Allegations of conspiracy abound. A few of them are real. A major one that no one talks about is the conspiracy of politicians and the people against good policy and common sense.
People want greater benefits and lower taxes for themselves. Politicians want to get elected. How do you get elected? By telling people what they want to hear and giving them what they want. It is a marvelous arrangement.
So we get lower taxes, especially for the rich, who can unduly influence the Congress. They especially get what they want, often to the detriment of those who have only votes to pay for their goodies. The rich more than make up in dollars what they lack in ballot power.
What we don't get is good energy policy because the people want low gas prices, and the corporations want profits from making big cars, selling gas, and building highways.The politicians want votes from the people and dollars from the corporations.
What we don't get is a reasonable tax on gas, with credits for lower income folks, that would have multiple benefits -- better fuel efficiency, funds for seeking alternative energy sources, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and degradation of the environment, money for other good purposes like health care for all, and so on.
We get bridges to nowhere along with all the other pork our good legislatures arrange by playing "you vote for mine and I'll vote for yours."
We also have sub-conspiracies of the rich and the politicians against the rest of us. So we get bad, terribly confusing Medicare coverage for drugs with subsidies for drug companies.
What we get is 45 million people without health insurance because the insurance and drug companies have sufficient influence to prevent the enactment of universal health insurance that would be much more efficient and get good care for who can't afford to pay now.
What we get is a powerful effort to get rid of the estate tax that significantly affects only the very rich.
How can this sub-conspiracy flourish when it benefits the few and hurts the many? It works because while the rich and the politicians are screwing the rest of us, enough conservative values voters among us are willing to subordinate their economic interests to their reactionary moral and cultural attitudes that many of the rich are more or less indifferent to in order to get more rich. Religious and other conservative values voters are so fearful that the culture they cherished is passing away that they are willing for the rich to fleece the masses of us in return for votes supporting traditional (recent past) ways of life.
But since benefits without taxes to support them won't work in the long run, how do the politicians get by with it? They do it by reducing or withholding benefits to the poor and putting the rest on a charge card for later generations to pay.
But isn't this too simple a picture of the political situation? Of course it is, but is there not enough truth in this oversimplification of a complex situation worth taking notice of? You bet.