Call me strange and suffering from a multitude of character flaws but there are times I find the putrid smell of American politics irresistible. Usually I grovel in the verbal political emissions of my own pomposity at someone else's blog making comments on current events since I increasingly find delving deeply into the meat of some subjects deeply depressing. I offer the routine political activities of elected officials here in South Carolina as my prime example. Digressing just a little here but most sane people would be upset at all the attention the local and state media paid when our Appalachian Trail walking governor and his cougar ex-wife, both attending a political function, hugged and kissed before running away from each other to the farthest corners of the auditorium they happen to be sharing. Given how the media covered it you would have thought their ceremonial appearance culminating in the brotherly and sisterly hug and kiss had some political significance.
However, since the proverbial squirrel that runs the little spinning wheel in my head, which supplies the wattage to my feeble brain, has up and gone on vacation I'm stuck pondering the state of the American economy and the lack of real action to address unemployment. Barring divine intervention, a huge number of Americans will be out of work for a number of years which really is not good for anyone but here is Bob Herberts take on the subject:
"Fifteen million Americans are unemployed, according to the official count, which wildly understates the reality. Assuming no future economic setbacks and job creation at a rate of 200,000 or so a month, it would take more than a decade to get us back to where we were when the Great Recession began in December 2007."
Wow!!! More than decade to replace the jobs lost since the beginning of the Great Recessions, seems like that might be a great time to come up with some sort of national plan to prime the job creation pump. But what could we possibly do that might justify a huge public works project that would ultimately pay huge national benefits down the road justifying the cost? Could we send humans back to the moon for exploration and scientific inquiry? No, it would be really super duper cool as far as I am concerned but realistically its national benefits are rather abstract. Could we go on some international crusade of nation building in some poor third world country bringing the benefits of democracy and consumerism? Never mind, finishing one such project and going back to square one on the other, neither is supplying warm fuzzies and the money spent on both countries would have been better squandered loading it up on Air Force cargo planes and using it to bomb those nations directly into affluence.
Hey here is a radical idea, let us all get together and develop a national project that nation builds this country. But why would we want to do that you might ask? Well I'm damn glad you did sir and or ma'am. Unrecognized by many Americans preoccupied by the importance of who Tiger Woods was screwing, whether the president was born in Kenya and is secretly a Muslim, or if Blago's hair is real and the outrageous comparisons he makes of himself to truly great people makes him insane but our national infrastructure if graded has the GPA of your average college football linebacker. Click on the report to link over to the American Society for Civil Engineers.
Now we did not get this way overnight and it would be useless and counter-productive to fling partisan mud but honestly that is all American politicians are really good at these days. But I will again let Mr. Bob Herbert address how this situation was an opportunity that was squandered:
"Mr. Obama and the Democrats have wasted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity handed to them in the 2008 election. They did not focus on jobs, jobs, jobs as their primary mission, and they did not call on Americans to join in a bold national effort (which would have required a great deal of shared sacrifice) to solve a wide range of very serious problems, from our over-reliance on fossil fuels to the sorry state of public education to the need to rebuild the nation's rotting infrastructure.
All of that could have been pulled together under the umbrella of job creation — short-term and long-term. In the immediate aftermath of Mr. Obama's historic victory, and with the trauma of the economic collapse still upon us, it would have been very difficult for Republicans on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of a rebuild-America campaign aimed at putting millions of men and women back to work."
Now I am not here to throw stones at a man that has to endure the extreme hate and the vilest of venom on a daily basis nearly amounting to a racial lynching but yes, he did screw the pooch on this one. Before anyone gets upset, I am in NO WAY saying that senile McCain could have done any better. In fact, a sick part of my mind would have loved to see how McCain would have handled the same issues and the mess he would have made of them. Having VP Palin walking around offering her advice would have been even more uproarious but that would approach a level of sadism uncomfortable to me.
President Obama is a very intelligent man dealing with a whole host of crises that the little shit who occupied the White House before him either created or made far worse. Still President Obama wanted the job and campaigned like a bat out of Hell on "change" and the idea that "yes we can". For that reason I was highly pissed at the guy when he flew down to the Gulf coast, suffering from the worst ecological and societal disaster in American history, walked around for a couple of hours without talking to the locals only to rush back to the White House so Paul McCarthy could serenade Michelle and the kiddies. No, he can't don scuba gear, swim down a mile, and stick his finger into the ruptured well but dammit he can at least seem a little more involved.
The vice president does have a nasty habit of inserting his foot and the better portion of the attached leg down his mouth but a recent statement he made about the jobs the country lost to the Great Recession never coming back is true. A "patriotic business person" is real close to an oxymoron so depending on them to do their duty and help bring back any jobs is like expecting Santa to save the day for us.. Watch any of the cable business news channels and it's all about profit and keeping the stockholders happy, which usually means transferring the good manufacturing job that pays enough to build a family to some country where the workers are paid next to nothing.
There are new green industry jobs and new technologies that hold promise but they are years away from employing meaningful numbers. This is where the short and medium term opportunities involved in rebuilding our infrastructure could have bridge the difference until those new green industries came online. And like Mr. Herbert said, the Republicans would have been slitting their own throats to oppose a plan that would have created so many jobs and at the same time leave huge and lasting benefits to the country. Curse me if you want but given how the "recovery" is showing signs of faltering, I believe there is a real chance the president and his team could force-feed such a plan down Republican throats even now, as oppose to living with the 1000 pound gorilla of continued high unemployment.
Truthfully my biggest fear is not the failure of our elected officials but a people who are deeply divided and apathetic. A recent NPR report I heard suggested that a re-engineering of the Mississippi River that would again allow the river to deposit the sediment it carries to the Louisiana delta building up the marshes and barrier islands both cleaning them out of oil and increase the protection from hurricanes, such a mammoth project would provide jobs to that ravaged area. Apparently, the sediment has long been dredged and flushed straight out to sea to aid shipping resulting in heavy erosion of existing barrier islands and increasing the hurricane risk to inland areas as they islands decay and marshes are destroyed due to development. After making a comment on the website about how cool it would be to kill several birds with one stone benefiting everyone I was surprised at how many Gulf locals later complained on the same website about how such a project would hurt their narrow concerns.
I understand how the project would disrupt existing lives that but it did remind me of something I read many years ago. Please bear with me now because I promise I am coming to a conclusion but as part of a global strategy game I owned back in the 1980's supposedly a retired CIA analyst wrote a report to go along with the game explaining the behavior of nations in seeking power and prestige. The reported essentially stated that a country could have huge supplies of natural resources, advanced technical expertise, and money but it was all nothing compared to national will. If there was no sense of national unity or willingness to sacrifice for the greater good that country, even with all its other advantages, was royally screwed. I'm afraid that is the current condition of the United States, yes our patriotism is a mile wide but only inches deep. We have epic problems and everything we need to face and defeat them but all we seem able to do is sit with our thumbs up our asses and whine.