What Is The Point Of The American Federal Government?
Once upon a time, what became the states of America united to avoid the danger of each state dealing with emergencies alone.
Under Presidents Trump and Biden, in the age of the Covid-19 pandemic, this old social contract has completely disintegrated. Governments have fought long and hard to avoid taking necessary tough actions, and over 800,000 deaths and counting is the result.
It is the performance of the federal government that has been most consequential and, for the most part, apocalyptically bad.
On December 27th, 2021, a day that ought to live in infamy so far as the American federal government is concerned, Biden finally spoke the truth about how he has viewed federal pandemic action from day one:
“There is no federal solution. This gets solved at a state level.”
On December 18th, Harris made an eye-opening statement of her own:
“We didn’t see Delta coming. I think most scientists did not — upon whose advice and direction we have relied — didn’t see Delta coming… We didn’t see Omicron coming. And that’s the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants.”
Team Harris later tried a typical spin move to cover her, with an aide saying “The vice president’s comments referred to the exact kind of mutation,” which is such a weasely statement that aide ought to pay a fine. I mean come on — the threat of more dangerous mutant variants has been widely discussed since vanilla Covid emerged.
Taken together, these statements offer a stark warning the world about the reality of the collapse of the American federal government. Either they’re not able to see the threats coming for the country or they are lying about seeing them.
Both options are grim. Joe Biden has surrendered America to Covid.
The way both the Biden and Trump Administrations have responded to Covid-19 has been like watching an alien invader show up and start killing off Americans while the military stands back and advises everyone to buy body armor and rifles to protect their families.
That, folks, is the kind of thing that makes a country cease to exist. Humans have reasons to behave the way they do. Inability to unite against an invader is the mark of a system in deep collapse and bound for rather dramatic change.
One of the many reasons I hold that America has already died.
From a functional perspective a real democracy, government has one basic job: protect its people.
People being people, though, the questions of against what and how much are bound to be impacted by politics and power.
American military spending is so extreme despite the country’s physical distance from any potential enemy that around half of all the federal income taxes collected winds up in the hands of the Pentagon. America’s leaders are ever more fixated on the alleged threat of big bad China when it is a simple virus that has killed more Americans than every foreign enemy in its entire history.
Given this, the total surrender of the Biden Administration to Covid-19, its apparent inability to even think far enough ahead to order and send home Covid tests for Americans ought to gall every taxpayer.
History will remember this administration for winning an election largely by promising to follow basic well established science then turning around and re-defining science to suit its political agenda. Far from taking Covid seriously, the Biden Administration has actively fought to push it from the public mind, which was the point of calling it a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
And why? Because being held responsible for the pandemic is death at the polls. That’s the real reason Trump and Red State Republicans dismissed it when they were in power, and why Biden and Blue State Democrats have worked so hard to spin their criminally dismal performance as the best Americans could hope for.
We, all of us, should be asking a simple question: why should America have a federal government at all if it takes so much of our money each year yet performs this badly at its one job?
At the tail end of 2021, the Omicron wave is smashing into the United States exactly as people who actually understand science and math — not, notably, the majority of politicians or pundits — knew it would. Pandemic math is brutally simple at large scales — the plague follows its fuel like a blaze in the forest rips through dead wood.
It doesn’t matter if a virus has only a 1% fatality rate with proper treatment if everyone gets sick at the same time. The number of medical personnel available to keep people alive ultimately determines the quality of medical care not just for the infected, but for everyone.
If your doctors and nurses are out sick, patients in the hospital for any reason get worse care. When beds are full of Covid-19 patients, they aren’t available for people who have heart attacks or cancer complications or get in a car accident.
That’s why the official death toll from Covid-19 specifically is lower than the count of deaths it causes. You can’t schedule people getting sick or hurt, and vaccines are essentially a form of insurance not just for you, but for everyone you come into contact with, because no one knows when they’ll need medical care.
After two years of pandemic life, this shouldn’t be a controversial statement. But from day one of the pandemic powerful people did their absolute damnednest to avoid taking responsibility for making hard but necessary choices that might impact their interests. Changing how people live in a big way all at once is not easy. Making people pay attention to a threat they would prefer to ignore — as accepting reality logically leads to accepting a need to cope — is difficult, unpopular work.
In a real, functioning country like New Zealand or Denmark or Singapore people in positions of responsibility consistently acted to minimize the harm caused by the pandemic in the long run. Their leaders took responsibility, despite the risk of becoming unpopular. American reactions have been endlessly obsessed with short-run outcomes, leading to predictably worse results over time.
Ironically, it is governments that have done better against Covid where politicians are viewed more favorably. Failure to get the job done no matter the cost is more expensive a strategy than bearing the short term pain of unpopular measures.
Dysfunctional as the American federal government has become, effective management of a pandemic is simply impossible — the states are on their own. This truth has serious implications for millions of people in the future, as Covid-19 was not the first and will not be the last dangerous global pandemic.
A working democracy is all about one thing: accountability.
Government is a necessary evil in human life. People are naturally self-interested and typically short-sighted not because most are stupid or bad, but because they can’t perceive the wider, second and third order consequences of their actions.
In groups, people compensate for this through accumulating reliable knowledge about the world. They naturally evolve social institutions like formal government that is invested with powers and responsibilities over the collective.
Democracy — real democracy, anyway — works better than any other system of government because it ties individuals to the collective decision-making process. For a government to work, it needs to know what the people it serves need and want and how they prioritize their concerns.
Trouble with people is that humans are strategic — they predict the consequences of a given action as best as they can. This creates space for making public statements that deviate from their real concerns, driven above all else by the fear other people who might not agree with their concerns are doing the same thing.
That’s why trust is so vital to a community — without it, vast amounts of energy can be wasted on trying to work out exactly what everyone wants. When people don’t feel a social system benefits them as much as it does others, they retreat from cooperation, reducing the community’s total capacity to get stuff done.
Democracy, when it works, features multiple independent groups competing over whose concerns win out in any given cycle of the great game of politics. The point is to have these groups, in their totality, represent as much of society as possible, with elections being used to draw people into the system to express their preferences in a game that most agree is fair. Some coalition of interests gets to set big rules for a time, and when people think they screwed up the next election sees voting shifts that give rise to a new coalition.
It‘s a better system than autocracy or theocracy or any other that concentrates power in the hands of a few people because it is less prone to self-destructing in a conflict. Too little public participation leads to a dangerous situation where a few power players dominate the game, leading to many people feeling that the system is rigged against them and looking to alternatives.
This leads to revolt, perhaps even revolution, which further divides the population and leads to either repression or separation of the community — often both. This has been the lesson of every ideological campaign that seeks any kind of global unity — it always succumbs to the narrow interests of its Vanguard, the elite that sees itself as guardians of a truth that leads to salvation.
Whether Christian priests or Marxist revolutionaries, the outcome is the same. A narrow, unstable society that self-destructs once a schism emerges over control of sacred truths.
How is this relevant to America’s total surrender to Covid and the Omicron variant?
Because in America “democracy” is held to be something very different by the powerful people who dominate this massive settler colony: a legal system defined by a particular written document, the Constitution.
The written word is a powerful thing, but like all tools is dangerous if misused. Language is a dynamic thing, it evolves, and so attempting to literally interpret the written word, whether the Bible or Constitution, eventually sparks a conflict over meaning that causes the community that depends on it to schism.
This is why the vast majority of Americans can believe American democracy is under threat yet hold diametrically opposed beliefs on why. In reality, the threat is its leaders’ own inability to reform the system to make it flexible enough to adapt and survive in fast-changing times. These leaders don’t want to be held responsible for failing if they can avoid it, so they allow failures to happen in hopes they can avoid being held to account.
Under the hood is a corrupt, debased form of democratic government characterized by a two-party system locked in a degenerative doom loop. American politicians are not democratically accountable to the voting public in a meaningful way, and their actions — gerrymandering districts, maintaining the Senate and Electoral College — use the two-party dynamic to secure their interests and prevent real change.
Any time you want to punish one party, you have to stomach the fact the other is the only option. Knowing this is the case, neither has any real incentive to ever change.
The best and most tangible proof can be found in the totally bungled pandemic response across all levels of American government by members of both political parties. The most successful American states have done worse than most European countries. Death tolls in the richest country in the world are simply staggering.
And who do America’s leaders blame?
The other party, and when that fails, their own people!
From February 2020 onward America’s public health system has been under assault on two fronts — the pandemic itself and the mostly inept responses of the craven political hacks who rule America.
The one way America functions as a democracy is that the government in power is held accountable for whatever goes wrong. Loyalist Democrats have worked tirelessly over 2020 to make Biden’s poll numbers look rosier than they are, but his collapse in support among Independents is a stark indication of how upset people are about the longevity of the pandemic.
Epidemiologists and virologists in 2020 warned that the pandemic would continue in its disruptive stage until enough of the population had immunity through vaccination or infection that it would be substantially harder for Covid to find new vulnerable hosts. Endemicity means the virus is still killing vulnerable people whose immune systems are weak, but at a rate that doesn’t overwhelm hospitals so it isn’t considered “newsworthy” anymore.
Hard thing about getting there is that people respond when they see those around them getting sick by shielding themselves as they can. Even people who will insist in public that Covid is a hoax tend to err on the side of caution when they see its impacts, which is why most of the politicians who court the anti-vaxx vote are themselves vaccinated and boosted.
So Covid, like the 1918 Influenza epidemic that emerged in Kansas (not Spain — another myth created by the American media), was always bound to come in defined waves. But with virus that can move with such stealth between hosts, by the time caseloads are so high hospital capacity is strained it is already too late to prevent a lot of misery and death.
America’s politicians, pundits, and the editor class at major national publications have spend two years pretending that individual actions could magically stop this from happening. They’ve sold this myth of America being hit by devastating lockdowns in March that shattered the economy when it was in fact people’s changed decision making as they learned more about it that was cratering whole economic sectors.
The reality is that Covid disruptions were bound to continue until the entire world is vaccinated to the point new dangerous mutations won’t keep emerging and racing across the planet every few months. Covid was always bound to become endemic either through either direct control or the deaths of so many people few are left to get seriously ill.
Politicians in America and their pundit allies never wanted to admit this was true. And because Trump was in office when Covid broke out and as anyone with a brain could have predicted would downplay its impacts out of fear of having to take unpopular actions in an election year, Democrats were given an incredible gift.
While Trump was in office, every Blue state governor that reopened quickly was given cover to ignore science they didn’t like by his abject stupidity. Then when Biden took over, the ridiculous antics of Red State governors aiming to become President someday distracted attention from Biden’s own criminal incompetence.
The game continues heading into 2022, with the Democrats’ every move anymore being to tie all Republicans to Covid. Trouble is, people respond to visible signs of success and failure. They gain or lose trust and faith in government more broadly.
What’s more, changes in trust are not easy to reverse. The Democrats have control of all three branches of government yet their material performance against Covid has been nearly as bad as Trump’s.
They’re advancing their attempt to abdicate responsibility for defending Americans from a lethal threat by insisting Omicron is mild despite the lack of evidence proving this. Rather than follow the precautionary principle, which says you don’t take the optimistic view of data where people’s lives are at stake, they’ve gone for months of propaganda about managing personal risk and other such nonsense.
Relying on individual level risk management decision in a pandemic is about as productive a strategy as telling soldiers to go out and fight the enemy on their own. None of us actually knows if our number will come up with Covid, we can only use population level statistics to estimate our risk — but anyone with basic stats knowledge ought to realize that estimation is not reality.
Society is only possible if people can trust each other. Vaccine, mask, and distancing mandates are meant to rebuild trust, allowing people to interact with those who share their values and concerns about public health.
The Biden Administration has chosen to ignore this truth. It has chosen to adopt the classic position of Liberalism that holds it is individuals’ responsibility to remain moral and pure, that is, to take the actions God wants them to in this life. It sends broken messengers like Fauci to do the media rounds not to organize a public effort to beat the pandemic, but to convince people they are responsible for their own safety.
Their inability to move past the conceits of their generation and class have damned hundreds of thousands of Americans to premature death. They have left countless numbers of people bereaved while implying it was somehow their fault for getting sick in the first place.
This says almost everything about why America has died.
And why it is more than fair to wonder what the point of having a federal government even is anymore. Especially when even the vaccine rates show a country that seems determined to divide:
If Americans want to fix this, grasp the last branch before they’re swept over the cliff, the only option is total reform of the federal government.
It’s coming one way or another. Better that it reflect the democratic will of the people, all the people, not just the politically active, than get carved up by oligarchs bent on building a new feudal age.