Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Mendacity is the System We Live In"

Remember Brick and Big Daddy arguing about "mendacity" in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? The argument about Brick living a lie ends with Brick admitting that they had been lying about the results from the clinic and Big Daddy's abdominal pain.

Right now I'm in the middle of another pack of lies with the Brit comedy Season 4 Doc Martin. The Doc's lying to himself about his hemophobia, Louisa's lying to herself about her love for Martin, Al's been lying to Pauline, Aunt Joan about a car accident and a wealthy older couple about blindness. And as for the evil Edith, I suspect that something dishonest in her past will come out shortly. It ain't good to see our beloved characters wallowing in the mud.

So let's switch to something more palatable. The Clintons and their lying. As we conservatives know to our cost, the Clintons have been lying about things from Whitewater to emails -- for the last 25 years or so. They've been getting away with it because of the mainstream media, which likes to support their mendacious evasions with classic lines like "everybody lies about sex."

But maybe the Clintons are past their lie-by date, and the mainstream media just isn't that interested in covering for them too vigorously any more. Or maybe the Clintons look and feel too much like the dreadful 1%. Or maybe it isn't as charming when Hillary does it.

And that is to say nothing about the manure pile of lies that Democrats and liberals have piled up over the years for various tactical political reasons. You could start with the notion that Social Security is an insurance program. You could continue with the notion that the high incarceration of black males is due to institutional racism. You could stop, for the time being, with the idea that the Crash of 2008 was the fault of greedy bankers. We should stop right there before January 20, 2009 because we don't want to accuse President Obama of lying. That would be racist.

I suppose that every mature ruling class gets tangled up in its lies, just like Big Daddy and Brick, and the folks in the jolly old Cornish village of PortWenn. Ruling classes lie because they don't want to face up to the truth of their corrupt and incompetent rule, and their subjects put up with it because they don't want to give up their free stuff.

When you are in the opposition and support the "out" party you know -- because you long to -- that sooner or later the tissue of lies will break. But the tissue of lies usually is a lot stronger than you think. In fact it probably lasts until the ruling class runs out of other peoples' money. When the money runs out and the checks stop coming: that's when ordinary people get angry about politicians' lies.

Look, I'm no fool. I know that the bright and bushy tailed Republican presidential candidates are liars too. In particular they are careful not to tell Republican voters anything that they don't want to hear. They talk, for instance, about paying down the debt without actually getting into details, what the mainstream media calls "specifics." The jolliest game in politics is to get your opponent trapped into revealing specifics while you descant beautifully about Time for a Change.

But here's a fearless prediction. I think the biggest issue coming down the pike is going to be the enormous weight of state and local government employee pensions. Never mind about federal deficits; start worrying about your municipal bonds. What's been happening is that state and local governments have been pruning services in order to fund their underfunded defined-benefit pension plans. The solution, of course, is to move government employees off defined-benefit plans and onto defined-contribution plans, the way that corporate America did a generation ago.  But meanwhile the governments are papering over the problem with debt.

At some point, I'd guess, the voters are going to get really mad about the gigantic pensions that government employees get while the education for their children gets worse and worse. And states and big blue cities will start defaulting and going bankrupt. But that point is not yet. Because mendacity.

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