Sunday, August 29, 2010

President Obama What Are You Doing in Martha's Vineyard?

Today in the New York Times, Frank Rich's column again exposed the reactionaries who are backing the Tea Party, Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers et al. Their goals are nothing less than a Libertarian America where "small government" means that the Federal Government's role in education, medical care, old age pensions (that is what Social Security is by the Way), regulating Wall Street, and the Environment is reduced to nothing and "business" is allowed to do whatever it feels is right. They want America to be as "Free" as it was in the 1890's yet without the industry or jobs.

I write this blogpost not only as a poet/thinker but as a person who works in business. I know from my own experience that the only thing that drives business is profit. The only way that this profit motive can be ameliorated is to have the government set rules and regulate and protect the People from a global economy that is set up to get the most money for the least amount invested. Other countries understand this in Brazil if you want to sell your products you need to build a plant and employ Brazilians. In China you need to invest in China. What do we ask of companies here in America except for a stupid tax system that crushes innovation?

For most of the past 30 years Conservatives have advocated the "Free Market" which means in reality that American businesses could move their plants anywhere and they did not owe anything to this society. The result has been some good things we are a very innovative society with some great new high tech industry.

That was a good result of Conservative economics but there are other realities; we are also a society that starting to look more and more like an oligarchy. Just ask people in places like Flint, Michigan or Rockford, IL what the Free Market means to them? Is a nation divided like this what America should be?

Germany by contrast, you know they practice the kind of European "socialism" so abhorred by the Tea Partiers, are growing and they do not have cities like Flint or Rockford. They decided years ago to create a model where Unions, Businesses and Education work together closely, to create a highly educated industrial workforce. The Brazilians are growing leaps and bounds and they require that foreign companies build industrial plants in their nation.

Germany is the country that exports the most high end products in the world. And they also have 100% medical coverage for all of their workers and Education and training is reasonably priced. In the USA in contrast a college degree averages $ 75,000 dollars and there is nowhere to get retrained for older workers. The Germans have avoided the social dislocation that is destroying America and there is no Tea Party movement in Germany that urges the destruction of this "oppressive system".

It is easy for the Germans to have an austerity budget as they are doing now because they have invested so much in their society. Just fly to Frankfurt, descend the plane and get on a high speed train to another city and look around- sure we blew up all their old stuff --but tell me an American city with German infrastructure? Certainly not any of the 'business friendly' cities that Republicans like to tout in Texas or Florida? They have invested and we have spent on the ephemeral.

So why does the Tea Party and their philosophy that has de-industrialized and de-invested in America have so much strength in America? As Frank Rich talks about in his column very rich men have financed these ideas. The Coors Family, the Koch Family and many others have been trying since the 1950's to destroy any progressive consensus.

These same powers and their friends realized that Barack Obama was a real threat to their control of economic policy in America and so they made sure that America's misery was blamed not on those who caused it- Wall Street and the Deregulators- but onto others Immigrants, "liberals" and mostly President Obama.

President Obama is not a victim. He and his supporters have chosen not to fight back and to allow themselves to be defined by their enemies. Unlike President Roosevelt who attacked his critics and fought back President Obama seems always to retreat. The list is very long. Stimulus Package- not enough money not enough infrastructure, Shirley Sherrod, Fired for being lied about, Health Care a victory of sorts but then you don't defend it and let someone else define you, and the economy? In the end President Obama needs to convince the American people- who are naturally conservative- that his vision is what America needs to face today's challenges.

Progressive presidents have done this in the past. Jefferson bought Louisiana, Lincoln, emancipated the Slaves, established the Homestead Act, and Intercontinental railroads (all big government schemes). Theodore Roosevelt established and grew the National Parks Service, Franklin Roosevelt created Social Security and the New Deal, Truman desegregated the Arms Services, Eisenhower build the interstate highway system, Kennedy and Johnson made Blacks equal citizens. What all these President's had in common was that they had backbone and fought for what they believed with vigor can you imagine any of them being defined the way President Obama has been defined?

President Obama, what are you doing in Martha's Vineyard?

President Obama you need to come home to Chicago and see what is happening to your People.

Mr President, try to really understand and channel the rage and anger and do not let your enemies capture that for themselves.

By the Way Enough Organic Gardens and Spain Trips for Michelle as well she is certainly a long way from South Shore now maybe you ought to spend some time eating Harold's Chicken on Stoney Island instead?

Most Americans do not now what you are passionate about? Tell us please?

They knew what George Bush was passionate about. How About you?

They want to understand why you did not respond to a rally by Glenn Beck against you on the very anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech? What is the deal? You let all the harpies demean you what's the deal?

We want to understand why no one seems to be fighting for us?

They do not want to hear anymore Harvard talks?

No more Organic Vegetables.

They want the Barack Obama who said Yes We Can?

Where is he?

Come Home President Obama and see what America is going through...... and stop going to Martha's Vineyard it is not where you belong?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Right Stuff No More

When I was a very young child growing up in the 1970's I remember coming home from school and watching space flights to the moon. I was born in 1967 and since my father had been an air force officer and had known Neil Armstrong I felt it was important as a child to watch.

I grew up in what Rick Perlstein called Nixonland. The place that White Ethnic Americans migrated to to escape change. My people have been demonized by many on the left as ignorant or stupid because their families bought into a set of principals that suddenly changed and they did not know how to change with them. It was not that the Nixonland people hated Blacks or others it was just that this was not the deal they bought into when they voted for JFK and LBJ.

The moonshots were the embodiment of what Nixonlanders thought America should be. We should all work together. IF you dissent from the norm on social policy you are hurting society they believe. If you demand to have your rights respected you are hurting America.

In a recent conversation with my Dad he could not understand why a judge in California ruled the referendum against Gay marriage unconstitutional. He was sure that Gay rights did not measure up to Civil Rights that somehow recognizing legally one's deep personal affections was not a civil right. I realized how much our world has changed but I also realized that the world that created the Right Stuff- you know moon shots and interstate highways was also gone.

There was a time when American respected their presidents. They also respected change but now we live in an America of two camps. We are a nation that is divided and that divide deepens each year. Some people swallow the Fox News line, they believe that what happened to Shirley Sherrod was no big deal and that Barack Obama is not legitimate for reasons unspoken. These Americans believe in America's greatness but they also believe that Progressives are the cause of decline. Another America has moved on from the Right Stuff. Everything is relative and America is just another country sometimes good and sometimes bad. For these Americans the world is a relative place.

As America goes into decline and we fight over the scraps we forget that at one time these two divisions were one. The America of Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt and Kennedy had room for Civil Rights and Great Dreams like the Space Program. It was the America of great universities. Imagine in 1965 the University of California was free to students. The average college cost for a student at a major Big Ten University was $450 dollars a semester. That was an America that invested in the future.

That America also believed in innovation and growth but it also believed that millions who are unemployed should be helped. It was the America of Medicare and the Interstate Highway System it was the America that was not petty or small. But we have become petty and small. We cannot pass a highway bill, we cannot agree that people should not go bankrupt because they get sick, we cannot agree that America needs the best educational system.

Today we have become a small minded nation we worry about Reality TV shows and political scream shows. Imagine if Barack Obama gave a speech like JFK's about Space? Immediately Fox News would destroy him. Imagine if Obama risked like Nixon and went to China? What would happen? Remember when we all laughed at George W Bush when he spoke loftily about freedom?

It seems that America has the Right Stuff no More.