Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bad at Math, or Just Bad

As I write this, the President has just nominated a veterinarian to head the Food and Drug Administration. Nothing like the expertise of a horse doctor from a one-stoplight town in Alabama to restore public confidence in the drug review process. This follows appointing a guy to head the FCC communication whose primary experience was counting ballots for Bush in Florida in 2000, appointing a guy to head the World Bank whose primary experience with third world economies is he helped wreck one (Iraq); a guy to be UN ambassador who hates the UN and believe its irrelevant to the conduct of foreign affairs, following hundreds of appointees who don't believe in regulation to regulate industries from which they were plucked for their posts.

I have been thinking for a while that the common hallmark of the members of this administration is that they're bad at math. How else to explain their weird accounting for the deficit numbers, their strange sense of disproportionality in the conduct of the "war on terror" (spending hundreds of billions and thousands of American lives while cutting back vaccine programs, basic health care, flu shots, etc. that save hundreds of thousands of lives), or today's claim from many Republican Senators that opening up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, which has reserves which at most would increase our oil supply by 2%, will somehow solve our energy crisis or reduce prices at the pump?

No, it basically comes down to this: it's a conspiracy of incompetence. At heart, these people hate government. They spend all their time telling everybody it can't work. They hate programs like Social Security that could only have been accomplished by the common collective of government, and do everything they can to undermine them. So when they're put in power, they have the perfect out. They can screw around with any government activity anyway they want. If it works out, then their whacky theories of governance are vindicated, usually with an eye towards enriching some sector. If it doesn't work -- why, it's just more proof that government is the problem, not the solution!

It's a true confederacy of dunces, where no matter how divorced from reality they get, their basic goal is accomplished. In one sense I think this is nearly treasonous behavior: our country, after all, was founded and the Constitution specifically drafted because our people wanted a strong government to provide common good, rather than a society where specific competing interests were constantly at war with one another.

Bad government -- it's what the Rs promise, and what they deliver.

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