Thomas Jefferson 1800 by White House Historical Collection
For a number of years, I have defined a cynic as an optimist who has been burned by reality one too many times. Recently, even my usual optimism has been feeling a little crisp around the edges
I probably should not have been overly surprised by the makeup of the Obama Administration's budget for next year. I was, though, and also sickened half to death. For a man as brilliant and well-educated as Barack Obama supposedly is, the document reflects a lack of depth in his knowledge of history that is appalling.
President Obama claims to be a fan of Abraham Lincoln, but he forgets the circumstances under which the Emancipation Proclamation was adopted. When President Lincoln proposed the Proclamation, his entire cabinet unanimously opposed its adoption. The only vote in favor of it was his own. After the vote was taken, the President proclaimed (and I am paraphrasing here): "That is one aye, and seven nays; the ayes have it." On certain matters there can be no compromise and no playing of politics: just adamant resolve.
As a former professor of Constitutional law, President Obama sometimes shows a lack of knowledge of both the Constitution he has sworn to uphold, and its history. Every time he hears of some governor mentioning secession, he should scoff at it and say simply, "We settled that in 1865. No one with any credibility should speak about the matter as anything other than a joke. And any state official who is tempted to take the issue beyond the talking stage might do well to remember Andrew Jackson's proposed solution for South Carolina's Ordinance of Nullification."
President Obama should also be willing to use the authority he has under the Constitution to call the Republicans' bluff: from using the Fourteenth Amendment to obviate the need for Congress to raise the "debt ceiling"; to calling on Congress to make use of Article III, Section 2 to bring the Roberts Court to heel with respect to campaign finance law. He should also point out at one of his press conferences that strict enforcement of "States' Rights" under the Tenth Amendment would interfere with the application of both the "due process" and "equal protection" clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
If President Obama hopes to make his second term a success, he must, in my opinion, give up the politics of an Eisenhower Republican and adopt the politics of at least a Truman Democrat. When he is called a "Socialist" by the Know-Nothings of the Far Right, he should reply as President Truman did to the same accusation sixty years ago.
"Truman did not cower at the mention of the word 'socialism,' which in those days was distinguished in the minds of most Americans from Soviet Stalinism." Nor did Truman "rave about the evils of social democracy. Rather, he joked that 'Out of the great progress of this country, out of our great advances in achieving a better life for all, out of our rise to world leadership, the Republican leaders have learned nothing. Confronted by the great record of this country, and the tremendous promise of its future, all they do is croak, "socialism.'" (John Nichols, " "How Socialists Built America," The Nation, reprinted at OpEdNews on April 16, 2011.)
The Inherent Flaws in the Jewel that is Humanity
Most human beings permit themselves to be defined by their flaws, rather than make any real attempt to overcome them. As flawed human beings, we always have a multitude of reasons to justify to ourselves, and to those around us, why our flaws are not flaws. We see them instead as intrinsic elements of what it is that makes us both strong and unique, even when they get in the way of our happiness and keep us from living life to its fullest potential.
What is true of individual human beings is equally true of those enterprises--social, economic and political--that are the purest and most cogent expressions of our humanity. Albert Einstein once stated that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome. There is a belief among Americans, going back to the days of Theodore Roosevelt and Alfred Thayer Mahan, that it we must be not only a powerful nation, but the dominant one--politically, economically, and socially. To this end, we have in the last 70 years built up an improperly controlled and extra-Constitutional national-security state within our constitutionally-limited republic governed by democratically elected representatives. The encroachment of the national-security state, or "Military-Industrial Complex," as President Eisenhower named it, has been slowly undermining our republic and the ideals of the framers who founded it and great leaders who nurtured it.
The Rotting Corpse of the American Economy
It is not simply in matters of government and politics that the rot has shown itself. In the sphere of economics, it has metastasized into a cancer that threatens the survival of our country, its Constitution, and the power reserved to us as "We the People."
There comes a point in every capitalist economic system where they metamorphosis into an all-consuming cancerous state destroys the very forces that permitted its creation and growth in the first place. This is what has happened in the United States over the last forty years: the American middle-class, which was the heart and soul of the single largest and most powerful economy in world history, is now being destroyed by the corporations that were created by virtue of its own prosperity. The wealthiest members of our nation think that, by using their own wealth alone, they can sustain their prosperity indefinitely without the middle-class. But, as any sane economist will tell you, no single class can sustain a growing prosperity by itself. Sooner, rather than later, it will self-destruct from the lack of new capital--which, just as Karl Marx told us more than a hundred-and-fifty years ago, is derived from excess labor.