The Rise of the Billionaires Leaves the Middle Class Stranded


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Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I am about to tell you something you do not want to hear, so let me cloak it in an alliteration to make it more palatable: to borrow the words of the theatrical Mary Magdalene; “I don’t know why he moves me. He’s a man. He’s just as man.” There, did that hurt any less? I hope it did. But of course those are also the words, in reprise, of Judas Iscariot, also from “Jesus Christ Superstar”, so maybe you are now offended, but at least now you know of whom I am referring, because the Superstar of the moment can be none other than Senator Barack Obama, Superstar and junior Senator from Illinois, the land of Lincoln. But is Barack another Lincoln? He couldn’t be of course because Lincoln wasn’t Lincoln until after he was dead. Before he was dead Lincoln was just another politician, and worse, he was a mouth piece for the railroads, the mega-corporations of his day. His last year in private law practice, 1859, Lincoln made an estimated $100,000.00, or about 2 million in today’s dollars. And nobody picked him for sainthood because everybody was looking for the next George Washington or the next Andrew Jackson. And Lincoln sure as hell wasn’t up to the standards of George Washington. Now, do you need to hear what a schmuck post-revolutionary Americans thought Washington was?
Could Obama be another Hula-Hoop? Wham-O sold 20 million of those plastic hoops in six months over the summer of 1958, at $1.98 a pop…in 1958 dollars. But by November sales were almost dead and knock off hoops had cut the price by over half. So Wham-O moved on to the Frisbee. And after Obama whom would we move on to? I tell you, I feel a little like Eve Arden in all those movies from the 1950’s; the world weary best friend who just wants the best for you. I am not telling you to dump Gig Young and marry Cary Grant…I am just telling you to follow your heart, and your head. But did the teenaged girls listen to Eve when the Beatles walked on stage in 1964? They couldn’t even hear her over their own orgasmic screams.
But, of course, that is the problem with democracy. As a system of government it is based on the obviously idiotic notion that the average person is willing to sacrifice to achieve what is best for them in order to win what is best for the nation as a whole. But then we also believe in capitalism, which is based on the concept that nobody does anything for anybody without getting paid for it. The nation’s great shinning moment was WWII, when we united for the common goal of defeating the Axis. But what is conveniently forgotten is that shinning moment was based on “cost-plus” contracts. The federal government contracted to buy all the tanks, jeeps, trucks, guns, ships, planes, etc. that General Motors could produce, and agreed to pay whatever it cost, plus a guaranteed profit margin for GM. American business couldn’t lose, unless America did. In other words, democracy’s shinning moment wasn’t so shiny. And here we are again, at the crossroads, believing in faith, believing in a politician, praying that what we know to be true is not true. And how is that different than the eight years of denial that we are just recovering from? Ah, reality. What a bummer.
Shrub isn’t convinced global warming is a human effect. Shrub isn’t convinced government should actively defend the average American. Shrub isn’t convinced science can make the world better. Shrub isn’t convinced the nation can afford universal health care. Shrub isn’t convinced the nation can afford to regulate the oil companies, or the power companies or the stock market or the meat packers. And none of that was hidden. He may have lied about WMD in Iraq, but he never lied about his program of hobbling government and turning big business loose. He promised to do that. And he did it. And that means that everyone who voted for Shrub got just what they asked for. And part of Shrub’s current abysmal approval ratings are buyers’ remorse. Are we about to make another impulse purchase? Is this the check out line of democracy, with all those yummy overpriced candies and gum right there, where you can just grab them? And how stupid do the people of Connecticut feel now, having re-elected wrong way Joe? Do they feel stupid? Why should they feel stupid? They got what they asked for.
Wrong way Joe Lieberman, after empowering the Shrub administration for another two years, is now backing John McCain. And who else could beat the Superstar, other than the war hero, the pragmatic, experienced, old curmudgeon from Arizona. With the right advertising campaign, McCain could win. In which case Wrong Way Joe would be right and the voters of Connecticut could be the biggest winners in America. It could happen.
Will it happen? How the hell do I know? But I do know this...While everyone seems to have figured out it would be impossible for Hillary Clinton to convert Barack Obama’s people, has anyone given thought to how Hillary could be convinced to step out of the way? Would her election not also be historic? Is her ego not at least as big as his? Are her supportors any less vital to the Democratic party? Why should she, and they, step out of the way? Why should she not split the party if she and they are not respected? What would a compromise be worth to her? Those are the practical questions that have yet to be answered.
And while we are asking practical questions; if Obama defeats Hillary, does he not become the “inevitable candidate”, which was her weakness that he exploited? And could McCain not exploit the liberal groups, like “Daily Kos,” that have championed Obama’s cause, framing this election as “The moderate pragmatists against the revenge of the liberal loonies”? It could work. We could still lose this election. We have still have nine months to go before election day. A lot of bad things can still happen. And the pure emotion is not going to carry us that far, that long.
And I am left feeling just a little uneasy. As the song goes, ”Don’t you think it’s rather funny, that I should be in this position? I’m the one who’s always been so calm, so cool, no lovers fool…he scares me so.”
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