Tuesday, September 15, 2015


My youngest son used to be a huge professional wrestling fan. He knew it was all rigged, but he often told me he didn’t mind. “I know it’s not real, Dad, but it’s fun to watch.”

I couldn’t argue with him. He was right. 

When I was young I went to a professional wrestling match one time. I still have vivid memories of the feature match between two overweight, middle-aged men. They threw each other around for about five minutes, till one of the wrestlers picked his opponent up and slammed him to the mat. The flimsy ring collapsed and folded on them like a giant sandwich. The crowd of about two hundred or so roared with delight as the two men tried, unsuccessfully, to escape.

Yes, professional wrestling is rigged, but it is fun to watch.

As I watch American politics these days, I see that it’s somewhat like professional wrestling. It’s rigged. But, unlike wrestling, it isn’t a bit of fun to watch. In fact, it’s a sorry spectacle.

A lot of us see this. Progressives like Elizabeth Warren see it. Socialists like Bernie Sanders see it. Libertarians like Rand Paul see it. Many of my fellow conservatives see it. A recent Pew Research survey found that 69% of young conservatives believe the system is rigged in favor of the powerful and connected.

Sadly, we see the effects of the rigged game almost everywhere. A few years ago, General Motors was on the verge of collapse. In a fit of generosity, Congress gave them $60 billion of our money. When the final totals were registered, G.M. profited to the tune of about $12 billion. We, the taxpayers, lost about $10 billion. How did G.M. repay us for our generosity? They gave us faulty ignition switches. It would have cost less than a buck apiece to fix them, but G.M. ignored the problem and it cost over 50 people their lives!

We see the effects in the way the federal bureaucracies treat honest citizens. The N.S.A. spies on us. The I.R.S. confiscates the earnings of average Americans and then refuses to give it back. Federal agencies, accountable to no one but themselves, hound farmers and ranchers under the guise of environmental safety while they, themselves, pollute rivers, with nothing more than a lame apology when they get caught.

The game is even rigged at the state and local levels. Uber, the ride sharing service, is fighting with state and local bureaucracies for the right to serve their customer base. What have they done to incur the wrath of politicians? They provide a ride that costs less than half, on average, than a consumer would pay for a taxicab. Uber’s drivers make a much better living than the average cab driver. In New York City, they go into neighborhoods the cab companies refuse to serve. But, that doesn’t seem to matter. They’ve had to fight powerful lobbying interests. In a recent skirmish, the cab companies donated $500 million to New York mayor Bill DeBlasio in his crusade against Uber.

Here in Kansas, our legislators, including our local crop, decided that Uber wasn’t regulated enough to suit their tastes. So, instead of fixing our budget problems, they set about needlessly hassling Uber’s drivers over an imaginary issue of public safety. They damned near got it done. I wish that were the end of it, but I don’t think so. Our legislators will be back.

Locally, the City of Emporia, is going through a visioning process. Public input to this point seems to indicate that people want local, home-grown businesses to thrive. We want good jobs, jobs that will keep our college graduates here. We want to fix our poverty problems.

That’s what we want. What are we getting? Developers are romancing our political leaders. The siren song is palpable. “Give us the T.I.F. or we’ll take our big box stores and go.”

The public is asking for Betty Grable, but it looks like we might get Frankenstein. Is there a bit of skulduggery and bullying going on? We’re not sure, but our trust levels are low.

I could go on and on with the examples, but I think you get the point.

About the only people who refuse to see that the game is rigged are those sitting in the seats of power and privilege.

How can this be? Don’t those who’ve been elected come from our communities? Aren’t they our neighbors? Weren’t we once able to rub elbows with them in public?

What has changed? It’s simple. Those who were once outsiders have become insiders. They’re the experts. They pull the strings.  They had to listen to us before the elections. They don’t now. They tell us they’re on our side, but we know better. It’s not our imaginations. The game is rigged.

It’s no wonder so many people are clamoring for a clown in wrestling tights like Donald Trump.

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