in the Making: A Political Circus, An Out-of-Control
Government Bureaucracy, and a Distracted Populace
March 20, 2012 By John W.
in our background has prepared us to know and resist a
prison when the gates begin to close around us . . .
But what if there are no cries of anguish to be heard?
Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of
amusements? To whom do we complain, and when, and in
what tone of voice, when serious discourse dissolves
into giggles? What is the antidote to a culture’s
being drained by laughter?”—Neil Postman, Amusing
Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of
less than eight months to go before the next
presidential election, political chatter among the
candidates is ramping up and serious political discourse
is declining. All the while, the corrupt government
machine is taking advantage of a populace distracted by
the political theater to advance agendas that are
completely at odds with the nation’s fiscal, legislative
and constitutional priorities.
Indeed, the process of
voting and electing a new president has become little
more than an expensive, sophisticated ruse designed to
deceive us into thinking we actually have a say in what
happens in our government. However, the sad fact is that
the United States government has ballooned into an
overreaching, out-of-control bureaucracy accountable to
no one in particular—not Congress or the president and
least of all the taxpayers.
while the candidates mug for the cameras, American
taxpayers are being taken to the cleaners—a different
kind of mugging, altogether—by government officials
eager to placate their corporate benefactors. While the
surveillance state is slowly being erected around us,
our civil liberties are systemically being dismantled.
While our government wages war after endless war abroad,
the war on the American people—fought with sound
cannons, tasers and drones—is entering its early stages.
And while the partisan rancor over who will occupy the
White House becomes more toxic with each passing day,
the elephant in the room—what no one is talking about—is
the fact that it doesn’t really matter who gets elected,
because no matter how often we change out the resident
of the Oval Office, the immense, intractable,
implacable, bureaucratic colossus that is our federal
government remains entrenched.
other words, the more things change, the more they
remain the same. On Wednesday, November 7, the day after
the next president takes office, the government as we
have come to know it—corrupt, bloated and controlled by
big-money corporations, lobbyists and special interest
groups—will be largely unchanged. And “we the
people”—overtaxed, overpoliced, overburdened by big
government, underrepresented by those who should speak
for us and blissfully ignorant of the prison walls
closing in on us—will continue to trudge along a path of
no mistake, while Americans are busy quibbling over
which political savior is best-suited to rescue us from
certain destruction, the government’s outrages—runaway
spending, graft, pork barrel legislation, corporate
collusion, and so on—are continuing to mount.
Unmitigated waste, profligate spending and inexcusable
mismanagement—the common denominators between all
government agencies—perfectly illustrate the magnitude
of the problem we face when it comes to an
out-of-control, bureaucratic government that marches in
lockstep with the corporate state.
a start, consider national defense spending, which
enriches the military-industrial complex to the tune of
$740 billion and routinely falls prey to corruption and
mismanagement. Who could forget the ten C-17 fighter
jets purchased by Congress at the urging of the defense
industry for a whopping $2.4 billion, despite the fact
that the Pentagon insisted it didn’t need them?
Incredibly, although the U.S. constitutes only 5% of the
world's population, America boasts almost 50% of the
world's total military expenditure, spending more on the
military than the next 19 biggest spending nations
combined. In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than
all 50 states combined spend on health, education,
welfare, and safety.
there’s the $4 trillion War on Terror, which has seen at
least $31 billion (and as much as $60 billion or more)
lost to waste and fraud by military contractors and
other government officials. A classic example of this
was the $300 million diesel power plant that was built
in Afghanistan despite the fact that it wouldn’t be used
regularly “because its fuel cost more than the Afghan
government could afford to run it regularly.” Or the $4
million paid to Afghan contractors for paving a
17.5-mile road in Ghazni province, which only resulted
in 2/3 of a mile of road being paved.
expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at
a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million
an hour)—and that’s just what the government spends on
foreign wars. That does not include the cost of
maintaining and staffing the 1000-plus U.S. military
bases spread around the globe. A government audit found
that defense contractor Boeing has been massively
overcharging taxpayers for mundane parts, resulting in
tens of millions of dollars in overspending. As the
report noted, the American taxpayer paid:
for a metal pin that should cost just 4 cents; $644.75
for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for
$12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price.
$1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a
dime, that could have been bought within DoD for
$7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a
straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused
by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of
over 177,000 percent.
barrel spending (the earmarking of outrageous sums of
money in federal contracting in return for personal gain
and campaign contributions) borders on the ludicrous. In
2010, for instance, the federal government gave the
University of California at Santa Cruz $615,000 to
digitize Grateful Dead memorabilia. Then there was the
$246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to
buy motion picture film. Most recently, an $11 million
federal grant intended to help 400 low-income people in
the Detroit area secure employment only ended up helping
contracts for building privatized prison complexes have
also become a lucrative business in recent years—what
one journalist referred to as “caging humans for
profit.” Immigrant detention centers are especially
viewed as future goldmines for savvy investors. For
example, GEO Group Inc. was paid $32 million to build a
detention center for low-risk inmates in Karnes City,
Texas. The prison boasts a salad bar, a library with
Internet access, cable TV, an indoor gym with basketball
courts, and soccer fields. GEO Group will also rake in
roughly $15 million a year for running the prison. The
detainees being held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay just
received a $750,000 soccer field to relieve their
boredom, thanks to American taxpayers.
then there’s the generally indulgent and overall
excessive spending that goes along with a government
lacking in oversight or accountability. A case in point,
at the end of the Bush administration, government
officials were still getting official portraits painted
for upwards of $30,000. Donald Rumsfeld even got two
separate portraits for his two stints as Secretary of
Defense. State dinners at the White House, as lavish as
they come, are estimated to run as high as half a
million dollars per event. The invitations for
these dinners are engraved, gold-embossed and
hand-addressed by calligraphers.
Wine served at these
dinners has been estimated to cost taxpayers between
$115-$399 per bottle. Not surprisingly, the White House
refuses to disclose the price tag for these extravagant
brings me back to the topic at hand—namely, that nothing
taking place on Election Day or in the days leading up
to it will limit or restrain this out-of-control
bureaucracy or alleviate the suffering of the American
people. What we are being treated to right now is a
stage show, full of sound and fury, but in the end it is
nothing more than well-choreographed entertainment for a
populace struggling to survive.
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book The Freedom Wars (TRI Press) is available online at www.amazon.com.
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