Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good Morning, everyone. I haven't had much to say lately and I have been in a real grumpy mood--one that goes way beyond 'contrary.' I didn't realize that until yesterday when the mood started to lift. Reading a post by Tom Englehardt on his tomdispatch site I realized why. Like Englehardt I found the latest election dispiriting--I would even say enervating and depressing. The ads were everywhere. Towards the end they even invaded previously serene spaces like the History Channel. I really need to decompress after that assault. I have refused to read a lot of the political drivel that is out there dissecting the results but I do have a couple of general thoughts on the results. First, the message each side says they have received from the voters is the message each side wanted to hear not necessarily the message the voters really sent. So the Republicans hear a repudiation of the major Democratic initiatives over the last couple of years and the Democrats hear a confusion of messages. That is what I got from President Obama's press conference yesterday. What messages, you ask? That the Democrats were so focused on getting things done they forgot to reform the process by which they got those things done--and people were not happy about that. (Read earmarks, back room deals, and other such maneuvers). That the financially well-heeled and politically well-connected were taken care of while everyone else sank into the mire. That the voters wanted bi-partisan answers to the country's problems not partisan business-as-usual wrangling.

My thoughts on this--both sides are as clueless as usual. The results I saw were neither a clear repudiation of the policies of the last two years nor a clear mandate for the Republicans to sweep all of those polices away. Yes the Republicans won a lot of House seats, some 19 state legislatures, and several Senate seats. But most of the races were won by a very slim margin. The touted Illinois Senate Seat (so inaccurately described as 'Obama's Senate Seat'--no Senator owns the seat s/he occupies--it belongs to the people of the state) went to the Republican by a whole, astonishing 2% of the vote. If the next two years are as contentious as the last two and the economy remains in the doldrums (as a good many economists expect it will) that those slender margins may swing the other way. The Republicans have re-acquired ownership of this economic mess. And both sides are focused on reviving the economy that was not figuring out what the economy will look like in the future. The economy of the last thirty-plus years was based on debt and the consumer. Middle class jobs have provided stagnant or declining wages over that time and the only way the middle class consumer was able to continue to consume in a middle class style was to go over their heads into debt. Many of the 'optimistic' projections for job growth I have seen don't predict a pick up in job creating for the next two years (the more pessimistic say say five or more) and those jobs won't provide the wages of the jobs that have been lost. As for the debt situation--that won't come back any time soon either. The providers of debt (bans or whoever) have been badly burned.

Both Republicans and Democrats acknowledge that Americans are angry but I don't think either side recognizes the depth of that anger. It goes beyond a lost job or a lost house. And its origins go back well beyond this 'recession.' I remember the Enron collapse and the interviews with workers who were out both of a job and the majority of their retirement savings much of which was in company stock. While the bosses were able to unload their soon-to-be-worthless holdings before the crash the workers were first advised by those bosses to hold on to the stock and then prevented from selling at all. Those workers who were near retirement saw the work of thirty years disappear with the value of the stock--all many had left was Social Security. Where am I going with this, you ask? We are told in this culture that if you work hard you can achieve your dreams. What the last thirty years have proven to many of us is that is a lie. All too many people have worked hard, have saved, have done everything right by the rules of this culture--and find everything they worked for either swept away or threatened. And they are angry. The problem is where to focus that anger. Those who have lost jobs focus it on China, on the companies who moved the jobs to China, on the immigrants the politicians tell us are taking our jobs, on the politicians who argue against extended unemployment benefits because it makes the jobless lazy and unwilling to take a new job. Those who have jobs are afraid that their job will be the next eliminated and they focus on China, the company that might move the job to China unless the workers take a big hit on wages and benefits, et. cetera. Those who have lost homes blame predatory and fraudulent lenders while many of the banks blame deadbeat buyers who knew they couldn't afford the loan and simply gamed the system. There is a lot of blame to go around and the search for scapegoats is in full swing. But the bottom line is--The American Dream is broken and no one knows how to fix it. John Boehner has achieved his but he is among the lucky few.


Looking to the Stars said...

You outdid yourself on this post. It is great!!!!
I love your phrase "the American Dream is broken", it is so good, I wrote it down and if you don't mind, I would like to use it for a future post. What you have said is soooo true, it brings tears to my eyes.

We were told to believe in the system & all of it was a lie.

Lydia from Writersquake had quotes from Will Rogers on her blog. Over 70 years later, his words still ring true "The more you read & observe about this Politics thing, you got to admit, that each party is worse then the other. The one thats out always looks the best."

Now we know, neither party is good. Its a choice between curly, moe or larry. But hang in there, the politicians are not the american people and we will survive, one way or another.

take care :)

Kay Dennison said...

Well said -- as always!!! And I share your pain.