With a nod toward a favorite Ingmar Bergman film, I offer these observations about recent events – both personal and political.
Recently, I attended an early summer backyard party, a large event with a lot of people and many tables. At my table, the conversation steered toward politics – specifically Barack Obamas’s chances for re-election and the strength of the opposing Republican field (the “Loony Party” – no better way to describe the once-venerated GOP). My tablemates had voted like me in the last national election. Obama was our choice.
I should have felt comfortable with these fellow travelers. But when a question came up—“Would we vote the same in the next election?”—a grumpy beast stirred in my belly.
The question circled the round table and when it came to me, I wasn’t sure how to answer, because I don’t know how I’m going to vote – or if I even want to. A disturbing truth to admit; but one that arises from a sense of betrayal from our leaders—even the leader of the party I considered my own.
As I ruminated about this, the dinner music provided a soothing contrapuntal element to the celebration. But all I could hear—and this came from within my mind—were lyrics to a song by The Who: “Meet the new boss/same as the old boss.”
Lyrics made me recall a passage in Hunter S. Thompson’s great book, “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72,” which placed the grumpiest of authors on the frontline of the political process. After all of the battles in that historically contentious campaign had been won or lost, Thompson interviewed one of the major campaign movers and shakers. Sorry, I can’t remember the man’s name; nor can I remember which side he was on. But that’s not important. What struck with me was his message. After all that he went through, he essentially told Thompson that he couldn’t care less who becomes president. Makes no difference, he observed. And that from a man whose life purpose was to best position a candidate. How did he lose his religion? Unfortunately, I can see his point – and this has to do with an article that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer (June 19), written by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalists Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele – “Why Jobs Keep Vanishing,” a title that’s as much a question as answer.
If you want an answer, it’s the trade deficit – not the budget deficit or the spending. As the collaborating writers indicate—and they back up their assertions with facts that make it hard to doubt their message—it’s the trade deficit that has eliminated jobs, stymied the creation of new jobs, decreased living standard (except among the very rich), and foster continued and obscene profits for corporations.
Our current president—the new boss who is same as the old boss—hasn’t changed our economic course, despite all of his scriptwriters’ blather about “vision.”
And his failure is the latest in a long line of bipartisan failure. Democrats and Republicans, Barlett and Steele describe, “threw open the doors to manufactured goods from countries whose governments protected their workforces, subsidized their industries, and blocked or restricted imports from the United States.”
In other words, we were played for a sucker, and by the real boss: CUSA, the Corporate United States of America.
Think that’s a ridiculous idea? Consider this: How many new sports stadiums are given corporate names, and how many of these have been built with taxpayer dollars—your money and mine—and how many of these stadiums include skyboxes that cater to guests that don’t include you and me? Explain to your child why you can’t afford to introduce them to the American Pastime.
And that gets back to the trade deficit, and our so-called leaders. This national failing has extended through the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, and to our current leader. As the authors indicate, all leaders willingly placed our nation on an unlevel playing field, where import and export levels are no longer equal. Balanced trade, they indicate, is a fundamental measure of the economic well being of the nation’s supportive workforce. Undercut balance and you cut the legs off of the essential values and basic industries that enabled the nation to thrive.
So why would our leaders do this? They answer to CUSA.
The downward spiral, as Barlett and Steele indicate, started about in the early 1970s, after a period when the United States enjoyed robust trade surpluses. But in that same decade, a shrinking surplus soon became an enormous deficit. Of course, Congress then stepped in and said that this can’t endure; so they created the Trade Act of 1974 – an ineffectual piece of legislation if ever there was one. Politicians sunk us even lower with the Trade Agreement of 1979, a piece of legislation meant to demonstrate how tough they were. The agreement was not worth the paper it was printed on. By this time, Congress become like a “jobber” that steps into a boxing ring, willing to take a punch full force in the face and hit the canvas to get a piece of the purse.
That’s not us protested Congress! And that’s how the legislative body was able to push through Trade and Tariff Act of 1984. The deficit continued growing and Congress looked like a bit player in a “Three Stooges” comedy that takes a pie in the face.
That takes us into the Reaganomics era and a previously unperceived level of deficit. What a glorious time. In the 1980s, we all shouted “USA! USA! USA!” We were the best! But the only thing we achieved, on the economic front, was a $100 billion deficit. A new record! Yay, USA!
Deficit continued growing, through the traumatizing Bush years (father and son) and the in-between Clinton, a period when NAFTA reared its head. And that brings us up to our current “visionary” leader – President Obama. He’s favorably looking at plan that will open our highways to commercial trucks coming out of Mexico. Of course, this is one way that NAFTA was supposed to help us; but the only thing that’s going to happen is that US truckers will lose business, Barlett and Steele convincingly point out. More US jobs lost. But Obama appears content to keep moving down the road to corporatocracy, designed not for the people but for the corporation, and by the corporation, and of corporation.
In so many ways, Barack Obama has demonstrated that he’s quite corporate friendly. That leads me to a quote that I hoped I’d never have to use, but I must use it now, as it helps describe Obama’s governmental approach and why Hunter Thompson’s book, and its revealing quotes, rings true. It’s from Chris Floyd, an award-winning international journalist. He was describing the circumstances that propelled us into unnecessary wars – Bush’s legacy, the kind of wasteful enterprises that Obama inherited and doesn’t seem too anxious to end. But Floyd’s quote perfectly applies to Obama’s approach to the economy.
“Anyone who ascends to national power has to make a deal with the devil: either directly to plunge their hands into the filth and blood, or else swaddle themselves in ‘plausible deniability,’ looking away from the grubby details but knowing full well that their minions, agents and backers are doing ‘whatever it takes’ to keep the machine of power and money rolling on,” writes Hodge.
Back to the backyard barbeque: A woman at the table heard some rumbling in the distance. “Did you hear that?” she asked, happily. “Ooh, sound like fireworks!”
No, I thought. It’s the sound of a distant thunder carried by a dark cloud, rolling our way.
Dan Harvey is editor for Positive Publications’ periodicals. He also frequently contributes articles to both Industry Today and Food & Drink Quarterly. A winner of six journalism awards, he has contributed to medical, business and consumer publications for 30 years.