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We should resolve to expect more of governments

How can you tell a politician is lying? His lips are moving.

An old joke, but certainly based on reality. Outside of banal platitudes, almost everything uttered by politicians is untrue, misleading or self-serving. Well, there is another category: stupid. That’s a growing one, from ill-informed local councillors through to the crown prince of inane political wannabes, Donald Trump, and his fellow GOP hopeful Ted Cruz (actually, that applies to pretty much all of the Republican leadership candidates).

With that in mind, we’re in for an interesting political year in 2016.

All eyes, of course, will be on the run-up to the U.S. presidential elections. There will be little truth – but lots of truthiness and outright lies. Only Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders is speaking the truth. Trump and Cruz are telling people what they want to hear, some of it truthful, most of it not, but all very much intended to tap into the worst of the public’s rage against the establishment.

On this side of the border, with Justin Trudeau’s honeymoon phase wearing off, we’ll find out just how many of his election promises fell into the “telling ‘em what they want to hear” category. Some will turn out to be outright lies, others delusions doused by the reality of budgets and governing.

Speaking of budgets, early on we’ll be seeing those from all levels of government. Expect nothing but disappointment – taxes will rise, profligate spending will abound, corruption and waste will flourish. No politician has ever made a New Year’s resolution to do what’s right for the public, let alone followed through on it. Their goal is to avoid being indicted for their offenses and to fool enough of the electorate in order to stay in power at least long enough to collect a pension and latch on to the public teat indefinitely, ideally double-dipping with a patronage appointment. Better still if there’s corporate money continuing to line their pockets, shifting from campaign donations to plum board appointments or lobbying gigs that skirt laughingly inadequate regulations – ethics being only a suggestion.

A harsh outlook on our political system? Perhaps, but a skepticism is what’s needed rather than the apathy and inattentiveness politicians and bureaucrats count on to let them get away with poor governance.

Our expectations of politicians and bureaucrats are now so low that many of us have simply given up – we’ve come to the conclusion that they’re all pretty much the same in working against the public interest. Governments serve only their financial backers and themselves, so it just doesn’t matter what we do. That said, there is a growing undercurrent of anger among the general public, both here and abroad. It’s what’s fueling the divisive Republican campaigns and the positive Sanders. It’s on display in traditionally liberal Europe, where hard economic times and controversial demographic changes have traditional politicians on the ropes (see Gwynne Dyer’s take on the Spanish election).

There’s something revolutionary in the air. That can go either way, of course. Or nowhere, which is what those now in power want – they’re just fine with the downward spiral, just as long as they keep their perqs and profits.

In making resolutions this year, perhaps we can add “more involved” to the list. Many of us make resolutions casually only to just as easily break them. We then rationalize our actions. In our jaded age, we’re equally blasé about the same lack of follow-through from our elected officials – in fact, we’ve come to expect them to lie, cheat, break their promises and to otherwise act in a self-serving manner. That doesn’t mean, however, that we just accept the status quo.

 

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