Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rant -- Tired Old Liberal Looks Back

Bernie Sanders posted this infographic last night that triggered a rant in me in the middle of the night. It too a while to get it all out, but I was able to go back to sleep when I finished. I still felt helpless and pissed off, but sleep finally came. This is what came out...

When Barack Obama was elected over five years ago I was excited because I thought the Reagan revolution was finally over. Ever since the election of Ronald Reagan I have watched social and economic developments with an aching hope that as a country we were learning lessons the hard way that would eventually make us stronger as a nation.

Boy was I wrong. I was wrong to imagine that as income inequality got worse surely enough people would notice that policy changes would correct the problem. I was wrong to imagine that the many ways that the compromises that Bill Clinton made with what during his two terms passed for a loyal opposition were perhaps incremental steps back to more rational economic and social policies. And worst of all I greatly underestimated the depth of hatred which would drive political opponents to torpedo just about any initiatives our current president attempts to make.

As Barack Obama's first term came to an end I could not imagine why anyone else would even want his job. It was clear during the election that the Republican opposition was driven more by a burning need to defeat the incumbent at any price, not overcoming his popularity or accomplishments by more appealing alternatives. Despite the popular mandate that swept him into a second term he has spent whatever political capital he had left on simply surviving. Whatever greater vision he may have in the way of economic or social progress is and will continue to be no more than that -- a vision, a hope, a possibility.

The Tea Party opposition triggered by the election of Barack Obama is the democratic equivalent of the extremists that have surfaced in the rest of the world, from the drug cartels of Asia and South America to the religious extremists of the Middle East. These opponents are in an early stage, but their power and willingness to grow and overcome anyone opposing them is as tough to defeat as clearing an infestation of weeds in a garden.

Statistics like this one from Senator Sanders office are the political equivalent of a lab report with results that over time become life-threatening. Like the patient with chronic high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes we are inviting ourselves to years of suffering and an early death if we fail to take corrective action.

One of my faithful commenters left this thoughtful response, which let me know I was not finished:
If you remember correctly, the tea party movement was was energized by the lack of action in Washington to contain the growth of government, increasing irresponsible government spending and action, the spiraling national debt and leanings towards tax increases as the solution. Tea Party protests began with TARP, Stimulus, Cap and Trade, and Obamacare. I'm certain that the overwhelming reaction towards Obama is due to his world view, which differs greatly from 50% of America. As a political being, there is no equal to Obama's ferociousness and ability to clear the field of any opposition by any means necessary. Like any driven individual, President Obama's level of frustration escalates, when his plans are thwarted.
He's correct about the president's drive and political ambition. If anything he understates both. There hasn't been a politician in my lifetime since Lyndon Johnson, with the possible exception of both Clintons, with Obama's political acumen. In light of what is being spun as a big failure in the Middle East, it seems foolish for me to add that his grasp and meaningful control of foreign affairs may be the best of any president since Truman, but that's the real basis for my assessment of his political skills. A few years from now we will know if I am correct. At this point all we know is that he triggered a string of events that avoided US intervention, threw sand in the faces of those who said he should, shifted the main problems to Russia, raised the awareness of chemical weapons and opened the way to negotiations with Iran -- while making his GOP opponents at home into caricatures.  (Not to mention how quiet Israel seems to have been during all this mess.)

My view of what's happening currently is set in a thirty year time frame. This was my reply: 
I wrote what you just read a few hours ago about 2AM after half a night's sleep. If you want to know what keeps me up at night, I guess that's part of the answer. We could discuss the particulars for pages, I'm sure, but Bernie Sanders' infographic has little or nothing to do with Barack Obama or his politics and everything to do with what is shaping our politics in Washington. This is not a new trend. It only showed up when the metric of 24 years ago is compared with now, but the baseline causes are rooted in a Conservative ascendancy of the last three decades which started with a backlash to the blistering defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964.

I didn't get to be a Liberal all at once. It started in my teens. And like any other life-shaping condition the after-effects continue now in my final years. I hear all you say about spending and taxes, but when I look at the world outside America I know how very lucky we are and how selfish we tend to be any time someone suggests we should be sharing that good fortune and inviting as many people as possible to be a part of it.

One man's "irresponsible spending" is another man's investment. One man's "spiraling debt" is another man's HELOC. One man's "growth of government" is another man's increased security and protection. Somehow the gridlock in Washington must be broken. Historically the two-party system has been the mechanism of compromise. But an obdurate minority of the minority stands in the way. And that unwitting group (yes, the Tea Party) is bought and paid for as surely as corporate interests own the rest of Congress.

I hate seeing it, but as long as corporations are considered people and money is considered speech, whatever political leverage everyday people may have left will continue to erode. Lincoln said the Lord must have loved the common man since He made so many of them. And I suppose the attitude of the UNcommon man (and his corporate allies in other parts of industry, commerce and banking) will always be that those multitudes are there to be exploited.
Here's a link complimentary with Senator Sanders' infographic.
The typical American family makes less than it did in 1989

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