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Archive for October, 2010

If there is one thing that can be reliably deduced from American voting patterns it is this: the people want change.  Consider the case of Bill Clinton. If you look at his record while President, he rescued the economy from an impending collapse due to the economic fantasies of Ronald Reagan and the economic incompetence of Bush #1. During the Clinton years we had an era of prosperity that was among the best the country ever enjoyed. Furthermore, as President, Bill Clinton pretty much kept the United States out of war – a feat achieved by very few Presidents in our history. Bill Clinton’s problem was his intern that he kept under his desk. True to our Puritan heritage, the American people just could not handle that, and come the next election they voted for CHANGE, i.e Bill was a Democrat, so they voted Republican.  (Our CHANGE button is basically a binary switch, for all practical purposes you get to choose between a Democrat or a Republican – that’s it.)

When Bush #2 became President we became the victims of a man who was arguably the least intelligent man to ever hold that office. He promptly reverted to the insane economic ideas of Ronald Reagan while following the Republican economic battle cry of “No controls, no government oversight”. The result was a plunge into an economic abyss, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the Great Depression. That President also involved the country in a mindless, unjustified war in Iraq that cost uncounted billions of dollars and the loss of many lives. That President also made a mess of the war on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Again billions of dollars were spent, many lives lost, and the supposed objective of the war – the elimination of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden – was a failure.  So, when it came time for the next Presidential election, the American people voted for CHANGE.

When America voted for Barack Obama to become President they knew they weren’t getting a white knight in shining armor who would wage wars with the enemies of America and who would right all the wrongs of the previous President. They thought they were getting a black knight in shining armor who would do those things. They just wanted a fearless and true knight – just like in the fairy tales. The problem is that after two years on the job, our black knight hasn’t led the attack. He has played “let’s make a deal”. True to his background as a United States Senator, he thought he could negotiate his way to achieving the “shining city on a hill”. Well, that didn’t work, did it?  Sure, he did save the country from a mind-numbing plunge into an economic abyss – but it’s one thing to be hanging by the life-saving strands of a safety belt, it’s another to be climbing to the top of a mountain. This isn’t what the American people voted for. They want the mountain top.

So, as we approach another election day, it looks like the American people may well push the binary CHANGE button again. If so, we will be facing more people in Congress who are the economic disciples of Herbert Hoover (the President who presided over the crash of the stock market in 1929 and the resulting Great Depression).  The problem is our binary button. We often have to vote not for the best of all possible candidates, but the least of the evils.  We have to vote for either the failed policies of the present or the failed policies of the past. Our CHANGE button doesn’t work. That is the message of the Tea Party, but the sad thing is that the Tea Party doesn’t bring any fresh ideas either, just ultra-extreme Republicanism which might have worked well in the early days of the country when you could just grab the land and natural resources from the Native Americans. (Those were the good old days, weren’t they?) But those days are gone, and the “every man for himself” philosophy is not a recipe for a modern functional society. Even the Republican Party knows that.

The recent meltdown of the world’s economy demonstrated, to anyone open-minded enough to objectively look, that Herbert Hoover and his disciples are wrong about economics in a capitalist system. They were wrong in 1929, they were wrong in 2007, and they are wrong in 2010. Hoover/Reagan/Bush economics always leads to economic disaster, and this is the problem we now face because when the voters push the CHANGE button on Tuesday it will toggle our economy back to a plan for economic disaster. It’s not the CHANGE we need, nor is it the change for which we voted two years ago. The change we need is this: our black knight needs to put on his shining armor and fearlessly lead this country forward. He needs to understand that we are not playing “Let’s Make a Deal”. President Bush never made a deal, yet he was able to do all of the insane/illegal things he wanted to do: things like illegal wiretaps, torturing prisoners, waging war for fabricated and untrue reasons. Bush, like a European Emperor or a Russian Czar, simply scoffed at the rules and did what he wanted to do. I don’t hold this up as an example for Barack Obama, but I think he needs to learn that he is a President and not a Senator anymore. He needs to put on the shining armor and get out there on the field.

The question is: is it too late? Will the American people push the broken CHANGE button again? It looks like it, but the CHANGE that will come on November 2nd won’t be the one they want or the one we need.

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It’s difficult to say when it began, but I am sure the seeds were planted on the very first day the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.  Surely the beliefs that allow such betrayals are contained in the essence of the Calvinist/Puritan teaching of the concept of the “elect”.  Surely such beliefs are made manifest in the wholesale slaughter of the native Americans who owned this land.  Surely such beliefs are made manifest in the enslavement of an entire race of people, all for the sake of the enrichment of private fortunes. They called America the land of opportunity. And who comes to a land of opportunity except opportunists?

Through the centuries there have been numerous examples of men who professed a love for this country and its people, and all the while they acted out of anything but love for either the country or its people.  These captains of industry and leaders of government, clever with words and even more clever with the manipulation of the populace, time and again took advantage of the people solely for the purpose of self-aggrandizement.   The use of slaves in the south, the use of child labor in the factories of the north, the ejection of native Americans from their homelands on which they had lived for over 10,000 years, are all the work of opportunists – people without a sense of honor, righteousness, or human sympathy. These people knew only greed for wealth and would say anything, do anything, and go anywhere to obtain it. As they would say, ” You gotta do what you gotta do.” And they called themselves Americans.

We should have seen it coming fifty years ago. That’s when the captains of industry began moving the manufacturing industry of America from the industrial northeast to the south in order to take advantage of the cheap labor and thus obtain even greater profits. It was an opportunity not to be missed. And over the years the northeast lost many, many thousands of jobs and once thriving manufacturing towns became empty as people left, looking for work somewhere else. Never mind that the captains of industry had been good citizens. Some had even held political office. All had claimed they were working for the good of their communities. And then they left – for the opportunity to make even more money. And what about the people left behind? Who cares?

We missed the signs, though they were obvious to see. Then it happened again, except this time the captains of industry moved their factories to other countries where the people would work for even less money – it was an opportunity, you see. And our government? Well, it was just fine with our elected officials. No need to erect tariffs to keep out the cheaply made goods that would compete with American made products. It’s competition – good for everyone. Right? But it wasn’t. Sure it was good for Wal-Mart. Sure it has been wonderful for China. But what about the American worker? What could he do now?

Ah! The government had an idea (with the help of the banking industry). The poor people could buy and flip houses! Let them become mini-Capitalists! They can make their fortune’s that way and so can the banks. And the government said, “Let it be so.” And it was.

As Americans now look at the smoking ruin that was once the American economy, there is a strong sense of betrayal. Look at the Tea Party. They are made as Hell and they aren’t going to take it any more. Sadly, they have no clue about exactly what happened to them. They just know that they don’t want to pay taxes anymore. Everywhere there is unhappiness. The government cannot be trusted. The people we elect don’t deliver. They promise to do things and then they never even attempt to do them once they are elected. Democrat or Republican – it makes no difference, because, you see, they are all opportunists in this land of opportunity.

We, the people, don’t get it. It’s not about community. It’s not about patriotism.  It’s not about helping your neighbor. It’s not about people helping people. At least those are not the concerns of our captains of industry or our captains of government. We have been betrayed, fooled, bamboozled. The Tea Party knows it. We are a nation of suckers, believing political promises and televised slogans from big business. Our Supreme Court, in its mind-boggling wisdom, has declared that corporations are like people and that they enjoy the same freedom of speech that real, living people do.  Really! So now corporations can use their billion dollar megaphones to drown out the voices of dissent from the people.  We are indeed betrayed. Our jobs have been moved overseas. Our wealthiest citizens pay almost no taxes while our poorest people are evicted from their foreclosed homes to live on the streets. Our banks have received billions of dollars from the government in order to cover their losses. Our industries have received billions of dollars from our government in order to cover their losses. All because our government and our industry leaders deliberately moved the key machinery of our economy to China, India, and the rest of the developing world – and all at the expense of the American citizen.

The people of America have been betrayed by the leaders of their industries and their elected leaders for many, many years.  And now, while the smoke still lazily drifts upward from the ruins of a devastated economy, the politicians prod the people once again. “Vote for me. Vote for me.” But Washington, don’t you see? The people are tired of your tricks, tired of your betrayals, tired of your promises that mean so little.  We know you are nothing but opportunists.

I fear that the time is near when the American people, like Estragon and Vladimir in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, will simply not move.

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