Monday, August 16, 2010

America - It Was A Nice Idea And Could Be Again

In my email today was a piece in the Wall Street Journal from Mort Zuckerman entitled The End of American Optimism that grabbed my attention.  He makes several good points (and some downright nasty ones, like how people "sitting around on the dole" should get off their lazy asses and train for new jobs.  I wonder if Mort is willing to help PAY for that training?) about how bad the economy is and how, if we aren't careful, lower expectations will be the new American norm. He ends with this:

But if the economic scene these days is daunting, the political scene is downright depressing. We have a paralyzed system. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem able to find common ground to address what is clearly going to be an ongoing employment crisis. Finding that common ground is a job opportunity for real leaders.
True enough, but what's really happening is that we are reaping what we've sown here. From politicians down to regular folk, we've sat around - fat and happy - and let our democratic republic slip into oligarchy.  Oligarchy is defined as a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few. Can anyone deny that is exactly what is going on here in the United States right now?  Oh, we still have our elections and our nominal representation but the current Great Recession is only hurting the middle class and the poor.  Massive layoffs are the norm, massive business failures are not - in fact, they are sitting on piles of cash now and refusing to hire. The rich are still getting richer while the unemployed have to beg for their barely-subsistence unemployment checks and food stamps are being cut.

This isn't a Republican versus Democrat issue either - both parties helped this come to pass.

Look around and the propaganda that got us here is breathtaking.  Paris Hilton and the Kardashians are celebrities simply because they are rich and they are not alone.  In the '90s, multimillionaire Ross Perot runs an independent campaign for President as a "man of the people" and gets a sizable chunk of the vote in '92 and '96.  "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" is on our TVs in the '80s.  We tune in to wealthy Donald Trump telling people "You're fired" as well.  Why did we buy into this?  We thought we could become rich too.

How's that workin' out for ya?  *wink*

There is a real danger here that's not being discussed - this discontent could become something more than just public grumbling.  Something violent and bloody.  The current mythology is that Americans will carry on and take what they get while staying true to what's been sold to us as "American values."  My suggestion is to read Howard Zinn's book, A People's History of the United States.  Discard his polemics and far left (awful) view of America and one thing stands out:  Our history is rife with people who didn't just decide not to sit there and take it, they went after the people who were giving it to them.  Courthouses burned, rich people were dragged from their mansions and beaten or worse.  This isn't taught in schools and it can happen again. If it gets bad enough, all those people with guns will eventually get it that their "enemy" isn't us liberals, it's the people who took away their livelihoods for nothing but the sake of a better profit margin. 

That way leads to real revolution and we may not like the America it produces.  Don't scoff - it can happen here and has many times in many countries much older than our near-300 years.

What to do?  Film maker Michael Moore makes the case that capitalism is an evil that needs to be replaced in his documentary, Capitalism A Love Story.  OK, but what we have as alternatives aren't much better.  Both Communism and socialism are Utopian failures that got started as a reaction to the excesses of the Industrial Revolution just as much as capitalism was a justification and celebration of them.  They all have one thing in common, however:  they are all outdated.

I'm no economist but surely someone, somewhere can come up with a new economics system that is equitable to all.  We probably won't see it in our lifetimes, but that's no excuse to not get started on one.  OK thinkers, get to work.  Our country is calling you to service and only our future is at stake.


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