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TANSTAFL

November 8, 2012

We got through yesterday and the United States didn’t descend into the abyss. Yay. Somehow that doesn’t really help my mental state or outlook or view of what actually happened on election day.

“Obama got all the electrical votes and we win”.

That’s what actually happened on election day. This one quote from an unidentified Obama supported yesterday just seemed to completely explain what happened. We have been watching an extremely slow-motion train wreck for the last 30 years, and the two trains have finally made contact. 49.5% of us now realize that there is no real way now to stop the wreck, until now it has all been talk about “what happens when”, and “We should do something to stop this”, and even ‘Naw, there is NO WAY they will actually collide”. But on election day 2012, the trains made contact and the hard reality can now be clearly seen. There is going to be a wreck, and there is nothing we can do about it.

It is worth a little time to try to understand how this was ever allowed to happen. In the 1950-1990 timeframe, my formative years (well, except for the first 5 years of the 50’s, I have to rely on my sister to tell me what happened), it was all about getting ahead, working hard and making something of yourself, self-reliance, tough love and the ideal that if you do work hard, you can be successful and be able to afford the big house, the nice car, all of the trappings of success and you would be looked at as a success story by your friends and peers.

And, most importantly, we understood why this was and we understood how the basic economy worked. We paid taxes because that’s how roads got built and that’s how we paid for our protection both locally and globally and that’s how we helped the really unfortunate. The government played a very important role, but we didn’t really want or expect anything unless things got really really bad for us. Going on “welfare” or “assistance” was shameful, using food stamps in a food store was actually embarrassing, but everyone understood that you were using them because you really really needed them. The shame and embarrassment was self-generated, not hurled at you from society.

The most important part of this was that we collectively understand how the economy worked. The government only had so much and was there for the true safety-net function.

At some point, and I personally believe it was in the 70’s, this all started to change. In my humble opinion, it started in the educational system in this country. Maybe it was when the public sector unions began to flex their muscles and put in rules about tenure and seniority over capability. But for some reason, the public schools stopped teaching. The idea of political correctness started to raise its head. The idea of ‘fairness’ at all levels, ‘nobody really fails as long as they are trying’ became the norm, and the general dumbing down of the educational process started. It happened slowly, much like our train wreck, but it was steady and constant progress towards a lowest-common denominator approach to teaching. I saw this in my kids as they progressed through the public education system in the 80’s. Somehow there seemed to be more and more teachers that really had no idea what they were doing, and the school tolerance for mediocre performance increased. I graduated from Oakland High School (inner-city public high school) in 1973 with a 1.9 GPA. It was only because I got my ass kicked at home and ‘forced’ to get a college education by my parents (damn them!) that I finally saw the light. How the hell did I get out of high school to begin with?

The trains were placed on the tracks a few miles apart and sent on their way.

Fast forward to today. We have a generation of people that are products of the public school system that seriously have NO IDEA how the world works. They don’t understand how government works, they don’t understand how the economy works, they don’t understand the idea of working hard and getting ahead. At a very basic level, they don’t understand that if the government gives a dollar to someone, the government had to have taken that dollar from someone else. It simply doesn’t seem to be taught any more. The government is an infinite source of stuff, ‘fat cats’ are bad.

At some subconscious level, these citizens may equate the ‘national debt thing’ to ‘lots of free stuff from the government’, but it is an abstract thought at best, and for the first time, the majority of the population doesn’t really care. Two trillion, five trillion, who cares. It isn’t real money. It isn’t my problem. The government should pay my student loans and give me birth control.

The problem has been abstracted out of existence. What the election has shown us, and there is no denying the facts, is that there are now more people that want the government to provide for them than people that understand how the economy works and understand that this simply isn’t sustainable And as soon as people realize that they can vote themselves more stuff, they will, and they did.

Forget the fact that this has NEVER worked in the history of mankind. They don’t teach this in the public schools any more. In my second year of college, I had a great economics teacher. On the first day of class he wrote TANSTAFL on the board. It wasn’t for a few weeks that it finally occurred to the class what that meant. There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. I remember the class and this basic fact even today.

The stark difference between Obama and Romney proves that we have reached the tipping point. Romney represented exactly what this country needed to stop the train wreck. Hard work means success, and success is a good thing. Back to basics. Obama, in the words of Rush Limbaugh, was Santa Clause. And Santa Clause wins over working hard and self-reliance.

I believe the standard of living in this country is lower than it was 25 years ago, it may have a little more dropping to go, and it is going to take us 2 or more generations to fix it. It will be a very long time before a generation can once again state that they are better off than their parents. It is probably going to take a catastrophic event, a total collapse, to change things again. It will take another 10+ years for the trains to come completely off the tracks, but at this point there is little that can be done to prevent it.

I hate to sound so pessimistic, but every way I look at the election-day events, the same hard facts emerge. There is no way Obama should have been re-elected, but the fact is, he was. And the current generation of voters that made this happen have no basic understanding of what they have done.

TANSTAFL

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