America's Zero Sum Blame Game Creates Disaster For All

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Rather than compromise politicians like Republican Senator Ted Cruz would rather shut down U.S. government

In the theoretical practices of both games and economics, the term "zero-sum" is used to describe the mathematical representation of a situation in which a participant's gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of all other participants.

Currently, this model is far more than an intellectual exercise here in the United States of America. The zero-sum axiom is pervasive throughout American society: in our finances, our social interactions, our workplaces, in our sports, and especially in our political discourse.

One could easily make the case that we actually live in the United States of Zero-Sum. Or if you prefer, the Zero-Sum States of America.

Zero-sum means that in order for me to win, you must lose. My gain must come at your pain. In a Looney Tunes cartoon, Daffy Duck once said it best to Marvin the Martian: “This planet ain’t big enough for the two of us -- so off you go!”

You’d need a supercomputer to count all the occurrences of zero-sum gameplaying. I’ll use myself as the first example. Have you noticed that whenever I reference the word love in one of my Op-Ed columns, the rant-&-rave section (especially the rants) explodes? Because it is a well-known fact that I am a Democrat, some people are offended whenever I say "I love my Republican brothers and sisters."

The problem isn’t that I love them. The problem – at least for those who are offended – is that I’m not supposed to love Republicans. Ever.

Not any under circumstances, preacher or not. Democrats are expected to hate Republicans. I’m not following their rules. That makes me a potential troublemaker. A wild-card. A loose cannon. Love, in this case, is bad. Therefore, I’m a zero-sum paradox.

Race and America’s racial divide are glaring, interconnected examples of zero-sum thinking. Many of our political leaders, captains of industry, and people in positions of power apparently believe that the full equality of all Americans is a grave threat to them. They operate from that belief.

That’s why people whose voting rights are never in jeopardy feel compelled to jeopardize the voting rights of certain segments of our society – such as the elderly, the college/graduate students, the poor/working poor, women, and ethnic minorities. If these groups tended to vote for conservatives, their ability to vote would not be under attack from conservatives. But since they don’t, these subsections are under constant attack from the right – which is wrong.

College football, the World Cup, and the Olympics are all examples of zero-sum, capitalistic games gone wild. The powers-that-be wax poetic on the purities of amateur sports while many billions of dollars flow into their coffers. Oh, the hypocrisy.

Anyone who denounces the evil that is racism must himself or herself be immediately branded as a "racist." What better way to minimize his or her argument? Zero-sum logic. Any individual or organization which promotes Medicaid expansion in the states and/or the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) must be demonized as raging socialists/communists/fascists.

Can you think of a more effective way of denying poor people the same healthcare coverage rich people view as a birthright? Zero-sum. I can think of a particular political party which declares that it stands for less government intrusion in the lives of Americans – yet this same political party proposes that employers be granted the power to decide when or if women will have birth control medication through their employer-provided healthcare insurance.

The games people play.

Our great nation has issues which require serious thought and serious people. America has a deficit in both. America, however, has plenty of Democrats blaming everything on Republicans. Republicans blaming everything on Democrats. Black people blaming White people for their lot in life. White people blaming Black people for the same reason.

The American people blaming politicians. Politicians blaming the American people in kind. Religious folks accusing unreligious folks – and vice versa. The rich pointing at the poor – and the poor pointing right back at the rich. Conspiracy threats fly back and forth like tennis balls. Everyone and no one is involved. Everyone and no one is accountable.

Eventually, the end-result is one million shades of gray. For this reason, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract good, qualified people to consider running for public office anywhere. For this reason, voters in greater numbers aren’t turning out at the polls. Americans are sick of the empty promises. They’re turned off by the constant in-fighting and finger-pointing. All they see is zero-sum games being played locally, statewide, and nationally. They see status quo.

Compromise, chicken thighs. Bipartisanship is for suckers, right?

As Americans, we are used to being Number 1. That’s not a good thing as it relates to zero-sum games. On that topic, the only way to win is not to play.



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