FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #28: “Politicians love failure because no one ever asked government to fix something that was working.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 24th, 2010

GOVERNMENT FIXES PROBLEMS.  Or so they say.  And the people think.  When something isn’t right in the country, the people demand that government do something about it.  And politicians are more than happy to oblige.  It strokes their egos.  Increases their budgets.  Their staffs.  And they get to do what they like best.  Tell others what to do.  Well, that, and spend money.

Politicians are happiest when government grows.  Because when it does, there’s more stuff to do.  More people to manage.  Bigger offices to move into.  More people to hire.  And the more they hire, the more people are indebted to them.  Who love them.  Respect them.  Are in awe of them.  Which inflates their egos even more.  As if that was even possible.  And, of course, there’s more money to spend. 

As government grows, so does their job security.  I mean, there may come the day that the good people may not reelect them.  As devastating as that may be, they can be comforted in the fact that they will leave Washington far richer than they were upon entering Washington.  And there’ll always be a place for them in an ever expanding government.  A cabinet position.  An agency position.  Or, perhaps, they’ll be named a czar.  Of something.  In charge of a policy issue.  Away from the oversight powers of Congress.  Anything is possible.  As long as government grows.  And there is more money to spend.

And just why is that?  Why does government continue to grow?  Simple.  They don’t fix problems.  They’re always ‘fixing’ problems.  But they’re never fixed.  They’re always a work in progress.  Because a fixed problem doesn’t require their services any longer.

DON’T THINK SO?  Suppose the government gives you a federal job.  An important one.  You’re in charge of the Office of Getting People to Happily Accept the Banning of Smoking in Public Places.  They give you a big office.  A staff.  A budget.  And a title.  You feel pretty good.  Important.  You diligently go about your work.  You take polls.  You analyze data.  You place public service announcements.  You intensify your polling before and after local laws are implemented banning smoking in public places. 

You analyze your data.  You correlate satisfaction with dissatisfaction.  Pacification with irritability.  Your numbers look good.  As more and more localities ban smoking from most public spaces the more your numbers show that the satisfaction/dissatisfaction ratio is trending favorably.  The trending is flatter with pacification/irritability but the trending is still favorable.  You conclude that these new laws come in, on average, at 9.875.  And that’s very good on the scale you created to measure overall effectiveness and acceptance of new laws to influence social behavior.   You happily report your findings to your superior.

“What are you,” your superior asks, “stupid?  Trying to put yourself out of a job?  Are you trying to cut my budget?  Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen if you turn in a report like this.  Now here’s what you’re going to do.  You’re going to report that your findings indicate some improvements in some select demographics.  But overall there is still much work to do.  Then write up a proposal for additional work required and throw in a budget that increases your current budget by 12%.  For starters.  Then I’ll critique your findings and find your funding request insufficient because of a mistake you made in your analysis.  Have it on my desk by the end of the week.”

Sound ridiculous?  That’s probably because it is.  And probably all too true.  I mean, how many federal programs do politicians shut down because they were successful in achieving their objective?  I think few.  If any.  Because no one wants to put themselves out of a job.  Especially a federal job.  Because there’s no job like a federal job.  At least, not in the private sector.

IN THE PRIVATE sector, your work has to have value.  When people are voluntarily paying for goods or services, you can’t have fat payrolls and fat budgets to produce goods and services no one wants.  You can only do that when government pays.  And by government I mean you and me.  With our taxes.  Which we have little choice but to pay.  For we are forced to under penalty of law.  Which can be pretty persuasive in making you pay for stuff you don’t want.  For we wouldn’t normally give away our hard-earned pay for the ridiculous wastes of resources known as government work.  To make the lives of federal workers better than ours.  And speaking of federal workers, what’s that joke?  Question:  What is federal work?  Answer:  Work for the unemployable.  There’s a lot of truth in that.  For a lot of these people couldn’t make it in the private sector.  And if they had to, they would only do so with the utmost bitter resentment.  They’d resent the longer hours.  The huge cut in pay.  The huge cut in benefits.  And the accountability.

You see, in the private sector, failure has consequences.  People get fired.  If a business is losing money because of silly projects they’re pursuing, the board of directors will fire the corporate officers.  If it’s a small business, the owner may lose his or her life savings.  And their house (which is often mortgaged up to the hilt to support their business).  There will be change after failure.  And it will be painful to many.  Unfeeling.  Cold.  But necessary.  But it’s different in government. 

When politicians fail, they reward themselves.  When their policies fail, the politicians simply say they need more time to make those policies work.  And more money.  That’s always the answer.  And they get away with it.  More money.  Keep throwing money at the problem.  No matter what a train wreck their programs turn out to be.  Or what the unintended consequences are.

POLITICIANS LIKE TO tinker.  Often in things they shouldn’t.  Because when they do, bad things often happen.  Those unintended consequences.  For when it comes down to it, they’re not very smart.  They could have graduated from their Ivy League schools at the top of their class, but they often know squat about the things they’re meddling in.  Most of them are lawyers.  And what does a lawyer know about economics?  Foreign policy?  National security?  Bupkis.  But it never stops them. 

And it doesn’t even matter.  Because their motives were honorable.  They acted with the best of intentions.  At least, that’s what they say.  As do their supporters.  And when everything goes to hell in a handbasket, they don’t mind.  Just more problems for government to fix.  More programs.  More staff.  And more money to spend.

Of course, we ultimately pay the price for their actions.  Whether it’s recession, depression or a more dangerous world to live in.  Which is often the case.  More times than not.

EVER WONDER WHY everything is a crisis?  Because a crisis needs urgent action.  By politicians in Washington.  And that urgent action is typically vast new government programs with an exploding federal bureaucracy.  Along with explosive federal spending.  And because it’s a crisis, there’s no time to lose.  If we don’t take immediate action the consequences could be dire.  There’s no time for debate.  For opposition.  To read a bill.  No.  We have to act and we have to act NOW.  Before this crisis gets any worse.

And when things do get worse after we take all that urgent action, you know what they’ll say?  That they were wrong?  Yeah, right.  In some fantasy world maybe.  No.  Instead, they’ll say just imagine how bad things would have been if they didn’t act like they did.  That we should be thankful things are only as bad as they are, for they could have been a whole lot worse if government didn’t act.  Why, they’ll be patting themselves on the back.  While you suffer more.

Hard to fight that logic.  I mean, they can say anything.  If their action takes unemployment to record levels, they can say unemployment would have been twice as high if they didn’t do what they did.  Twice as high would be worse.  But how do they know it would have been twice as high?  How can they prove it?  Well, they don’t have to.  Because you can’t disprove it.  And those who gamble know that a tie goes to the house.  So they’re right.  Because you can’t prove otherwise.  So they act accordingly.  And their supporters go along.  And the answer to the new problems that are worse than the original problems?  You guessed it.  More of the same.  More government programs.  More government spending.  At least, that’s what the historical record shows.

POLITICIANS LOVE FAILURE.  They thrive on it.  It gives them life.  Success, on the other hand, destroys them.  Removes their raison d’être.  Their reason for being.  A prospering nation, after all, doesn’t need government to fix anything.  And that’s no good.  Especially if that’s the business you’re in.  Fixing things.  Fixers need to fix.  But it needs to remain a work in progress.  So there’s still fixing to do.  Always.  And forever.   

And they’ll never let a good crisis go to waste.

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