The perils of crying wolf

If an elected official charged with representing you came to your home and explained to you how it was that this budget decision or another was going to result in loss of human life, would you believe it?

Given the way many – arguably most – elected officials cry wolf, it’s understandable if you might just be a little skeptical when told that. That’s the problem with crying wolf. When everything prompts hyperventilating hyperbole, no alarm is going to have any weight.

We see this playing out simultaneously on the national and state levels. Nationally, legislators and others who benefit from the strata of the federal state assert that any budget cuts will result in roving gangs of impoverished and corpses piling up on the streets. It’s the same thing statewide, this assertion that even the slightest reduction in spending will have apocalyptic results and that only the benevolent state can possibly provide services. All while the same elected officials have not a care about how their policies force actual families to have to make personal budget cuts to pay for unused airports or non-cisgender toilet facilities or studies on the sex lives of lobsters.

The shrill alarms are so common that one must wonder – would we really know if something truly catastrophic was on the horizon?

This tactic stinks of the arrogance of the political class. Only agents of the state can prevent mass hunger, suicide and child abuse, they believe. This despite the evidence that demonstrates government’s inability to succeed on combating social ills (those wars on poverty and on drugs have worked just great, right?).

Consider the disregard this supposition entails. We are to believe that should people have real need in our community, that we can’t possibly address it without agents of the state. Are the people of Minot going to go about their business, stepping over starving kids? Or would we band together, the way people did long before communities had to be “organized” by politicians, and help people? And are we that much different from other towns, where families and neighbors pull together all of the time when needed?

This disrespectful, disingenuous tactic by politicians isn’t a partisan issue. A pox on both parties’ houses for crying wolf. Republicans might not see the solution to every problem being to tax and distribute the booty to supportive voting blocks a la modern Democrats, but they cry just as loud when forced to tighten their belt.

The result of this crying wolf routine on the body politic is that we might never know what a real budget crisis looks like because there are no honest brokers. But if we come to believe that we are incapable of functioning without the largesse of elected officials, then that body is truly critical ill.