Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Politics of No

The politics of NO is sweeping the nation. Run for cover - you ain’t seen nothing yet.
So you think Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts is sending a message to Washington? Fuggedaboutit, in the end money talks and you know exactly what walks. Whenever I want to check out what’s actually happening in this country I look at three barometers: the DOW, NASDAQ, and S&P.
When it became obvious that Mr. Brown would pull off a major upset, guess what? Health Insurance stocks rocketed. And when President Obama, in macho response, finally decided to adopt some of Paul Volker’s regulations on the banking business, stocks tumbled.
Right about then the real news hit the doorstep – the Supreme Court removed certain legal limits to corporate spending in elections.
Whatever about Tea Parties and pitchfork marches on DC, the last thing this country needs right now is more money influencing the political process.
There’s so much of it floating around the halls of Congress now it’s beyond time for a law that requires elected officials to make public the amount donated by each corporation, union or individual with a vested interest in a particular piece of legislation.
It’s hard to even blame the two political parties. What are they supposed to do - refuse to stick their hand in the honey pot when their opponent has fuller pockets than a bookie after a long shot wins the Derby?
That being said, what’s at stake is the very nature and effectiveness of our democracy. The country is close to ungovernable, vital issues are perennially put on the long finger. With this Supreme Court decision and the politics of NO aligning for a perfect storm, things do not bode well for the home of the brave, not to mention the land of the free.
In the midst of all the current brouhaha we should not lose sight of a couple of matters. Health insurance reform is desperately needed. Premiums are going through the roof, coverage can be denied, the uninsured are driving up cost, and US businesses cannot compete with foreign companies whose governments do provide public health care.
While Barack Obama may have been gloriously naive in hiring clubby insiders like Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Sommers, let’s not lose sight of the fact that it was the previous administration that drove up deficits and initiated the rescue of the banking system.
Tax breaks for the rich and the war in Iraq fueled those deficits but what sane person could deny that the Bush administration was correct in rescuing the banking system from its excesses. What was the choice? Have the whole house of cards collapse?
True, the Obama administration rescued the motor industry. But take a trip to the wastelands of Michigan and Northern Ohio; then tell me pulling the plug was an option.
As regards creating jobs? Any way you look at it that will take time. Decent-paying manufacturing positions have been disappearing for over three decades. Like it or not, we’ve morphed into a lower paying service economy dependent on consumer spending. No president can change that culture overnight.
One quick way to both save and create jobs would be to pump federal money into near-bankrupt state budgets; but that would raise both the deficit and the sound level. Oddly enough, it would probably help those now protesting loudest.
Many hard working people are about to sacrifice their homes because they’ve lost their jobs. That’s a frightful situation. Others will forfeit their houses because they invested too late in an expanding bubble or didn’t read the fine print in their mortgage agreements. That’s sad too, although some would trumpet “caveat emptor.”
I have my own anger issues with this president for thrusting us even deeper into the morass of a civil war in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai may not be much of a president but he knows well how to game a system and he will ensure that his country remain a fiscal anvil around our necks until the cows come home.
I have nothing against anger, it’s fine when informed and focused on finding solutions; otherwise as the Bard declared, it’s just so much more “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
The politics of No fueled by big money will breed a lot of such bluster. But when it all blows over, guess who’ll be the losers? This is not a time for ranting and raving but for calm deliberation, a firm backbone, and steady enactment of sane and logical solutions.

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