The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (2/28/10)

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.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (2/28/10)

Postby Ferguson Foont » Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:34 pm

As the cruelest, shortest (but paradoxically the most interminable) month finally draws to a close, here are a couple of comments about the good, the bad, and the ugly about it.

First, the good:

1. This year, in sharp and welcome contrast to last year, the worst of the weather seemed almost deliberately to bypass Bareknuckles World Headquarters, deep inside the Washington Beltway. We got almost no snow at all, and today is the sixth day this February where the temperature has surpassed 70 degrees (unprecedented -- in all weather records for this area, there were only three February days over 70 degrees, EVER -- not just in one year, but in all of them combined). We had the lowest winter electric and gas bills we ever saw.

2. My beloved if perennially inept Washington Nationals play their first exhibition game today (always a time for hope, at least until the first couple of pitches are thrown), and when Spring Training comes, can Spring itself be far behind? Although I can never quite grow accustomed to saying "First in war, first in peace, last in the NATIONAL League," well, perhaps since we are certainly no longer first in peace and it has become highly doubtful that we retain our title of "first in war," can I hope that at least the Nats WON'T finish last for a change?

3. If they can keep it up and eventually prevail, the demonstrations in Wisconsin get the biggest political thumbs-up I can provide. If they fail, however, this threatens to reduce the rights of the American worker down to the level enjoyed by eleventh-century peasants. And I don't just mean public workers. This will embolden every kind of business under the sun to attack collective bargaining rights wherever they still exist. The stakes are very high, but we're winning so far (at least in the court of public opinion) and that's good. Alas, though, it's fallen beneath the fold now, and when it falls entirely off page one, failure becomes more likely.

That's about all I can think of for the good for now, so we'll start on the bad:

1. In his proposed budget, The Great Capitulator has already demonstrated his ability to meet the other side more than halfway even before negotiations commence. The budget proposal out of the White House contains more draconian cuts than we would have seen from Reagan or Bob Dole. And now the further compromising can begin, with the rabid squirrels on the right side of the House standing obstinately and petulantly firm and arrogant as Obama throws them one more tasty bone after another out of the remaining remnants of the New Deal to appear "adult" and avoid a shutdown, blithley ignoring the fact that millions of real Americans depend on the things he's giving away to the rich whose strangely construed "right not to pay taxes" is so fiercely defended by the right. These rabid squirrels view his "reasonableness" as weakness, and this is because it is only people with very rose-colored glasses and a bad case of amnesia who continue to view it otherwise. It IS weakness, and it is a particularly dangerous weakness the American people can ill afford in these perilous times.

2. The worst thing Obama has forfeited to the rabid right is the extension of the Bush tax cuts. Ending those cuts only required that he not sign the bill extending them. Such a chance may never come again. That was truly heinous and its effects will not only be felt in our declining prosperity but quite possibly in the ultimate death of democracy itself. Perhaps you think I'm being a bit overwrought here, but that's because perhaps you are forgetting the ruling of Citizens United v. FEC. This really isn't the time to make the rich still richer at the expense of public service, particularly regulatory enforcement, and at the expense of the tiny remnants of power "We the People" still retain.

How did this happen? We had a huge majority in the Senate, a far larger majority than the Republicans now enjoy in the House, and the White House, too, following the landslide election of 2008, but now it is the REPUBLICANS who claim a "mandate," and Obama seems to buy into this argument just because his well-funded opponents won a few targeted House seats. This is absurd. Obama's desire to be everybody's friend has cost us SO MUCH, and promises to cost us so much more in the future. We have the fight over the debt ceiling coming up soon too, remember?

Clue to Beltway Barry: Republicans are NOT your friends, nor friends with your supporters, or with the people who depend on you to defend their interests. This is true no matter how often you give in to your foes -- they will NEVER support your policies. And there is no deal you can make with them that they will honor. Ever. Why are you incapable of learning this?

3. Have you noticed that the Mid-East riots that are succeeding in toppling the dictatorial regimes have all been targeted against our friends in the "War on Terror?" Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya -- these were all our allies. They're going after our puppet government in Iraq now. The ones in Iran and Syria seem less serious, almost like the obligatory paragraph a lot of journalists pointlessly inject into stories about Republican corruption that offer examples of past Democrats behaving similarly. We may claim to like democracy wherever it may be, but we may find that its effects are not in America's best interests in the end, and the world may become a more dangers and much more expensive place for us because of the success of these efforts.

4. Why hasn't anyone gone to jail yet for the widespread betrayals of fiduciary trust that led up to the 2008 financial collapse? How can this be? No cop I know has ever failed to issue a speeding ticket because the driver claimed that "Everybody does it." I'm afraid that in many cases we have already bumped up against statutes of limitation, and permitted the malefactors to remain in place to do it to us all over again.

5. So Crybaby John Boehner is now a "statesman?" Newt Gingrich is now a "spiritual man?" I understand. We're living in the Bizarro World. That's a pretty bad place to live.

There's lots more bad stuff -- something new every single day. So, in the name of whatever brevity might remain, let's turn now to the ugly.

1. Bought gasoline lately? Remember what happened to gasoline prices over the months leading up to the 2008 crash? I'm getting this really bad feeling of deja vu here.

I DO believe that we are headed for another, far greater, far more disastrous crash, one that will be impossible to mitigate under current economic and political circumstances. I believe this because literally nothing has changed but the reasonableness of those who govern us (which has changed significantly for the worse) from the conditions that led to the previous crash. All we did after that crash was prop things up with frighteningly massive government spending in TARP, ARRA and the other bailout programs that are now drawing forcibly to a door-slamming close. When we remove the props, the edifice will crumble, because we have done NOTHING to strengthen it its basic structure. We have taken no steps to rebuild our manufacturing industries, to protect our workforce from foreign competition and corporate abuse, to improve our housing situation, to increase our educational opportunities, to ease the costs to our society of health care, or even to rein in our banking excesses. We have continued, and in fact enhanced, the policies that make our entire economy even more top-heavy than it was previously, and therefore more susceptible to the winds of change.

The one program that really worked was the rescue of GM and Chrysler (opposed by Republicans unanimously, in case you've forgotten). This indeed is what we should have done with the money we shoveled into the pockets of the rich investment banker robber barons. We instead should have devoted it to direct subsidies to manufacturing industries and research & development, as well as infrastructure improvements and maintenance with its labor-intensive nature, to reduce unemployment, lower energy use, and strengthen consumer markets. But that's not what we did. Instead we focused on "stability," restoring things to the state they were in just before the crash, continuing to ship our jobs and our factories overseas, continuing to pay obscene bonuses to bankers who create nothing, continuing to allow our health care to remain in the hands of extreme-high-profit, zero value-added health insurers, and letting our political institutions go to the highest bidders without restraint or recourse.

I believe we are headed for a very bad time in the quite near future, a time directly and exclusively brought about by foolishly following right-wing economic and social policies to their inevitable conclusions. I believe the only escape will be an Egypt-style revolution that I am unlikely to live to see, and that will have consequences that cannot be foreseen. The way we are going, we are falling headlong into Feudalism, but a strange kind of Feudalism without the sense of honor, without the concept of "noblesse oblige" to temper its cruelties. And given Obama's consistently spineless nature and the political trends that will continue to accelerate in the wake of the ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, I honestly do not see how we stop it until it reaches a nasty tipping point that will herald an even worse and far more dangerous time for America in the future.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
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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