Or, Who Do You Think Runs Our Government.
I had been dreading the "Republican Reaction" to President Obama's speech. Its delay in starting only worsened my unease. But then it was like sunshine and rainbows broke out because when the speech started, it was peppy, upbeat and seemingly as bipartisan as the chamber on Capitol Hill was minutes before. The beginning of the speech was A+ work. The line about Americans being able to do anything because they have a lot of variety at the supermarket was maybe a little crazy, but it makes for a nice theme of the speech.
If only Mr. Jindal stayed with the clarity of sunshine for his theme of Americans being able to do anything. But, unsurprisingly, a large stormcloud quickly blocked out the sun and doused my rainbows once Mr. Jindal moved into the heart of his reaction. The stormcloud brought with it the darkness, confusion and obfuscation that only a couple mile thick front of condensed water can bring. You see, Mr. Jindal started trying to convince me that while Americans can do anything, the American government can do nothing. He spoke of an interesting event in the wake of the devastation of Katrina; this event pitted concerned a concerned and helpful public wanting to help their neighbor against a sniveling bureaucrat who just couldn't allow them to do that. That's all well and good for a story (I mean, it has gravitas, drama...), but it is a pile of logical fallacies that barely hands together. Those fallacies are what I wish to explore in this diary.
Now, I am, if not a religious person, someone who regularly attends a church service on Sundays. The Rector of my church, when showing rhetorical displeasure in a sermon, has a penchant for imitating an askew frame* and stating, "What's wrong with this picture?" What's wrong with this picture, indeed. The American government is one of the few entities left in this country not outsourcing jobs. In fact, the American government is made of Americans. Therefore, if Americans can do anything it does not follow that the American government cannot also do anything. Indeed, it is true that the Federal government can and does change with each Presidential administration. It is almost guaranteed that the bureaucrat, the antagonist of Mr. Jindal's story, belonged to the Executive Branch. If the Executive Branch in power had made different decisions (such as governing well, for instance), Mr. Jindal would be no story. The Federal Government can do anything, which means it can do bad.
If Mr. Jindal's canard were not frustrating to you in and of itself, allow me to contrast it with a moment that preceded it not an hour beforehand. In his speech, Pres. Obama spoke about how, in the worst of times, the American government acted boldly to move the country forward; he spoke of how in previous depressions, it created jobs, not just in the public sector, but created jobs (90% of the total!) in the private sector. As he put it, the government was a "catalyst" for creation, innovation and prosperity. The government did its job by fostering an environment that allowed citizens and companies to make America a better place. Really, this is the government's job, and because the people who work in the government can do anything, it is certainly able to fulfill this role.
Contrast the two messages: "Government can do no good" vs. "We need to MAKE Government do good." One is obviously true, the other is obviously deceptive. One has some historical evidence, the other has been proved century after century. I don't think I need to spell it out to anyone reading here that the government can play a positive role in our society, especially after watching President Obama's speech and listening to the historical evidence he gives when he makes the same assertion.
"We need to MAKE Government do good."
You see, Mr. Jindal can only make his disingenuous argument if there is someone helping him in the government by doing their job poorly. If the government isn't doing its job, it sure looks like it can do no good. And if there is someone (or a battalion of someones) in the government actively trying to make the government look bad, then Mr. Jindal's argument becomes circular: if nobody believes the government can do good, then nobody working in government will think they can do good, so they won't, go back to step 1.
Fortunately, we have a man on the job (and several thousand of his friends and coworkers) who are dedicating to making the American government great. What we need to do now is to shut blowhards like Mr. Jindal the f*** up by shoving the good that our Government is and will do in their faces. Because if everyone believes that the government can do good and they should make the government do good, then by golly the same positive feedback cycle is in effect and the government will do good.
Summary: Americans Can Do Anything. Americans Operate the American Government. The American Government Can Do Anything, including suck. We Need to Work to Make It Work for Us.* I apologize if you cannot get the visual. I will attempt to awkwardly explain it:
• Keeping your fingers together so they are still touching, Point your fingers straight out
• Point your thumbs straight out so they are making right angles with your fingers
That is what we are going to imagine is the bottom of a picture frame.
• Move your hands so that your "finger-frame" is framing your face
• Bend at the torso so that your "finger-frame" and face are askew, like a picture that is not hung straight.
• Now say, "What's wrong with this picture?"
Hopefully no one will whip out a plumber's line and some tacks to try and hang you straight.