ADS: American Depression Syndrome

Hello friends. I have not posted in this blog for some time as I have been feeling increasingly disillusioned with the gutless, corporate-favoring tendencies of the Obama administration and the rise to prominence of the wacky right-wing "tea party" movement, which seems determined to replace all elected officials in the USA with members of the John Birch Society. I have long faulted Obama, supposedly the greatest political communicator since Reagan, for failing to offer a convincing counter-narrative to replace the one implanted in our consciousness by Saint Ronnie: "big government = bad; big military = good; military invasion = good; social programs to help the poor = bad; all hail the entrepreneur and the sacred tax cut."

Obama, like Clinton before him, continues to govern as if there were no possible alternative to the Gospel of Ronnie. Remember Clinton kowtowing to the Republicans and helpfully declaring, "The Era of Big Government is over?" Obama is no better. As with Clinton, we are going to see lots of small, positive actions by the government, things like improved civil rights enforcement, tighter environmental and financial industry regulations, all of which are welcome in themselves, but which fail to be supported and protected by any kind of overarching ideological framework. And so when Republicans attack Obama for increasing the size or role of government, he is unable to make a clear case for why in certain areas of society, it is GOOD to have "big government," unable to cogently explain why leaving things to "big business" over the last thirty-odd years has not really worked out very well, as evidenced by the growing gap between rich and poor in this country, the failure of businesses to raise the average worker's wages even when companies realize enormous gains in productivity and profit; and finally, the coup de grace, the collapse of Wall Street followed by the government bail-out of Wall Street.

I want a leader who is actually PROUD of our government and the liberal tradition of successful government programs from Social Security to the minimum wage to civil rights legislation to environmental regulation to Medicare and Medicaid to student loans, all of which were opposed by anti-government Republicans. I don't want a leader who apologetically whimpers, "Well, people, we're going to have to expand government a little bit to help with the current situation, but DON'T WORRY, it is only a temporary measure, and we will turn management of most things over to the wise management of the corporate sphere as soon as possible." With the huge problems we are facing, such as massive unemployment and collapsing infrastructure, to name but two of the most pressing, we really need a major government response, not just little tax cuts, grants and financial incentives here and there as the Obama administration is providing.

The unemployment and infrastructure problems could be simultaneously addressed by a massive public works program to rebuild highways, bridges, train tracks, sewers and public schools, all of which are badly in need of repair and renovation, the lack of which will seriously hamper our future economic growth if they are not attended to quickly. But is the Obama administration boldly pushing in this direction? NO. They are making some small moves, but nothing near to commensurate with the actual scale of need. One third of last year's much-maligned $787 billion stimulus program was TAX CUTS, a nod to the Republicans, who as you will recall, loudly and cheerfully commended Obama for reaching out to them in this matter. (Note: sarcasm.)

Since neither Obama nor the Democrats in Congress are boldly and expeditiously advancing programs to quickly put people to work and take care of other pressing needs like mortgage foreclosure, they are perceived, with some justification, as only caring about the financial elite on Wall Street, who did after all get very quick and thorough attention when they were in crisis, unlike the millions of Americans suffering unemployment and loss of their homes. This has given an opening to the right-wing Tea Party types, who may have no real answers to any of these problems, but do know how to articulate anger and frustration, play on fears of "big government," and throw in occasional racist allusions, to please the older white voters who were never entirely thrilled about electing a black president to begin with. Ugh! What a mess.

Why doesn't Obama step up and tell people the truth: that America needs to wake up and start catching up with the rest of the industrialized world, where government does provide universal health care, does maintain infrastructure, does support arts and culture, does provide a social safety net for the poor and unemployed such as we threw away in the last 30 years, and so on and so on. He won't do it because he is scared of the anti-government conservatives, who continue to rule the roost as far as the general American mindset regarding government's role in society is concerned. It would be a hard-fought battle to alter that mindset, to get back to a time when the American people trusted their government to do big things like send a man to the moon, instead of relying on the corporate world to provide space travel services, which is the latest news out of NASA under the Obama administration, incidentally.

It has been the dream of anti-government conservatives since the 1980s to so degrade and cripple the federal government that people would turn against it, and it seems they have succeeded. Coming into office on a platform of hope and change, Obama had a chance to re-write the narrative, to forcefully reject the anti-government mindset. At this time, it seems that not only has he has failed, but that he didn't even try very hard. His strange devotion to "bipartisanship" has been extremely regrettable, as it has played right into Republican desire for deadlock as "proof" of the evils of government.

I do despair. I fear we are headed for third-world status, to a society with mediocre schools and public services, where corporations rule what is left of the people's government, where the average person sits drooling in front of televisions and computer screens blasting sports shows, mindless "reality" programs, and endless variations on police and hospital dramas, and where the only areas in which America is truly #1 is in the number of people we keep in prison, and a bloated military endlessly invading and harassing other people around the world, predictably inciting vicious terrorist responses, justifying further U.S. invasions in the name of "protecting our freedoms" while in actuality only advancing the corporate interests of the military-industrial complex and swelling the ranks of those willing to take up arms against the American aggressor.

Welcome to the 21st Century. Remember, you (Americans) are living in the greatest country in the world. Everyone else envies you. Everyone around the world wishes they could come to America, shop in our shopping malls, experience learning in our fabulous schools, live in our ugly McMansions, which typify our famously high regard for architecture and aesthetics, enjoy the art and culture so generously promoted in every community, seek financial success in our wonderful casinos, and should they not find it, enjoy the full range of social services provided free of cost in our prisons. This is indeed paradise. Thank the Great White God that Big Government did not stand in the way of our attainment of perfection.