Thu, Aug

The Scourge of Skepticism … and Why It’s Necessary

ALPERN AT LARGE - With age and knowledge comes the understanding that we all know a lot less than once we thought we did as children, and that a good dose of humility and open-mindedness is vital for success in the real world.  However, with the Great Recession that began in 2008, coupled with an Internet and media that offers more opinions than objective news, we will have to benefit and suffer from that old standby … skepticism.

For example, did I just say “the Great Recession of 2008?”  Make that “Great Depression of 2008” from the standpoint of many who’ve either been out of work, been terrified by the sea of red ink our government wallows in, and/or believe they’ll never get back their lost lifetime of invested wealth.

Both private enterprise and unions have been virtually taken over by self-serving extremists who have not contributed anything to the system, and have instead focus all their efforts on milking whatever they can out of the general public. 

Captains of industry have been replaced with corporate creeps who ooze their way into positions of leadership by golfing or otherwise connecting with the right people, and don't bring value to the companies they are paid to run.  Meanwhile, the current leadership of public unions (and more than a few private unions) undercut their own members by demanding unsustainable benefits, pensions and wages and then force layoffs and massive reductions of wages just to have their employers survive. 

And then the misbehaving corporate creeps and self-obsessed union leaders both blame the excesses of the other side to avoid having to own up to their own inappropriate ways.

Example #1: Is Samuel Downing really worthy of the millions paid to him in salary and pension and bonuses from the public hospital district in Salinas? (Link)  Is he really the best and brightest?  More importantly, are the workers in the district he runs getting any bonuses to share in the wealth that they helped create?  Are they motivated to work harder by his one-sided payouts?

Example #2: Why did neither President Bush nor President Obama appear to make enough Wall Street swindlers do the perp walk they so richly deserve?  Yes, there are reasons (link), but after the Savings and Loan crisis and bailout in the 1980’s, hundreds went to jail when President Reagan and the federal government stepped in to correct the abuse that hurt so many.  

Who pays the price when small-time local and Wall Street hucksters rob ordinary individuals out of their life savings?  Is it only when a Bernie Madoff-type swindles the rich does the federal government step in and demand justice.

Example #3:  We’re seeing all sorts of doomsaying (much of it quite accurate) that if we don’t somehow raise taxes to ensure proper funding of our schools.  Yet we really don’t want our taxes raised—although  we want the wealthy to pay more, who’ve had some pretty tough times of their own and probably don’t number enough to pay for the shortfall. (Link)

Meanwhile, evidence and public knowledge of inappropriate and even corrupt policies to construct and operate schools remains so rampant (link), and teacher unions are so opposed to being evaluated (link) that it’s difficult for just about any responsible voter to presume that reform in our public school systems will occur if they’re bailed out.

(Note to A.J. Duffy:  please just go away.  The more you show your face, the more we’re forced to remember how morally and fiscally bankrupt your tenure was with United Teachers of Los Angeles)

Example: #4, and perhaps the Most Important Example of How We’ve Become So Cynical:  President Barack Obama sends Navy SEALS to kill our greatest enemy and gives one of the greatest presidential speeches in recent memory, and yet cannot get much traction among the Americans fretting about jobs and rising gas prices. (link)

Similarly, payroll gains occur but the jobless rate is still up (link), probably because our unemployment figures have been manipulated for political purposes for years.  Ditto for inflation.  

So skepticism will be the rule, not the exception, when we have Wall Street commodity traders and a weak-dollar federal policy jacking up the price of gas.  Skepticism will be the rule, not the exception when teachers, firefighters, police officers and prison guards have union representation that makes the voters/taxpayers wonder whether they choose to serve or rule the taxpaying public.

And although it is probably a healthy and intellectually honest approach to be so skeptical…or cynical…or pessimistic…in today’s society, it really doesn’t make for a very nice time in which to live.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently cochairs its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected].   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)   -cw

Vol 9 Issue 37
Pub: May 10, 2011