Monday, February 09, 2009

On President Barack Obama's Town Hall in Elkhart, Indiana


Michiana--To say we're seeing a change and a change in tone from that of the Bush II administration would be an understatement, it's more than refreshing, it's exhilarating.

It's the feeling and knowledge that at least there's some genuine leadership in the White House and the Capital in general, a kind of civic feeling Americans haven't felt since before the Republican disgrace of Watergate. The paralyzing cynicism that has benefited the GOP and business sector for over a generation--for now at least--is abating.

69% of the American public approve of the route being taken by the Democratic majority in Congress and the White House, a majority. Obama's ratings on the same are 67%. But there are those who have decided to live in the past, to suggest doing little-or-nothing, and to insist on the same-old, same-old phony panacea of tax-cuts. But that's the minority of Americans today, it's not 2004, let alone 1928.

Yet the Republican minority still doesn't appear to have realized that they lost the elections in 2006 and 2008 and have reverted to their usual M.O. of obstructionism and the inaction of Herbert Hoover. If they don't relent in this behavior, 2010 appears to hold the same for them. America has bigger problems than this, but rather than pooling together with the rest of America to solve this economic crisis they're working to survive ideologically and politically thanks to the very crisis that was created at their strong insistence not just over the last eight years, but the last 28. The GOP exceeds in servicing the paradox and the illogical demands of unaccountable power, and the DNC has been their enabler until now, the reason they're throwing their tantrums.

However, this time, the obstructionism is occurring in the face of an unprecedented economic crisis, and predictably, they're not changing their stripes. Quite the contrary, but we knew it was coming. The Republican Party, rather than changing and adapting to an unprecedented crisis, is attempting to go further to the right, and it's a sign of their dysfunctional nature. This refusal to change is going to come at an incredible additional cost for a party that's already disgraced on the national political stage and throughout the world.

Granted, an utter failure of ideology has never stopped the GOP, but events do. During the deepest, darkest years of the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover did virtually nothing in response to an unprecedented economic crisis, and the contemporary Republican Party are acting along similar lines. Hoover's inaction cost the GOP for over fifty years, putting them in an earned minority status. The public merely finished the job when they stopped voting for them as they had before October 1929.

While the GOP is openly admitting that there needs to be a stimulus package, they undermine what is a national effort to stem the tide of what could become a catastrophic crash if they continue to insist on the old rules of the game. Should there be wasteful earmarks in the stimulus bill? Of course not, and they should know full well that more tax-cuts for the wealthiest aren't going to do any good and aren't going to create any new jobs anytime soon either. It's truly the "end of an era," that of Reaganomics and neoliberalism, both essentially the same thing.

Trickle-down economic practices have bitten the dust, but you wouldn't know that from talking with a Republican or watching their hysterics on the mainstream news, C-Span, and through their echo chamber throughout the Internet and the mainstream media in general. This is a noise. It's just more "cut taxes," as though there's some magic panacea that's going to fix everything or that such practices didn't get us into the mess we're in right now.

Logic and experience tell us otherwise: The rich will hold-on to that money, hoarding it just as the banks have under the Bush II administration's poor stewardship of the banking bailouts. Why? Besides your basic greed, a lack of imagination and that inability to change in a rapidly changing world economy. That's nothing new, but the urgency of this crisis is.

Now, the congressional GOP are stalling and nit-picking over sections of the proposed stimulus legislation that covers public-spending, namely spending so that there is a future economy. Some of this is legitimate criticism, but holding-up this crucial legislation generally over social-spending is not, and just another indicator that the Republican Party has little to offer in vision or constructive action. When it comes to military-spending, the GOP are about as "conservative" as a sailor on shore leave after payday, no limits, no-holds-barred. We don't even need the F-22 fighter? No problem, we'll label it something other than "pork," that it's "vital to the defense of the nation," when the reality is that it doesn't create many jobs and doesn't make us any safer. The Democrats have problems in this area as well...

In addition, the GOP had no problem--John McCain and a few others in Congress notwithstanding--during the Bush II years in creating a grotesque distortion in our economy with a $1 trillion tax-cut for the wealthiest back in 2001, expected to sunset in 2010, but will likely be dropped as events in the economy take us into a deeper man made decline.

A new weapons system now? Fine, both parties can agree on that most of the time, but forget about cleaning-up the mess they created, it being primarily the GOP's mess. Breaking-up is hard to do, however, and the Republican Party has become accustomed to Democratic submissiveness to their agenda over the years since Reagan. Some so-called "centrist" Democrats in Congress also seem to have missed-the-fact that the old relationship is ending, but it doesn't matter. More political fallout for the GOP is coming and it's going to be a tidal wave coming from the public, especially if inaction clearly causes a deepening of this crisis. The time for political games is over.

Again: events are taking things down a specific and irresistible historical road that was created by the excesses of the business, financial, and political sectors. Deregulation made this not only possible, but inevitable at some point.

The plan President Obama outlined today was a breath of fresh air, and the skeptics are dwindling in a part of the country--the heart of the Midwest--which nobody would have thought would turn to the left anytime soon back in 2004, Elkhart notwithstanding. Events have a way of changing things, attitudes, and the way people view their lives. That means the economy, and our political process. The world is watching, and the world will be affected, almost immediately. They will not be pleased if we fail. It's time to set-aside petty differences and act as Americans by supporting immediate action by passing this stimulus bill now, within the next two weeks.

The President has warned that without acting now, we could have a "catastrophe" on our hands that could become irreversible for at least a generation. Credible economists are telling us this, not some political hack at the Heritage Foundation in their ivory tower office, but real economists, academic ones. This isn't about left or right, this is about rebuilding the economy of the United States of America. If we fail, we fail not only ourselves, but the rest of the world, and future generations of Americans. It's unacceptable.

Conservatives who claim government intervention isn't going to work are wrong (as usual): it's the only option left when over 25 banks have already failed in 2009--that's a situation in which the private sector is totally paralyzed--both by failed ideologies and by the fact that many of them have no capital left to spend...or borrow. Banks who have been given capital-infusions are hoarding previous bailout capital thanks to the flawed methodology (incompetence) of the outgoing Bush II administration's in expediting their bailouts.

Oversight and reasonable regulation would have fixed this proactively and it's just another example of how this mess began in the first place, and how it has perpetuated and expanded and deepened. It's also how it could become a much bigger crisis than the Great Depression. But for the GOP, nothing succeeds like failure, and their ideology has been tested and proven as such--a failure. The time for throwing fits is over, and it's time for America to grow-up and realize that the marketplace should never trump government ever again because it isn't sustainable.

The President has made it clear by inviting everyone in an unscreened town hall meeting in Elkhart that he is serious about the input of the public. This is new. He was asked critical questions and answered them, a situation that the last president was incapable of coping with his entire unfortunate duration in office with his hand-picked audiences.

This wasn't the case today.

There were no "loyalty oaths" to sign for everyone coming into the event as there were in the Bush II years, only a normal security screening. Nobody was thrown-out--unlike during the Bush II years--for disagreeing with the president, and Mr. Obama fielded them, he answered them directly, honestly, and reasonably. The entire process was informative in a way we haven't seen from a president in decades. Good job, Mr. President, you have my full support on this stimulus plan.

Will it work? Nobody knows, not even economists, not the GOP, and not the president. But we must try. We can come out of this with a much better America, and handily, but there are forces in this nation who would drag us down into the muck with them to save their petty privileges for just one more day.