|The face of the fifties, the Nelsons|
|Okay, I might have been wrong about the 70s, but...|
|Camp David Accords|
Things declined rapidly under Ronald Reagan. Many people don't remember how Reagan took on the labor unions and gave them some punishing blows, striking at the heart of the middle class. His tax policies were the beginning of a new resurgence in income inequality that continues to this day. The Iran-Contra scandal -- and its long and flaccid unwinding -- showed that corruption and hypocrisy can be tolerated by those ideologically inclined to do so. Reagan's policies initiated what could be called the Great Stagnation, the beginning of the end of the middle class, with most new wealth going to the top and never trickling down.
Bush the elder's contribution to this continuum was not nothing, but he continued the Reagan years and belief systems. Oh, he won a war and presided over a recession that was his undoing, if only because his blue blood made him genetically disposed to looking insensitive to the plight of everyday Americans, which he was, like his son who would later follow him.
The Clinton years were a respite to the ongoing American decline. Poverty rates declined dramatically, and by and large the Clinton scandals were made up. The Lewinsky affair was a national embarrassment on several levels, not the least of which was the idea that oral sex was a legitimate reason to toss a president. The return of budget surpluses amid a true economic boom was a plus. The repeal of Glass-Steagall was not, and we'll be regretting that stumble for some time. Also, enshrining the heads of Goldman Sachs as the watchdogs of the Treasury drew an arc to cataclysm we'll be reeling from for years.
|If I screw this up, can I still keep the flight suit?|
|I know, hope is not a plan.|
Of course he was hobbled from the beginning by economic circumstance. He was mercilessly pounded by an intractable opposition in spite of solid majorities in Congress. He produced a reasonably balanced health care reform law; he managed TARP well enough, if only in letting it unwind the way it was arranged when it was handed off to him by Bush; he showed grit by bailing out the auto industry, saving jobs; his stimulus package did save jobs and averted a depression, one we may experience anyway. Obama, too, can point to foreign policy victories in the war against terrorists -- though his use of drones is disturbing -- and his wise handling of the Arab Spring.
|Let's offer Obama tax cuts in exchange for ripping his heart out.|
|It's cheaper to give bankers money than to prosecute them.|
It's been dismal watching the inept way our law enforcement mechanisms have failed to prosecute white-collar, financial crime while our local police forces look more and more like paramilitary units as they sweep through the Occupy movement's encampments in Homeland Security riot gear in the middle of the night. However you view OWS and its tactics, this blatant disregard for the well-being of practitioners of non-violent civil disobedience throws a bad light on our current American culture.
Adding to -- some might say spearheading -- our decline are the Republicans so bent on destroying Barack Obama that they have forged a true contempt for the American people and our plight in the middle of the unraveling of our national economic model. When we'll come back is anyone's guess, but it won't be with the help of the Republican Party, which believes in growth through destruction of cherished American institutions.
Right about now, in an essay like this, comes the usual declaration that I hope Barack Obama gets re-elected, along with a return to Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. And I admit, I don't have it in me to say I'll never vote for this abysmal failure because it's true, that I fear even more a Republican sweep of all three branches of government, especially in the wake of Citizens United and the never-ending free money it delivers in a political era still dominated, yes, by the likes of Karl Rove, Dick Armey, Ari Fleischer, Rupert Murdoch, and the Koch brothers. I shudder -- as if for real zombies, vampires, chainsaws, and Blair witches -- to think of that America.
|Cutting spending creates jobs. (hehe)|
In the end, I guess this could be what America's long goodbye looks like: zombie ideas instead of real zombies, and the eventual abdication of electoral power by a hoodwinked and bamboozled population of people who believe in "taking responsibility for their own actions" and living a life "based on faith in God and Country" and "it's our money and we should decide how to spend it," even though taxes will no doubt go up or be maintained on the subservient 99% while they all but vanish on the 1% who have underwritten the bamboozlement.
It's depressing, this long goodbye, but that doesn't mean it's not underway. This journey from naive child to worried senior citizen has taken a lifetime. I wish I had another one with which to fight back.
|Maybe they'll let me come back as George Carlin...|