By Congressman Ron PaulWhy Are Americans So Angry?Fri Jun 30, 2006 21:46
Why Are Americans So Angry?
By Congressman Ron Paul, R-Texas, 6/30/2006 10:31:31 AM
I have been involved in politics for over 30 years and have never seen the American people so angry. It’s not unusual to sense a modest amount of outrage, but it seems the anger today is unusually intense and quite possibly worse than ever. It’s not easily explained, but I have some thoughts on this matter.
Generally, anger and frustration among people are related to economic conditions; bread and butter issues. Yet today, according to government statistics, things are going well. We have low unemployment, low inflation, more homeowners than ever before, and abundant leisure with abundant luxuries. Even the poor have cell phones, televisions, and computers.
Public school is free, and anyone can get free medical care at any emergency room in the country. Almost all taxes are paid by the top 50% of income earners. The lower 50% pay essentially no income taxes, yet general dissatisfaction and anger are commonplace. The old slogan “It’s the economy, stupid,” just doesn’t seem to explain things.
Some say it’s the war, yet we’ve lived with war throughout the 20th century. The bigger they were the more we pulled together. And the current war, by comparison, has fewer American casualties than the rest. So it can’t just be the war itself.
People complain about corruption, but what’s new about government corruption? In the 19th century we had railroad scandals; in the 20th century we endured the Teapot Dome scandal, Watergate, Koreagate, and many others without too much anger and resentment. Yet today it seems anger is pervasive and worse than we’ve experienced in the past.
Could it be that war, vague yet persistent economic uncertainty, corruption, and the immigration problem all contribute to the anger we feel in America? Perhaps, but it’s almost as though people aren’t exactly sure why they are so uneasy. They only know that they’ve had it and aren’t going to put up with it anymore.
High gasoline prices make a lot of people angry, though there is little understanding of how deficits, inflation, and war in the Middle East all contribute to these higher prices.
Generally speaking, there are two controlling forces that determine the nature of government: the people’s concern for their economic self interests; and the philosophy of those who hold positions of power and influence in any particular government. Under Soviet Communism the workers believed their economic best interests were being served, while a few dedicated theoreticians placed themselves in positions of power. Likewise, the intellectual leaders of the American Revolution were few, but rallied the colonists to risk all to overthrow a tyrannical king.
Since there’s never a perfect understanding between these two forces, the people and the philosophical leaders, and because the motivations of the intellectual leaders vary greatly, any transition from one system of government to another is unpredictable. The communist takeover by Lenin was violent and costly; the demise of communism and the acceptance of a relatively open system in the former Soviet Union occurred in a miraculous manner. Both systems had intellectual underpinnings.
In the United States over the last century we have witnessed the coming and going of various intellectual influences by proponents of the free market, Keynesian welfarism, varieties of socialism, and supply-side economics. In foreign policy we’ve seen a transition from the founder’s vision of non-intervention in the affairs of others to internationalism, unilateral nation building, and policing the world. We now have in place a policy, driven by determined neo-conservatives, to promote American “goodness” and democracy throughout the world by military force-- with particular emphasis on remaking the Middle East.
We all know that ideas do have consequences. Bad ideas, even when supported naively by the people, will have bad results. Could it be the people sense, in a profound way, that the policies of recent decades are unworkable-- and thus they have instinctively lost confidence in their government leaders? This certainly happened in the final years of the Soviet system. Though not fully understood, this sense of frustration may well be the source of anger we hear expressed on a daily basis by so many.
No matter how noble the motivations of political leaders are, when they achieve positions of power the power itself inevitably becomes their driving force. Government officials too often yield to the temptations and corrupting influences of power.
But there are many others who are not bashful about using government power to do “good.” They truly believe they can make the economy fair through a redistributive tax and spending system; make the people moral by regulating personal behavior and choices; and remake the world in our image using armies. They argue that the use of force to achieve good is legitimate and proper for government-- always speaking of the noble goals while ignoring the inevitable failures and evils caused by coercion.
Not only do they justify government force, they believe they have a moral obligation to do so.
Once we concede government has this “legitimate” function and can be manipulated by a majority vote, the various special interests move in quickly. They gain control to direct government largesse for their own benefit. Too often it is corporate interests who learn how to manipulate every contract, regulation and tax policy. Likewise, promoters of the “progressive” agenda, always hostile to property rights, compete for government power through safety, health, and environmental initiatives. Both groups resort to using government power-- and abuse this power-- in an effort to serve their narrow interests. In the meantime, constitutional limits on power and its mandate to protect liberty are totally forgotten.
Since the use of power to achieve political ends is accepted, pervasive, and ever expanding, popular support for various programs is achieved by creating fear. Sometimes the fear is concocted out of thin air, but usually it’s created by wildly exaggerating a problem or incident that does not warrant the proposed government “solution.” Often government caused the problem in the first place. The irony, of course, is that government action rarely solves any problem, but rather worsens existing problems or creates altogether new ones.
Fear is generated to garner popular support for the proposed government action, even when some liberty has to be sacrificed. This leads to a society that is systemically driven toward fear-- fear that gives the monstrous government more and more authority and control over our lives and property.
Fear is constantly generated by politicians to rally the support of the people.
Environmentalists go back and forth, from warning about a coming ice age to arguing the grave dangers of global warming.
It is said that without an economic safety net-- for everyone, from cradle to grave-- people would starve and many would become homeless.
It is said that without government health care, the poor would not receive treatment. Medical care would be available only to the rich.
Without government insuring pensions, all private pensions would be threatened.
Without federal assistance, there would be no funds for public education, and the quality of our public schools would diminish-- ignoring recent history to the contrary.
It is argued that without government surveillance of every American, even without search warrants, security cannot be achieved. The sacrifice of some liberty is required for security of our citizens, they claim.
We are constantly told that the next terrorist attack could come at any moment. Rather than questioning why we might be attacked, this atmosphere of fear instead prompts giving up liberty and privacy. 9/11 has been conveniently used to generate the fear necessary to expand both our foreign intervention and domestic surveillance.
Fear of nuclear power is used to assure shortages and highly expensive energy.
In all instances where fear is generated and used to expand government control, it’s safe to say the problems behind the fears were not caused by the free market economy, or too much privacy, or excessive liberty.
It’s easy to generate fear, fear that too often becomes excessive, unrealistic, and difficult to curb. This is important: It leads to even more demands for government action than the perpetrators of the fear actually anticipated.
Once people look to government to alleviate their fears and make them safe, expectations exceed reality. FEMA originally had a small role, but its current mission is to centrally manage every natural disaster that befalls us. This mission was exposed as a fraud during last year’s hurricanes; incompetence and corruption are now FEMA’s legacy. This generates anger among those who have to pay the bills, and among those who didn’t receive the handouts promised to them quickly enough.
Generating exaggerated fear to justify and promote attacks on private property is commonplace. It serves to inflame resentment between the producers in society and the so-called victims, whose demands grow exponentially.
The economic impossibility of this system guarantees that the harder government tries to satisfy the unlimited demands, the worse the problems become. We won’t be able to pay the bills forever, and eventually our ability to borrow and print new money must end. This dependency on government will guarantee anger when the money runs out. Today we’re still able to borrow and inflate, but budgets are getting tighter and people sense serious problems lurking in the future. This fear is legitimate. No easy solution to our fiscal problems is readily apparent, and this ignites anger and apprehension.
Disenchantment is directed at the politicians and their false promises, made in order to secure reelection and exert power that so many of them enjoy.
It is, however, in foreign affairs that governments have most abused fear to generate support for an agenda that under normal circumstances would have been rejected. For decades our administrations have targeted one supposed “Hitler” after another to gain support for military action against a particular country. Today we have three choices termed the axis of evil: Iran, Iraq or North Korea.
We recently witnessed how unfounded fear was generated concerning Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction to justify our first ever pre-emptive war. It is now universally known the fear was based on falsehoods. And yet the war goes on; the death and destruction continue.
This is not a new phenomenon. General Douglas MacArthur understood the political use of fear when he made this famous statement:
“Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it.”
We should be ever vigilant when we hear the fear mongers preparing us for the next military conflict our young men and women will be expected to fight. We’re being told of the great danger posed by Almadinejad in Iran and Kim Jung Il in North Korea. Even Russia and China bashing is in vogue again. And we’re still not able to trade with or travel to Cuba. A constant enemy is required to expand the state. More and more news stories blame Iran for the bad results in Iraq. Does this mean Iran is next on the hit list?
The world is much too dangerous, we’re told, and therefore we must be prepared to fight at a moment’s notice, regardless of the cost. If the public could not be manipulated by politicians’ efforts to instill needless fear, fewer wars would be fought and far fewer lives would be lost.
Fear and Anger over Iraq
Though the American people are fed up for a lot of legitimate reasons, almost all polls show the mess in Iraq leads the list of why the anger is so intense.
Short wars, with well-defined victories, are tolerated by the American people even when they are misled as to the reasons for the war. Wars entered into without a proper declaration tend to be politically motivated and not for national security reasons. These wars, by their very nature, are prolonged, costly, and usually require a new administration to finally end them. This certainly was true with the Korean and Vietnam wars. The lack of a quick military success, the loss of life and limb, and the huge economic costs of lengthy wars precipitate anger. This is overwhelmingly true when the war propaganda that stirred up illegitimate fears is exposed as a fraud. Most soon come to realize the promise of guns and butter is an illusion. They come to understand that inflation, a weak economy, and a prolonged war without real success are the reality.
The anger over the Iraq war is multifaceted. Some are angry believing they were lied to in order to gain their support at the beginning. Others are angry that the forty billion dollars we spend every year on intelligence gathering failed to provide good information. Proponents of the war too often are unable to admit the truth. They become frustrated with the progress of the war and then turn on those wanting to change course, angrily denouncing them as unpatriotic and un-American.
Those accused are quick to respond to the insulting charges made by those who want to fight on forever without regard to casualties. Proponents of the war do not hesitate to challenge the manhood of war critics, accusing them of wanting to cut and run. Some war supporters ducked military service themselves while others fought and died, only adding to the anger of those who have seen battle up close and now question our campaign in Iraq.
When people see a $600 million embassy being built in Baghdad, while funding for services here in the United States is hard to obtain, they become angry. They can’t understand why the money is being spent, especially when they are told by our government that we have no intention of remaining permanently in Iraq.
The bickering and anger will not subside soon, since victory in Iraq is not on the horizon and a change in policy is not likely either.
The neoconservative instigators of the war are angry at everyone: at the people who want to get out of Iraq; and especially at those prosecuting the war for not bombing more aggressively, sending in more troops, and expanding the war into Iran.
As our country becomes poorer due to the cost of the war, anger surely will escalate. Much of it will be justified.
It seems bizarre that it’s so unthinkable to change course if the current policy is failing. Our leaders are like a physician who makes a wrong diagnosis and prescribes the wrong medicine, but because of his ego can’t tell the patient he made a mistake. Instead he hopes the patient will get better on his own. But instead of improving, the patient gets worse from the medication wrongly prescribed. This would be abhorrent behavior in medicine, but tragically it is commonplace in politics.
If the truth is admitted, it would appear that the lives lost and the money spent have been in vain. Instead, more casualties must be sustained to prove a false premise. What a tragedy! If the truth is admitted, imagine the anger of all the families that already have suffered such a burden. That burden is softened when the families and the wounded are told their great sacrifice was worthy, and required to preserve our freedoms and our Constitution.
But no one is allowed to ask the obvious. How have the 2,500 plus deaths, and the 18,500 wounded, made us more free? What in the world does Iraq have to do with protecting our civil liberties here at home? What national security threat prompted America’s first pre-emptive war? How does our unilateral enforcement of UN resolutions enhance our freedoms?
These questions aren’t permitted. They are not politically correct. I agree that the truth hurts, and these questions are terribly hurtful to the families that have suffered so much. What a horrible thought it would be to find out the c
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