Sturm: High noon lessons for America’s lawmakers
September 27, 2013
With several political climaxes looming, it serves to recall "High Noon" starring Gary Cooper as Will Kane, the beleaguered marshal who single-handedly confronts paroled murderer Frank Miller and his gang. As civil society's elected protector, Kane is a reluctant hero, abandoned by his cowering and self-interested townsfolk. Improbably victorious, he departs town, flinging his badge with contempt for the citizens who wouldn't defend the rule of law on which their freedom, prosperity and security depend.
Though protagonists in our national Kabuki Theater claim to care about us, Think Again before allowing them to join Kane on the moral high ground. In verbal shoot-outs over Obamacare, the continuing resolution, the debt ceiling and Syria, our lawmen resemble Kane's fair-weather constituents for whom self-interest trumps the common good. By failing to anticipate and resolve America's imminent threats before they reach High Noon climaxes, politicians undermine America's interests and squander their legitimacy.
There's a Kane-like resentment smoldering in far-flung territories for lawmakers who trade political favors for donations: pass incomprehensible, lobbyist-written and unread laws and grant ever-increasing authority to the intrusive and unelected bureaucracy. Lawmakers may arrive in Washington believing it's a cesspool, but after harnessing governmental power and dispensing billions, they discover it's a hot tub made inviting by the collusion of big government, big business and big special interests.
Yet while Washington booms, Americans endure depressed wages, economic stagnation and high unemployment. To stimulate the sluggish economy, the Federal Reserve is continuing its near-zero interest-rate policy, cushioning the accounts of stock-market investors and bankers, while crushing the financial plans of ordinary Americans, imperiling retirement savings and exacerbating income-inequality.
Though Washington manufactures little beyond economically injurious legislation, regulations and bills for taxpayers to fund, it enjoys the nation's highest median household income, up 23 percent since 2000, compared to a 7 percent decline nationally. That's because federal spending ($3.5 trillion) now absorbs nearly one-quarter of the economy, up from 18 percent ($1.76 trillion) in 2000, causing a tripling of the national debt — a growth rate the Congressional Budget Office says is unsustainable. Furthermore, with unfunded liabilities exceeding $75 trillion and without reforms, Social Security and Medicare won't exist for younger Americans.
Given this fiscal picture, and with tax revenues hitting a record high, can we trust politicians like Nancy Pelosi, who now assert that "the cupboard is bare; there's no more cuts to make?" How can lawmakers claim to be for hardworking families and younger Americans without addressing the unsustainability of our growing debt and entitlement obligations, knowing these taxpayers must pay the bills?
Lawmakers' rank hypocrisy and lawlessness were exposed this month when the White House agreed to grant Congress and its staffers a special exemption from Obamacare — the 2,700-page law they imposed on the citizenry — by continuing special taxpayer-funded insurance subsidies. This Washington self-dealing comes after granting more than 2,000 waivers to political allies and illegally suspending major parts of the law, including the employer mandate and subsidy verification requirements — fiats that invite rampant fraud at taxpayer expense.
So concerned with the law's unintended consequences, the AFL-CIO declared it "will lead to the destruction of the 40-hour work week" while devastating "the health and well-being of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans." As the New York Times reported last week, "having an insurance card does not guarantee access to specialists or other providers." Furthermore, as businesses skirt Obamacare's expensive provisions by eliminating jobs and reducing hours, what difference does coverage for pre-existing conditions and 25-year-old children make to those who lose their plans and doctors?
You know something's wrong with a health care law that results in fewer doctors, nurses and hospital beds but more IRS enforcers. And for those who insist the government stay out of your bedroom, steel yourselves to answer intrusive questions about your private life for data-mining purposes or pay hefty fines.
As the country churns from Obamacare's impacts, the clock approaches High Noon on budget and debt ceiling decisions to which escalating health care costs are central. Yet, the president declared Washington a negotiation-free zone, a curiosity since real outlaws like Russia's Putin and Syria's Assad are now negotiating partners.
Will President Rouhani, of Iran, the planet's largest exporter of terrorism, be next? Assad may now avoid using chemical weapons, but how many more innocents will die conventionally because two-years of American calls for Assad's ouster — and other saber rattling — were empty cowboy rhetoric?
With strategic planning and leadership, these policy cauldrons have solutions, though not when elected officials scurry from their moral duties, like High Noon's townspeople. There are scores of courageous Marshal Kanes in every town across America, except the one where the nation needs them most.
Think Again — wouldn't you rally around this kind of leadership to avoid devolving into the Divided States of America?
Melanie Sturm lives in Aspen. She reminds readers to Think Again. You might change your mind. She welcomes comments at email@example.com.