One has only to examine recent comments concerning global warming made by would-be presidential candidates as ample evidence that the United States is fast becoming an irrational nation.
A few of them maintain that global warming is a hoax dreamed up for some inexplicable reason by scientists attempting to delude us. Ron Paul, staunch foe of regulation, advocates replacing the Environmental Protection Agency with a committee that includes representatives of the oil and gas industries, putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse. This is a feeble attempt to deal with the effects of the Bush deficit.
Such an economic approach has not worked in the past and will not work now. A plumber friend of mine told me recently that his business has fallen off so badly he needed to cut the hours of his employees. He also was ordering fewer parts from his suppliers who, in turn, were doing less business with manufacturers who were probably having to lay off some of their employees who now won't be able to afford a plumber.
Many economists have insisted that the only way to eliminate our woes is to increase taxes; but some of us are so immersed in our pool of irrationality that we close our eyes, cover our ears, and continue to shout, "No new taxes!"
The tea-party anarchists like to think they are echoing the spirit of our founding fathers, who spilled tea into Boston Harbor rather than pay an unjust tax. What those early Americans were protesting was not taxation, but the lack of representation. They understood that taxes were necessary to the maintenance of a civil society. Thomas Jefferson says it well in his letter to John Wayles Eppes, written in 1813:
"... Had any loan taken place in my time, I should have strongly urged a redeeming tax. For the loan which has been made since the last session of Congress, we should now set the example of appropriating some particular tax, sufficient to pay the interest annually, and the principal within a fixed term ..."
We, however, ignore the regulatory principles upon which this country was founded, and instead heed the advice of greedy misanthropes like Grover Norquist, the architect of the no-new-taxes movement. Norquist is the 54-year-old son of a Polaroid executive, an operative in the Reagan administration, a designer of Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" and a man dedicated to drowning government. Norquist's ideal citizen is "the self-employed, homeschooling, IRA-owning guy with a concealed weapons permit, because that person doesn't need the government for anything."
Obviously, this citizen is not going to be out-of-work, or a single mother, or a child added to the poverty rolls. Instead, he'll be the guy who dies satisfied long before the icecaps melt, the polar bears die off, coastal countries become inundated, and hungry people revolt.
Peter Siedlecki, Ph.D, is a professor in the Daeman College English Department and a member of the Social Justice Committee of St. Joseph University Parish.