What Can One Say? -- Part II (9/10/10)

Here is where I shall vent my spleen on whatever political topic might cross my mind on a given day. Comments or responses may be posted to whatever forum might be appropriate to that particular topic.

What Can One Say? -- Part II (9/10/10)

Postby Ferguson Foont » Fri Sep 10, 2010 1:56 pm

On this eve of our extraordinarily pointless and spiritually destructive annual orgy of wallowing in the events of 9/11/01, I shall address a few more of the myriad topics I have neglected to comment on in recent weeks.

First, the annual 9/11 wallowing orgy. Why do we do this? It certainly can't be because we see something in it to celebrate. Nor can it be because any of us, ANY of us, are ever in our lives in any danger of forgetting that tragic day. Is it because our media folk can't find enough to do?

Personally I think something more sinister is at work. Our reaction to 9/11 was one of fear, hot anger and a lust for revenge, and the effects of reacting that fear, acting out of that anger, and pursuing our revenge has cost this country dearly in ways from which we may never fully recover. We have placed ourselves under a level of surveillance that the most oppressive regimes that ever ruled nations like the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, or Red China couldn't even have begun to dream of. We have undertaken one war, the "War on Terrorism," that can NEVER end because our enemy has no possible way to surrender even should they be so inclined, and two utterly pointless related wars that have no potential for any kind of benefit to the United States or for anything that could possibly be regarded as a "victory" in any reasonable sense. But there are some people who profit mightly from our reaction to 9/11, and those people enjoy great wealth, influence and power.

Believe me when I tell you that, when we finally depart from Iraq, Iraq will face a terrible, if hopefully brief, civil war afterwards, the result of which will be a Shi'ite regime allied with Iran and without any potential ever to ally itself with America. If that's a victory, maybe it would have been better had we lost. And when we leave Afghanistan they will be ruled by warlords more vicious than the Taliban ever was. This is the INEVITABLE outcome of our military adventures in those distinctly foreign lands, where we are viewed as infidel invaders and those who cooperate with us are viewed as traitors to their nation and to their god.

We have demonstrated to the world that our devotion to individual liberty is something we are willing, even eager, to sell cheap in return for the illusion of security that despotism provides. We have shown the world that our military can be as destructive as ever, but as for making life better in those nations where we intervene militarily, our military is ill-equipped for that sort of thing. And we have greatly increased the credibility of the radical Muslims who preach that America is the Great Devil, as we kill their people, bomb their homes, torture the prisoners we take, and tear apart the infrastructure of their countries in ways they may never be able to rebuild.

And nearly a third of the world's people now hate us for it. It is from such hatred that anti-Americanism and terrorism is born and flourishes. Had we pursued justice instead of vengeance in the days following the destruction of the WTC, the world would be a far better place today.

I think that most of us who have children have tried to teach those children that it is seldom productive to act while our ability to reason is impaired by hot anger or fear, and the Bible in which most of us profess to believe teaches us that vengeance is never appropriate under any circumstances. But that is what 9/11 has done for us and we have paid, and continue to pay, a price beyond what this nation can afford. This cost has been assessed against our prosperity, our liberty, our security, our stature as a superpower, and the greatness of our Founders' ideals.

9/11 ushered in a very black age for America, a dark age in which we are still lost and that we should strive to emerge from rather than immerse ourselves in. It would well behoove us to forget if only we could.

HEAVY sigh!

Now, on why Democratic candidates find themselves in such a precarious position this November, it is as James Carville said, "It's the economy, stupid."

But it's a bit more complex than that. Barack Obama and the congressional Democrats inherited an economic mess from Bush and the Republicans that was so very similar to the onset of the Great Depression that it is a miracle that we have escaped the same kind of total collapse. We only did so by dumping such astronomical amounts of greenbacks into the economy in a storm of bailouts and stimulus packages that, for such a huge amount of money, we could have bought every American family a house.

But this money went to Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, AIG, Wells Fargo, etc., and this was done under the prevailing economic theory of "trickle-down," where if the big guys do well, the rest of us will prosper as well.

Unfortunately, "trickle-down" (also called "supply-side economics") has never worked very well to stimulate a macroeconomic system and never will. The problem is that businesses of ALL kinds are not altruistic, and if they have the ability to do so, they will keep as much of whatever money they earn or are given by our taxpayers as they can. The good of society is not their concern, and they view their workforce as expenses that, if they can be cut, such cuts will improve the lot of the executives and the shareholders.

We have seen this very clearly over the past two years. Businesses PROFITS are soaring, but these profits are being retained and are not going to increasing production, improving pay and benefits, or hiring new workers even while executive compensation has soared. While those businesses were crippled, we the taxpayers propped them up. But instead of showing gratitude, now the robber barons, who can now walk again, step on the taxpayers and the workers and squash us like the bugs they regard us to be.

So the vast majority of the American people view the recovery as failing. Everybody is either out of a job themselves, or has a family member unemployed or underemployed, or knows someone who is. Everybody who holds a job fears cutbacks and givebacks that might throw them into a situation where they can no longer make their mortgage payment or pay their rent. People don't like living like this, and who can blame us?

Back before the election of 1988, at the end of the Democratic National Convention after the presidential nominee had been selected, helium balloons were released from the floor to float to the ceiling. This contrasted with the Republican National Convention, where they celebrated choosing their nominee by releasing balloons from the ceiling to rain down on the delegates. This was a deliberate bit of symbolism, where Republicans believe in policies that benefit the top economic strata in hopes that some of those benefits will "trickle down" like the balloons, while Democrats believed in what is called "bubble-up economics," where improving the purchasing power of the American worker would ultimately bring about prosperity for all. The Democratic position is also often described by pointing out that, "A rising tide lifts all boats."

Over and over and over again the Democratic view has been vindicated by events every single time, but for some reason, starting in '88, the Democrats began to release the balloons from the ceiling, just like the Republicans. Maybe this had something to do with a shortage of helium, but I don't think so because there is no such shortage, nor in the US has there been such a shortage in the past as far as I know.

It seems to me, however, that the Democratic candidates since then, Dukakis, Clinton, Kerry and now Obama (Al Gore may have turned out different, but we can never know), have adopted the trickle-down principles, keeping the upper marginal tax rates much lower than they were when we were much more prosperous and our overall standard of living was rising the most rapidly, and have followed policies that chiefly benefited businesses and ignored -- indeed were antagonistic to -- the need of workers, retirees, families and anyone who, for one reason or another, might be underprivileged -- in other words, customers.

The result of this has been the collapse of our economy, particularly the all-important manufacturing sector. American workers can no longer afford to purchase what we produce, resulting in increasing inventories, decreasing production, layoffs and givebacks, further reducing purchasing power, etc. etc. etc. in a vicious circle. We are seeing this now.

People can debate endlessly on what caused the Great Depression and the Great Recession, but my position in that debate is that the underlying cause is identical for both economic crises. By following right-wing economic policies including low tax rates, inadequate protections of workers' rights, and laissez-faire regulation, which occurred in the 1920s and again in the '80s and '00s, we transferred wealth from American families and workers -- 95% of our people -- into the pockets of business owners and major shareholders, who comprise 5% or less of our population. Eventually this reached a tipping point, where our people could no longer purchase what our industries could produce, and the result was a long-lasting economic disaster for the great majority of our people, even while the rich could still buy their Duesenbergs (and today's robber barons snarf up all the Mercedes Benz SLS gullwings that they can make in Stuttgart).

We did not have the severe shock that heralded the onset of the Great Depression because the Republicans were quickly ushered out of office only a few months after the crash, rather than having over two years years to continue to pursue the same policies that caused the crash, as Hoover and the congressional Republicans had from 1929-1933. Had the 2008 crash occurred a year or two earlier we would be in truly desperate straits today.

But our straits now might even have been worse than in 1929, and still might become worse. We have no Franklin Roosevelt waiting in the wings with the courage and the wit to do what must be done. We no longer have the boundless manufacturing potential that we enjoyed eighty years ago, and indeed we have farmed out much of our manufacturing and support services overseas where labor and real estate is cheaper. This reduction in our manufacturing and support infrastructure is a real, very serious problem that will take many years to correct, if indeed we can ever summon the will even to start.

I supported NAFTA and other international trade agreements back then. It was a very complicated issue and I thought the benefits would likely outweigh the drawbacks. I see now that I was wrong. Our headlong rush into free-market internationalism has left us in the situation where Americans in many fields have to compete on an almost equal salary basis against workers in India or the Philippines or Indonesia where the cost of living is far lower. This is how jobs are lost. Every time you talk to a support person for your PC or your printer, or any of a wide variety of other products sold with AMERICAN brands on them like HP, you talk to a person in Bangalore who has taken away a job that an AMERICAN would otherwise be doing.

As I said above, most of what Obama has proposed and gotten enacted is more trickle-down, with a few exceptions (notably ARRA). Had this money gone instead into massive labor-intensive public works, things like TGV intercity railbeds, placing our electricity and communications wires underground, repairing our bridges and building new ones, etc., and into financing public education and higher education we might be sitting quite a bit prettier today and looking forward to a better future, but that was an opportunity lost.

Much of it, much of our "hope," if you will, was lost to Republican obstructionism, but much of it was lost because we didn't even try, or didn't fight hard enough in the court of public opinion for it. But one thing is clear -- Should the Republicans seize control again and insist on more of their top-down economic schemes, we risk a crash of insurmountable proportions and hardship that could threaten the survival of our very republic.

There is a subset of American society -- the VERY rich -- who would prefer that we become a third-world nation. It is so much easier to get your way from a peasantry than from a sovereign, educated, proud individual. I mean, it's HARDER to get good work cheap here than it is in Indonesia, right?

So we have watched as our prosperity has ebbed and the Obama administration has striven mightily to appease the implacable right by continuing a large part of failed Bush economic policies, and this has disheartened much of the Democratic base. A disheartened base is an essential ingredient in the recipe for electoral defeat.

It's just hard to maintain one's enthusiasm when victory looks so similar to defeat.

About the mosque at "ground zero," what do you suppose is the necessary distance from the WTC so that it would be OK? I mean, the Islamic center is ALREADY there, and they just want to make it nicer, right? And it's quite out of sight of the new "Freedom Plaza," so what's the beef?

Oh, right, right-wingers will follow any Pied Piper as long as he's bigoted and/or crazy enough, and the press will lap it up and spread it around faster than any plague.

"Left-wing media" my big fat white patootie!
Republicans whine and Republicans bitch: "Our rich are too poor, and our poor are too rich."
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Ferguson Foont
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