“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” — Ronald Reagan
Here’s a story, recently reported by BuzzFeed News, of an otherwise average guy up against two of the biggest problems plaguing many big cities these days: rampant crime and ineffective policing.
Now, before you say, “I hear these stories all the time; there is nothing new here,” this report had a twist you might not have foreseen: It goes beyond chronicling the misfortunes of Ben Yu, a California-based startup co-founder, whose car got stolen twice — two days in a row.
Instead, it reveals the remarkable inefficiency of the modern-day bureaucracy, in this case the San Francisco Police Department, as evidenced by the inability of officers to respond quickly and make an arrest, even though the victim told police he knew exactly where his vehicle was located.
Mired by a regulatory process that demanded he first file a report and frustrated with the indifference of officers to do the right thing, Yu chose to track the vehicle himself and alert law enforcement when he got a visual on his car — and the robber.
An Absent Government
Make no mistake about the importance of this story. What this episode does is shine a light on what many are beginning to see as the larger problem: the arrogance of authority and the striking sense of detachment that goes on in Washington, D.C. every day. It’s important to understand, that despite all evidence to the contrary, politicians will have you believe they’ve got everything under control, that government somehow has the answer to every problem.
Their message is that government is the solution — the government levels the playing field, that government alone makes everything fair. They want you to think of government as the ultimate authority you can count on to solve any problem, at any time.
Does anyone believe that anymore?
Maybe some still do, but a lot of folks, especially young adults, doubt the government’s ability to solve the pressing issues of our time, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
A Structural Web of Legislative Anomalies Difficult to Unravel
So, why have so many Americans lost faith in government? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but we need look no further than D.C.’s relationship with the financial industry to uncover at least one of the big reasons.
In my opinion, the great financial crisis (GFC) of 2008 was the crime of the century. As more people come forward to explain what they heard and saw, as more writers research and document the event, and the more you learn about what unfolded under the not-so-watchful eye of government regulators over a period of many years, it becomes clear.
In context, government examiners failed to see anything wrong as the crime slowly unfolded — so they did nothing to stop it; the economy tanks, requiring bailouts of companies being labelled as ‘too big to fail’ institutions; and taxpayers get sent the bill. Meanwhile, the criminals reward themselves enormous bonuses and live the good life with absolutely no fear of future prosecution or incarceration.
You can think of this as a modern day, full color, hi-def version of the Keystone Cops.
Loss of Faith in Institutions
In the BuzzFeed story, the frustration of the victim Yu lay in his wasting hours filling out paperwork when he knew could find and lead authorities to where both his stolen vehicle and the perpetrator were with pinpoint accuracy, using a GPS tracking device.
After his frustrating experience, Yu admitted to having lost faith in the institutions that are supposed to keep society safe.
Welcome to the club, my friend.
However, Yu and every other American have a much bigger problem. The problem is with the biggest institution of all — the federal government. The one that has proven itself to be overly bureaucratic, laughably ineffective, and oftentimes totally incapable of protecting and serving its citizens.
Americans, whether retired or professionally active, can no longer rely on a D.C. posse whose indifference has — at least partially — invited the kind of socioeconomic problems and crises we have witnessed over much of the last few decades.
Unfortunately, we have not seen authorities taking the kind of rigorous, proactive, and fair steps necessary to forge bipartisan coalitions, pass effective legislation, and bring criminals (blue or white collar) to justice.
In the current climate, it is safe to say you are mostly on your own, especially when it comes to managing your financial future and preparing your retirement. However, being on your own doesn’t mean being alone in addressing and administering your economic affairs. Reach out to retirement specialists; enlist the help of professionals who can help you sift through the myriad of “one size fits all” investment products Wall Street is trying to sell you.
We may be living in a difficult socioeconomic situation, especially for retirees, but remember that having the right team can help you weather the storm and lay a strong foundation for the future.
If you’re serious and get down to business, the best years are yet to come.