This Old Government

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is a show on PBS called ‘This Old House”. Its the original reality show where they find some people who own a house that needs updating. On the episode where they introduce us to the house, they go through with the owners of what looks like a perfectly livable house and look at all the problems they have with it; things like the entryway is too small and drafty, the kitchen cabinets are from the 50s, they have a baby on the way so they need another bedroom. You can tell the owners know that a lot of work is needed but they’re hoping that maybe all it will take is to move a wall and put on a new coat of paint.

The next week the plumber and carpenter start going through the infrastructure of the house. They find insect infestations, damaged or missing support beams and of course the ever-present lead paint. By the fourth show all of the interior walls have been totally gutted, the foundation is being re-enforced and the yard which has been laid bare by the construction trucks and tractors is about to be re-sodded. To the owners it looks like a disaster they will never recover from. Finally after eight more weeks of reconstruction and countless decisions with the interior decorator everything is totally rebuilt and this beautiful show house is ready to be handed back to the bewildered but ecstatic owners.

I’m kinda seeing this same scenario playing out in Washington these days. Last year’s election was the country’s owners – the American people – looking for someone to fix a few things that just weren’t quite right with the U.S. The entryway was drafty and some of the interior walls needed a new coat of paint.

The current disharmony in the various parts of government are the walls being gutted and the backyard being torn up. In the mean time the 24-hour news cycle churns out the same pablum to the masses and the late night comics keep the same inane comments coming so we stay fearful that this is a disaster we will never recover from. And we all keep lapping it up like starving puppies. With time we’ll be shown a new coat of paint (different people in power), the entryway will have a more efficient design and the cracks in the foundation will be fully insulated.

But don’t be fooled. When you’ve been around as long as I have you see that nothing ever really changes. When we are handed what we’re told is a new, improved country all it really has is just another layer of paint.

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