Friday, December 24, 2010

Stupid Is as Stupid Does....

Presidents are not omnipotent.

Internet advertisements are an interesting window into the thinking of poor people.  Most of the come-ons for various scams and cons utilize advertisements that try to catch your eye, the same way marketers use flashing lights and shiny objects to mesmerize small children.

For some reason  President Obama seems to be a talisman among the poor, as a number of Internet advertisements invoke his name consistently.  For example, "Obama wants Moms to go back to School!" is an Internet ad for one of those crummy for-profit schools.  Another touts some sort of Insurance Reform that President Obama has allegedly created.  If you see an Internet ad with the President's name invoked, you can just about guarantee whatever it is, is an utter con job, if not merely a bad bargain.

Apparently, poor people think a President can do just whatever he wants.  And nowhere is this more present that in some of the conspiracy theories you hear from extremists.  According to the fringe groups, depending on which one you are talking to, Obama is going to "take away our guns" or "grant the United Nations sovereignty" over the US, or convert our money system to the Amero.

Of course, all this is nonsense.  But what is really disturbing about these sorts of come-ons and political arguments is that a huge sector of the population basically has little or no idea of how our system of government functions.  Perhaps a vague idea, but not very specific.  People seem to believe that Presidents are like Kings, and can enact any law they want to, at any time, without having to bother with Congress.  Perhaps Hugo Chavez can do this, but not President Obama.

As I have noted again and again in this blog, ignorance (or lack of education) and poverty go hand in hand.  People who squander huge portions of their time and money (same thing) on conspiracy theories are often not very bright people - in fact they rarely are.  So they get snookered very easily into cons and bad deals, because they don't understand that "Obama" really doesn't want "Moms" to go to a for-profit college, run up $30,000 in debt and default on it, regardless of what the flashy Internet ad says.

And yet, there is a certain segment of our population that not only is ignorant and uneducated, but actually courts ignorance and promotes it as a virtue - as if actually knowing something is somehow suspect and tainted.  It is hard to feel sorry for such folks.

And it is odd, to me, that even "educated" people chose to remain ignorant about a lot of things, such as how our government works.  Even people with college degrees really only have a vague understanding of how our Federal and State court systems work, or how laws are adjudicated.

And you'd think, living in a country for 50 years or more, one would pick up a few tidbits here and there and piece it all together.

It is like the postal service.  I was at the Post Office the other day, and some lady was in line to mail a package.  And every person who came to the counter asked the same thing "How much is it to ship this package?"  To which the postal employee would answer "Well, how soon do you want it there?"  Which is relevant because there are three basic ways of sending things, Parcel Post, Priority Mail, and Express Mail.  And with Priority Mail and Express Mail there are "flat rate" boxes you can use, that have the same postage regardless of weight.  And yes, this is all on the USPS website and you can even create the mailing labels on line and print them out and not have to bother the Postmistress about all of this.

Yet, people who have lived in this country for decades - who have sent packages for decades - act mystified every time they come to the Post Office.  How does this all work again?  I'm confused.  Priority Mail?  What's that?

I was explaining these three options to a customer at the office, and she said, "How do you know all of this?" and I replied, "Well, I figured I was going to be living in this country for a few decades more, so I might as well learn the postal regulations of my home country.  It comes in handy, for example, when I want to mail things."

She didn't appreciate my sense of humor.  And yet people - people who mail things on a regular basis - refuse to learn these simple things, preferring instead to "just ask the nice young man at the Post Office" and appeared baffled and confused every time they want to ship a package.

And the same goes with our Government.  People have no idea how things work, so they believe just about anything that is touted on the Internet - that President Obama is going to "take away our guns!"  How he is going to do this without passing laws through both houses of Congress, of course, is never mentioned.  Suddenly, he has the magical power to enact laws at whim.

Even if someone is bright enough to understand that there is a Congress and they do pass laws, many really have no idea of the difference between the House and Senate, or that a bill has to be passed by both houses (and then reconciled and voted on again, in most cases) in order to become a law - and even then only when signed into law by the President.  All those years of "School House Rock" were apparently for naught.

It is a bit disturbing that such basic information seems to elude most people in this country.  But then again, that is why I say, again and again, that succeeding in the USA is not difficult to do.  You need only act rationally in an irrational world - work hard, learn to do without, save your money, invest it wisely, and get rich.  The unwashed masses look for get-rich-quick schemes and instant gratification, and as a result end up with nothing but debt and bitterness.  And they are consistently taken in, due to their ignorance about very basic aspects of economics.

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