JOHN REINIERS, A Mind ofIn Ivan Pavlov's famous "classical conditioning" experiments, a bell was rung every time dogs were fed. After a while the dogs would salivate every time the bell was rung. They associated the ring with food – a form of learning – a conditioned response. Food or no food – the dogs salivated.
Published: December 16, 2012
Published: December 16, 2012
Our political system is alive with ringing bells. As with dogs, actual facts do not matter – ringing bells do. Voters are conditioned by being repeatedly exposed to the same talking points or events (the food), which precipitate a predictable knee-jerk reaction (salivation) when the bell rings.
An example was seen during a campaign speech when President Obama mentioned Governor Romney's name to set up a point he wanted to make, which caused this hard-wired crowd to boo – interrupting his speech. He quickly told the crowd, "No, No, No. Don't' boo. Voting is the best revenge." So his followers had been conditioned to boo at the mere mention of Romney's name, and Obama had been conditioned to think of revenge when a voting bell is ringing.
This kind of human behavior cuts both ways. Conservatives have also been conditioned to react predictively when certain bells are rung. But I would argue that on the larger issues, facts and good economic policy support conservative values. A majority of voters obviously do not agree.
America is in unchartered waters. The liberal progressive coalition has irrevocably crossed over the political Rubicon to the left. Blue dog Democrats and Reagan Democrats are a moribund breed. They are a footnote to history.
The Wall Street Journal reports that about 50 percent of households receive some government assistance. The government is running ads to get more people on food stamps. Dependence on government shot up 23 percent in just 2 years under Obama. Even Democrats admit that less than half of Americans pay income taxes
Nevertheless, the land of promises is not the Promised Land. One only has to look at failing socialist democracies in southern Europe. Their politicos are no different than ours. They promise voters whatever is necessary to get elected.
Conservatives tell the unvarnished truth, only to be defeated.
France is an excellent example. Too many writers, myself included, have been focusing on failed postage stamp-sized Greece, with its population of only 10 million plus, and an economy dependent on tourism, ancient ruins and the patience of the German taxpayer.
France, the second largest EU economy, seen as a rock star country by American liberals and a precursor for the direction of our economy, is a committed socialist state, and slipping badly. It too has been downgraded by Standard & Poor's, as was the U.S., with government spending at an astonishing 57 percent of GDP, and is heading for its second recession in just 5 years.
Large factories are closing and socialist president Francois Hollande seems as lost as President Obama, having no real-world experience also, being committed to socialist ideals. This is the same path a majority of Americans chose on Nov. 6th. We just have a little catching up to do to be more like France.
Any bell rung for Hollande signals a big government solution. After all, he has been a lifelong Socialist party functionary; a consummate ideologue, and is surrounded by an inner circle of like kind and quality, as is President Obama.
And ideology trumps facts. Some examples:
Obama never took a leadership role to reform Social Security or Medicare even though the trustees warn, "both of these vitally important programs are on unsustainable paths." Ring the reform bell and the first word out of any liberal's mouth is, "boo." Yet the government's own GAO warns, Federal spending is driving, "unsustainable debt."
These two big ticket issues are ignored by Democrats, and that is precisely why Obama got reelected. The truth would have been his third rail, and as it turned out, it was Mitt Romney's. Now you watch – just like Hollande, who is plummeting in the polls – Obama and the Democrats will be scrambling for plausible talking points about entitlements and the national debt – apart from blaming George Bush – before the 2014 election. (Fixing the national debt by increasing taxes on the rich would take as long as it would to fill an area the size of the Great Lakes with a teaspoon.)
Examine briefly just two poorly managed government programs teetering on disaster:
The FHA reverse mortgage program with individual mortgage limits now increased to $625K for 2012. This boondoggle is destined to become another sub-prime crisis with taxpayers holding the bag, with a predictable supporter being Barney Frank, along with the usual broker vultures circling for exorbitant fees. The Fund supports single-family dwelling and reverse mortgage insurance programs ended the fiscal year with 600,000 outstanding reverse mortgages representing $163 billion in home value and an appalling $16.3 billion deficit.
The federal student loan debt has exceeded the "serious delinquency" rate for credit cards in the last quarter, with a debt exceeding $1 trillion – which is more than the entire U.S. auto loan or credit card debt!
I could go on for volumes, but space limitations and a pragmatic editor suggest otherwise.
Let me say this: Democratic orthodoxy has riddled our government with a bureaucracy pumping out regulations at an average of 70 rules a week; about 3,800 this year, and programs beyond comprehension. Emboldened by the reelection they just started cranking them out even faster and smothering what is left of the classic American economy.
The 50 percent who depend upon Obama largess don't understand this; can't read, or don't read, or don't care. What they expect is for some Democrat to ring the entitlement bell.
And as we head for the fiscal cliff, Democrats know whatever the outcome; the fault will lie with Republicans. Think of those nodding Democratic politicians on camera, and recall Jones's law, "The man who smiles when things go wrong has thought of someone to blame it on."
John Reiniers, a regular columnist for Hernando Today, lives in Spring Hill.