Sunday, January 1, 2006

2006: Hopes Rising for a Falling Empire

Terry McKenna returns to Daily Rev today, after a lengthy holiday absence. As you will see, he is not bursting with hope for our nation's future, and frankly I don't see much to hope for, either. But I also suspect that hope is part of the mindset that has gotten us into the mess we're in now. More on that later, however; first, let's welcome Terry back to the blog. Mr. McKenna, front and center:

I see 2005 as either a turning point or the end. If it is a turning point, then eventually we will be able to look back at the Bush era as a classic example of hubris. Unfortunately, it is more likely that 2005 will mark an end—the end of American democracy.

The single sign pointing in favor of a turning point is the failure of the president to win all of his legislative objectives. But the balance of signs suggests the conservative era is here to stay. To begin with, both parties have employed gerrymandering to such an extent that most legislative races are easy wins for the incumbent – thus it is easier to stay in power than to win power. But we also have the issue of demographic trends that are inexorable. Growth is in the suburbs, and the suburbs are Republican. Period.

Yet, without a strong give and take between parties, public policy becomes divorced from the public will. I will show a few examples. Note, in some cases, the frustrated public will is more conservative than public policy, sometimes more liberal.

Immigration: most working Americans are suspicious of the hoards of low-paid immigrant laborers who have taken over the lower end of the employment spectrum. So, while economists gush over the productivity of this sector, wage earners know that these workers exist to underbid the rest of us. Yet public policy does nothing to stop either the illegal immigration, or the hiring of undocumented workers.

Manufacturing: the US (and most industrial nations) maintained a strong manufacturing sector through protective tariffs and import controls. Over the past 3 decades, we have phased out most of these protections, and watched our manufacturing sector disappear. If you still work in manufacturing, watch out!

Health Care: the majority of Americans favor something like a single payor health care system. Yet the president’s commission on tax reform has come out favoring the purchase of individual health insurance policies (and ending the tax advantages of group health insurance). This radical change would destroy health care funding as we know it.

Education: most Americans who don’t live in big cities like their public schools (at least in northern states); yet they do not oppose vouchers for parents in the big cities (so that they can afford to send their kids to a private school). The single public policy initiative has been NCLB – which focuses on test results to assess progress. The result has been the labeling of large numbers of successful schools as failing; yet nothing is being done to aid those in the worst schools.

Foreign Policy: Most Americans have given up on the Iraq War. They also are not at all sure why the US tilts so far towards Israel, which for all intents and purposes, is a western colony (yes, also a life raft – but its neighbors don’t see it that way). Yet the bullshit on the war continues unabated. And the status of Israel as most favored nation remains mysteriously unchallenged.

One would expect that Americans would turn against the talk shows and against both parties, and rise as one to say NO MORE. But nothing happens. The airwaves remain full of the same talking points, and we aimlessly go to the polls each November and vote for more of the same.

--T. McKenna

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