You may have noted that I have been relatively quiet on the political/news front as of late, mostly because I don’t have any free time anymore, but furthermore because I think that most of the events, such as Obama’s inauguration, speak for themselves and we are all somewhat inspired and hopeful for the future, finally. But there are a few things that I want to say about the pressing economic and political events of our time.
First of all, former George W. Bush’s presidency was a complete and abject failure. Please, let’s not forget that. There have been a lot of interviews and articles before the switch-over that offered a somewhat benign retrospective of Bush’s reign, and it looks like reporters have been attempting to remain “objective” by entertaining the notion that Bush may have represented integrity because he never backed down from doing whatever the fuck he wanted, or something like that.
Bush was a terrible mistake, and a giant mar on the already besotted history of US politics. He stood as a representative not of personal integrity, but rather as the exact negative of what a leader should be. He didn’t listen to his opponents nor his own constituency. He didn’t utilize diplomacy in dealing with world bodies and foreign leaders. He took more vacations than any other president in history. His administration was peppered by yes-men, neo-cons, and nepotism. This is completely ignoring the myriad scandals that marred his administration. Basically, he didn’t do anything that he was supposed to do as a LEADER. The real “leadership” in the Bush presidency were the people who actually ran things, such as his vice-president and Karl Rove. Presidents in the past have oft been puppets on strings, such as Reagan, but at least Reagan had charisma and could instill some kind of false confidence, even when his actual policies resulted in terrible outcomes that we are still paying for today.
So yes, thank god we have closed that terrible chapter in our history. But we will be continuing to pay for those 8 years of bullshit for a long time hence, Obama or not. The Republican Party, as evidenced by their cold response to bipartisanship in the passing of the stimulus plan, are awaiting an eventual rebuttal to the centrism of the Obama presidency. They will do all they can do to ensure that his policies fail, so that they can renew their onslaught of the poor and middle class. Bear that in mind in the coming years: W. Bush was not an anomaly. He was the epitome of hard-line right-wing divisiveness. And again, let me be perfectly clear about the policies of such an administration: they failed. Period. They will never be effective. The myth of free market capitalism has been—with finality—debunked.
The history that Obama has made in his ascendance to the American presidency is not simply about a black man becoming a US President, nor reductively about simple “change”: it is about the forceful backing of an American public for a government that will utilize its policies for greater control and responsibility of economic tides. A government that does what it is supposed to do, rather than absolving itself of any and all responsibility beyond that of blatant militarism.
Now I want to discuss these “tough economic times,” as they like to say everyday on the news. This is indeed a time when the failed economic policies of the past are coming home to roost. This is also a time when “the American people” are beginning to pay for their years of living wantonly off of money that they never had and never will have. This is a time when issues of sustainability are no longer simply concerns of hippies, but of academic professors and Washington policy wonks. This is a time when America has to wake up to the fact that we have been sleeping, while the rest of the world has been quietly surpassing us in their investment in business and educational competitiveness.
Even though comparisons to the Great Depression can be fruitful simply for waking up people to the fact that this recession is real and its effects on people devastating, let’s also abstain from going too far. No one is jumping out of windows on Wall St. The lines for unemployment may be exceedingly long, but there’s no extensive lines for soup kitchens, at least, not yet. Retail chains that have stretched themselves too thin on the promise of endless sales have indeed been shutting their doors. Banks are decisively slimming their ranks with a butcher’s knife. And this impact cannot be understated on the economy nor on men and women now without salaries. But for many, it also doesn’t mean much of anything other than that they won’t waste their money like they might have before. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Because the fact is that transitioning into what they call a “green” economy can not be easy, nor even possible without the recognition that it is necessary. These “tough economic times” are not about a housing market bubble collapsing, nor about over-investment in bad securities and over-lending of easy credit: it is about the transition into a new economic and political and social paradigm. A paradigm in which we recognize our interdependence on each other and other nations, acknowledge the interconnectivity of mankind with that of the earth, and begin to take responsibility for the actions not only of ourselves, but of our governments and world bodies.
So as tough as these times are—and yes, these times are tough for me personally, thank you very much—they are also a necessary time for buckling down and gaining a clearer vision of what we need to achieve.