Tuesday, April 26, 2016

These Crazy Times

Peggy Noonan hit it on the head when she wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
“We’ve had a lot to absorb, the rise of an outlandish outsider; the lurch to the left in the other party; the popular rise of a socialist. Alongside that, the enduring power of a candidate even her most supporters accept as corrupt. Add the lowering of standards, the feeling of no options, the coarsening, and all the new estrangements…too much is being lost…the great choice in a nation of 320 million may come down to a Crazy Man versus Criminal.”  (“The Moment When 2016 Hits You,” WSJ, April 23-24, 2016).
Add to this dismal thought the faltering, sputtering, downwardly spiraling health care law, with its skyrocketing premiums and deductibles and its ever narrowing choices of health plans and doctors, and you begin to wonder, why and how did it come to this?
To begin with, Donald Trump is not crazy, crazy as a fox perhaps.   Hillary Clinton is not criminal, opportunistic and self-serving, perhaps, but not criminal.  And although ObamaCare is badly flawed, with innovations. public revolts and withdrawals, and emergence of private sector alternatives, health reform will straighten itself out, but  perhaps only after repeal of its mandates.
Why these crazy times?   The answer may lie  in emergence and maturation and transition to the Information Age.   
With ubiquitous computers and sophisticated algorithms, we are now deep in cyberspace.   Everybody thinks they know everything.  From thousands of different sources, they think they, not the government, know the answers.   They should be the customers, not the victims of government.
Individualism and diversity reigns, and government and centralization fades.   People have become narcissistic and self-serving and have lost their sense of national collectivism and purpose.  They trust themselves more than government.
 There is a decline in the status and power of the traditional elites, the establishment, and of government itself.  
There is a rise in power and income of those with computer skills and a fall of those without those skills in the middle class, who are experiencing rising expenses and failing incomes and ballooning medical costs.  Unfunded entitlement liabilities  are bankrupting the nation, and taxes are climbing without a concomitant climb in benefits.
With universal access to information,  people believe they, not government, know the answers.  And they think they, not the establishment and all who that term signifies,  should be the beneficiaries of their taxes. 
People are mad as hell at social and personal injustices.   They are mad as hell.  They have decided they aren’t going to take the governmental paralysis that has set in and they are lashing out, frustrated and angry.  They want outsiders to articulate their cause and control their destinies  not government insiders who, they believe, have rigged the system against them.
Into the void created by government parylysis steps  Donald Trump.  He knows people  want action and straight talk.   He capitalizes on their  anger by talking straight in the language of the street,  by being omnipresent in the media and by being at their beck and call,  by issuing  multiple tweets, and saying he will make sweet deals to make America great again.
 Into the void steps Bernie Sanders,  who promises he will make government deliver, by routing insiders and delivering Medicare-for-a;; ,  college tuitions, and millions of infrastructure jobs  to save the middle class.
Into the void steps Hillary Clinton, who says the problem resides in racial and gender biases, capitalism greed,  and Republicans who do not give a whit about the middle class but only in enriching banks and Wall Street, of which she is an integral part.
People on all sides of the political aisle find this all hard to fathom.   As Peggy Noonan remarks in her column,  this is not history as usual.  “This is big, what we’re living through.”

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