Monday, October 10, 2005

The Mugging Medium

One in a litany of shameful episodes surrounding the Hurrican Katrina disaster was Congressmen balking at giving up their pork projects to fund rebuilding in New Orleans (a notable exception was minority leader Nancy Pelosi from California). As generous as Americans generally feel toward the victims of Katrina, most voters at the ballot box would fail to make the connection between their local projects and the disaster. Congress knows this is true, and that they would sooner be punished for their failure to bring home the bacon than rewarded for any principle they display. Alaskans lobby for their bridge to nowhere, farm-belters lobby for their agriculture subsidies... every region has its own pet transportation project and pet industry. And their representatives shell out the pork to buy their votes. But it's not just Congress. The president basically bought the votes of the elderly with his woefully irresponsible Medicare law. It all brings me to the conclusion that for all the rhetoric about its power to protect and advance society, government has become primarily a medium through which otherwise decent citizens indirectly mug each other. It's an enabler for mugging. Middle-class Granny would never actually reach into the pocket of a Katrina victim for money to pay for her pills. That would be unseemly. But via the indirect means of voting, taxation, and benefit distribution, such a robbery is made to seem a civilized transaction.

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