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Government by obscenely rich amateurs

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Headlined to H2 6/12/10

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We, the people, get "enthusiasms" right and left, and they stick with us, right or wrong. Our current self-imposed delusion is that politics is best practiced by amateurs.

Current, but by no means recent--you can see it in the term-limits craze of the eighties, but its roots go all the way back to FDR's third term in 1940.

Term limits is an HR strategy that says, "Hey, you've really been doing a great job. You're fired." We have so much fear and loathing for professional politicians, we don't trust ourselves around them. "Please, stop me before I vote for you again!"

The effect of term limits was to protect us from despots and deliver us to incompetents, and I guess it was a fair trade, until the great money spill befouled our democracy. And I don't mean corporate money, as bad as that is, I mean personal money, government office as the ultimate status symbol, the hot new toy of the uber-rich.

This revolting development is our fault. Once we let our disgust at bad government become a tantrum against the profession of politics, where else could we go?

Now we elect amateurs, which never ends well, so in our infinite wisdom we elect some new amateurs.

But politics is a profession, like medicine. It takes skill and aptitude and experience, it takes years to learn. Money can't shortcut that process in politics any more than it can in heart surgery. Which is why nobody ever says to Bill Gates, "Yo, Billy, you free this afternoon? I need a new aorta." But that's just what we expect from amateur politicians.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a classic example. Truth to tell, he's been better than most amateur pols. He has shown admirable flexibility, a desire to work with both sides, is refreshingly free of rigid ideological positions. And he's managed to get approximately nothing done during the worst years in California's fiscal memory. He's no politician, and it shows.

So what do California's GOP voters up and do next? They nominate Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, two zero-government-experience candidates for the two biggest jobs in the biggest state in the union.

Hell, it's not even fair to say they were nominated. They were purchased. If Billy Mays were alive he could have been either's campaign manager. This wasn't an election, it was an infomercial.

What do these two fine women say their qualifications are? They were CEO's. That's good enough for them. It's the same with all the billionaire vanity candidates.

They think, hey, I'm rich, how could I be wrong? The universe has already blessed my personage with showers of cash, I must be a superior being. All I want to do now is give back. And I'm willing to spend $80 million to prove it.

But a CEO is the last person you want to run a government; government is not a business and citizens aren't customers. Or they wouldn't be if they got their heads out their flat-screens and voted their interests, not the pixels before their eyes.

You want to get things done in politics, other than having a job that feeds your insatiable ego? Hire a politician. It's a profession, like architect, Admiral and musician.

What we have now is karaoke. And the richest guy, or in this case gal, in the room is hogging the microphone.

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San Francisco based columnist, author, gym rat and novelist. My book, "The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie" is the best memoir ever written by a cat. Available on Amazon.com, or wherever fine literature is sold with no sales tax collected. For (more...)
 
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I'm a writer. I was supposed to be vaguely ashamed... by Allan Goldstein on Saturday, Jun 12, 2010 at 5:51:31 AM
Politics may be open to the amateur with the price... by JGStakeholder on Saturday, Jun 12, 2010 at 4:44:01 PM
I suggest you read an extensive history of the Ath... by Marika on Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 5:24:08 AM
The idea that government should be run by amateurs... by Perry Logan on Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 5:45:52 AM
Excellent piece. Right on the money (if you pardon... by Brett Hetherington on Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 1:31:25 PM