All the Bad News That's Fit to Print
Sometimes, when certain species (you know who you are) are too utterly daft to recognize the obvious, the Universe sees fit to scream it out in the form of big, bold block letters.
Such was the case just last week, when all of the following headlines were published, by one journal alone (the New York Times), and just in one 24-hour period. Read them and weep:
“Poverty Levels in 2010 Reach 52-Year Peak, US Says”
“Obama Looks For Big Health Cuts, Worrying Democrats”
“G.O.P. Scores Upset, Claims Win As Omen For Obama”
“Two-Tier Pay Now the Way Detroit Works”
“In Suburb, Battle Goes Public On Bullying of Gay Students”
“Student Loan Default Rates Rise Sharply In Past Year”
“What’s a Presidential Library to Do? An Admiring Approach at the Reagan. History, Warts and All, at the Nixon.”
“Obama Offers Jobs Bill, And the G.O.P. Balks”
“Government Pays More In Contracts, Study Finds”
“Ex-Senate Aide Will Be a Lobbyist”
“Fast-Track for Disaster Aid Is Blocked”
How’s that for a litany of shame and destruction? I didn’t even include the garden variety domestic violence scandals of mayoral aides and schools cheating on standardized tests, or anything in the sports section.
What’s most amazing, however, is the degree to which the American public still can’t put it together. Imagine if you were capable of recognizing letters on a page, but not able to string them together into meaningful words. Imagine if you could identify individual biological organs but not add them up to constitute a person. Imagine if every Cheerio in your cereal spoon was a source of fresh wonder, as if you’d never seen one before. Now imagine 300 million people who can encounter news stories like the ones above and still not tie them together into a coherent narrative.
Let me make it simple, in case anyone wants to share this essay with their idiotic, Republican (pardon the redundancy) cousin Buford: The story of American politics over the last generation is the story of the transfer of wealth from the people to the plutocrats. If you think there is anything else essential going on here, you don’t get it.
Of course, you’re not supposed to get it. And one reason why so many people can’t put the narrative together is because there is no one in the political class who is articulating that vision for them to consider. Not a single one among the elites in American politics and government.
Here’s what’s not being said, and not being understood:
That, thirty years ago, the ‘heroic’, venerated, practically deified, Ronald Reagan ushered in the age of plutocratic piracy, artfully hiding it behind any kind of fear that would sufficiently stimulate the amygdala of your garden variety troglodyte enough to hide the real agenda. You know, commies, fags, fur’ners, whatever.
That the folks who had traditionally been advocates for the rest of us who don’t own yachts were now every bit as bought off as those in the more overly corrupted Republican Party. These Democrats would mouth the words about “fighting” (if I hear that word again from another politician, I swear I will projectile vomit) for the middle class, but that they would actually screw us at every opportunity. Have you noticed how when they don’t control the institutions of government they are always somehow unable to block the Republicans’ worst crimes. But when they do control these institutions the Republicans are somehow always able to prevail from a minority position. Go figure. It almost seems like the Democrats aren’t really serious about the rhetoric they employ. But, of course, that would be dishonest...
That regressive policies have, with almost no exception, prevailed in every contest over the last thirty years, especially on questions of political economy. Taxes? Regressives won. Deregulation? Regressives got what they wanted. Labor relations? What’s this thing they used to call the “union”? Privatization? Why not? Debt? “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter”. Trade policy? Dude, where’s my job? (Hint: it speaks Mandarin now.) Bailouts for big banks? A hundred pennies on the dollar. Need I go on?
That we are now where we are, precisely because of regressive economic policies. This is the single most crucial and most frustrating fact of our time. It’s not exactly theoretical physics to figure out that slashing taxes will produce debt. And it did. Or that trade deals will ship our jobs overseas. As they did. Or that banksters with all the same latitude to indulge their greed that they possessed in 1929 will produce the same results as their grandfathers. Which they did. Or that the much-vaunted private sector is no more efficient and inexpensive at doing things than the government. And it’s not.
That the American public has simply and utterly been downsized over the last thirty years. That people work longer and harder to make less, and live with far greater insecurity than before, while corporations and plutocrats are far richer than they were three decades ago. That people are more miserable, have less time to spend with their families, are less healthy, more stressed, more insecure and more poorly compensated – when they can scratch out a job at all – than their parents were. All so that the über-rich can now be über-über-rich. So that millionaires can be billionaires.
That people are sick to death (often quite literally) of a government that is unresponsive to their most basic needs. That they have lost all faith in the once-given notion that someone in Washington has their back. But that they still continue to believe in the dream of democracy, and will cast a vote (no matter which way they choose) for precisely the folks who brought us this nightmare, and who will accelerate its delivery after the election of 2012.
This situation is becoming acute, and I foresee about sixteen different ways in which it will only get worse from here. It is a fact of stunning proportions and epic significance that – less than three years since the end of the Bush nightmare – America is about to turn back to a more extreme version of the same disastrous politics brought to us by the same disaster-loving politicians.
Rick Perry will be the next president of the United States, you can count on that. (A fact which does, believe it or not, have its certain virtues. At the very least it means that both the oleaginous scumbucket, Ken-Doll Romney, and the inner-circle-of-hell traitor, Barack Obama, will both be humiliated in losing.) And Perry will seek to Texafy the rest of the country as fast as he can. His state is one of the worst in the union on practically every measure of quality of life that there is (except for creating new, low-wage, non-union, no-benefit jobs, that is, and the wholesale murder of poor blacks and Hispanics on death row), and he will run successfully on the basis of his record as governor of Texas.
I tell you, some days it just feels like you’ve fallen into an alternative universe where the laws of nature cease to apply... Perhaps that little problem with physical reality also accounts for why regressives have such a hard time with evolution and global warming.
But I digress. A Perry presidency can only happen because the status quo is so untenable, and people therefore so badly crave change. Such seeming oscillations chart the course of American electoral politics during this Era of Corporate Rape. Where once we had stable centrist politics and even stable majorities in Congress, now every election is a referendum on the failed policies of the current incumbents. We make radical u-turns, switching from one party to the next, without switching from one policy to another. Every politician pretends to be for the people. Every one of them actually serves the oligarchs who buy them their stations and a small bit of relief for their raging personal insecurities. Nothing changes but the letter after their names.
This is precisely why Obama and his party are sinking so rapidly now. He is nothing more than Bush’s third term, and Bush was nothing more than a continuation of the Wall Street-friendly policies of Clinton, and so on, back to Reagan. Of course Obama is failing utterly. He is pursuing policies that are utterly failing the American people, as they have for three decades. The only difference between him and the public he’s meant to serve is that he well knows that that is precisely what they’re designed to do, while the American public still – still! – doesn’t get it.
I was delighted (not really) to see Obama do his big speech and finally get some spunk going, nearly three years since he was elected, to start “fighting” for jobs in America. The only problem is that his is the only job he’s actually trying to protect. Idiotic liberals need to face reality. The only significant difference between George W. Bush and Barack Obama is that the latter is the more skilled lying corporate hack. Look at his policies. Look at what he hasn’t done. Look at the people he’s surrounded himself with.
This will be even more clear than it already is for anyone who has the interest and the courage to observe the guy accurately (sorry, regressives, that leaves you out) when he details his big no-cost jobs plan. Why it took three years into his presidency to notice there is a small jobs problem in America (and the administration evidently still hasn’t noticed the mortgage holocaust going down), and why Obama couldn’t have had his big plan actually formulated when he gave the speech incessantly exhorting Congress to pass ‘it’, tells you a lot about his real priorities. We already know how fast he’d jump if the banks were hurting, because we saw him do it, giving them full public (that means your money and mine) bail-outs, with no restrictions and no requirements to loan taxpayer money, and doing so even though these are the very criminals who wrecked the global economy in the first place. For all you regular folk, it takes a lot longer to get some help, I’m afraid.
The speech was textbook bully pulpit. Apart from the small matters of content, timing and motivation, it was precisely what a president should be doing, and precisely the way it is effectively done by successful presidents. If you doubt that, recall that when the Bush junta began in late 2002 to market its plan for a wee skirmish in the Middle East, only about a third of Americans saw the wisdom in that manifestly ludicrous idea. By the time Karl Rove and his Mad Men were finished making their relentless and ruthlessly amoral pitch for invading Iraq, the figure had become about two-thirds on the eve of the attack. People who give Obama a pass for having to work in a difficult political environment fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the American presidency. The most effective ones are effective because they make their own realities through the power of persuasion.
But the only thing that Obama is serious about is appearing to be serious. This speech was excellent political theater, but substantively as hollow as a Hostess Twinkie. And about as nutritious for the country as well. But hollow well suits a president who capitulates so frequently he’s starting to be known around DC as the Caveman of Pennsylvania Avenue. In any case, he doesn’t care. The whole point of the exercise was to communicate to the American people (read: voters he’ll soon be needing again) that “I care”, and to trap the Republicans into either going along with his plan – which he knows they won’t, so no serious danger to the aristocracy there – or providing him with a nice campaign cudgel (“they don’t care”) to be used between now and November 2012.
Either way, this is likely to be one of the most sickening campaigns ever in modern American history. By all rights, according to the essence of the democratic idea, Obama should lose. He has failed dramatically, by any serious measure, and the voters’ natural inclination is to seek change – which, by the way, is precisely why he is today president himself. So the White House will be desperately seeking to change the story such that the election is about anything but themselves. This is just what the chickenhawk-in-chief Bush did in 2004, with the assistance of the hapless John Kerry (or was it the hapless Jimmy Carter? or the hapless Walter Mondale? or the hapless Michael Dukakis? I get all these punching-bag Democrats so confused!). Bush the Vietnam coward actually managed to turn the Silver Starred and Purple Hearted Kerry into a knock-kneed wimpy-burger threat to American national security. Anything to get people talking and thinking about something besides the dismal incumbent.
Watch Obama do the same in this cycle, and do it hard because Perry will not be coming at him with wiffle balls. What that means is that the ‘hope and change’ guy who won hearts in 2008 with his appeals to our better angels will now be running a campaign Nixon and his Plumbers could be proud of. And it’s all the more reason why he’ll lose. I mean, how inspirational, Barack! It also explains why he’ll continue in his remarkable efforts to eviscerate the Democratic Party – even the corporate obeisance version we have today. I mean really, in what bizarro universe is this worthless chump not being shown to the nearest home for retired politicians by members of his own party? First there was Scott Brown snagging the more-or-less-most-Democratic-Senate-seat-in-the-country because of Obama, then a wholesale mass bloodletting in the 2010 midterms, also because of the president, and last week the loss – by nearly ten points – of what is probably the most Democratic congressional district in the entire country, for yet again the same reason. Now he’s hurdling headlong into pissing away the White House and loads of Congress and state-level Democratic-held positions along the way in 2012. Does Obama have to launch predator drone missiles against the FDR monument on the Washington mall for Democrats to realize the extent of his destructive capacity against their party?
In any case, 2013 is when history will get interesting, in a Chinese curse sort of way. The Republicans will own Washington, and will viciously destroy the welfare state and otherwise turn over every bit of national wealth and middle class prosperity to the country’s plutocrats that they can, as fast as they can. Their program will, of course, have no effect on stimulating the economy (shhh!, don’t tell anyone, but it’s not intended to), and will very likely make it worse through reducing government spending and laying off public sector employees. As if we’ve learned nothing this last century. As if Keynes had been a botanist or something.
What then? It is possible, as happened to Reagan, that the GOP will get lucky and happen to be sitting in the White House at the moment the economy recovers. That’s a nightmare scenario, for it means that progressive, New Deal-style, ideas about the national social compact will be utterly buried for a generation or more.
Alternatively, and more likely, the economy will remain awful or get worse. It’s then possible that the public will just tolerate their downsizing like docile lambs, just as the Japanese have done for over a decade now. But the moment may also provide an occasion for people to rise up and demand an end to he national theft that’s been plaguing them for thirty years now. Perhaps that seems unlikely, but there are signs of stirring in Europe and Israel and elsewhere that are rather promising. If the Arabs can have their Spring cleaning of kleptocratic oligarchs, why shouldn’t Americans too?
The thing is, though, there’s pretty much nothing that I put past the right in this country. And, if they’re about to head down the toilet because people are starting to catch up to the bankruptcy of their policies, the question becomes what might they do to change the channel before it’s too late? A little racism or gay bashing, maybe? Nope. It wouldn’t be on a grand enough scale for this project. They’ll need something powerful, like a good national security scare or a full-on war, just like the Argentinean regime invaded the Falklands/Malvinas when they were in trouble domestically, and just like Margaret Thatcher responded in kind when she was in trouble domestically herself. Scary, eh?
It is scary, actually. And not just for, oh, I dunno, the Iranians or Cubans or Venezuelans in a desperate GOP’s crosshairs, either. This is the sorriest state I’ve seen the country in during my lifetime. What were once political outrages of epic proportions are now standard issue Republican Party rhetoric and policies. What was once a Democratic Party largely for the people is now a bunch of corporate hacks hiding behind faux political cowardice to mask their real commitments. You know you’re really hurting when appearing to be a coward is more attractive than telling the actual truth about your politics.
Meanwhile, the country adopts stupider and stupider policies, turning to more and more idiotic characters, in hopes of salvaging our sinking ship. Iraq, tax cuts for the wealthy, unabated global warming – those sure turned out great, eh? Hey, well then, let’s do even more of that!
Sorry, but nowadays the only thing that makes me feel better about the present is thinking about the future.