Frank Vernuccio 6/9/2015


Failing the Future


Frank V. Vernuccio, Jr., J.D.


One of the most important functions of government is planning for the future, and establishing policies that preserve the safety, prosperity and legal rights of its citizenry. Nations that prepare for the future have a far better chance to provide better opportunities for their citizens’ descendants.

Washington appears to have failed in this crucial responsibility. An examination of fiscal, national security, infrastructure, and constitutional compliance planning indicates little concern for any time period other than the next election. Equally as worrisome, there is little consideration for any contingencies outside of the most obvious.

Despite taking in a record amount of revenue from taxes that are excessively high and unfairly burdensome on the middle class and counterproductive to the crucial task of creating employment, the federal government continues to add massive new amounts to a debt that has come close to doubling in the past six years. There is no viable proposal for stemming the tide of red ink, virtually bankrupting generations to come.

Hiking spending on programs such as food stamps, paid for by taxes that discourage economic growth, is a good bet to gain the recipients’ votes in the next election but a very poor plan for financial success or even stability in the years to come.

Much of that spending has focused on purchasing re-election votes for incumbents. Unlike prior periods, when dollars were committed to great projects such as expanding the nation, building the national highway system, winning wars (cold and hot), building national parks, providing new sources of power, and putting men on the moon, Washington has no record of achievement resulting from all that spending.

Even more troubling than the lack of consideration for the future in domestic affairs is the failure to prepare for foreign challenges, both apparent and those difficult to predict.

With the elimination of the ability to engage in battle on two fronts and the significant reduction in the Pentagon’s budget, Washington’s plan for America’s defense is, essentially, to hope that no one ever does anything substantially threatening, and that nothing unexpected ever happens. Unfortunately, the world does not appear to be turning in that direction. Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, al Qaeda, and Isis, all are rapidly expanding their armed might, and are not shy about their antagonistic views towards the U.S.

Those are just the threats that can be foreseen. Recently, John C. Wohlstetter, senior fellow for the London Center for Policy Research and the Discovery Institute, discussed the potential for “unthinkable” events to result in catastrophe. These contingencies are called “Black Swans.”

The term ‘black swan’ refers to seemingly improbable events that nonetheless happen, especially at times when universal assumptions run against their occurrence. Call it Murphy’s Law for math majors. For a century “Sarajevo”—where Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated, thus triggering a black-swan sequence of interlocking mobilizations, then a war that brought an end to the old European order—has symbolized the potentially catastrophic consequences of clueless leadership…

Perhaps the most treacherous foreign policy trap into which leaders and publics can fall is the analytical fallacy called ‘mirror-imaging.’ Logicians explain this as the projecting of one’s ‘personal feelings, beliefs, or attitudes’ onto another person, without supporting empirical evidence. Western leaders are ever on the lookout for leaders seeking peace; even hawks at times see peace doves in the wrong places. The most obvious 20th-century example is British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who believed that he could make peace with Hitler and Mussolini. To pick a current example, Secretary of State John Kerry called Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea an ‘incredible act of aggression,’ adding: ‘You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.’ Alas, where Kerry sees flocks of peace doves filling the sky, Putin sees flocks of prey.”

Ideological delusions combined with a greater concern for re-election than the interests of the nation is a recipe for an undesirable and dangerous future.