Framing the Dialogue

Consider The Grasshoppers

“Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shade of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that, of course, they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little, shriveled, meager, hopping, though loud and troublsome, insects of the hour.

Edmund Burke

That quote was from Daniel Hannan’s “letter of warning to America” and I was immediately taken with the beauty of the description.  America is replete with grasshoppers and our focus, politics, policies, and money have often been squandered in our quest to satisfy the smallest voice…the grasshoppers.

Perhaps the most strident group of grasshoppers is the “gay rights” activists. Estimates vary, but only around 2% of Americans are gay or bisexual.  Even if you assume that all are pushing the same agenda and add their non-gay supporters (Hollywood and media) they would still be a small crowd yet they garner a great deal of national attention to their “plight.”  I have to admit to a little angst when activists attempt to portray their issues as parallel to either the women’s rights or the civil rights movement of the 1060s.  Gays have rights just like we all have rights.  I have to question when a group is looking to get special rights of their own.  Gay marriage is another issue.  The American people have voted against it EVER time the issue came up on a ballot.  A vast majority (anecdotal assumption on my part) of Americans don’t care if gay couples have civil unions giving them “marital” rights, but many do not want it called marriage.

Another hot grasshopper issue is amnesty for illegal aliens.  If I had any stature in the conservative movement, the mere use of the term “illegal aliens” would be enough to be called a racist.  Once again a minority of people like left-winged politicians (and many from the right), Hollywood, media, and groups who support illegal aliens are pushing to “bring these people out of the shadows.”  The mere fact that the grasshoppers will not use the term illegal to describe people who broke our sovereign laws and entered our country illegally makes their cause illegitimate.  How can we trust people who will not accurately describe the situation?  Polls show that a vast majority of Americans DO NOT want to give the illegal aliens amnesty, want a border fence built, and want people here illegally returned to their homelands.  And yet the politicians won’t do anything except pay lip service to the issue.

A number of years ago a group of grasshoppers decided that campaign finance laws needed to be changed; to get the money out of politics.  There was no great hue and cry from the masses over this issue.  Much ado was made by the press about money and politics, many legislators puffed themselves up and took on the historic mantle to remove money from politics once and for all.  The McCain/Feingold campaign finance law was passed and money flowing to candidates and political parties was probably reduced, but the consequence was the proliferation of “527” advocacy groups who took control of politics and politicians because they now had the purse-strings.  So is the money out of politics?

“Campaign finance reformers endorse the quixotic idea that money and politics should not mix, so they passed the McCain-Feingold reform law in 2002.  Six years later, in the wake of the 2008 election, we discovered how well the reforms worked.  More money was spent in that election than in any election in the history of the universe.”

A classic tactic articulated by former Obama Chief of Staff and future mayor of Chicagoland, Rahm Emmanuel, is that a crisis should not be wasted.  Grasshoppers love a crisis and use the moment to push for more and more and more government regulations.  Ask any average citizen whether they want more government regulations.  The basic gut reaction is an emphatic “NO” with a possible expletive before the no.  But grasshoppers are patient and when a crisis happens their chirping starts and they pull out their talking points, agenda, and solutions.  Perhaps the best example is the anti-gun rights folks.  The United States Constitution clearly provides gun rights yet as soon as there is a shooting that gains attention the grasshoppers start.  More regulations rarely solve the problem and often cause more problems that were initially encountered.  Stricter gun laws won’t prevent criminals from getting guns. Guns are not the problem…people who kill people are the problem.  The gun or knife or bomb or baseball bat is just the instrument.

“New regulation is often proposed under the guise of consumer protection. However, consumers are well-protected under our tort system, which makes it costly for firms to cheat or injure their customers.  Both airplane and bicycle manufacturers understand better than any government bureaucrat that if their products end up killing the people who use them, it is not good for business or their pocketbooks.  Yet the bureaucrats at the SEC and the IRS are engaged in the ultimate conflict of interest because it is much easier to be promoted and retain their jobs if their agencies are growing.  Hence, the production of more regulations becomes an end in itself. And to the extent that the regulations are vague and incomprehensible, it only means more work for the regulators.”

Consider health care and grasshoppers. There were a group of Americans that did not have health care insurance (they had health care as hospitals cannot turn down ER patients). The generally accepted number was thirty million. If that number is correct that would be nearly ten percent of Americans. However, when you remove the number of young people who could have health insurance, but don’t want to pay for it and you remove the people who could have health insurance under existing programs, but do not, the number dwindles significantly. A startling fact for me during this debate was that most Americans were satisfied with their health care. Yet the grasshoppers succeeded…for now.

The last group of grasshoppers that I’ll confront are the eco-grasshoppers. Were these tiny groups to achieve all of their goals our life would look much like the classic television series “Little House on the Prarie.” I find it astonishingly interesting that virtually NONE of them have adopted that lifestyle beyond driving their Prius.  A group of grasshoppers were successful when they got corn-based ethanol a bunch of money and regulations pushing the technology which by many accounts is horrible for the environment.

“After more than three decades, the U.S. ethanol blenders’ tax credit and the ethanol-import tariff that was put in place to offset it are set to expire at the end of the year. The way things are looking, we may finally be rid of these indefensible and parochial market distortions. The ethanol tax credit alone costs taxpayers over $6 billion per year.  The expiration of these policies will have little, if any, impact on the U.S. ethanol industry, because the Renewable Fuel Standard requires Americans to consume an increasing amount of biofuels each year. The demand for ethanol will therefore not drop significantly even when the current tax credit (45 cents per gallon) and tariff (54 cents per gallon) expire. As a mandate, the standard acts as a built-in market for U.S. ethanol producers.”

Often the quest to quell the grasshoppers leaves the masses questioning our government and ever more frustrated.  It is not surprising that groups like the TEA Party have popped up, gained momentum and had a voice in the 2010 elections.  Our representative republic is such that the small voices are not drowned out by majority rules, but the majority should still have a voice.  Unlike nature we don’t get a winter reprieve from grasshoppers.  Only time will tell if politicians elected by the majority will represent the people rather than the grasshoppers.

Leave a comment

Use basic HTML (<a href="">, <strong>, <blockquote>)