perennially running things.

Small Gov Snubbed Forever?

I’m usually pretty good about putting a “bottom line” on these missives, but today I haven’t really got one. I just wanted to vent a bit about the mealy-mouthed, double-tongued nature of two-party American politics, as revealed by the latest State of the Union address — not that this one is so unique in the modern age. And of course, there’s a lot more I could say about the speech to buttress my points (health insurance, the war, etc.), but you already get my drift…

That all American political rhetoric is a crock of crap we’ve come to accept without outrage — and that the two parties are basically dedicated to the same insidious goal of governmental expansion. The fact that they marginally disagree about how best to do this is immaterial.

Basically, the frustrating bottom line for me is this: Not that this would even be possible, but in order for this country to once again have a true two-party parity of ideas, there’d almost have to be a viable THIRD party in the mix (are you listening, Libertarians?). In my opinion, the Republicans are too far gone to reverse course and become the smaller-government “yin” to the Democrats’ “yang.” They’ve sipped from the fountain of big government and found that it was sweet…

Now, the two parties are only truly distinct from one another at their fringes. For the most part, neither is dedicated to preserving our freedoms (perish the thought!) or protecting our citizenry — only extracting the most money out of us to sustain the greatest possible dependency on government.

And at this, they should be toasting each other to their great and continuing success.

Wishing for a State of Disunion,

Jim Amrhein,
Contributing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder

January 30, 2007

The Daily Reckoning