There was a commercial on TV the other night showing a gentleman in his mid-to-late fifties sitting in a coffee shop e-chatting with a friend about retirement and how their investments may not have turned out as hoped for their early retirement. It was, of course, an investment firm commercial. But it got me to thinking. Does this America really exist anymore? Not for most of us as I see it. We all saw the interview with Governor Haley Barbour from Mississippi where he claimed there was no racial strife when he went to college. It was all blown up by the press in the North. Blacks and non-revisionist history in Mississippi tells a completely different story. What these two stories reflect is an American rich and powerful totally out of touch with reality, living insular lives, and reinforcing their false perception of reality.
One the home front, I published a picture of one of my kite-birds whose role is to scare away ravenous birds who are feasting on my already damaged vineyard. I could not resist a political analogy comparing the ravenous birds to the Republicans feasting on what is left of our economy (let’s cut more taxes for the rich). A Republican friend of mine commented that since the Demos are in control of Washington, they are the problem. When I pointed out that because of the filibuster anything that gets through Congress has a Republican stamp on it, he seemed incredulous that the Republicans have used the filibuster so many times (a record in the last two years) or control anything. Does he choose to just ignore this reality?
One of my favorite examples is Supreme Court Justice and totally out of touch jurist, Samuel Alito. When President Obama lamented in his State of the Union Address that the Supreme Courts ruling in Citizens United that Corporations have the same rights as citizens and that there would be a massive flow of untracked corporate money into politics, Alito visibly disagreed during the speech. Today, surprise, we have massive amounts of untracked corporate money flowing into Republican coffers. It was one of the most egregious rulings that allowed the power of Corporations to basically control our elections. An individual and a Corporation have the same rights? The imbalance of power is immense. What world does he live in?
But it isn’t just Republicans. The Democrats in power seem to live in another similar bubble. I listened to the Chairman of the Democratic Party once again try to advance the argument that the Democrats have done plenty and they just need to get the message out. As I called it in one of my blogs, an argument to oblivion. The economy for most of us is just getting worse and all the rest is just noise. But even worse, the CNN interviewer (Candy Crowley) advanced the conventional wisdom (and wrong) that only liberals in the party believe that wasn’t enough. The reality is anyone who is not rich, who is suffering in this economy, which would include Tea Partiers, the middle class, blue collar workers, and the poor, thinks they haven’t done enough. They just disagree on what that enough should be. Had the economy gotten better, we would not be having this discussion.
Republicans honestly believe that the failed policies of the Bush Administration, if just brought back, will get us back on track. But the track we have been on for about the last 40 years is a path to our demise. Whether Republican or Democrat, we have been pursuing policies that empower the rich over the rest of us in the false belief that we will all benefit. If it worked and we were all getting an increase in our standard of living, then what the hey? But the numbers don’t lie. Poverty is increasing, the middle class is shrinking, wealth is being concentrated in a very few, and the country is in decline. China, the regressive communist party, makes us look like we are living in the dark ages. What has happened is that power has been transferred to corporations whose self-interest is counter to the country’s self interest. It has empowered the institutions of the status quo.
If you live in the Republican bubble, you surround yourself with people who tell you over and over that you deserve your wealth, business decisions should have nothing to do with social policy, and everyone else are just lazy socialist whiners. You really believe in flow down because everyone in your country club is doing well. It is a belief that is divorced from the reality of what is going on in the country and our slow demise. If you live in a Democratic bubble, you think that you have made great strides in changing America and all you have to do is better communicate it (or for some, run from it because you are really moderate Republicans). Again, it is a belief that is divorced from the reality of what is going on in the country.
Let’s face it. Our policy makers are totally out of touch with the train wreck that is this country. We hear over and over again that Americans are resilient and when the going gets tough, Americans are up to the challenge. What reality shows us is that they are anything but. They want fixes without sacrifice. Tea Partiers represent the anger about the reality versus the political speak and will throw anyone who is in power out. Their policy of small taxes and less government is a reflection of their selfishness. They irrationally do not see this path as their slow demise as our government and economy crumbles as they give more and more power to corporations. Progressive are angry about the same thing, but at least without the selfishness. They see that government has not really changed, and they see the failure of their party to represent them. But right now this anger is mindless.
Let me ask you a few questions. When was the last time you turned on the news and there was an honest and informed discussion about policy? I don’t mean two political hacks whose job is to make their respective parties look good, but non-partisan review and discussion of our way forward. Do tax cuts really help in a truly depressed economy? What kinds of government spending will truly stimulate the economy? What does history tells us about trying to be deficit hawks in a repressed economy? Is it possible to have a recovery for Middle America if their spending power continues to erode? If we continue to transfer more and more wealth to the rich, what does that say about our future? What kind of good jobs are available for our middle class which China and other emerging economies cannot under cut? Or how about an honest discussion of continued tax cuts and their impact on the deficit or Social Security and Medicare? So we continue in this world of denial where two parties play their ideological games, our pundits talk about the politics or ideology, and we get nothing about the efficacy of their policies except political spinning.
If Republican policies worked, I would be a Republican. But Republican policies only work for those that already have. Continuing down this road will turn America into the rich and the peasants. Democrats have become more conservative over the years, continuing the policies of favoring the rich. But it is a new world out there. Old solutions won’t work when we have economies like China nipping at our heels. If we are to regain our power and wealth, it will only come with an expanding middle class. How we get there should be the real debate. Clearly what we have done in the past has not worked. So just where is that debate? Instead we have denial and an attempt to return to a simpler America that doesn’t exist. You know the line, “Just common sense of regular folks.” I am sorry but our problems are so much more complicated than a trip back through memory lane.. I’ll be glad when the denial and incestuous thinking is over and we are ready to have a rational discussion about our reality and our future. It is not about more government or less government. It is about policies that might require more government in some things, and less in others, but more importantly about policies that actually work instead of ideological dogma.