A certain mistrust of government is natural, healthy even. In my line of work, it's actually a necessity to be skeptical.
But I - like many other Americans - have moved beyond the level of skeptic. I - like many other Americans - have gotten to the point where I don't believe anything politicians say. Anything.
If congress says something is black, I have a good reason to believe that it's white. If the president says something is up, I can reasonably assume that it's down.
And the reason for this general mistrust ... the move from being a skeptic to a cynic ... is that the level of blatant lies to come out of Washington these past several years exceeds anything that could be considered reasonable.
Fact of the matter is that government works for us. It is a tool of the people by which to perform certain functions that people can't be expected to perform on their own. Because government is supposedly "of the people, for the people, and by the people," many American citizens expect to be told the truth by their government.
And while it's not popular with many folks, I understand why government lies to us sometimes. Occasionally, it's just easier to lie when setting out to achieve a common goal. Sometimes the truth creates bedlam, a state in which working towards any accomplishment becomes almost impossible.
An example: At the scene of a crime, a police officer will tell you "there's nothing to see here," in an effort to clear the scene, making their job of solving the crime easier. Yeah, it's a lie, but it expedites matters.
Unfortunately, many of the lies we've been told over the past few years haven't been this garden variety white lie. They've been dirty black lies, not told for the sake of making our lives better or easier, but told for nefarious reasons, some of which we won't know for decades ... if we ever know at all.
Complicating matters even further is the fact that a certain percentage of the population wants to believe the lie ... and even helps to propagate it. This could be that they just want to believe their government ... or maybe it's partisan ... or maybe they have something to gain from the lie.
Many have even gone so far as to explain away the lies by method of defining lies to the n'th degree. I hear often, "it's not a lie unless you know it to be untrue."
This strategy is often used to defend the "weapons of mass destruction" claim in Iraq, the principle reason we invaded a sovereign nation. It turned out to be untrue, but as long as we didn't KNOW it was untrue to begin with, then it's not a lie, they say.
The problem with this definition, is that a statement such as, "There's a million dollars worth of gold buried at the foot of the Statue of Liberty," wouldn't be construed a lie ... even though I just made it up. It COULD be true. I don't know that it's NOT true. Therefore, it's not a lie by their definition.
But to me, it's a lie. I want to believe that there's a million dollars worth of gold buried at the Statue of Liberty, but as much as I want to believe it, that doesn't make it true. It's still a lie.
I've gotten so used to hearing lies from the government, whether it's about Social Security going bankrupt ... or being greeted as liberators ... or any other number of things, that I just don't believe anything they say.
So when I started hearing last week that the federal government felt that if we didn't pony up $700 billion for some invesment bankers, the whole country could collapse economically, my first thought surely wasn't, "well if the government says it's true, it must be." Instead my first thought was, "if those bastards think they're going to rob from the poor to give to the rich, they've got another thing coming."
Look, I'm no economist. But as far as know, neither is President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or any member of Congress, for that matter. Henry Paulson is, of course. He's also a former Wall Street CEO. This bailout would make a lot of his friends very happy (and lots of money). Just like the war on Iraq made Vice President Dick Cheney's buddies at Halliburton very happy (and lots of money) and the same worldwide boondoggle has made George W Bush's friends in the oil industry very happy (and lots of money).
A friend of mine often tells me, when things don't make sense, look at who's making cents.
In the case of this "bailout," the people making cents would be investment bankers ... many of whom are friends of the political system.
It's reverse Robin Hood and they're hoping that if they lie to you and tell you that it's in your own good, you'll not only believe it ... but demand it.
Don't believe the hype.