By David William Pear.
What is so frustrating is that “We the People” know that America can be so much better. America can still be a shining city upon a hill, without being king of the mountain. America can really be the indispensible nation without being a bully. American exceptionalism can be more than a cynical joke.
Many of us had high hopes for America in November 2008 when Barack Hussein Obama made history by being the first African-American elected President of the United State of America. He could have been an unforgettable chapter in American history for 100 years. Instead he will likely just be a forgotten footnote.
So many people who cheered President-elect Obama were jubilant that after so many years of arrogant and foolish leaders we could finally have “Change that we can believe in”. Even in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression the country was alive again with the spirit of “Yes We Can”. How naïve we were.
In January of 2008 President Obama was on the cusp of a historic moment. He had a once in a century opportunity to put America on the path that many of us dreamed about: Healthcare for all, alternative energy, bullet trains, foreign policy based on diplomacy, government spending for economic recovery for people and less spending for militarism.
Even the Nobel Committee seemed to sense the golden opportunity for a more peaceful world that the young Barack Obama had in his grasp. He won the Nobel Peace Prize although he had yet done nothing to deserve it except make speeches and promises. The whole world listened, believed and hungered for the fulfillment of his promises.
Now many of us feel a sickening pit in our stomach when we think of the possibilities of that moment when President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Even though his acceptance speech left many of us with a sense of questioning, unease, a creeping suspicion and dread, we still had hope. We overlooked all the warning signs which seem so clear now.
Die-hard President Obama supporters made excuses for what the disillusioned of us felt were betrayals. They told us President Obama had to be pragmatic and that politics is the art of the possible. They told us that in his heart he wanted to do the right things. They told us that in his soul he was a good man. They told us how much worse are the other alternatives. They told us not to give up hope yet. They said to get out and vote in 2012. And we listened and wanted to believe and we voted.
When President Obama won his second term of office his enthusiastic supporters said that now we would see the real President Obama. He won a solid majority of the voters. He has a mandate to govern. He no longer has to grovel to the special interest groups. Now he is free and will be turned loose. We waited and hoped. We have waited and hoped long enough. Will the Real President Obama please step forward?
Now people’s attitudes and the atmosphere are changing. People no longer enthusiastically speak of President Obama as being such a likeable guy. His supporters are more timid. President Obama continues bowing to Wall Street, he enthusiastically pursues the War of Terror, his drone killed list grows and Guantanamo prison is still open. As the Commander in Chief of the military he turned a blind-eye to his subordinates in the military mistreatment of Private First Class Bradley Manning.
President Obama has shown indifference to the poor, the old, the sick, and minorities, of whom he barely speaks. His only encouragement to disadvantaged youth, the working poor and his African-American brothers and sisters left behind in the ghettoes is “That anybody in America can make it if they try”. That rallying cry still gets wild applause from audiences but it has become nauseating to the rest of us. The President’s image is badly tarnished. Even his once charming smiles now seem practiced and faked. He resembles President Bill Clinton biting his lower lip and feeling our pain while he reformed welfare for the poor by slashing it to shreds.
In the past four years the economy has improved for some but not for most. The banks are doing great thanks to free money from the government. Many homeowners’ are not so lucky as foreclosures continue to mount. For those that still see financial struggles ahead help is not on the way. For them they can look forward to only two possibilities from their government. One possibility is a Republican Congress that will cut government discretionary spending on programs for them. The other possibility is a Democrat President Obama that will cut government discretionary spending on programs for them.
There is no suspense as to which side will win the debate. It will be the side that cuts government discretionary spending for the people. As the baseball legend Yogi Berra said: “Whenever you come to a fork in the road take it”. It is not what Yogi meant but in this case no matter which road we take it will be the wrong one. We must choose our poison of shared sacrifice for the less well off while we wait for the wealth to trickle down from above.
The priorities of the people for housing, education, healthcare, infrastructure, mass transit, climate change, security and jobs are now discretionary. Cuts in military spending that benefits transnational corporations, exploits poor nations and leaves death and misery in its wake is off the table. A progressive income tax is taboo. Our dreaming is finished for now. There is no knight in shining amour in sight to save America.
The American and world economies will be lucky to avoid a double-dip recession or worse. Spending cuts are the worst economic policy the U.S. government can have now. Cuts are very recessionary and especially so for an economy that is fragile and has barely recovered from the Great Recession started in 2008. Efforts to balance the budget will be futile as economic growth collapses and government revenue shrinks further.
The economy and country need more economic stimulus not less. Economists still not stuck in 19th century thinking know that what is needed is increased government spending for growth. There are no shortages of worthwhile projects that the government can and should spend money on that will leave real tangible investments and a substantial inheritance to future generation.
We cannot stick our head in the sand about climate change any longer. We are headed for disaster. There are more Hurricane Sandy’s and Katrina’s in our future. The sea level is rising and will continue to do so. The soup is already cooked, future disasters cannot be avoided, but the devastation can still be reduced. We need to protect or move population centers. We need to build levees, sea walls and dykes around our major coastal cities, industrial areas and population centers. The cost of prevention now is much less than will be the costs of cleaning up and rebuilding later. Lives can still be saved too.
Related to climate change and the improvement in the general quality of life would be investments in mass transit, bullet trains, more efficient ways to use energy and alternative energy sources. We need to clean up and protect our water supplies. We need to be able to breathe clean air. Public health is being hurt by pollution. Thousands of people already die every year unnecessarily. If pollution was caused by foreign terrorists there would be no limit as to how much money the government would be willing to spend. Domestic pollution “terrorists” are given a free pass.
The above mentioned investments are something that we could all be proud to leave to our children and grandchildren. The worst government economic stimuli and the ones that leaves nothing but debt for future generations are wars. The danger of a nuclear war is still real too. Then there would possibly be no future generations. Radioactive pollution is forever. The U.S. should honor its commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty now by working with other nations to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
Instead we are going in the wrong and a very dangerous direction. The U.S. is a nuclear proliferater. Bullying other nations such as Iran with “all options on the table” only encourages them and others to develop nuclear weapons in self defense. The U.S. has looked the other way and even helped India and Pakistan develop nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan have so far avoided a nuclear war with each other, but they have come close on several occasions. It is an open-secret that Israel has several hundred nuclear bombs and submarines capable of launching nuclear-tipped missiles. A nuclear-free Middle East would be a workable solution but it would take tremendous effort and courage from the U.S. to make it happen.
The U.S. developing ABM’s (anti-ballistic missiles) and putting up missile-shields is an aggressive act that threatens nuclear war. ABM’s offer very little if any protection from a first-strike at the U.S. or our allies. The only useful purpose of an ABM missile-shield is to help prevent a retaliatory second-strike from an enemy after the U.S. has already launched a nuclear first-strike against that enemy nation.
The U.S. is thus leading the way in a new nuclear arms race between America, Russia and China. China has watched while the U.S. encircled Russia and the U.S. is very vocal that we are now “pivoting” aggressively for domination in Asia. The U.S. should stop this insane game of chicken and declare a policy of never launching a first-strike nuclear attack against any nation ever and work towards all nations joining in such a treaty.
The old saying was that when the U.S. catches a cold the rest of the world gets pneumonia. There is still some truth to that phrase. Then what happens to the world when the U.S. gets pneumonia? When the people of any nation become too economically distressed the leaders try to deflect blame and divert the people’s attention to an external or internal enemy threat. A deeper world economic recession or depression will further the risks of more and bigger wars. Then national treasures and blood are wasted on war leaving nothing but death, destruction and debt in its path.
For now we can only fantasize about what could have been when we elected President Obama in 2008. We hoped for a brighter world and a better world to come. Most of us did not have the same illusions in 2012. President Obama missed his golden opportunity. History does not knock at the door often. Yet we must not stop speaking out for what we know is right. The price of silence is too great.
Many people will not want to hear our message. Many will say the message is un-American and that we are America-haters. They will tell us: “Love America or leave it; Our country right or wrong; Support the Troops”.
They will say that undocumented immigrants and Muslims are to be despised. They will say that those that are homeless, poor, ignorant, drug addicts, alcoholics, pregnant teenagers and those in prison got what they deserved. They will say the sick, unemployed and all the less fortunate among us are so because of their own fault. They will say it was all their own choice, their free will and that unfortunates are undeserving of our help and compassion. They will say this and they will be wrong.