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Broken America

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In his 1989 opus, Bob Dylan wrote
Broken lines, broken strings, Broken threads, broken springs, Broken idols, broken heads, People sleeping in broken beds. Ain't no use jiving Ain't no use joking Everything is broken.
At the time, Dylan was referring to the aftermath of the Loam Prieta earthquake, but his prophetic words now describe the overall condition of the USA. 82 percent of Americans feel the U.S. is "on the wrong track." George Bush's legacy is a broken America. Broken Foreign Policy: The most obvious failures of the Bush Administration are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Almost seven years after the US invaded Afghanistan, the terrorist leaders have not been apprehended and the country has not been pacified. Five years after Bush declared, "mission accomplished," Iraq is wracked by civil war and appears to be irreparably torn asunder. Meanwhile, U.S. influence has waned throughout the world and relationships with the other super powers China and Russia have deteriorated. On every metric public opinion to relative financial stability the position of the U.S. has diminished. (On January first, 2001, one Euro cost $1.05; today, the same Euro costs $1.55.) American foreign relations have always had an economic, social, and military face. While xenophobic Americans may acknowledge that foreign goods cost more than they used to and American travelers aren't as welcome in foreign lands as they once were, they boast that our military is still the most powerful in the world foreigners may not like us, but they still fear us. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has also broken the U.S. military. Senior military personnel complain about the state of our armed forces, describe them as tired, poorly equipped, and stretched beyond the breaking point. Among active duty military personnel, suicides and other signs of mental illness are at historic highs Broken Domestic Policy: The Bush Administration came to Washington intending to cut taxes and reduce the size of the Federal government. They accomplished their first goal and reduced annual tax revenue by $300 billion per year but have had no success with the latter. The national debt has grown to $9.4 billion while real GDP growth has shrunk. The annual deficit has limited the ability of the Federal government to make desperately needed repairs to the national infrastructure. The Bush Administration has turned the U.S. into a debtor nation and fueled a national appetite for living beyond our means. A less obvious intention of the 43rd Presidency was to limit government interference in the free market. This led to the systemic weakening of regulatory agencies that produced a series of abuses ranging from pollution being ignored to credit markets going unmonitored, which led to the recent housing crisis. At the same time, the Bush Administration sought to expand the role of the Presidency in a wide-ranging series of actions ranging from condoning torture to ignoring the constitutional mandate to keep Congress informed. Each of these actions has had a consequence, but the net effect has been to bring America down to a level not seen since the Great Depression. In the last stanza of his 1989 epoch, Dylan sang
Broken hands on broken ploughs, Broken treaties, broken vows, Broken pipes, broken tools, People bending broken rules. Hound dog howling, bull frog croaking, Everything is broken.
After seven years of George Bush, America is broken. Mending America: There's a familiar aphorism, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," that has an understated corollary: "if it is broke, mend it. " Mend has a dual meaning: one is the obvious "to put in working order again," but the other is "to improve morally." As Americans compare the candidacies of John McCain and Barack Obama, we should ask: who is most likely to mend broken America? Obviously, you can't fix something if you won't acknowledge it's broken. Senator McCain's attitude about the Bush Administration is that their policies were well intended, but poorly implemented. He intends to continue the same foreign policy and possibly expand it with an attack on Iran and has a similar attitude about Bush domestic policy. In contrast, Senator Obama understands the Bush polices have been destructive and plans to reverse them. Sadly, it's easier to destroy than it is to build. Mending broken America will require a level of bi-partisanship that hasn't been seen in recent history. Senator McCain gives no indication he is either interested in or capable of building the new coalition required to fix what George Bush has broken. Senator Obama has made forming this new consensus one of the objectives of his campaign. Finally, mending broken America requires a new morality: a return to the Kennedy ethos, "ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country." While McCain's motto appears to be: "trust me to do the right thing," Obama's is more inspirational: "let's work together to build an America we can be proud of."

 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.

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I commend you on this wonderful article that says ... by Sharon Roach on Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 12:05:04 PM
When you wake up tommorow and reconnect with reali... by kwalsh on Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 5:29:48 PM
made government smaller or reduced deficit spendin... by Stanimal on Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 8:01:10 PM
...you are so right on about ALL of this. Many of ... by Professor Fandel on Friday, May 16, 2008 at 9:54:18 AM