THE DIZZYING HEIGHTS

I forced myself not to get excited about Obama and overall I was successful. I can honestly say that the only thing that excited me about the 2008 Presidential Election was not ending up with the worst possible outcome. If that isn't the fundamental problem with our politics – maybe our society overall – then I don't know what is. After eight years of trying, eight years of accumulating debts both financial and social that I won't live to see paid, this is the reward: a couple years of Eisenhower Republicanism before the great herds of deranged rubes that make up our electorate inevitably decide that Bad had enough of a go at it and it's time to give Worse another shot.

Matt Taibbi's Obama-broke-my-heart piece has been getting a lot of press lately, and nothing about it is shocking except that he got his hopes up in the first place. What did anyone really expect? We've changed. We've changed on a very basic level. Across the mainstream of the political spectrum we've utterly rejected two ideas – that government can be anything other than evil/incompetent and that there can be any collective solution to anything – in a process that began in the 1960s and came to fruition with the "New Democrat" Clinton era. What the Great Depression and Second World War taught Americans has long since been forgotten. Now we have more problems than we can count and there are only three solutions (which are ideally implemented in unison) in response to all of them:

1. Privatize it. There is not a single thing the government can do – from fighting a war to creating a last-resort insurance option – that can't be done better by a consortium of gigantic private interests with their eternal guiding light of the profit motive. Any and every attempt to "reform" anything turns into regulatory capture writ large, a theater of the absurd of inmates not only running the prison but getting the contract to build it and letting themselves out before filling it with the rest of us.

2. Cut my taxes. Pay for the tax cuts by eliminating every aspect of government that doesn't benefit me directly.

3. Blame substantial problems caused by 1 and 2 on government. Repeat.

Part of me did think that this financial crisis would be a little bit of a bottom, a wake-up call. You'd think that having every state in the union – even conservative Meccas like Texas – desperately filling budgetary gaps and reductions in services with free Congressional bailout cash would get a few folks thinking, hmm, absent the largesse of the Federal government we would be irrevocably fucked. The truth is that we have a long way to go. The 1930s have officially been forgotten, or in some circles conveniently re-imagined with pap that ranges from the highbrow money supply erotica of Milton Friedman to the credential-free, Washington Times op-ed caliber wankery of hacks like Amity Shlaes. Insert pithy reminder about forgetting and being condemned to repeat.

So take a good look at the status quo, people. This is as good as it gets. This is the "prize." These are the dizzying heights we can reach through years of blood, sweat, dollars, tears, and pieces of our sanity we can never get back. We can get the guy who gives us less of what we don't want. And the only way it will ever change is to get ourselves to a point as a society at which we look back fondly at 2009 and remember how good the economy was. Americans are great at turning expectantly to the government for a handout when they fail; I guess we just haven't failed spectacularly enough yet.

Be Sociable, Share!

21 Responses to “THE DIZZYING HEIGHTS”

  1. Denzel Jonez Says:

    What an awesome blog. Dude your posts are so thoughtful and well developed.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Yet they make me wanna give up on life.

  3. billy-bob Says:

    Obama only sucks a lot less than McCain.

    But let's call a spade a spade; a duopoly rules this country and it has effectively hollowed out the institutions of state in order to enrich itself, and–more to point–it's corporate masters.

    Why don't I want to pay taxes anymore? Because they clearly go to no good use. From funding wars, to bailing out banksters, to ensuring the pharmo-industrial-complex is rolling in dough.

    Where's my infrastructure dude? Where's my competitive strategy for the 21st century? Where's my healthcare system? Where's my kid's free education? I'd happily pay my share and more for that kind of "wastage".

  4. Parthenon Says:

    /Starts browsing Canadian singles websites

  5. Daniel Says:

    Were you writing this post while you were listening to The Cure? Will Obama ever break out of his shell and stand up to the Cons? Is it okay to be liberal in America anymore? Very cynical and probably true.

  6. Julie Says:

    Tell us how you really feel!

  7. SamInMpls Says:

    At this point, I'd settle for some petty score-settling.

    Projection is so ingrained within movement conservatism, why not go with the stream and really get the wingnuts riled up?

    Why not push the Fairness Doctrine to the top of the house's agenda or float a constitutional amendment banning any declaration of English as our official language?

    Better yet, introduce a non-binding resolution proclaiming the United States as a secular nation or start agitating for a new national holiday for atheists or immigrants. Cesar Chavez Day, anyone?

    A ban on gendered language in all school curriculum? Nominating Michael Moore as our next ambassador to Cuba?

  8. Peggy Says:

    Everyone who's praised Ed's writing, IAWTC.

    SamInMpls: those suggestions sound really entertaining. While the conservatives are flipping out about that (free gardasil for all? abortions for some, tiny American flags for others?) can we actually get working on sneaking some actual progressives/liberals into office? Do we have any?? Sigh.

    I'm teaching this class about the 60s right now (cue loud laughter, as I know very little about the 60s (but more than high schoolers, and also I'm learning as I go)) and it's amazing to watch my students (juniors and seniors mostly, who should in theory know that these kinds of things happened) struggle with the idea that yes, less than half a century ago, people got attacked by police and beaten in the street for marching or sitting in or just being dark-skinned, and YES, that happened IN AMERICA.

    I can't even IMAGINE what their little faces would look like if they ever really figured out the Dust Bowl or the Depression.

    And these kids are going to be eligible to vote within the next 12 months if they aren't already. o_O

  9. Nan Says:

    Another great post.

    One of the things that depressed me about Obama was listening to him talk back during the campaign and realizing that he had totally drunk the Reagan-era Flavorade when it came to government being the enemy. He may trot out the occasional progressive line or invoke the memory of FDR, but it's pure tokenism. So I was luckier than Taibbi — I had no illusions when the man took office; I just figured Obama was marginally less horrible than McCain.

  10. comrade x Says:

    The status quo that was established during Reagan's tenure in the White House- a return to monopolistic capitalism, destruction of public expenditures while vastly increasing the military budgets, the enrichment of a global elite at the exspense of the majority of America's citizenry, is why I despise moderates, who smugly defend their wishy- washyness while the country collapses around them.

  11. Kevin Says:

    After reading Taibbi's article and discovering subsequently last night that Citigroup has been given a $38 billion tax write off, along with the White House's opposition to the Senate amendments that would have allowed the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada and Europe, I'm convinced that Obama's presidency is at best a disappointment to his supporters. What's odd is that Tea baggers label him as a "socialist," when really almost nothing he's done has leaned "left." Even closing Guantanamo was a position McCain supported.

  12. Da Moose Says:

    Ban automated tax withholding from people's pay checks and you'll see this machine seize up within 6 months. The simple connection between the Tax Payment Act of 1943 and the growth in federal budgets is clear. Withholding is the cash flow spigot that gives Congress the confidence to spend unwisely. Unfortunately, no one in the punditry class talks about how insidious tax withholding is because it is another post WW II sacred cow in American Politics like the sacred cow of the government hiring quota system which has lead to our incompetent government bureaucracy or the sacred cow of America's relationship with Israel which can be tied directly to many of our problems with radical Islam. The way Americans hold public discourse on issues today is like people gathered around a house fire debating the color of the fire engine trying to put it out. Until Americans figure out how to shift the angle of their public discourse about 90%, the rot of our society will only deepen. It's sounds depressing but it is only when the addict recognizes how fucked up he is that he can then attempt to fundamentally address his issues. We need true leadership for this type of cathartic redress. Obama will not be that leader.

  13. Da Moose Says:

    by the way, read Jackson Lears' new book: "Rebirth of a Nation." One of the best American history books ever written and it was just recently published.

  14. displaced Capitalist Says:

    All this is going to guarantee that the Republicans will sweep the elections in 2010. Democrats will look to the past two years and say "meh" when they vote (if they vote at all) and Republicans will be out in droves because Obama is a pinko commie bastard.

  15. displaced Capitalist Says:

    Kevin said:

    Even closing Guantanamo was a position McCain supported.

    Yeah, but McCain was a RINO and that's why he didn't get elected.

  16. Duverger's outlaw Says:

    Yeah, but this has been going on for a while; even arguably through the 30s. Its been a while since Tom Ferguson's book (Golden Rule: the Investment Theory of Party Competition) argued this:
    http://www.amazon.com/Golden-Rule-Investment-Competition-Money-Driven/dp/0226243176

  17. Kevin Says:

    displaced Capitalist,

    McCain didn't lose b/c he was a RINO. He lost b/c independents didn't break his way. Polls conducted before and after the election universally confirm this. Combined with Obama's aggressive voter registration strategy in several competitive states, the state of the economy, amongst numerous other factors, McCain didn't stand a chance. He only received about 2 million less votes than Bush received in 2004, and if he had won those votes, it would have been far less than what was needed to surmount Obama's lead.

  18. Crazy for Urban Planning Says:

    I can only add the fourth rule of American politics since Saint Ronnie (President Raygun): nothing beats a good foreign war. Take a look at our history since 1980, we seem to have had countless small or large bouts of military intervention.

  19. displaced Capitalist Says:

    Kevin, you're right. But I was thinking more about what wingnuts think of McCain rather than what independents think.

    Let me rephrase my earlier statement then:

    1. Liberals will say "meh," and vote for weak 3d party candidates,
    2. Independents and sane Republicans will not vote, and
    3. Wingnuts will sweep the elections.

  20. William Says:

    There have been a few bright spots in my 58 1/2 years, mostly family derived. Vietnam, Nixon, Reagan all reinforced my sense of doom. I am and am not suprised this mess has lasted this long. Dinosaurs die slowly. We seem to get what is deserved. Maybe I can learn to appreciate Palin's backside.

  21. Danny Says:

    The hypocrisy of listening to Republicans like Pence and Boehner screaming about "Deficits and Debt" is stunning.

    WTF were these bozos, with complete power in Congress and the WH, while they ran up the largest debt known to mankind passing one tax cut after another, starting trillion dollar wars, unfunded Medicare Part D, and the list goes on?

    Perhaps Harry Reid's defeat, Dick Durbin's elevation to Senate Majority Leader, and a lowering of the threshold for cloture to say, 55 could open the way to legislating getting done.

    Look what happened today; The GOP required an entire 700+ page amendment to be read out loud.

    The GOP has done a good job of killing itself. Time to take Lieberman and his ilk out to the woodshed and teach them a lesson.