Bob Herbert, columnist at the New York Times, is leaving that paper after eighteen years of reminding readers that America is also a society of the poor and nearly-poor, and are often ignored and manipulated for the benefit of others.
His last column is entitled, "Losing Our Way", and The Great Curmudgeon reminded me in a post this morning to read it:
Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies... The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living...I've reached a place where I sincerely believe that the various Conservative politicians and currents in America are narcissistic, violent, even sociopathic elements in the culture which must be resisted at all costs and removed from any position of influence.
Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders...
The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.
I'd like them to go elsewhere, just as they'd like to pack most of us off to camps in Siberia if it were possible. Likewise, the upper percentages of our Wealthy: They're always going to be rich; they can live wherever they want, so let them go there. Go to the south of France or Sloane Gardens or Tony little hideaways only their set know about. But get out of my country.
At the same time, I discard the axiomatic belief in the Democratic Party as the place where Hope and relief, where the embodiment of equitable policies for human beings, resides. Obama has turned out in many ways to be as poor a leader and as much a plaything of Wealth as any Republican -- certainly Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr., or Lil' Boots -- in other words, just another corruptible pol with a wonderful public relations machine.
The leader of Obama's economic council of advisers was Larry Summers (whom I've written about before). Summers was replaced by Jeffrey Imhalt, the head of General Electric Corporation -- which pays no taxes, at all, due to "aggressive lobbying"; in fact, by their reckoning, the government owes GE money. But, the fact that Obama is asking persons of the ilk of a Summers or Imhalt to lead -- instead of Paul Volker (who was on the same council, until effectively ignored and forced out), or Nobel economists like Paul Krugmann or Joseph Stiglitz... is telling. Not that it wasn't obvious before.
We're told politics is very complicated. Look at how complex a situation Libya is! The D.C. establishment might say. It isn't that simple. We can't just do this, or that; we have allies to consider -- and there's so much intelligence we have, that we can't show you. And, the economy is so very, very complex, too. We'll fix things, but we must be careful; proceed very slowly. We understand your pain. But just trust us grownups. We haven't done so badly so far, now have we?.
I realize that Conservatives and the Wealthy "are people too" and "are Americans too", and that my demands that they go to fucking Mars (there's no air, but the first fifty billion is tax free! There! Happy now?) are only juvenile expressions of helpless anger.
However, if asked, the American Right wouldn't have any trouble removing the Left from the United States; the Right in its rhetoric and actions constantly threatens people on the Left with physical violence, even murder -- to make room for their more godly and correct ways of living.
When was the last time a "liberal" committed an act of violence against a meeting of conservatives, or targeted them in their homes, or stood outside their businesses and prayed openly for a god to strike them dead? Where are the left-wing websites spewing hate for the Right, calling their women whores and the rest dirty, ignorant rednecks? I'll answer the questions: Never and None.
I haven't stopped being a nonviolent Progressive in any way, make, shape or form. The argument I make -- and that I'm suggesting Bob Herbert might make -- is that in order to redefine what our country stands for (if, you know, you think that's important), perhaps we need to go back to first principles -- ones where race, gender; age; disability; sexual orientation; and even fucking food choice is no barrier to human rights. Where it's made clear that employment, housing, clean air and water, medical care and disability, security in older age, reflect the compact between a government and its citizens -- not a list of 'services' or 'products' to be privatized, and shoved at us like fat-meat hamburgers from a fast-food chain.
Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck...Perhaps we need to understand -- as anyone using common sense can -- that a multi-billion-dollar corporation is not an individual human being, and has no business being treated as such in a legal sense.
There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.
Maybe America really needs to be the place where truths are told -- not some manipulative approximation of selected facts, and not a denial or censoring of science. Where education is recognized as a process of discovery and exploration, not a process of force-feeding political and religious dogma to children through textbooks filled with distortions and obfuscations, and school boards intimidated by shrieking Teabaggers and evangelicals.
Americans behave as if [the disparity in wealth] is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn’t be, and didn’t used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.Perhaps we need to be a country where the population is treated as adults, partners in an evolving democratic experiment -- not peasants to be herded into low-wage jobs, military service for endless wars; kept docile with priced just right electronic gadgetry and cable teevee; and dumped into tent cities when the Masters Of The Universe say, Oopsie! Our Bubble broke the economy, again! We made out like bandits, and so did our buddies -- But, hey; that's business!
The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.
Where there are no secret kangaroo courts and wiretapping. Where multibillionaires who break the law or create harm do go to jail -- or are treated as the IRS treats some who owe taxes: Allowing them several hundred dollars per month income, and forced them to sell everything they own but a bed, chair, refrigerator and limited kitchen utensils.
Perhaps we need to mean what we say. Perhaps we need to be a nation of equitable laws, possibly for the first time. Perhaps we need to understand that the "American Experiment" is still an evolving, ongoing one.. and that it can still fail, if it hasn't already. Perhaps it really does need to "be that simple".
But, I'm only a Dog, and no one listens to me.