Consider these facts, institutions and people:
1. Katrina, FEMA, “heckuva job, Brownie”.
2. America spends twice as much per capita on healthcare as any other industrial nation, yet our life expectancy ranks #46 in the world.
3. The Iraq War, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Bremer, President Bush, US Congress.
4. Instead of making a car that people want to buy, Ford is laying off workers by the thousands.
6. US public school education.
What do they all have in common? They’re an expression of the rise of something new in American life: spectacular incompetence.
When we do incompetence, we do it big. War and disaster, Katrina and Iraq, expose our most massive incompetence. It seems like everything we touch turns into a mess. We’ve become a culture of the inept. A nation of screw-ups, we’re led by leaders who are competent at only one thing: fucking up.
Does anyone in America still know how to do a good job? Does anybody even know what a good job is?
It starts at the top, with the guy we voted for as our president. George Bush spent his life going from one business screw-up to another. Should we be surprised that he’s fucking up as our President? No, it’s what he’s done all along.
It carries on into our great national undertakings. The Iraq War. What a screw-up. We go in there, and appoint a fuckup to run the place, Paul Bremer, who fires the entire governing bureaucracy, as well as the entire Iraqi Army, and now we’re surprised it’s a mess. He fires everyone who is actually running the country. How stupidly incompetent is that? And then he gets rewarded with a Medal of Freedom.
The most incompetent administrator in history is rewarded by the most incompetent President in history. No wonder this President has the most incompetent Secretary of Defense in history, who is still running the most incompetent war ever fought in history – despite the fact that everyone is shrieking for Rumsfeld to return to the incompetent hole he crawled out of. Heck, the Taliban are taking Afghanistan over again. The fucking Taliban are more competent than us.
Our incompetence carries on into our great disasters, like Katrina, which are made more disastrous by our incompetent response.
Congress is a joke. They passed one good law this year – to stop the slaughter of horses for their meat. That’s it. That’s the record of Congress this year. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
What does all this say about our nation? It reminds one of Stalinist Russia, where incompetence was also rewarded with medals. Ideological purity and loyalty to stumblebum superiors counted for more than competence. Same here in America. You’re doing your job if you can suck up: that’s all that’s expected.
Incompetence is not only expected, it’s rewarded. The more incompetent we get, the more awards we hand out. We have more Award Shows than we’ve got public toilets. We’ve got the damn Emmy Awards. Imagine that: the TV industry, producers of more crap than all the mammals that shit on earth combined, give each other awards, and have the gall to televise the event, and celebrate their inane, asinine crap.
Incompetence has broken out all over, not just in the media and politics. People cite Enron as an example of CEO nefariousness. They’re wrong. It’s more basic than that: it’s an example of spectacular CEO incompetence. Jeff Schilling didn’t know how to do his job. He didn’t know how to make money. All he knew was how to screw around with doctoring debt and balance sheets.
Take public school education. It’s a joke. They teach math better in Singapore. We’re turning out a generation of incompetents.
A few years ago I started courses at a highly respected college towards a Masters Degree in Education. The courses were a joke, and the biggest joke of all was that the students expected to get A’s for everything they did – and got them. The professors were incompetent, and rewarded their students for their passed-along incompetence with A’s.
I think that’s where our incompetence starts – at our schools and colleges. Our Ivy League schools are turning out something that will ruin us forever – an incompetent elite.
Once upon a time, there was something called American pragmatism. Where has it gone? When the supposed traditional leaders of the nation, the Republican Party, can’t run an efficient government anymore, where are we?
I’ve been trying to think of competent people in public life, and I’ve come up with two:
1. Steve Jobs of Apple. This man knows how to do his job. He executes smart ideas smartly in practical products. When the music industry became totally incompetent in the face of the challenge of the Internet, he saved them with the iPod and iTunes. And how are they reacting to this? Instead of trying to produce good music, they want to charge more than 99 cents per downloaded song. That’s what counts for competence in the music business. That’s the problem: for every Steve Jobs, there are a thousand incompetent CEOs out there, like the guys who run Detroit, and sometime in the nineties, forgot how to make good cars, which the Japanese now come and do in our country – eating our lunch right here at home in front of us.
2. Mayor Bloomberg of New York. This man learned how to do his job real quick. Maybe because he wasn’t a politician to start with. He was a successful businessman. The problem is, for every Mayor Bloomberg, there are a thousand other politicians who can talk all the talk without walking any walk.
Terrorists don’t scare me; I’m not a terrorist-spooked wimp like Bush and Cheney. But America has something to fear besides fear itself. We have to fear our incompetence, and the fact that we reward ourselves for it, and have forgotten to take responsibility for fucking up. If we keep going like we are, we could be a third-world nation in two or three generations.
Maybe we should import competent leaders from South Korea and Singapore, instead of stumbling along with incompetent MBAs from Yale and Harvard. Already we’re the biggest debtor nation on earth, and what does that prove? It proves we’ve become the most irresponsible, incompetent nation on earth.
Oy fucking vey, America.