The times they are a changin'...and changin' pretty fast (well, make that changin' ugly fast). It was our good fortune that Obama was elected. It is his and our bad fortune that he inherited an almost totally corrupted economy and government — from top to middle to bottom. The lower echelons include not only local politicians and small biz, but also you and me.
The corruption at the top (meaning the White House and Congress and Big Biz) is bad enough; that in the middle and bottom (us) is different, but nonetheless important.
If by corruption we mean "bought and sold," then what the big and little biz folks and the politicians sold was (for them) the usual — honesty and integrity. What we on the bottom sold was our participation in local and national politics. We gave it up. In return, we got — not money — but more time to shop, more time to watch TV, more time for online games, and more things political to piss and moan about even as we have ceased to be political, except with friends over drinks, present company included.
I begin again. As I have noted in my earlier letters from distant Bologna, although Obama is not one of us (that is, he is not a leftie), he is both uniquely decent and uniquely intelligent for a Pres. of the USA.
Although it would be very nice indeed to have a leftie in the White House, that marvelous prospect cannot even be considered without the dynamic existence of a movement working for an always more democratic economy, government, and society.
We have never even come close to such a movement in the USA — nor will we ever, unless we substitute serious and substantial political participation for pissing and moaning. That may seem impossible. It isn't. It just requires the steady work and lots of cooperation that are essential for a movement. It also means we stop being scornful (of worse) of political groups other than our own.
As economic competition was replaced by monopoly capitalism, we have assisted — by allowing political cooperation to be shoved aside by sneers, envy, anger...you name it.
Enough from Papa Dowd (whoever he is). Now down to some of the emerging or ongoing developments that add up to a looming disaster: economic, political, military.
The economy...Those who have been reading these letters will know that for two or three years I have argued that we are lurching toward deep trouble. (e.g., "What's that coming around the corner?")
The roots of that disaster are always functioning in a capitalist economy. In the USA they were very much strengthened from 1970s on, as the economic and political/ social Right learned cooperation, while we looked the other way (or just grumbled).
Obama inherited the garbage dump thereby built: an always more exploitative economy, always tighter control over both domestic and international economic/political life by an always smaller group of big companies, with the dimwit cooperation of serious racists, religious bigots, and war-lovers — as meanwhile, the economy came to be dominated by a heavy drinking Wall Street that was freed from all regulation (mostly by Bill Clinton, with advice from Robert Rubin, Tim Geithner, and Lawrence H. "Larry" Summers, advisers also to Obama). It was just a matter of time before the whole show would blow up in the faces of the USA, first, then the world economy.
Naturally, as the first signs of that crisis appeared in 2006/2007/2008, the econ experts of both Wall St. and the universities (with rare and unnoticed exceptions) saw that old pal "prosperity" just around the corner.
Obama would not have won the 2008 election, had not millions already lost their jobs and their houses, with many more scared out of (or, rather, into) their wits. If you are upset — worried or angry with Obama's dealing with the crisis — ask yourself how you would feel if McCain and Palin and their cronies had been elected and were now supposed to deal with these urgent matters.
Then consider the following...
Obama has to deal with an always deepening and spreading economic crisis with the assistance of two groups: "experts" and Congress (and state legislatures). These experts are those who have been seen as such because of their recent functions in and for Wall Street; the phone is not ringing for, e.g., Krugman, or a dozen or so leftie economists. Politicians? 95% of them took office in the past 30 years. The keys to their offices were on their way of being held by Big Biz (et al.) already in the ̓70s; since the ̓90s the locks have been designed by them.
Again: Obama is our brightest and most decent president ever. But he is also "practical" enough to have won an election. To seek and get approval for today's necessary AND desirable steps, he must have substantial cooperation from "the people." That's us, and millions like us. If you think there are NOT millions like us, forget about it. There are, but they have to be given a hand to pull up and out of the hypnosis of consumerism, the media, and just plain laziness.
You may doubt that; but you cannot doubt this: The GOP has already made it clear that 1) they plan to block Obama's attempts to control and get out of the crisis; 2) they will see to it that the blame for the recession/depression rests squarely (and solely) with Obama; and 3) as in other countries in earlier times (e.g., Italy and Germany in the ̓20s and ̓30s) the accompanying disaster (the collateral damage of the economic free fall) will be blamed on those in power: Obama and the Demos.
In sum: it is a virtual certainty that the ongoing economic programs of Obama will be seriously inadequate (whether as regards Wall St., unemployment, and/or seriously falling world trade). We must be sane enough to find and teach about the real causes of today's crises and work hard to elect locally and national replacements in legislatures and other positions of power.
At the same time, given the dangerous probabilities of war in Afghanistan and Iran (and, probably, still in Iraq) we must become active to see to it that Obama will have support for his sensible policies. He has already taken steps to get out of Iraq. His intentions to increase troops in Afghanistan have been accompanied by mild attempts to move otherwise. Just this week, regarding Iran, he "sent an unusual video-taped message to appeal directly to Iranians as much as their leaders for a shift away from decades of confrontation." NYT, 2009-03-21).
He will need a lot of support from us the people. If he gets it, he might be able to resolve both the economic and the military dangers. Without our help, he doesn't stand a chance.
In sum, to bring out the best in him, we have to put to work the best in ourselves.So happy solstice?