Old Beliefs Die Hard

It is very difficult coming to the realization that something or someone you truly believe in, have revered and defended for a long time, and have dedicated your life to following is not what you thought it was and might even be the exact opposite of what you appreciated about it.

For me recently, I have had to come to grips with the fact that former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was not the hero I revered for a long time.  See, I grew up in Pennsylvania and followed his winning teams every year.  His success was abundant while all along running a squeaky clean program with no recruiting violations and a good graduation rate.  To top it off, we shared an ethnic heritage (Italian) which became a source of personal pride.

Then the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal hit.  My world was shattered.  How could Coach Paterno only inform his superiors at the University when he was told that his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was caught showering with a young boy in a university locker room?  How could he not blow the whistle loudly to put an end to the carnage and bring a deviant to justice?  I mean, Paterno was the moral bastion of college football.  As an educator, he would never forsake the well-being of youngsters in order to protect a friend and/or his football program.

But, it’s true.  Paterno did not do all that he should have and many more young boys were abused at Penn State facilities by Jerry Sandusky as a result  This realization has negated close to 40 years of hero worship.  Joe Paterno made more than a mistake; he allowed a tragedy to continue.  He was not the moral bastion I naively thought he was.  It was tough and a long process, but he is no longer a hero.

Thus, I can now empathize with folks who need to come to grips with their wrongheaded thinking that government is the great solver of our problems.  Take the so-called “War on Poverty”(1) programs launched under Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s.  Supporters would argue that it was the right thing to do at the right time to eradicate poverty.  However, close to 50 years and $15 trillion later, the poverty rate has barely budged going from about 15 percent to 13 percent.  In fact, poverty was on a steep decline for five years preceding Johnson’s programs.  His “War on Poverty” halted that decline and stabilized the poverty rate in the low teens.  But if you listen to advocates of the federal social safety net, you’ll hear how without federal largess the problem of poverty would be more acute.  They just can’t bring themselves to accept the realization that federal welfare programs are wasteful, debilitating, and ineffective.

Of course, the best example from recent history where government policy has been wasteful, debilitating, and ineffective is the economic policies of the current administration.  The same folks that can’t admit to themselves that the War on Poverty was a failure are now defending the Obama Administration’s policies as if they have been successful in bringing about recovery from the Financial Crisis of 2008.  After trillions have been spent and interest rates kept at rock bottom lows for the last four plus years the unemployment rate has never fallen below eight percent.  In fact, the real unemployment rate (U6 which includes discouraged workers) is 15 percent and on the rise. Most embarrassing for the President is the fact that more people went on Social Security Disability than got jobs in June.

To be sure, there are many more examples of government intrusion gone wrong.  The greatest of which is Roosevelt’s New Deal because it prolonged the Great Depression through the 1930s.

So, with such a track record of failure, why is it that advocates of big government cannot bring themselves to realize that their philosophy is bankrupt and wrongheaded?  One reason is emotional.  They think with their hearts and not their heads.  They are so fixated on helping others and believe they may need the same kind of help someday, that they forsake logic and experience for empathy and generosity (of other peoples’ money of course).

Another reason is socialization.  There are so many Americans who rely on the federal government for one reason or another that it is hard to find many that are willing to bite the hand that feeds them.  Take college professors and the mainstream media (MSM) for instance.  Very, very few are willing to go against the Establishment line for fear of losing grant money, being denied tenure, or losing the interview or even their jobs (remember Helen Thomas?).  These are the societal elites that most Americans get their information from (many times academics appear on the MSM).  It’s no wonder many Americans lack basic economic knowledge.  They have been bombarded through the years with the party line instead of the truth.

At the end of the day, it’s brutal being challenged let alone acknowledging that what you have believed in for a long time is poppycock.  I know – I lost a long-time hero recently.  It is a tough and long process but one that needs to be undertaken by those that cherish big government intrusion in our economy.  It needs to be undertaken so the widespread suffering resulting from big government intrusion in our economy seizes.

Article first published as Old Beliefs Die Hard on Blogcritics.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

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