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candid Conservative: Catastrophe is rarely an accident
Monday, 04 May 2020 10:43
Special to the Daily Planet

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same….” 
— Excerpt from “If” by Rudyard Kipling


 We are in the midst of a world event of unprecedented impact. Nothing since WW II has touched more people, generated more harm, or more surely felled the mighty than the “Made in China” virus COVID-19.

This scourge will end neither quickly nor without great reversal of fortune for just about everyone.

No one is going to be more impacted than the young. Having next to no experience with real deprivation, they’re especially ill-prepared for what‘s ahead.

Baby Boomer parents and grandparents, the ones who’ve taught bad lessons and mortgaged their off-spring’s future, will also suffer. When our young realize what we have done to them, they will not react kindly.

It need not have been so. Though some of what we’re facing was unpreventable, much more was. As a country, as a culture, as a people, we’ve been reckless, silly, indifferent, and greedy – actions that are always attached to consequence.

Here’s where we went wrong.


Debt matters

Whether it’s an individual, a city or national government, playing now and paying later is a pleasant enterprise. It’s also very addictive. Ask any alcoholic. The lure of the high easily trumps the worry over the hangover.

There are times – like in war – when there are no other options to debt as a temporary path to survival. As long as we intentionally address that debt after the crisis, a return to economic normality is doable. Problems begin when we don’t face that responsibility or treat episodic economic upheavals as wars instead of natural corrections.

Almost a century ago, some very smart people started selling the idea that debt – especially national debt – was no big deal. They developed logical and attractive theories on why and, like all charlatans marketing the promise of something for nothing, their reassurances found a receptive audience.

And so, we have borrowed. We have borrowed as a nation, as communities, as businesses, and  as individuals. To this point, we have borrowed without apparent consequence. Except for one. Borrowing has allowed us to dodge the world’s earlier mentioned self-correction script. An ever so unhealthy dependency on accountability postponement, factual indifference, and denial has resulted.  

We can delay the consequence of bad behavior. We can never avoid it altogether. The trillions we now owe to the world are of such magnitude that there is no way we can honestly dig our way out.

Predictably, a slight of hand like default, helicopter dollars, war, or inflation will be used to address the folly. None of these are pretty.  


Wanda Greene hurt –  this will be worse

Since the beginning of this century, Asheville and Buncombe County have been blessed with a remarkable influx of transplants, wealthy retirees, and entrepreneurs. The coffers of both governing bodies have filled exponentially. In the intervening years, their respective budgets have approximately tripled.

The average resident’s income certainly hasn’t tripled and no-fee public services have decreased. So, where’s all that money gone?

Look no further than the social policies championed by the Democrats in control. Thanks to permissive policies with our exploding drug culture, endorsed illegal immigration requiring vast public school and social service subsidies, special interest enthusiasms, public safety nets so comfortable they have evolved into beds, and the silly notion that opportunity can be disconnected from responsibility; we have spent far too much money on the nice over the necessary and embraced a scary debt load.

It comes down to a political model that does the financial equivalent of pouring water into the top of a bucket while simultaneously punching holes in the bottom. Traditional watchdogs – like our daily paper and television station – have been so busy applauding what’s happening up top, they’ve relentlessly missed the dangers below.  

There are no crystal balls on the future. Notably, most of those in the “sorta” know are speaking to temporary readjustments. Let’s hope they’re right. The same kind of thinking that believes America is immune from carelessness also suggested the Titanic was “unsinkable.”


Special interests have warped our society

 Anyone watching the endless series of Democrat Party debates was overexposed to three themes – a dedication to “victimization” as a cultural model, the promise that supporters could get what they want with no skin in the game, and the importance of special interests over the common interests. All of those are bad constructs and offer partial explanation on why the party that birthed JFK is now reduced to recycling the worn-out seductions of Bernie and Joe.

The last of the three themes above is especially dangerous. The energies of our respective national, state, and local governments have too long prioritized special interests over the common interests. Though elected officials reliably throw platitudes at the latter, they shovel money at the former. 

Over time this extravagant revenue stream has corrupted the giver and receiver. Special interest groups have evolved into selfish interest groups and politicians have evolved into sugar daddies indifferent to budgetary realism.

It is through this public largesse that our society, from top to bottom, has found personal justification for embracing debt like an addict reaches for dope.


A failure to prepare

New York Governor Cuomo is an articulate gentleman. He’s done a credible job of keeping his eye on the ball by herding his state through perilous times. There’s one exception.

Governor Cuomo, like most every other liberal-progressive-socialist Democrat politician, is not able to complete a paragraph without insulting the President and holding him accountable for everything including stinkbug infestations.

Witness how many times the Governor has complained about the failure of the Federal government to provide the help his state deserves. He thus offers a perfect example of our ruling political class’s dedication to opportunity without accountability.

While there’s no question of the need, the lack of resources rightfully tracks back to a failure in state governance. Eight year ago, New York state spent a lot of dollars securing a study on what they needed to prepare for a pandemic much like COVID-19. The intervening years were so filled with buying votes with special interest enthusiasms, that little or nothing was done to implement any of the recommendations of that study.

Sorry governor, you can’t squeal about states’ rights with one side of your face, and then conveniently switch to the other and blame our national government or the current President for your lack of foresight. Your state’s most recent ultra-extravagant budget proposal adds further insult to that injury.

That same theme of accountability avoidance is in charge all over America.


 Bureaucracy abounds

Gastonia native and conservative scholar Thomas Sowell, perhaps the smartest guy in the universe, has figured out just about everything. But he’s extra good on calling out one thing – the lie of liberal big government fantasies.

The smartest guy in the universe knows that big government doesn’t work and can never work.

Fantasies can work in our imaginations, platitudes can work with the media, promises can work with voters, but big government is guaranteed to fail. The why is revealed in my favorite of a trillion great Thomas Sowell quotes, “For bureaucrats, procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”

Our government and society at large have become so bureaucratically fat that we struggle to do almost anything. We relentlessly fail at controlling crime, intercepting drugs, treating drug abusers, containing our borders, maintaining our values, educating our children, being sincere to our Constitution, doing something practical with our studies, constraining our spending, or loving our fellow man.

Is it any wonder the crazed ranks of Antifa are growing and our youth are becoming nihilistic narcissists amidst the most bountiful society in the history of the world?

Why are we failing at so many things? Thomas Sowell’s suggestion is that the failure to identify, pursue, and measure meaningful outcomes precludes success.  

There is one not so ironic exception to government’s inability to produce good outcomes. Uncle Sam is amazingly successful at collecting payroll taxes.


What to do?

COVID-19 has changed a lot of things, but it hasn’t changed one thing – we are firmly glued to the responsibility for taking care of our own carcass. It’s a lesson that our current state of paralysis is driving home with a vengeance. Embrace it.

In the real world, there is no fairy dust, government bureaucrat, seductive politician, or other source of lasting rescue. We’re not totally on our own, but we do have to own up to most of the responsibility for our own wellbeing.

With that crucial power equation in mind, and amidst the hard days ahead, there are a few things worth extra consideration: (1) Adversity truly is the mother of invention (2) Heroes are more surely formed in hard times than other times (3) Personal growth is most usually a forced activity (4) Anyone who has the power to give you everything has matching power to take away everything (5) God always hides opportunity in the misery and (6) People who are useful will always have a place in the world .

We are undergoing a profound cultural reset. We’ve been needing one. Those destined to thrive can secure their survival skills in a short-list of words – faith, love, hope, work, creativity, realism, positivity, wisdom, gratitude, and per the smartest man in the universe, outcome.

We thus have a formula for today’s extraordinarily challenging times – good people, acting through good means, firmly dedicated to good outcomes, will prevail....
Dr. Mumpower is a psychologist and former member of Asheville City Council. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 252-8390.



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