Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thoughts On The State Of The Republic

My review yesterday of a biography of Dorothea Lange, the legendary documentary photographer whose images captured the agonies of the Great Depression and the efforts of the Roosevelt administration to give a measure of relief, as well as jobs, to the millions of unemployed, begs a question or three: Why has Congress seemingly given up on the unemployed? Why are there no jobs programs of consequence? Why are Americans concerned about joblessness but congressfolk are obsessing over the budget deficit?

The short answer is that Congress doesn't care about the unemployed even though vestiges of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression linger.

As Paul Krugman notes, aside from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and a few other stalwarts, the silence over jobs creation is deafening, while President Obama regrettably has embraced the metaphor that if Americans are belt tightening then so should government. Republicans not only agree, but it was their idea first, and while bipartisanship can be swell, it certainly is not in this instance.

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Is anyone surprised that two months after the Republican-dominated House was gavelled into session it has accomplished nothing of consequence except team up with Democrats to push back an effort from the party's own hind quarters to shut down government? Of course not. If anything, the situation in the Senate is even more dismal.

And is anyone really surprised that the GOP's mid-term election mantra that it would cut $100 billion from the federal budget and repeal health-care reform is going nowhere fast?

Newly minted House Speaker John Boehner, no fool he, knew that the $100 billion promise would be impossible to come close to keeping given the fine print attached to the Pledge for America. That fine print included Social Security, Medicare and defense and homeland security spending being off limits. In other words, the bulk of the budget.

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Even if the House were to repeal health-care reform, it stands a snowball's chance in hell of being repeated in the Senate.

But . . . but but there is little doubt that reform will be killed by the Supreme Court in a year or three since anything bad for the corporatocracy and good for ordinary Americans pretty much automatically gets strangled these days by the right-leaning high court majority.

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While I have reluctantly come around to the view that a no-fly zone over Libya was necessary, there was some pretty serious flip-flopping by the commander in chief before he finally got on board.

First of all, when Barack Obama was a senator, he asserted that the president did not have the constitutional power to unilaterally authorize a military attack on a nation that did not pose a threat to the U.S.

Then there is the fact that his defense secretary, national security advisor and anti-terrorism boss were outflanked. By three women in fact: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton,
Samantha Power, a senior aide at the National Security Council, and Susan Rice, the U.S.'s ambassador to the U.N.

That so noted, I wouldn't care if three Irish wolfhounds helped change Obama's mind. And that the reason I came around was in the service of the democratic transformation of the Arab world, warts and all as well as risks and all.


Wander Woman said...

As one of the many unemployed and over 50 people around now, I can relate to this. But I feel that not only does Congress not care about the unemployed, they seem not to care much about the American people in general. I find myself constantly lecturing my kids and their peers (30 somethings) about their need to become politically active to achieve the changes they just sit around and complain about.

Shaun Mullen said...

You are a good mother. My own mother played a similar role in the lives of her children, a result of which is that I chose a lifelong career in journalism which led to my involvement in eight (count 'em) presidential campaigns, many of them as an editor who compelled my reporters to ask tough questions and not the usual He Said She Said pap.

Please hang in there. And don't let up on the next generation.

Wander Woman said...

Thanks! I don't intend to. I just sent two of them Howard Zinn's "Peoples History of the United States".
They are just so apathetic. So different from where we were when we were their age. They keep saying "I'm only one person, what can I do?" I tell them--go organize others who think the same thing and you'd be amazed at what you can do! I gave my nephew a quote from Frederick Douglass the other day and he asked me who he was. Arrrgg! I told him he shouldn't have slept through history class!

Shaun Mullen said...

Howard Zinn is a personal hero. To wit: