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BREAD, CIRCUSES, SPENDING CUTS, UNICORNS & THE APPEARANCE OF WEALTH

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"Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions -- everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses" - Juvenal -- 100 A.D.

 

 

Juvenal makes reference to the Roman practice of providing free wheat to Roman citizens as well as costly circus games and other forms of entertainment as a means of gaining political power through populism. Roman politicians devised a plan in 140 B.C. to win the votes of the poor: giving out cheap food and entertainment, "bread and circuses". The Roman politicians realized this would be the most effective way to rise to power and stay in power.

With the revolting display of political theater in the last few weeks, I couldn't help but consider the parallels between the Roman Empire and the American Empire. The entire debt ceiling farce was a circus on an epic scale -- The Greatest Show on Earth. The American public was treated to high wire acts of near debt experiences, Senators putting their heads into the mouths of lions, and hundreds of clowns riding tiny bikes with squeaking horns. In the end, American politicians did what they do best - pretended to solve a spending problem without cutting spending. Only in America could politicians put the country on course to increase its national debt from $14.5 trillion to $23 trillion by 2021 and declare they are cutting spending. For those that need to visualize the lies of politicians, take a gander at this chart and try to find the cuts in spending.

You have a better chance of finding a unicorn in your backyard than finding actual cuts in spending from the corrupt clowns inhabiting the halls of Congress. If you are driving your car towards a brick wall at 120 mph and you slow down to 118 mph, the ultimate result will be the same. The only way to avoid disaster is to jam on the brakes. But, the liberal and conservative politicians are both enjoying the ride fueled by millions in corporate, union, Wall Street and a thousand other special interest payoffs.  

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The Roman authorities provided free wheat to the peasants as a superficial means of appeasing the masses and distracting them from the fact that public policy and public service had failed, as corruption and decadence engulfed those in control of government. Free bread, chariot races, and feeding Christians to lions kept the small-minded peasants satiated and ignorant of their civic duty. Today, the authorities don't hand out bread they hand out EBT cards to 45.5 million Americans, or 14.6% of the entire population.

There are almost 5 million Americans on welfare. There are 50 million Americans on Medicaid. There are 8 million Americans receiving unemployment compensation. There are 10.5 million Americans on Social Security disability. This is the symbolic bread being provided to the masses to keep them tranquilized, pliable, satisfied and ignorant of their civic duty. The government has renamed bread as "social benefits" and now distributes $2.3 trillion of bread per year to the "needy". This constitutes 15% of the country's GDP and will continue to grow for decades or until the American Empire collapses.

Aldous Huxley in his 1958 assessment of his 1931 novel Brave New World - Brave New World Revisited said that "any bird that has learned how to grub up a good living without being compelled to use its wings will soon renounce the privilege of flight and remain forever grounded. If the bread is supplied regularly and copiously three times a day, many of them will be perfectly content to live by bread alone -- or at least by bread and circuses alone. "In the end,' says the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky's parable, "in the end they will lay their freedom at your feet and say to us, make us your slaves, but feed us." Bread is not the opiate of the masses, it is the cyanide. Huxley saw the Welfare state arising before it really got kick started in the late 1960s. By trying to support the less fortunate by transferring trillions to them, with no strings attached, we have insured the ultimate bankruptcy of our country. Americans have willingly sacrificed liberty, freedom and civic responsibility for safety, security and bread.

Huxley hadn't lost all hope. He seems to have foreseen the rise of the Tea Party and the coming revolution, led by the youth of this country who are being left with the bill for the bread and circuses promised by myopic politicians over the last four decades:

"When things go badly, and the rations are reduced, the grounded do-dos will clamor again for their wings" The young people who now think so poorly of democracy may grow up to be fighters for freedom. The cry of "Give me television and hamburgers, but don't bother me with the responsibilities of liberty,' may give place, under altered circumstances to the cry of Give me liberty or give me death."

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I hope Huxley is right. The welfare state is bankrupt. The rations are going to be cut. There is no choice. The money is gone. The jobs are gone. The do-do's that haven't flown in years are unlikely to clamor for their wings. They are already clamoring when even the potential of cuts in their bird feed are mentioned. The Millenial generation is our last great hope to reverse our decline. They have not become addicted to "social benefits" yet. Their parents and grandparents are handing them an un-payable bill as they graduate college with no jobs. A generational war is in the offing. I for one will side with the youth against the Boomers. The future of the country depends upon the outcome of this war.

Striking Similarities to Rome

"There are striking similarities between America's current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government". -David Walker

 

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James Quinn is a senior director of strategic planning for a major university. James has held financial positions with a retailer, homebuilder and university in his 22-year career. Those positions included treasurer, controller, and head of (more...)
 

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