Monday, August 13, 2012

Is This The Last Round In the Test Of Our Democracy?

By Daniel J Perin
(WARNING:  Reading this article may cause you to experience depression, sleepless nights and a general malaise.  OR maybe you will wake up and smell whatever roses are left.)
Four years ago I was writing articles expressing my delight in the possibilities suggested by the election of a man who had risen through the challenges of being a man with a dark skin in a still predominantly white nation.  It was looking like we had really begun to turn the corner from a country still bound up in attitudes of prejudice and restriction to one that was opening up to the innate equality of humankind.  I really did believe in hope as I had not believed in a long time.

The swearing in ceremony of President Barack Obama was one of the most moving events of my life and it touched my deepest and innermost dreams of hope for change in the social dynamics for all of us in this country we love so much.  It seemed as though the ground swell of “yes, we can!” was going to carry us all into a period of economic recovery, social acceptance and a return to a developing middle class that would recharge the engines of our society and assure the future of our children.

There were bitter debates among not only the political parties, but also between families and friends.  I was ill prepared for the racist bigotry I was exposed to in emails, news stories, especially from cable outlets such as Fox News, and the instantaneous “true stories” foisted upon us from the new media, the Internet.  So-called “facts” swirled about the nation and world faster than you could blink your eyes.  These “facts” began to take root in the minds of those who feared what might happen if a person of color were to actually become our President.

The four years that have followed the high hopes many of us had for this new caliber of leadership have resulted in many disappointments to be sure.  For those who held strong reservations and racial biases it was easy to blame our problems on the fact that a black person just didn’t have the ability to do the job.  Never mind that the stated goal of Republicans, like Senate minority leader, Mitch O’Connell, was to deny the President any advantage and to block any effort to pass legislation that would allow for Congress to address even the smallest of problems.  The Republican goal was to make Obama a “one term President.”  This declaration had nothing to do with politics.  It was a purely racist political position by people who could not stand the idea of a black person leading the country.

Positions and policies that had historically been those of the Republicans were suddenly reversed because Obama, in an effort to lead in a bipartisan manner, had adopted many of those same positions.

Because after four years of his Presidency, we are still experiencing serious economic challenges many have forgotten how we got into the mess in the first place.  It was the Bush economics, including tax cuts to those making millions of dollars and two wars both of which were paid for by piling up huge debts to China.  There was a benign indifference to corporations closing manufacturing plants and sending jobs overseas. All of these actions sent us into trillion dollar deficits.

This time around heading into another presidential election I do not plan to write about what I see happening other than this piece.  I am so disillusioned by what I see in the continuing political dishonesty that I hold little hope for our democracy to succeed in solving our problems, at least in the near term.

First of all, if Obama is reelected, with or without support in the House and Senate, I expect he will have little opportunity to do things that most second term presidents are able to do because they do not have to spend time on getting reelected.  There is so much hate and distrust supported by a media that has become mostly a bunch of dishonest brokers, if not purely pathological liars, and millions of people who believe the crap they deal out that I see little hope for redemption.

On the other hand, if the Romney/Ryan ticket is elected you can expect not only a return to the devastating economic policies of the Bush administration, but also a full out assault on entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as well as programs for educational assistance.  There is no question entitlement programs need to be addressed and updated in order to assure their continued viability for our seniors and persons less able to provide for special care.  But to suggest those changes should be paid for by cutting the safety net that has worked quite well since its inception is short sighted and callous.

Then there is the whole question of military policy.  The country is fed up with America being the world police force (not to mention that a large part of the rest of the world would like us to stay out of their affairs).  Republican hawks are hot to go to war in Syria, Iran, North Korea and any place else they want to force the might of our armed forces on the world to show our “no-nonsense power.”  These old warhorses need to be put out to pasture as far from policy makers as possible.

To me there is no question that this election is about choice.  It is not about choosing a white or black President.  It is about which economic policy you believe best suits our need for recovery.  In my college business and accounting classes the professors were focused at that time on Keynesian economics, which briefly held that when the business community could not pore money into projects and products, it was up to the government to provide the financial backing that would allow infrastructure and manufacturing to gear up and create the jobs that would get the work done.  This is essentially the Democratic economic policy.  Such programs produced the WPA and the many projects that put people to work when the business community did not have the funds to put into venture capital.  Projects like the Bonneville Dam and others were the result of such programs.  Today programs like the assistance to General Motors allowed the government to put up the money for the company to reorganize and restore its manufacturing ability and to rehire laid off workers.  Romney would have put the company into bankruptcy making it vulnerable to vulture capitalists to take it over for cents on the dollar while increasing the number of unemployed workers in industries that provided parts for the auto industry.  The truth of the matter is that private industry did not have the money necessary to support the restructuring.  Only the government could do that job.

The Republican economic policy provides that if you give the richest Americans and companies more capital through tax reduction, they will use that capital to build America and provide jobs in industry, infrastructure and research.  The resultant increase was supposed to “trickle down” to lower levels of society.  History will show conclusively that that policy failed miserably to help any one except the rich.

I could go on and on with the differences in policy.  As a statement of transparency, I am neither a Democrat nor Republican.  I have been a registered Independent since returning to Oregon after my retirement and I have voted in the Independent Party primary.  I have voted in every election since I became an eligible voter.  If I vote in this election it may be for the last time.  I am seriously beyond the old saw that every vote counts.  It is clear that as the Republicans have successfully instituted laws restricting the voting rights of minorities, seniors and students, our votes really DO NOT COUNT any more.  We have become so used to accepting the lies that politicians of both parties dump on us that we do not recognize truth any longer and therefore cannot be counted upon to vote intelligently.

So, my friends, the choice is up to you.  If you have read this far in this article, I can only hope it encourages you to examine the options before you.  What kind of country do you want to live in?  What kind of leadership is acceptable to you?  What color is truth and honesty?  What does integrity really look like?  Are your opinions developed through flexible consideration of alternatives or set in concrete with no room for consideration of the interests of others?

Good luck in getting your priorities elected.