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[personal profile] peterbirks
I discovered a good way to reduce my stress levels. I stopped getting het up when what politicians did was completely at odds with what they said. Often I didn't really care much about what they were doing anyway, so why should it matter if they said something completely different? And yet for some reason it did matter, to me, anyway.

There should be some kind of competition each year, like the Emmys, where politicians are awarded kudos for the most barefaced bullshit.

And, old George W has won it this month, no doubt about it. The transportation bill, signed into law by the president yesterday, consists of more than 6,300 projects. It will cost $286bn. Er, that's about a thousand bucks for every man, woman and child in the US. Now, if this were put together in a joined-up-writing kind of way that would radically improve the transportation infrastructure of the US, one could see the economic arguments in its favour. But politics is and politics does; things don't work that way in the US.

Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Don Young gained nearly $1 bn for Alaska, where few people live and no-one visits. (This includes $231m for a bridge near Anchorage to be named "Don Young's Way"). And House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas got $700m for the area in and around his home district of Bakersfield, California. Oh, and Speaker Dennis Hastert, of Illinois (where Bush signed the bill into law) got the third-highest amount in the US for his state.

In terms of fiscal responsibility, in other words, this ranks about nought out of ten. And Bush's justification? "The bill I'm signing is going to help give hundreds of thousands of Americans good-paying jobs". Well, that's alright, then. It's New Deal economics. Franklin Roosevelt is alive and well.

Now I have no beef with pork barrel politics (to sort of mix carnivorous metaphors). I know that's how the world turns. And I now have no beef with politicians who say one thing and do another. But I do get a bit annoyed when people are fooled by it. C'mon, is Bush a fiscally careful president or not? The only difference I can see between this and the spending of Gordon Brown in the past few years is that Bush will spend it on roads, while Brown spent it on hospital administrators. Both are likely to fail in their ostensible aim, but are likely to be remarkably successful in the hidden aim -- to get their party re-elected.

Date: 2005-08-11 01:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I stopped getting het up about politics when I realised that the goals of the politician and of those who elect him are bet best only aligned coincidentally. We want stuff like low taxes (or as low as possible), universal and effective health care, security, trains that run on time, that kind of thing. The politician wants to get elected and to stay elected - s/he is a failure otherwise. So they do whatever they need to do to get in and to stay in. And collectively the same goes for parties - whatever they have to do to become and stay the majority is what they'll do.

If those goals are best satisfied by government that happens to make the population as a whole into a happy bunch of campers, then that's nice, but it's purely a coincidence. After all, you only actually need to get about 35% of those who vote to do so for you and it's five more years time. You'll know the figures better than I, but there can't actually be very many people who have to be swayed, once the died-in-the-wool always-voted-red/blue/yellow/green/whatever-always-will lot are accounted for.

The last time I recall an elected body in the UK getting elected on a manifesto and promptly setting out to implement it was Red Ken's GLC. (Whatever happened to him, I wonder?) Which was so utterly orthogonal to all political standards that Thatcher, understandably horrified, terminated the GLC with extreme prejudice.

Is it me, or is there always an increase in pothole repairs in the run-up to a general election? Presumably it's something that particularly exercises the 74 people whose votes actually matter...


Date: 2005-08-12 06:12 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
"The only difference I can see between this and the spending of Gordon Brown in the past few years is that Bush will spend it on roads, while Brown spent it on hospital administrators".

I don't know, Pete. At least you can drive over roads. But then again, if you drove over quite a few hospital administrators, you could solve the problem. Perhaps "good' ol Gordy" (let Tony B live and rule forever) is being more subtle than I give him credit for.


John H

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