Lament Of The “Govsters”

The Washington Post recently published a piece written by a D.C. resident about how Washington, D.C. has now become a “cool” city.  It is one of the finest examples of the “inside the Beltway” mentality ever penned and includes some great passages, like this one:

“Much of Washington in 2018 arguably has more in common with the country’s hippest neighborhoods — Williamsburg in New York, Silver Lake in Los Angeles, the Inner Mission in San Francisco — than it does with the less cool cities of middle America.”

Hey, on behalf of everyone in “middle America,” thanks!  And then there’s this classic:

tmg-facebook_social“Like all hip cities, contemporary Washington combines cool with a distinctive local flavor. New York is where cool meets money, Los Angeles is where cool meets beauty, San Francisco is where cool meets technology — and Washington is where cool meets government. That combination has created a class of people unique in American history. If the late 1990s and 2000s produced the hipster as a new type of cool in some of America’s more stylish cities, the more recent past has produced Washington’s version of it: the govster — a person who is able to enjoy the benefits of living in a cool city while also working for the federal government or somehow exercising influence over the direction of national politics.”

Wait a second — this writer thinks hipsters are cool, rather than an unending subject of mockery and derision?  And he so aspires to hipster status that he actually wants to give a special, hipster-knockoff name to Washington, D.C. residents?  That’s pretty telling.  And notwithstanding the writer’s claim to cool status, the name “govster” isn’t exactly a cool name, is it?  It’s like the “Family Truckster” vehicle that Clark Griswold drove in the first Vacation movie.  The writer has somehow coined a term that manages to be both clunky and pretentious at the same time, just like a lot of the program ideas and acronyms that the people working in D.C. regularly develop.

But don’t worry — the “govster” who wrote the article is motivated by altruistic purposes. He’s worried that Washington, D.C. may have become too cool for the poor, benighted hayseeds in the flyover country:

“Life in the capital may be good for the govster, but is it good for the country? Cool cities, after all, thrive precisely because they offer what the rest of the country cannot. Yet capitals have different purposes. If the government is to be of the people and for the people, then the capital must be able to relate to the people — and the people to the capital. A dynamic country may need a little cool in its capital; but have things in Washington gone too far? The question is as old as the republic, and arguably more important than ever.”

I have no objection to having a little pride in your city; I fully admit to being a booster of Columbus.  And when Kish and I lived in D.C. we enjoyed it.  But the notion that people in D.C., like the guy who wrote this article, now think that Washington, D.C. is just too cool for the rest of the United States is deeply disturbing.  It’s bad enough that those of us out in the country at large have had to deal with the stupid power games and pointless political machinations of the politicos in D.C.  Now we also have to grapple with the knowledge that the laws, regulations, and other governmental initiatives imposed upon us are being administered by “govsters”:  “a person who is able to enjoy the benefits of living in a cool city while also working for the federal government or somehow exercising influence over the direction of national politics.”

I shudder to think of it.

Mitt’s Views And The Inside-The-Beltway Gaffe Game

Omigod!  Mitt Romney made another colossal gaffe!  At a “secretly recorded” fundraiser, he noted that a lot of Americans receive some form of government benefits and a lot of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes.  Speaking extemporaneously, Romney expressed concern that we are creating a culture of government dependency, a victimization mentality, and an entitlement society — and he thinks the people who fall into those categories probably aren’t likely to be his supporters in the coming election.

Of course, although the surreptitiously taped video made the story seem more tantalizing, there’s nothing really secret about what Romney said at the fundraiser:  he’s been saying similar things about people wanting to get free stuff and the recent explosive growth in food stamps and government assistance programs as this ongoing recession lingers and lingers and lingers.  And the data back up Romney’s point about the growth of entitlements and government benefits.  According to the Census Bureau, in the second quarter of 2011 49 percent of Americans lived in a household that included someone who is receiving a government benefit.  Nearly half of Americans pay no federal income taxes.

People can agree or disagree about whether these circumstances are good news or a source of concern.  Romney thinks we should be worried about the growth in government benefits and the decline in people who are paying income taxes.  Why shouldn’t he say what he thinks?  Even if we vehemently disagree with him, shouldn’t we at least applaud his willingness to be honest?

Instead, the know-it-all inside-the-Beltway gang is howling.  What kind of idiot is Mitt Romney, anyway?  Doesn’t he know how this political game is played?  Any savvy insider knows that of course you can’t say what you really think to the rubes in the hinterlands!

I’m sick to death of the punditry and the silly, screeching gaffe games, which do nothing but distract from our ability to address the serious issues that should be discussed as part of this important elections — serious issues such as, for example, the proper nature and extent of government benefit programs.

Optimism, Pessimism, And Coin Flips

Although Congress has been enjoying its August recess, the staffs of the members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — the so-called “Super Committee” — have been hard at work.  The Committee itself will begin meeting soon.  So, what’s the prognosis for whether the Super Committee can get the deficit reduction job done?

If you have a coin, flip it — because you can find just about every opinion on this topic, from foolish optimism to bleak pessimism, if you look hard enough.  Some people think the structure of the Super Committee and the ability to send any plan that gets majority support directly to the House and Senate floors means that the Super Committee is likely to succeed, whereas others predict, with equal confidence, that the Super Committee will fail.

What’s interesting, and discouraging, about the spectrum of opinions is that they all seem to be based on the kind of “inside baseball” political analysis that most of us find bizarre and infuriating.  No one seems to think that the members of the Super Committee will come to the table ready to reach a significant deal that achieves honest, meaningful deficit reduction because America needs that result.  Even the optimists apparently think that, if a deal is reached, it will be because Republicans and Democrats will conclude that a deal is the best result for Republicans and Democrats, and not because that result is best for the country.

Have we reached the point where our politicians can never lay aside partisanship and recognize that, if they don’t take effective action soon, this country will be brought to its knees?  I think that terrible reality may be the case — which is why I am in the pessimists’ camp on the likely outcome of the Super Committee and its deliberations.