The Status Quo
Tne thing I’ve realized since September 11 (2001) is that there’s a lot more continuity in government than I had previously thought. Despite the fact that every 4 or 8 years, we get a whole new Presidential administration, sometimes one that operates from a political stance diametrically opposed to the previous one, inertia keeps things moving in the same direction most of the time. The issues the two political parties fight over are usually a side show. Will the government spend a lot of money, or slightly more than a lot of money over the next few years? Will some obscure environmental regulation that was never really enforced properly be repealed, or will we add some new ones that the regulatory agencies will ignore anyway?
The fact is that about 1.7 million people work for the federal government (not counting the US Postal Service), and they will continue to do so until they retire. Policy and laws are nice, but what really matters most of the time is what these guys decide to do when they get to work in the morning. Congress passes a bill that will theoretically completely alter security screening at airports, and the bureaucrats in charge of implementing it change things back to the status quo. Ho hum.
Ronald Reagan is often credited with putting the pressure on the Soviet Union that ultimately brought it to its knees. Our funding of the mujahideen is generally considered to be a key component of that pressure. You know who started funding the anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan? The Carter administration. Reagan just kept it up.
You know all those nasty bits of the PATRIOT act that got my hackles up? They had been on the wish list of the Justice Department for forever, the September 11 attacks finally gave Congress an excuse to make them into laws.
In a way, this should reassure us, I think. Regardless of whether George Bush or Al Gore won the election back in November, things were going to continue basically as before. In another way, it should scare the Hell out of us. We vote for this person or that one, and the bottom line is that a bunch of people we don’t elect determine how the government really affects our lives. The elected officials try to alter the course of the nation, but inertia carries it on its merry way. Despite all this, I resolve in 2002 not to stop caring or paying attention.