Friday, February 25, 2011
The unanswered question
The United States of the early 1960's for many my age and younger could almost be considered ancient history. I dimly remember certain aspects of the latter part of that decade like the debates over school integration, the continuing fight for civil rights, Vietnam, and the Apollo missions but overall the scope of social change and technical advancement since then has altered America in ways that would be considered science fiction to someone of that era suddenly brought to 2011.
It’s understandable that opinions differ greatly on the benefits and disadvantages these changes and advancements have brought but on average, I'd have to say they have been more of a blessing. While still very imperfect, we are a far more open and accepting society now and the progress in medical technology alone allows many to overcome conditions and have normal lives that in the 1960's would have been an automatic death sentence.
However, in some ways we have declined since then, we are a far more self-centered and bickering bunch devoted to our own agendas and more than ready to condemn anyone in this country and around the world not holding our exact viewpoint. Maybe this is the price every world power has to pay after years of near global dominance, a slow decent into madness concealed behind a thin veneer of pride and arrogance. It would be a mistake to believe that the United States was ever in reality "that shining city on the hill", our history is replete with examples of tyranny and oppression but for most of that time we have endeavored to move closer to that ideal.
Ignoring certain moral lapses and mistakes John Kennedy was a great president that energized the nation for the challenges it faced in the latter half of the 20th century. His youth, energy, and ideals called to our better side paving the way for much of the advancements we see now. Despite his faults Kennedy was a man of words who could see beyond the limits of the here and now pushing us to be something more and better. My favorite quote of his calling for Americans to pull together rings true even now: "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Unfortunately, I see little evidence of that spirit in our society and if there ever was a time every American needed to rally together it is the sad age we live now.
Decades of overindulgence in government, corporate, and private circles have eaten away at the financial foundation of the country. This problem has been known for many years but the financial wizards in charge of managing the life blood of capital to our economy and checking its health have instead been playing destructive games with other people’s money. For the corporate masters it’s been better for the bottom line to export manufacturing jobs and import cheap goods that the cattle-like American people sell their souls for by maxing out their credit cards.
Politicians secure near perfect job security by promising everything to everyone all at the same time, all they have to do keep the bread and circuses going so only a few notice how bad things are falling apart. Instead of showing leadership they fall over each other gnashing their teeth about deficit spending but easily vote trillion dollar tax cuts for billionaires then joyously slap each other on the back for cutting home heating oil assistance to poor folks proclaiming their fiscal responsibility.
It’s sad when golden ages end and that’s where we find ourselves now folks, the party is over, the bills are coming due, and if this was the nation that Kennedy called us to be so long ago we would rally together and endure the needed sacrifices to insure our children’s future. Many Americans are ready to pull together and do what is right for the sake of the country.
They are the poor who want nothing but a chance for a decent job to make things better for their families and the working class who grimly face the prospect of never being able to retire, even after years of hard work and doing everything right. Even the relatively secure middle class now faces the hard choice of bearing the cost of caring for their aging parents or being able to send their kids to college. They are all being asked to sacrifice and in large part they are ready and willing. In my opinion that leaves only one general holdout.
It is wrong to say the entire group of corporate masters and financial wizards in our society are not ready to do what is right but I see damn little evidence of it. They whine about oppressive taxes and stifling regulations to the sycophant business journalists but without a second thought will send good paying American jobs overseas to take advantage of near slave labor while reveling in the glory of free market globalism. Here in America many of those masters of the capitalistic universe scheme to bust unions, slash worker benefits, and cut pay all the while their corporations make record profits and award each other outrageous bonuses that would embarrass Midas.
With all the calls for sacrifice from the poor, working, and middle class I have wondered several times to myself what are the rich elites willing to sacrifice for the sake of the future wellbeing of the United States? However, it is a question none of the national pundits, journalists or other highly paid media types have ever asked to my knowledge, until now.
Say what you will about the MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough and his co-host Mika Brzezinski but of the morning news shows I am able to see they are a relative bastion of lively debate. The others such as Fox Noise have the three moronic morning stooges, Fox Business has Zombie Imus and his long-time toadies, and poor CNN whose morning show couldn’t produce a decent debate to save their lives.
Earlier this week as the Morning Joe group debated the battle of wills between Wisconsin public workers and their governor it was Mika who brought up the question about when and what were the rich willing to sacrifice for the greater good. The question only hung in the air for a few seconds before someone, Joe I think, went off on another tirade about the country being broke and how super-duper cool the governor of New Jersey is for being such a financial hard ass.
I am not naïve, the country is in danger from decades of financial overindulgence in all sectors of life, growing entitlements, and the basic interest we have to pay to the likes of China who watches gleefully on the sidelines as we carry out a slow motion suicide. It is also a given that despite how some want to paint it, there is no real black and white in this predicament. Many in the middle, working class, and poor put themselves in their disastrous economic situations along with some union leaders that instead of protecting the workers sought only power and to cushion excessively their own lives. Moreover, there are some honest and decent corporate executives and bankers who know a healthy America requires a prosperous and growing middle class.
Still, the basic question of when and how much the elites will sacrifice for the good of the country needs to be answered. We poorer folks do not have a choice, the undeniable math will force us to make hard choices to the point our children will have far more difficult lives with far less opportunities than us.
The rich who got us in so much trouble desperately need to ask what they can do for America, not whine about what it should do for them, but so far their silence is deafening.