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Friday, January 6, 2012

The (Contorted) Language of Politicians

Promises, promises, promises. Once elected, the campaigner forgets all about his glorious promises because he knows that one politician does not have the power to change the business-as-usual atmosphere in Congress or in the White House, not even the President can transform money grabbers into dedicated defenders or the people. Yet we believe them enough to vote for them; why? Because we have no choice, literally no choice. The ballots have their names; not the names we would like to see, but the names of those who won primaries and caucuses, of those who had a lot of MONEY.

Imagine an election in which everybody was free to write-in a name, any name. No campaigns, no primaries, no personal attacks, no TV ads, no stump speeches. Sounds crazy certainly! After all, it would be an enormous task to tally all the results of unknown citizens, especially in national elections. At the very least it would avoid the immense and decisive influence of MONEY. Utopia? You bet. Ain't going to happen and you know that; you, the regular guy who works two jobs to pay off mortgage and 3 children. It is frustrating certainly to see perfectly incompetent people elected or nominated to very important jobs, for example Mr. Carter, Mr. Bush II and Ms. Condoleeza Rice?  You might say that it is the risk of a democracy, especially in huge countries like ours. We can only base our vote on sketchy and often erroneous information. But do we have a recourse that will fight special interests?

As I have suggested in an earlier piece, citizens must create their own lobby to defend their interests; after all, money is what motivates our august Senators and Representatives. If every person in the United States gave $1, we would have close to $100 million. Think what we could do with that amount in Washington D.C.! The hefty budget would "buy" a lot of politicians who would then vote for bills that could help the middle class and the less fortunate citizens. Lawmakers have a nasty habit to feather their resume: They put forth a bill that limits their pay, or prevents them from benefiting from inside information, and they publicize the fact in the press, knowing full well that it has no chance to succeed. Later they can boast that they tried to change the system but that their nefarious opponents sabotaged their "valiant" effort.

I truly believe that experienced politicians have a limited vocabulary of maybe 1,200 words (There are more than 300,000 words in the Oxford Dictionary). First of all, they cannot use the following: Yes, No, I agree, I disagree, I will not vote for or against, I prefer, I know, I don't know, Leave me alone, Don't ask these questions, I refuse to answer (equivalent to I confess). Getting a straight answer from any Congressman is like pulling a tooth from a tiger (Good Luck).  Ask any question and they will weave, circumvent, elude, deviate, meditate, delay, until finally the reporter gets fed up and says: "Congressman, do you or don't you agree that...?"

This pernicious linguistic attitude from our politicians isn't just an amusing side show; it permeates every bill, every law, every Department, every Agency, until the result is totally incomprehensible except to a few lawyers who make a great living interpreting official tomes. It has converted our federal government into an enormous labyrinth where the Minotaur lurks awaiting his prey.

Too many citizens are underinformed regarding the candidates; they go to campaign events and get seduced by the politician's charisma. They fail to analyze his speeches carefully to detect anomalies and inconsistencies. Even though there are a few publications and groups who actually dissect each candidate, few voters bother to do an in depth study of their favorite man or woman. The inevitable result is of course that we often elect people who have their own agenda, using their position to enrich themselves and their friends. Do we really need 475 representatives, half of whom are never heard from? Couldn't we do a better job with 200 or 100 Congressmen and women? And save some money in hefty salaries and expense accounts?

Come on, ordinary citizens, let's come out and manifest our frustration... Oops, I forgot, we have some bodies out there, the OWS movement! Join them and demand reforms from our legislators! Maybe they will listen!


Shona said...

Your ideas on this are excellent and you are absolutely right. Politics is such an empty arena to me; but I feel forced to participate in the name of "good citizenry".

Jacques Sprenger said...

Shona, thank you for your comment; we must however do something to change "business as usual" in Washington