The Tyranny of Low Expectations

Of the people, by the people, for the people

W.J. Astore

We often hear the USA is the richest, most powerful, most advanced, nation in the world. We also hear much talk about freedom and democracy in America, and how exceptional our country is. Given all these riches, all this power, and all this freedom, shouldn’t we have high expectations about what our government is able to accomplish for us?

Yet I’ve run across the opposite of this. I’ve come to think of it as the tyranny of low expectations. I see it most often when I criticize Joe Biden and the Democrats. I’m told that I expect too much, that Joe is doing his best but that his power is limited as president, and that I should wait patiently for party insiders to move the Biden administration ever so slightly toward the left. And if I keep criticizing Joe and Company, I’m dismissed as an unreasonable leftist who’s helping Trump and his followers, so the effect of my criticism is bizarrely equated to far-right Trumpism.

Here are a few items that I believe the richest, most powerful, most advanced nation in the world should do for its citizens in the cause of greater freedom and democracy:

  1. A living wage of at least $15 an hour for workers.
  2. Affordable single-payer health care for all.
  3. A firm commitment to ending child poverty.
  4. A firm commitment to affordable housing for all.
  5. A firm commitment to affordable education and major reductions in student debt.
  6. A Covid aid package dedicated to helping workers and small businesses.
  7. A government that is transparent to the people and accountable to them rather than one cloaked in secrecy and open for business only to the rich.

These items seem reasonable to me. They don’t seem “left” or “right.” They’re not too much to expect from the richest, most powerful, nation, the one that boasts of its exceptional freedom and its strong commitment to democracy.

The money is there. A trillion dollars a year is spent in the name of national defense. Trillions have been spent to bailout Wall Street and to wage wasteful wars overseas. Why is the money always there for Wall Street and wars and weapons but it’s rarely if ever there for workers and students and children?

Why do we persist in setting our expectations so low for “our” government, whether the POTUS of the moment is Trump or Biden or someone allegedly more competent and focused on “ordinary folk,” like Obama?

Warning to ideological warriors: This is not about Trump, or Biden, or your particular party allegiance. This is about creating a government that actually listens and responds to the needs of everyone, but especially to the weakest among us, those needing the most help in their pursuit of happiness.

Too simplistic? Too idealistic? I don’t think so. Not once we overthrow the tyranny of low expectations.

Somewhere I’ve read about a government of the people, by the people, for the people. We had better find it or reinvigorate it before it perishes from the earth.

20 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Low Expectations

  1. I recall some sixty years ago my father saying “The rich get richer while the poor grow poorer.” Ever more true. We have seen the establishment sabotage Progressive efforts generation after generation. From Henry Wallace to Bernie Sanders the reforms are stifled as “socialism” is turned into an even more nasty epithet than “liberal”. As Allende, Mosaddegh, and Lamumba and others fall because we interfere elsewhere, our own system falters. It’s time for real Progress! Shout down the propagandists. Thank you Sir for your enlightenment.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Yes, your suggestions are reasonable, and then some. The problem is we are no longer a democracy, so there is no incentive to implement them. The reason we are no longer a democracy – despite the continued presence of elections (which have become more theater than anything else, carefully staged and scripted) – is that the government is no longer the servant of the people, the people now exist to serve the government. This isn’t exactly news, but it has never been as obvious as it has become in this century.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. From my limited perspective over the years I’ve been looking; I believe we are battling financial forces that are hidden behind our elected officials. It’s been on my radar since the 1970’s; when Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s Memorandum was the first shot fired against organized labor’s benefit structure that was hampering the
    “Free Enterprise System”. Basically it’s been profits over people ever since and they have been masterfully manipulating every possible lever in governance structures to effectively keep us all down trodden. Both parties have watched this happen and any objections to the playbook have been noted and the voices that raised them silenced. There’s no media presence left to identify the truth about these despicable behaviors that are exploiting the many for the benefit of a few. Every one of the ideas you have outlined is effectively neutered by the very structures we keep voting on, believing we are electing officials who will finally use the tools of governance to rearrange these structures that have been manipulated by corporate interests. I am fed up with corporate capitalistic governance and don’t care if it’s democrat or republican; both have blood on their hands for turning blind eyes to the needs of the commons and the people in it. You don’t get a pass because you belong to a party; but you will get my praise if you stand up to these business men who believe they get to corrupt main street as effectively as they have Wall Street. Here’s a couple of big reasons we have been on a losing streak for over a half century now. It’s time to take an axe to capitalism; they chopped down labors family tree a long time ago. Capitalism has done nothing to police itself and hold it’s players to a higher standard. They have allowed an evil presence to appear as the savior of the citizenry. That’s unforgivable and it’s time we let them no they are motivated by greed and have no interest in making the system honest and fair. Tell them to pocket their silly little “ism’s”; when they trot out social or commune …..
    Ism. There’s an honesty factor and an equality factor n our current capitalist system that we are talking about; stop trying to change the subject. Let them know they favor inequality over shared goods; and that they are gluttons who have taken more than is needed at every else’s expense. And for that, you should hang your head in shame. These people are dirty, and there’s no denying this fact. What they have created is corruption and a failure of the highest proportions.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Is there nothing we Americans won’t ruin??? I’ve signed the monastery’s petition and chipped in a few bucks to sponsor the signature effort, just out of sheer outrage at the audacity and utter lack of any consideration on the part of the U.S. military. Aside from the fact that the monastery is an absolute good in and of itself, of course.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That was kind of you Denise. When I read this it brought to mind the history of our military aggravating local populations with our weapons testing. After the nuclear tests I would have thought we would have developed a good neighbor policy and tried to avoid the terrible optics that these practices create.


        1. I guess “our” military doesn’t have to worry about optics, Professor, seeing that it has more weaponry than that of many other countries combined.

          Of course, bothering the neighbors is only the most obvious offense. How much sea life, for instance, is killed by naval exercises and experimentation? I’d argue that these murders are more egregious sins, because the animals can’t protest.


  4. Perhaps we have low expectations for the government because we have low expectations of the people. You seem to be saying “Let’s have high expectations that our government be very good at holding the people to low expectations”…by providing them this list of things that they should not be required to work to get for themselves.

    Your list got better as the numbers got bigger…am fully on board with 6 and 7, but as for the others: you can have it if you go get it for yourself and your family. High expectations.

    I liked this article Mr. Astore…and btw it was not too simplistic or too idealistic. Rather than the Tyranny of Low Expectations however, consider the real issue as the Tyranny of Adding Value (a leadership concept that I believe came out of Harvard that says basically that leaders should avoid trying to contribute to every discussion and every solution…rather let your people deliver it. The results will be better and your people will be happier and more engaged).

    Being accountable is the foundational high expectation. If we hold people to that (including elected people), the government will follow.


    1. The government and the people should be one. We elect representatives to represent us. The fundamental problem is that they don’t represent us. They represent those who have bought them. Put simply, the system is corrupt, thus people expect little from the government due to its inherent corruption.

      It’s mainly about money, which is why campaign finance reform is fundamental.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Competition is a good thing. “Competing is completing” is a catchphrase that popped into my head years ago.

      But, in the world’s richest country, people shouldn’t have to compete for health care or a living wage. Children shouldn’t go hungry. Veterans shouldn’t die on the streets.

      The idea you can always “go get it for yourself and your family” through hard work is simply wrong. What if I’m working two part-time jobs that pay $8.00 an hour, neither one of which has health insurance with it? What if I’m disabled? What if I have PTSD and TBI from fighting in Iraq? How am I supposed to “go get it”?

      The system is not as easy to navigate as you suggest, nor do we all begin on a level playing field.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. When you are chauffeured to your elected position in the limousine of capitalistic corruption you are not allowed to think with a heart that is connected to a higher mind. Capitalism is inherently coupled with thought forms of the lower mind. It wants it’s desires met , it values acquisition, it seeks it’s own enhancement and enrichment. These are human traits that are linked with physical gratification and carried out by processes generated by the lower mind. Nothing wrong with these aspirations; they are part of the human journey. But when you are a child, you seek childish outcomes. When you become a mature expression of creations possibilities; you put away the childish playthings and actively seek wiser outcomes for the whole of the creation which you inhabit. There is no more freedom available in our system that is bought for a price by giant corporate entities that dominate the governance of upward mobility. It is a standard line thrown at the working class when they are told to work harder or smarter or become better educated. In saying that you dishonor the Creator by assuming that the person isn’t worthy of having the most basic of human necessities provided efficiently, effectively, and liberally for all who wake up and take a position in the machine of service to the national structures. No man’s time in a body is more valuable than their neighbors. It was freely provided to all and it should be nurtured into it’s best aspects by the society it exists in. Otherwise that society’s job is incomplete and it needs to adjust it’s intentions accordingly if it wants to claim “greatness”. I do not know if the money systems of capitalism are capable of self governance after watching the compensation gap ever widen in my lifetime; all the while being told there will be a trickle down effect. When capitalism allows it’s free market body to become infected with greed; it must be demanded by our better nature to get its house in order. Otherwise there are those of us who will believe that it’s very conscience has been seared with a hot iron and is incapable of being a functioning part of it’s guiding principle.
      The playing field is rigged beyond our wildest imaginations. That’s why becoming a harder worker for the items on this list does not equate with a better outcome. There are very few elected officials who haven’t been chauffeured into Washington. The system is corrupted for predictable outcomes. One could actually call the commons we live in punishing to it’s population. How is it that they can pollute the water and then “purify” it with toxic chemicals for our consumption. Poison our soil with pesticides and chemical fertilizers and then genetically modify heirloom seeds to survive their chemical onslaught during the growing season; just so they can provide food substances that weaken our immune system. Poison our oxygen that we breathe through the production of energy and chemicals for modern living. Then sell us expensive insurances to help mitigate the damages to our bodies that were created for a profit. I hope the story of this pandemic includes the fact that most of the deaths are occurring in bodies that are trying to manage multiple illnesses that have been a product of a modern industrialized existence. We are swimming in industries’ seas of toxicity and it is they that should at least shoulder something of the burden of a universal health plan for causing us so much harm. Especially when the chauffeured politicians vote against providing cleaner healthier alternatives.
      When you create an environment that does not seek to enhance the lives of your fellow man; you are operating from a lower mind perspective. It’s time to put away these selfish archaic thought processes and seek a heart centered society.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Excellent point about damage to the environment and damage to our health. In a capitalist system driven by profit, damage to the environment is seen as irrelevant, or even as desirable if profit margins are thereby expanded. Damaged bodies become a product for a for-profit health care system. Ecocide and genocide are possible in a system driven only by short-term profit motives.

        Greed is not good. Nor is unbounded ambition. There are higher needs. Clean air and water. Healthy food. Health care that helps the sick while seeking to preserve the healthy and prevent people from getting sick to begin with.

        There are many poisons around us. Some are within us. Within our minds.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. There are statistics that show that the military community that served in the Gulf War suffers a higher incidence of birth defects than the rest of our population. I worked with many Vietnam veterans who were still fighting Agent Orange claims while the Gulf War was happening. I wonder if the parents of these children will ever receive the support needed to care for their loved ones. Do ya think the weapons manufacturers are going to …..
          Do the right thing…
          I have low expectations.


  5. To expand a bit on your point about your theme’s not being related to partisan affiliation, over and over, we’ve seen that, when the needs outlined in your list are presented to people across the spectrum in a neutral way, significant majorities want those things. Even the most devout red or blue believer is not going to reject decent healthcare at a genuinely affordable (or tax-supported) price, or say that he or she is not interested in a better wage. More proof that the government has little connection with its constituents.

    Liked by 2 people

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