It may be that truth and standards of decency become abstractions when played out against international issues that often defy cool deliberation. However false the rationale for our actions in Iraq, for example, many embrace the non sequitur of 9/11,which also encourages them to accept all surveillance modes and civil rights curtailments because they are consumed by fear and mindless partisan loyalty.
It is far easier for people to identify false assumptions when the scope narrows to a more personal level. It is then that governmental missteps are more obvious because their impact is immediate and profound. Whether it is job security, health care, pensions or tax cuts that are almost irrelevant to average Americans experiencing stagnant wages and the high cost of home heating fuel and gas at the pump, there is a disconnect between what government claims is good for the country and the reality of people’s daily lives.
In their zeal to privatize and limit federal commitment to things other than an enormous defense budget, this administration is shifting costs to the middle and working classes under the auspices of big business. Everything it undertakes makes it harder for most people to control their financial destiny. And we are meant to celebrate the Republican mantra of smaller government even if it means greater control of the economy by corporate entities.
That’s where the big salaries are – – the health care perks, the hefty pensions. That’s what K Street is all about – – not really smaller government but rather an economy manipulated to favor special interests contributing mightily to political candidates who in turn do their bidding. Just consider the new Medicare Prescription Drug Plan and Health Savings Accounts. In their initial stages both of these plans will pump huge amounts of cash into banks, insurance companies, Medicare and, eventually, pharmaceutical companies.
Everyone is encouraged to sign up for a Prescription Plan whether or not they have a current need, or be penalized for signing up later. There are numerous caveats, pitfalls and lots of uncertain drug costs since legislation forbade government negotiation for the best prices. And Health Savings Plans don’t make much sense for most Americans, although the administration says the high-deductible insurance policies associated with the plans will discourage folks who think trotting off to doctors is something of a lark.
But perhaps most insidious of all is the way credit-card companies ensnare college-age kids and other marginal credit risks. Everyone who accepts a credit contract should act responsibly, but it isn’t clear at first how onerous such arrangements can be. With interest rates as high as 25% or 29%, the burden can become unsustainable, with late fees creating endless over-limit fees and charges as high as $70 per statement even before interest is computed. And if you think that former bankruptcy claimants are never offered another card, guess again – – they are often granted an opportunity to become indentured credit-card debtors once again, a good indication of scurrilous intent on the part of such lenders.
Usury is defined in the dictionary as “the practice of lending money and charging the borrower interest, especially at an exorbitant or illegally high rate.” However, in this political climate there are no limits on interest rates. If immoral, high rates aren’t illegal, and bankruptcy isn’t the option it once was because of legislation passed to make that claim more difficult, due to that special kind of indebtedness owed by elected officials to financial institutions.
There doesn’t seem to be much appetite in Congress to reform or control its corrupt practices or to place limits on the rapacious appetite of some of the biggest consumer muggers. One remedy of course is to throw most of the bums out, the other it to loosen lobbyist strings on elected officials and move toward public financing of campaigns.

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