Monday, November 15, 2010

Desperate Times

Of course the media are full of stories of desperate times. Middle-class families losing jobs, homes, and self-respect. Huge backlogs in social assistance queues. Intractable unemployment. Millions of people are in desperate straits, and the word "despair" is increasingly apt for what is happening in this country.

These are also desperate times for another reason. Our country is torn between two political agendas which have no basis in reality, either one of which will result in our destruction. As we try to figure out how to meet the challenges and opportunities of a resurgent Asia and an emerging Latin America, here at home we seem bent on suicide. Perhaps it is to be expected: People under unbearable stress sometimes go insane. Maybe countries do the same. That's arguably what happened to Germany in the 1930s.

Our two political parties are not equally to blame for how we got here, but they increasingly share the blame for making things worse. The Democrats have shown their intransigence in how they responded to the initial proposals from the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction commission. By rejecting the proposals out of hand, they have thrown away an enormous opportunity to make progress in saving our country's finances, while still preserving some of the things they say they care about. This is irresponsible at best, if not pathological. They have matched the stupidity of the Tea Party (cut all taxes! keep all the programs!) with stupidity of their own (if we pretend there is no deficit, maybe it will go away!) They have doubled down on their intransigence by defending earmarks, one of the few issues on which the Republicans are right, plain and simple.

The American voters have shown that, no matter how often they are treated as stupid by the Right or the Left, they do understand the danger of unlimited deficits and institutional corruption. Their own shocking come-down since 2008 has taught them a lesson. For the Democrats to ignore that lesson is to invite an even worse shellacking in 2012. And that would be a disaster for the nation and the world, because on a lot of other issues, they are the voice of reason. The tragedy of the Democrats' impending immolation is what will be sacrificed along the way.

That is because, for all their stupidity on this issue, they are right about so many other things, and the Republicans (since being taken over by their insane) are wrong. Climate Change tops the list. The Republicans flatly deny the evidence that we are destroying our planet. They call the consensus of tens of thousands of scientists, working in disciplines as far apart as insect biology, paleontology, and atmospheric science, an ad-hoc assumption, akin to superstition. Or worse, they label it an anti-American conspiracy. Put them in charge and we greatly damage the future of our children and all the life that we depend on for our own existence.

The Republicans, having produced Lincoln, have "refudiated" everything he symbolizes: equal protection, equal rights, equal opportunity. They stand with the racists, the abusers, the bullies and the haters, and cloak it under "free speech"--the only time they are fond of invoking the First Amendment. They actively fund organizations which stir up hate and resentment. They have out-unioned the unions in demonizing immigrants, most of whom work their butts off for a chance to live as we do.

The Republicans want to teach religious doctrine in our schools in place of science. Do they not see how unpatriotic that is? The Chinese, investing ferociously in trying to educate their masses, must be laughing at us. Where did American supremacy in so many industries come from? Who led us to global leadership in modern technologies? Certainly not people who think Evolution and the Laws of Thermodynamics are hoaxes.

The Republicans sent us yukking and gloating ("Shock and Awe, baby!) into two wars in the Middle East, with only partial justification for one, and no plan. They took out Saddam, yes, but he was the only thing keeping Iran running in place. Take him out and Iran runs wild. There are actually people who predicted this would happen, and they were threatened with arrest or shouted down as traitors. Worst of all, the Republicans betrayed their utter hypocrisy regarding fiscal probity by refusing to count the money spent on these wars.

And, speaking of the budget, the Republicans have now adopted a scorched-earth ideology that will leave millions of their own family members unable to fend for themselves. Dickens wrote about an England in which most people starved while a few feasted. The miracle of America is that we created a society that played by different rules, without sacrificing the self-starting, entrepreneurial drive that made us the envy of the world. The Republicans see a table with four legs, and want to throw three of them away. It is the height of insanity, and will hasten our fall. The smart ones, the ones who are profiting from this insanity, know that, and don't care. If that is not treason, what is?

The Democrats have a value system that most polls show reflect the majority view in this country, with the singular exception of fiscal responsibility. But fiscal responsibility is also a life-or-death issue for this country, and people have finally had enough. The Democrats, in standing against any kind of fiscal reform, risk being flushed, and with them, all those other values that are so important. It would be easy to say they deserve what's coming, except that the rest of us, the whole country, will pay the price. And if America goes down, who is left to rule the roost? China?


Anonymous Vatman said...

Clearly the answer to our problems is to elect Sarah Palin in 2012. She is not encumbered by any history of actual successful government (unless you count Wasilla), and has shown an uncanny ability to repeat back to the Tea Party folks what they want to hear without actually needing to work out any policy. Yes, just kidding!

It does seem that the federal government has gone the way of the California government. Gerrymandered districts and extremist views, leading to ideologically driven politicians (whether Tea Party on one end of the spectrum, or public sector union-sponsored at the other). The CA model became budget gridlock for many years, and so this is maybe what we have to look forward to now in the federal government....

Hence your gloomy posting seems to be more or less on target. We can expect little revival in the US economy or any political leadership for the next two years. Compared to the staggering growth in China and SE Asia (I just passed through Bangkok, and what a great country/city), it is clear that the world's best creative and business talent from its most populous region no longer heads for the US, but heads for Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Bangalore, or Bangkok.

So what to do? Especially now. The most efficient thing to do is engage directly in a dialog with one or both of your state's senators and hope that your comments can make a difference. The Senate is where most of the power in the US now seems to lie (notwithstanding the recent change of control in the House). Let your Senators know what you want to see done about unemployment extensions (yes/no), Bush tax cuts, gas tax, and military spending levels.

Then pray for snow, and hope the poor economy didn't affect your turkey and Xmas presents!


November 17, 2010 7:15 AM  

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