Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Ravaging of Our Middle Class Augurs Chaos

Globalization and outsourcing have been singularly responsible for the decimation of our middle class. The only people benefiting from such arrangements are the business owners who are free to relocate their manufacturing operations abroad (typically China, India, or Mexico to name a few) and then are free to export their foreign produced goods back into the U.S. "duty free". This is known as "free trade". And it is also a prescription for disaster insofar as more and more businesses conclude that they also must "globalize" in order to remain competitive.

Meanwhile, the once vaunted purchasing power of the middle class (the real engine behind our economic success), is being savaged. Before long, there won't be anyone left who can afford to buy the goods produced overseas. Nor will there be anyone left to purchase our way out of a recession. The gulf between the rich and the poor has never been wider since the Great Depression.

It is imperative that our society and culture recognize that it was average Americans that helped to fight communism during the Cold War era and have always stood ready to fight enemies of a free and independent America. It was their taxes and hard work that served to preserve, protect, and defend America against its enemies abroad. And with those threats all but eliminated, this is the way they are being rewarded for their efforts -- by having their jobs shipped overseas?!

A society will only exist so long as the short- and long-term interests of its citizens -- its people -- are respected, nurtured and protected. Otherwise, what reason would there be to sustain an ongoing relationship?

If those at the top of the food chain continue to look past those who helped to put them at the top of the food chain, there will be great social upheavals and deep resentments. The writing is on the wall.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Ghosts of GOP Campaigns Past: A Historical Perspective

I remember when Nixon invoked the "Silent Majority" as part of his campaign theme. At the time, there was a political cartoonist who worked for the Boston Globe. His name was Paul Szep and his political cartoons were wonderful, always seeming to capture the essential political message in real but comical and amusing fashion. (He later won a Pulitzer prize for his political cartoons.)

There was one political cartoon that he did that I will always remember. At the time, the Republicans were perfecting their new "silent majority" idea when the country was at war with itself over the Vietnam war. More than half of the country was opposed to our involvement and there were massive protests that generally took place around university settings, initially consisting of largely students and faculty against the war . (At the time, the military draft was still a part of American life.) Anyway, Paul Szep did this caricature of a citizen with a very exaggerated muscular physique that resembled a champion weight lifter on steroids. What was so unusual about this "perfect American" -- this new representation of the "silent majority" -- was that this figure was conspicuously missing a HEAD!

So you had this male human specimen with a complete, very athletic, muscular physique but no head, which is to say, no brain -- and that was your Republican's idea of the perfect American. (Not much has changed in the intervening years, wouldn't you say?) It conjured up images of the stereotypical "dumb jock" or the blue collar worker who wasn't inclined to read or think about matters of deep social significance, whose physicality and ego dominated his response to social challenges. And, ladies and gentlemen, this person - this perfect American -- this new cultural metaphor for the "silent majority" -- was to later morph into what has popularly become known as the new "Reagan Democrat".

So even during the Vietnam war, the Republicans were using their patented "divide and conquer" techniques to political advantage. Only back then they were pitting the young and educated - the "effete snobs" as Spiro Agnew would refer to them -- against the huge, union dominated, blue collar working class who culturally embraced an "America. Love it or Leave it" bumper sticker mentality.

Needless to say, that cartoon was hilarious and managed to capture the hypocrisy and lunacy of Republican attempts to win the "cultural wars" which always seemed to take place during political campaigns.

And so, what was the case then applies equally well 25 years later with the Republican party's continued embrace of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove-style political campaigns. In the absence of an objective record of political accomplishment, Republican politicians opt to run deeply divisive politcal campaigns aimed at dividing the electorate into warring factions. And with the help of a largely complicit media, they were very successful in creating new and disgusting ways to destroy their political opposition.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Top Down or Bottom Up? How Psychological Factors Impact Economic Results

Given the current state of our economy, we have all been subjected to several theories as to how best to proceed out of this economic storm. John McCain and the Republican Party continue to push their "top down" approach by emphasizing tax cuts to the wealthy. Barack Obama and the Democratic Party prefers an economic philosophy where a "bottom up" approach is embraced.

This posting is an attempt on my part to expose the underlying elements at play that have consistently proven that the Republicans' "top down" approach has been a consistent and dismal failure -- that there is an inherent imbalance in such an approach that will consistently produce disastrous results. And I am absolutely convinced that the Republican party, given its philosophical prejudices is incapable of governing in a fair and even-handed manner and certainly does not deserve our trust, loyalty, or our votes. Let me explain.

Having been an active and passionate observer of politics for the past forty years, beginning with the Johnson administration in '64, I have been witness to a number of Republican administrations, beginning with Nixon's in '68, followed by Ford (after Nixon's impeachment and resignation), then Reagan, Bush (#41), and lastly, the worst of them all, George W. Bush (#43). And what I take away from these decades of Republican stewardship (28 years in all), is their uncanny ability to shrink economic activity -- by virtue of a predictable and obvious favoring of the interests of a wealthy few over the interests of the vast majority. It's a selfish philosophy that seems to be fueled by a belief, conscious or not, in the "Scarcity Principle".

The Scarcity Principle holds that what is "perceived" to be scarce is generally held to be more valuable. Conversely, what is perceived to be "abundant" is inherently less valuable. This perspective translates into a mindset within certain circles that only a "chosen few" can realize the "American Dream" -- that wealth can only be achieved or realized in a limited fashion. A specific example of an economic policy, or an offspring of this philosophy, is what has become popularly known as "trickle down" economics. Such an approach is repulsively aristocratic, archaic, elitist, and only serves to suffocate or stifle economic activity.

We are now, in 2008, once again beginning to witness a historic and unprecedented contraction of economic activity due to the unmitigated corruption of a system borne largely from the tapestry of Republican greed, a greed that incapacitates those afflicted from seeing the forest above the swamp of their selfish lust for money, a greed that blinds them to the pain and suffering of those regarded to be disposable pawns on the chessboard of life.

Given such a culture, how could they possibly hope to govern in a manner that elicits trust and understanding and an expansive type of inclusion. Their selfishness and greed suffocates any spirit of growth or dynamism that might yield positive results. So, I say, vote all Republicans out of office. They don't deserve our trust and certainly don't deserve our votes.

John McCain exemplified this type of mindset by his selfish lust for power, as demonstrated by his surprise visit to Washington, D.C. to "rescue" the government's bailout process at a most sensitive and critical juncture in the process. Apparently impervious to, or unconcerned about, the potential risk of economic disaster by such a disruption, his actions reveal a stunning and blind ignorance of the "greater good" and highlight a selfish inclination to pursue personal goals or ambitions first.