What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Zsaj
Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart have been focusing the nation’s attention in recent days on ACORN, and rightly so. This organization has been riddled with corruption and controversy for some time, and the recent exposés of their widespread lawlessness have only helped to fan the flames of conservative cacophony.
But in this self-congratulatory conquest of corruption and a subsequent congressional termination of funding, one must ask: is this the best we can do? Is this what we should be working on?
To be sure, I believe ACORN is corrupt to the core and should be stripped of all its government connections (grants, subsidies, etc.). But as Glenn Greenwald notes, there are much, much bigger fish to fry:
ACORN has received a grand total of $53 million in federal funds over the last 15 years — an average of $3.5 million per year. Meanwhile, not millions, not billions, but trillions of dollars of public funds have been, in the last year alone, transferred to or otherwise used for the benefit of Wall Street. Billions of dollars in American taxpayer money vanished into thin air, eaten by private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, led by Halliburton subsidiary KBR. All of those corporate interests employ armies of lobbyists and bottomless donor activities that ensure they dominate our legislative and regulatory processes, and to be extra certain, the revolving door between industry and government is more prolific than ever, with key corporate officials constantly ending up occupying the government positions with the most influence over those industries.
The rest of the article is worth reading to gain further insight into the hypocrisy at play. Through steady doses of government stimuli, America has become desensitized to large numbers. While Greenwald points it out in the paragraph above, the magnitude of difference here bears repeating: ACORN has been given $53 million; private banks, insurance companies, and other corporate behemoths have been the recipients of trillions of dollars. If it needs to be further emphasized, a trillion has six more zeros than a million. Pssst: that’s a lot more money.
The hypocrisy is evident not only in the focused anger towards so paltry a sum (in the inflationary large scheme of things), but in the way so-called “conservatives” reacted to a similar ploy by President Obama. Pressured to show progress in his campaign pledge to reduce the deficit, Obama asked his cabinet to come up with $100 million in budget cuts for the ensuing 90 days. Derisive laughter ensued among his opponents, who used illustrations such as this to depict how minuscule such a budget cut really is.
And now they’re doing the same thing. With so many inviting targets worthy of our attention and ire, the conservative forces are being marshaled not to attack Goliath, but instead to throw spit wads at his water boy. Just as these sums of money are magnitudes of order in difference, so too are the results created by opposing each one. You don’t fell a tree by plucking daintily at its leaves.
It is indeed a sad day when the corrupt use of millions of dollars of taxpayer money is to be considered a small target, but our reality demands tackling the billions and trillions spewing out of the money machine. Those who disagree will suggest that “we have to start somewhere” and that they will “work their way up”. However, their efforts are like trying to stem the tide of the Mississippi River by building a dam one pebble at a time. Their attacks are being undermined faster than they can implement them.
If the small-government lobby continues to focus its attention and anger on low-hanging fruit, the tree of tyranny will soon overtake them. ACORN is corrupt, and I will not be sad to see them exposed and penniless. But the corruption in Washington is far more centralized, better connected, and involves much more money than this ragtag group of community lawbreakers (oops, I mean “organizers”). The preservation of the Republic and our savings accounts both demand that we not spend so much time on small issues and get down to real business.
That business will be the subject of my next article.