Thursday, 11 March 2010

Progressive Angst

One thing that constantly amazes me is how easily intimidated progressives are when it comes to making their views known.
Contrast this with conservatives who have absolutely no qualms in enunciating the righteousness of their cause.
What an interesting phenomenon: for looking at the history of the last eighty or so years, progressivism has more than held its own.
FDR is almost universally hailed as one of the great presidents. Apart from prosecuting World War II, his administration bequeathed us Social Security, and helped drag the country out of a crippling depression.
Harry Truman, though a Democrat, quite adeptly balanced progressive and conservative instincts; and Dwight Eisenhower - nominally a conservative - built the interstate highway system and much other national infrastructure that served as bedrock for the first sustained all round US prosperity.
What politician nowadays would even dream of such essential nation building at home, although most regularly sign off on likeminded projects for the Fifty-First and Fifty-Second states of Iraq and Afghanistan? And don’t talk about deficits! Both Truman and Eisenhower administrations were burdened by huge World War II debts.
And on it goes - JFK was a progressive with cold war tendencies, while LBJ improved the lives of countless citizens with Medicaid/Medicare/Civil Rights legislation before miring the country in Vietnam.
My point is: the US has a long history of combining and working with all shades of the political spectrum.
So what has happened to the modern progressive? All you need is for one
blowhard to pipe up in a bar about "Obama ruining the country," and the hush that descends over sundry quivering liberals and left-wingers is almost deafening.
When have you ever heard one of them exclaim, "Excuse me, my good man, not to make too fine a point of it, but could I note that when President Bush came to power in 2001we had been enjoying a healthy Federal surplus for three years.
In the course of his stewardship, he managed to squander this by giving tax breaks to people far outside your income bracket, all the while swelling the newly created deficit by pursuing a war in Iraq that he merely invoiced but chose not to pay for.
Nonetheless, this Republican president - correctly in my opinion - bailed out many big banks and an insurance company, in order to prevent the whole economic system being flushed down the cosmic toilet.
Yet, in all my evenings imbibing dirty big pints within the walls of this fine establishment, I fail to recall you once raising your voice in dissent against such massive government spending.
Now I grant you that President Obama, in an effort to jumpstart a flaccid economy, did initiate a stimulus program of 787 billion dollars (35% of which has been spent or given in tax cuts; 20% is still in the pipeline and 45% unspent). This intervention has saved many jobs and created not a few; in fact a sizeable number of economists feel that if he increased that amount it would be handsomely returned when federal revenues eventually rebound.
I might also mention that our president – God bless him, Michelle, his Mother-in-Law and the two lassies - is attempting to drag the US up to par with much less prosperous countries by enabling all our citizens to purchase affordable health care and that this plan will eventually help to reduce the deficit.
Now, bartender, please give my learned friend here a pint of your best Guinness and follow that up with a shot of Jameson's so that he can digest this information with a sufficiency of ballast in his belly and a full head of steam."
C’mon, already, let’s give credit where it’s due. Barack Obama inherited a mess of ridiculous proportions. And yet its causes are daily drowned out by the propaganda of vested interests, a miasma of misinformation, and a sheer unwillingness to face up to the facts of recent history.
When he was running for office many of us chose to see our hopes reflected in his message. My own feeling, after a year in office, is that he’s a very intelligent but cautious president of fairly conservative views.
He’s by no means what I’d hoped for, but perhaps he’s a man for the moment – an Eisenhower who’ll inch us back onto the path of pragmatism and structural soundness.
Whatever! He’s the best we have. But he’s going nowhere unless we take the time to speak up and tell it like it really is.

1 comment:

  1. We are at a point beyond labels like progressive or conservative. Even those we like to present in the light really weren't all that (for example how progressive was it to tap MLK's phone???) Obama sure did inherit a mess, but unfortunately he has surrounded himself with champions of the $ class --- Summers, Geithner, Bernacke and Goldman Sachs. I'm still looking for change I can believe in. Phil Melnik


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