When Honesty Becomes "Threatening" (September 30, 2009)
Do we as a nation now fear the truth so much that we prefer deception and lies?
Correspondent Harun I. recently wrote about the necessity in a democracy for an open and honest discussion of the sacrifices and trade-offs which must be made. I found his comments deeply disturbing because they clarified my sense that our government's policies are fundamentally based on the opposite of open honesty. Virtually every policy with any fiscal or financial consequence is shrouded in lies, deception, obfuscation, disinformation and propaganda.
Yes, there is outrage in some quarters, and this is a positive sign. Even more positive is the growing demands for transparency and an honest accounting of our government's (and the Federal Reserve's) backstops, guarantees, actions and obligations.
Yet I also sense a great fear of honesty, as if we don't really want to know how bad it is. On one level, this is understandable. Many of us sense something is terribly wrong, but like people who sense they might have cancer, we don't go to the doctor to receive the diagnosis: we react with denial and magical thinking, thus dooming our chances of recovery. (I've had melanoma, so I'm sympathetic to this feeling.)
I see plentiful evidence that honesty is extremely threatening to the status quo. The Federal Reserve is in a full-blown panic that its machinations might be revealed to the public it claims to "serve."
Here in California, a newspaper had to go to court and sue the local governments to release the salaries and total compensation of public union employees. Why would the unions and their employers be so terrified of transparency, of actually allowing the taxpayers who pay their salaries a glimpse of where their money is going?
We all know the answer: because the public would be outraged to see the $200K salaries and double-dipping, the fat "consultant fees" paid the day after the employee retired, and on and on and on.
The Fed is terrified of transparency for the exact same reason: that the citizenry will be outraged by the squandering of trillions of dollars, the machinations to protect the wealthy few at the expense of the many, and perhaps most damning of all, the utter failure of the Fed's manipulations, prevarications and obfuscations.
The average American does not want to hear the "diagnosis" that Medicare and Medicaid are doomed to insolvency in a few short years, as is their entire government. They prefer soothing lies that nothing need be done except borrow another $2 trillion a year from now until Doomsday, which is but a few short years away. The truth is that Medicare is doomed and we shall not get the lavish care "promised" by our government. What year this becomes apparent I cannot say; it might be 2012, 2014 or 2019. Regardless, that year will come, and sooner than most think possible.
The great sad irony is the fearful patient who refuses to even go to the doctor expires not from the cancer but from their unwillingness to get the truth early on and have an open, honest discussion about treatment options.
I am saddened by the prospect that this describes our nation at a fundamental level. For it is insecurity and a total lack of confidence and faith that drives people to choose denial and magical thinking over truth, honesty and an open dialog. If one is confident that one can restore one's health, then the diagnosis, no matter how terrible, is welcomed so the treatment can begin immediately.
Thus the current preference for lies, deception, propaganda, magical thinking and denial is deeply troubling, for it suggests America has lost its faith and confidence that it can solve its pressing financial/fiscal problems.
I preface Harun's comments by noting that he served his country at the tip of the spear (U.S. Armed Forces) for many many years, serving in harm's way at the behest of this nation's civilian leadership, deploying in some of the most sensitive circumstances with some of the nation's most advanced technologies. Thus his words carry great weight, at least to me.
Here is Harun's commentary:
Civilization is a tenuous social arrangement at best. People bandy about the word "rights" as if it is some universal principle like physics. Any warrior would tell you that, outside of civilization, one only has a right to what he is strong enough to take and hold.
Thank you, Harun. What we know about our government's responses to this entirely predictable financial meltdown is that truth and honesty are nowhere in sight. The government's top financial officers lied to Congress that the nation would implode if they didn't give extraordinary powers and extraordinary sums of money to Treasury officials working behind cloaks of secrecy and deception.
A year later, the deceits, disinformation, half-truths, statistical conjuring and behind-the-scenes manipulations continue apace, with catastrophic results. The Treasury sells debt to the Fed which buys the debt with money created out of thin air, and we are told there is great demand for our new debt.
Yes, the world is delighted to lend us $2 trillion a year, or perhaps it will be $3 trillion
soon, or perhaps $10 trillion. There is no limit on the largesse--or on the lies.
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