this is not a game

President Obama selected Tom Daschle to head his health care reform effort. By almost all accounts Mr. Daschle was the perfect person for this job. But it turned out that he had messed up his taxes, to the tune of a hundred grand or so. So Mr. Daschle withdrew his name. President Obama apologized all over the place, on all three networks I believe, for this situation.

Personally, I think it’s a miracle that anyone even somewhat self employed can ever get their taxes to come out right, even working with a professional. Our tax code has become ridiculously difficult. But I’m getting away from my point.

On Saturday Night Live that weekend, head writer and Weekend Update performer Seth Meyers did another installment of his piece “Really!?! with Seth” in which he addresses this situation. He chides the president for apologizing reminding him, “The president before you broke the world.”

It seems to me that the world does seem somewhat broken. I think even many Republicans would have to admit, at least at this point in time, that it seems like a whole lot of things fell apart during Bush’s watch. President Bush was simply not very capable, and dangerously unwilling to listen to more capable people. This was evident before his first term was over.

I think Bush got reelected for a second term simply because he had Karl Rove working for him, and Karl Rove had politics figured out. Karl Rove orchestrated a perfect reelection campaign. He got emotional issues placed on state ballots that would draw lots of very conservative Republicans to the polls in key states. He was able to destroy the image of the Democratic challenger.

Karl Rove scared me, because I think he defined politics as a game. And to someone who has reduced politics to a game, winning becomes the only thing that matters. Bush was reelected, and continued along his misguided path. The world became more broken. Bush’s ineptitude had to be evident to someone working so closely with him. But Rove’s job was not to act responsibly, it was to simply win the game.

The current financial crisis can be examined in the same light. Granted I don’t fully understand what happened to get us into our current mess, I don’t think many economists totally understand it either. But to me, it seems that corporation CEOs, banks, financial managers, all reduced the responsibility of doing business to the game of making money. This is the danger of capitalism, that the people responsible for its motion and operation will begin to think of it as a game, and become focused solely on winning (making money).

Politics is not a game of winning or losing.  Politics is a mechanism concerned with encouraging social stability.  Business/capitalism is not a game of making money. It is a mechanism for ensuring the availablity of those goods and services necessary for the survival of a society.  We must be very careful with such societal mechanisms.  We must operate within these systems as if our very way of life was at stake, every single day.  Because, bottom line, it is. This is not a game.

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