“I’ve fallen down and I can’t get up,” wails the gray-haired lady, sprawled akimbo on her floor. Often as not, I feel I’m trapped in an Alice Through the Looking Glass world and I can’t get out.
“President Bush inherited Bill Clinton’s recession.” “The Bush tax cuts were responsible for the economic growth the country has experienced for the past six or seven years.”
The speakers in the preceding paragraph can tell you all about Scott and Lacey Peterson, about Barry Bonds, about Michael Vick and pit bulls, the names of the first contestants to be voted off Dancing with the Stars last season, what’s going on with Brittany Spears, the names of the cast of Grey’s Anatomy, Shaq’s free-throw stats, and all sorts of absolutely needless-to-know stuff.
But ask them to define a “recession,” and you’ll get a blank stare in return; as if such a commonly used word even requires they’ve an actual understanding of the definition. (By the way, a recession is at least two consecutive quarters, 26 uninterrupted weeks, of negative GDP growth. Oxymoronic I know, “negative growth,” but that’s what it is. And the last time the United States went through two quarters of economic downturn was during Bush 41’s presidency.)
Then there are the tax cuts; needed you’ll hear, to spur economic development. Look, this ain’t MBA material. No CEO has ever authorized plant expansion or new construction based on what’s in the tax code. Think about it: you have a company that manufactures the old standby widgets. The way you make your money is by selling the widgets you manufacture. It takes a few years to plan and build a plant. You look ahead those few years to speculate whether anyone will actually want the widgets you’re thinking about manufacturing. If the demand looks as though it will be strong and you’ll be able to sell whatever you make, you’re going to build a facility to make them. If you don’t see where anyone will want your widgets, no matter what the tax code is, you’re not going to spend the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions to build an idle plant.
It’s that simple. I wager even George Bush might grasp it. But what you have been sold, what your associates, friends and family likely believe, is a line of BS, and what the “haves and have mores” got was the icing on a cake they had long been paying for with campaign donations and other complimentary perks.
Thanks to the Bush/GOP $2 trillion Iraq fiasco and the tax cuts that have doubled the national debt, the United States of America is now looking for the best spot in the cesspool to dive into, because that’s where we’re headed. (Citigroup, the country’s largest bank, has been slithering across the globe trying to locate investors willing to pull it from the abyss. And when George Bush went to Saudi Arabia to sell military equipment, it was conveniently overlooked that 15 [or was it 14?] of the 9-11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, and left with a $30 billion deal in his hands.)
We’re in a global economy that makes every country on earth either an extant competitor or a potential competitor. From Brazil to Belgium to Indonesia and all places in between, everyone is building infrastructure and developing their education system as if there really will be a tomorrow. Here, not so much. Our roads and interstate highways, rail lines and shipping channels and sea ports and air ports and schools are not only not keeping pace with the frenetic pace elsewhere, for the past decades we’ve stood pretty much at ease. And standing at ease while the competition is seriously running the marathon is no way to stay in the race. Billions upon multiples of billions are lost while commuters and trucks spew toxins into the atmosphere, idling in traffic jams. Billions upon those same multiples of billions are lost on an outdated and wholly inadequate rail system that prevents shipments of goods and material from expeditiously reaching a plant or sea port.
Finally, but most important of all, tomorrow’s engineers and physicians and scientists are in today’s kindergartens and elementary schools somewhere. Unfortunately, so few of those specialists are in American kindergartens and elementary schools. An inordinately percentage in ours won’t even graduate from 11th grade. From Long Beach to Long Island, from Mobile, Alabama to Minot, North Dakota our schools are in disrepair and our teachers are underpaid. Concerning the underpaid part, I frequently ponder whether I would really want my son or daughter taught by all the someones who would toil four years in undergrad studies and another year or so working toward a teaching certificate to end up working for a teacher’s wages. We can argue ‘til Dubya admits a mistake, other than letting Sammy Sousa go, over teacher competency, but that’s only a procrastinating diversion. The critical need is here today, and we’re not doing anything about it.
You know well what I’ve iterated above is so. What frustrates the hell out of me, however are two undeniable truths almost everyone of us also knows. The first is that, for every infrastructure and educational problem cited, the solutions put Americans to work. If the governmental entities responsible for letting the contract bids insisted that even the civil engineering draw-ups be by American firms hiring only American engineers and architects, none of it is outsource capable! Think for just a sec on the incredibly positive impact that would have on virtually every community and every business in our country: getting back in the game while local economies flourish.
The other frustration that plagues me is how insouciant — blithely unconcerned and intentionally uninformed — the vast majority of Americans are. It’s as if they would rather watch how someone with a piece of trash from his or her attic or garage discovers that trash might be worth $650.00, or how to create a lovely quiche for guests they’ll never entertain, or that the just opened metal suitcase suggests they should have made the deal, but they won’t spend 15 minutes watching a senate hearing on C-SPAN that details how thoroughly they’ve been fleeced and cuckolded.
Mitt Romney charged in Michigan how one of the first things he’ll do as president is see to it the “Death tax” is eliminated. And I’ve little doubt that not only Michiganders, but clueless blokes everywhere somehow feel his pain, how unfair a “death tax” is. I’m going to give it to you straight. The Federal Estate Tax affects fewer than 2% of American families, families just like the Romneys and the Waltons of Wal-Mart infamy. The tax was proposed by Republican Theodore Roosevelt as a way of halting the cancer of a 20th century American aristocracy. Any Bus-Ad major who didn’t sleep through his or her two semesters of tax accounting can structure a portfolio that will avoid taxation altogether. Kill the tax and the five Romney sons (“Greatest contribution to their country? Helping their dad get elected president.”), as well as the Walton progeny, as if they hadn’t been enjoying adequate benefits of citizenship and the happenstance of birth through their lives, receive millions and billions 100% tax free.
And the crying need to make the “tax cuts permanent,” along with the mantra of “leaving with honor,” and the wondrous beatification of Ronald Reagan (unworthy of anything more glorious than disdain to those with genuine knowledge of his presidency) are what one — are virtually all that one — discerns from any of the GOP presidential candidates, or the mindless souls marching to the tune.