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‘Halloween Politics’ Is All Tricks, No Treats

Politicians are trying to scare people into doing what they want, Colleen O'Connor says.

Are you scared, yet?

I’m not talking about the Stephen King horror movie reruns; or the ghoulish tombstones, ghosts, or scary masks designed for the traditional Mexican “Day of the Dead,”—or the American remembrance of departed souls—this Oct. 31.

Neighborhood streets and stores have been full of these creepy reminders of our ultimate demise. Even my favorite bakery, Con Pane, is advertising “Pan de Muertos” bread complete with sombrero clad skeletons.

I’m not even talking about real frights—like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse—or even calamities like Fukishima’s radioactive fallout, Hurricane Katrina, falling space junk, polluted waters, decades-long droughts, or even the “End Times.”

I’m talking about the new American normal of “Halloween Politics.”

This new scary stuff is now a daily feature, a constant drumbeat from the ruling, governing, and shout-media class that scream “terror, terror, terror” about everything.

A budget impasse has now become “Armageddon.”

Local school boards threaten to lay off teachers, cut classes, eliminate hours or even weeks of instruction. City councils threaten to cut police protection, job security, pension security, Internet security, or any other kind of safety—the loss of which is designed to terrorize their constituencies into action.

While there is a budget shortfall, this is nothing new. Someone should have been minding the store a lot earlier.

Politicians do lot of campaigning.

Lots of photo ops and rallies.

Tons of debates and finger pointing.

But who is minding the store?

Currently, budgetary problems that should have been recognized and solved years ago are often described as the “end of whatever as we know it.”

“Armaggedon” is often used, with abandon, to describe ordinary problems by using the “end as we know it” phraseology.

This is not new in politics—just shamefully overused.

President Harry Truman successfully employed this tactic when his post-World War II advisers insisted that the only way to get monies out of Congress, (weary and wary of more military spending during peace time) was to scare them to death.

Truman did. Using the new “Red Menace” threat, (ignoring the fact that the Soviet Union was our ally), Truman helped usher in the Cold War—and, with it, a permanent war-time economy.

It took Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to calm matters down. As president, Eisenhower believed that 99 percent of the "crises" presented to him never happened. He still remains the only modern president to cut the military budget every year he was in office. His farewell address warned of the new, internal threat to democracy: the military-industrial complex.

Today, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is using his version of Halloween Politics to warn of the dire consequences if any monies are shaved off of the Pentagon’s budget. This despite the unending stories of waste, fraud and abuse, i.e., missing funds in the Iraq and Afghan wars (in the billions); poor accounting in-house (in the billions); etc.!

Of course, Americans support the troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, and now troops on the ground in central Africa. Add to this the troops deployed in Europe, Japan and numerous other countries (that can and should defend themselves); and the non-stop threat of war with Iran, and one sees the new normal of Halloween Politics everywhere.

President Obama begins anew his bus tour to tout a jobs bill that is more campaign brochure than economic cure. His push has always been a version of “now, Now, NOW.”

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and the G-20 finance ministers of the world’s largest economies just insisted that the Euro-bound countries fix their economically weak sisters in eight days. No kidding—eight days to fix a problem that has been warned about for decades!

Local and state politicians are also infected with the habit of keeping their constituents on tilt in order to extract more gains—usually money.

For example, Katherine Feinstein, the administrative judge for the San Francisco Superior Courts warned, "The civil justice system in San Francisco is collapsing."

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, “It will soon take hours to pay a traffic ticket in San Francisco, months to get court records and at least a year and a half to get a divorce. With a few exceptions, only criminal cases will go to trial.” 

Surprise, Feinstein’s Halloween Politics worked. The California Judicial Council “found the funds” to avoid the “collapse.”

San Diego Unified School District schools just last week decided to “start the conversation,” by threatening to close schools, lay off more teachers, cut days of instruction, etc. They have threatened the parents of children for so many years that  it is now not only counterproductive and tiresome, but infuriating.

Who is minding the store? Where have these “leaders” been for the last several years? These problems did not just pop up. This is their job. Anticipate problems. Fix them before they become a "crisis."

The current economic crisis has been evident for years. Not days, not months, but years! Preparations and decisions should have been implemented years ago—not next month or next election.

And the “pundits of the press” who act more as propaganda chiefs for the various divides in our country, are equally to blame. Their mantra—“the people want the services, but don’t want to pay for them”—is even more infuriating.

The people do pay—property taxes, gas taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, fees for schools, fees for “beautification of the neighborhood,” tack-on fees for baggage, increased costs for food, rent, health care, etc.

And what do they read about? The massive incompetence, corruption, waste, fraud and abuse that consume government revenues while those in charge hurl more “disaster” threats at them.

This is why Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party exist. And both sides are right.  The system is rigged. The rich and corrupt continue to get richer and more corrupt. The government waste is expanding exponentially and in direct opposition to the citizens’ ability to pay. Taxpayers are tired of listening and tired of hoping.

Tired of bus tours and shouting blame.

They despise “Halloween Politics.” They want to throw out those incumbents not minding the store.

And I, for one, wouldn’t mind a bit.

Happy Halloween.

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