06/28/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Are We Stupid?

In one corner of my mind, I have been watching the threat of the imminent meltdown of the California economy. What was once amongst the most thriving of states with an enviable infrastructure and an education system to rival any other is now approaching bankruptcy. Our once-vaunted system of schools, colleges and universities, already sinking low in comparison to other states, is now facing massive budget cuts that will ensure its further deterioration. Hospitals and medical clinics will likely be forced to cut back on already inadequate staff and services. The poor, the unemployed, the homeless will have fewer resources to protect them. Children, in this affluent society we have created, will go hungry every day because their pitiful lunch programs will be cut.

So the question is, are we stupid? The taxpayer's revolt that started in the 1970s and brought us Ronald Reagan has now become an unquestioned axiom of our political culture. Our Schwarzenegger was elected on the promise that he would never raise taxes. He would listen to "the people" and obey their wishes. Now that "the people" have roundly rejected his last hope for budgetary salvation, he swears that he will listen again, and start making cuts into the last lean meat of surviving social programs.

Friends, we have brought this on ourselves. We have chosen to believe, collectively, those who assured us that we could have all the services we need without paying for them. We have indulged in an absurd system of propositions and initiatives that purports to give voice to the people, without educating those same people to understand the simple connection between what we pay for and what we can expect to receive. We have kidded ourselves that this is true democracy, when it is in fact no better than mob rule. We have allowed greed and prejudice to substitute for reason and sane policy.

Democracy is nothing without education. The capacity for critical thought and responsible, sometimes selfless action is its most essential ingredient. The ability to see further than the day after tomorrow is also a useful attribute. Sheer, blind, thoughtless, self-first stupidity is a poison that has slowly been killing it here in California and throughout the country. I had hopes, with the election of our new president, to have finally perceived a glimmer of electoral intelligence. Now I wonder if I was simply kidding myself again.