When I was an intelligence analyst protecting Americans's freedoms and rights from any foreign power intent on subjecting the United States to its will, I realized that the Vietnamese peasants who comprised the Viet Cong were no threat to anyone in this nation. That has been proven through more than three decades after ending the Vietnamese War fiasco as that former battleground nation tries to be a good friend and an active economic partner to the United States.
It was clear to me that the greatest threat to our freedoms and rights was internal. The threat was from leaders or potential leaders who have no love for our democratic principles and freedoms and view the Constitution as "just a goddamn piece or paper," or "when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."
But even they would be powerless unless the majority of Americans ~ deluded and mislead by a cadre of hate-America right-wing radio propagandists ~ put them into a position of power. That knowledge has also been borne out by history of nearly three decades as the far-right political movement moved to the forefront of public life. This political far-right has put the nation on the course to destruction with its policies which have come to pass from minds that view wisdom as a negative, lack of knowledge as a virtue. For an American conservative, "ignorance is bliss" is not just a cliche--it is choice and a way of life.
Even degrees in college study aren't enough to insulate us from ignorance. Ronald Reagan had a bachelors degree in economics; George W. Bush has an Ivy League masters degree in business administration, and those two presidents compiled the worst economic records since the Great Depression, records that threaten the nation's survival. Reagan's degree came in the economics that gave us the depression of the 1930s following depressions in the 1890s, 1870s and 1830s-40s when people hadn't learned that when something doesn't work, it's best to try something new. There is no explaining Bush's lack of economic sense other than his probably having the smart kids do his college work for him. (The author is a Magna Cum Laude graduate with a bachelors of business administration degree, so he's qualified to assess the Reagan-Bush failures.)
There is a reason that every Republican president since the Depression has ruled over a recession (Eisenhower had three, Nixon had two and Bush's second is the harshest of the lot) while Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter are the only Democrat presidents to have a recession, and Truman's was caused in part by inactivity during the transformation from wartime production to peacetime business and Carter's, the mildest and shortest, was caused more by an Iranian oil embargo than by policy. Republicans preside over recessions because right-wing economic ideas simply don't work.
But right-wingers constantly tell us that to get ahead we have to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps--or that rugged individualism and hard work will provided us with all we want. That is nonsense. Since Reagan took office as president in 1981, government has been rewriting the rules to funnel money upward to the wealthiest Americans, then claiming that "trickle down" will enrich the rest of us. Hard work never enriched anyone; some of the hardest workers in our society are those having the least and they must slave away just to survive. Wealth is obtained and retained through control. Those who control a corporation can make themselves rich without any hard work. And those who have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps ~ such as Democratic President Barack Obama ~ are derided as "elitists" out of touch with "ordinary Americans" if they demonstrate any intellectual acumen accumulated while tugging on those bootstraps while the conservative with eight houses, dozens of automobiles, wearing $500 shoes and having a wife with a $100 million fortune is promoted as the champion or the working class.
Many, if not most, economists said well before the present economic diaster that the divide between the haves (our aristocracy) and the have-nots (most of the rest of us) along with the erosion of the middle class are the greatest threats to our democracy. Many of them also say the national debt, now near $11 trillion run up by Reagan and two George Bushes, is the greatest threat to our economy.
Right-wingers give sole credit to Reagan for the collapse of the Soviet Union, claiming he drove its economy into bankruptcy with military spending. It's clear they have had the same game plan in action for that other nation they despise ~ the democratic republic of the United States of America. It's also strange that if Reagan had a magic formula to destroy communism in the USSR, he couldn't have unleashed it against China, Vietnam, Cuba or any other place he ~ as well as countless other right-wingers ~ claimed was overrun with reds.
If there is a major weakness to Obama it is his desire to "reach out" to Republicans and "cross the aisle" to find common ground with the GOP in solving America's problems. Conservatives in the Republican Party have no interest in solving the problems; they created the problems in order to take the nation down so it could be reconstituted along the lines our Founders rebelled against more than two centuries ago. We need a president who has a clear objective, and with a supporting Congress, to undo the damage the GOP has done, and no conservative Republican will aid in undoing the Reagan-Bush disasters.
It might be helpful to prevent future economic debacles if the nation's media would stop pretending that the present problems "just happened" and start calling the mess what it is, the Reagan-double-Bush Depression.
The Center for American Progress had this to say early in 2008, well before the economy collapsed:
"The gap between rich and poor in the United States has widened exponentially over the past three decades. The Congressional Budget Office reports that since 1979, the average income for the bottom half of American households has grown by 6 percent. In contrast, the top 1 percent of earners have seen their incomes shoot up by a 229 percent during that same period. Under the Bush administration, the average income of most Americans has fallen, but the average income of top wage earners (those above the 95 percentile range) has increased from $324,427 in 2001 to $385,805 in 2006. Only one other year has seen a comparable income gap: 1928, the year before the Great Depression. Inequality has not been confined to one region or sector but has spread all across the country."
In an earlier presentation the Center had said this about economic deregulation:
"Since the beginning of the current business cycle in early 2001, family incomes in the United States have not risen, yet the costs for important consumer items such as housing, health care, transportation, energy, and food all climbed at often breathtaking speeds. To afford these necessities, families buried themselves in deeper and deeper debt relative to their income--at a rate more than four times faster than that in the 1990s. Partly due to the Bush administration's laissez-faire, deregulatory approach to the markets, lenders preyed off low-interest rates and offered risky loans, financing them by borrowing heavily overseas. As a result, a vicious cycle of debt has resulted from the meltdown in the housing market, and the burgeoning crisis has enveloped foreign investors and markets."
This idea that deregulation of the markets will lead us to an economic paradise is a sign of delusion. It never has and never will. Unregulated TV quiz shows of the 1950s were rigged, college basketball games were fixed by point shaving, college football players often take illegal payments from boosters or agents and a horse or two has been known to be doped at the track, but conservatives continually tell us that "self-regulation" of business is the way to go. A deregulated economy without any referees keeping the game fair is like a World Series without an umpire in sight or a Super Bowl in which quarterbacks call the penalties, when middle linebackers aren't overruling them. It doesn't work.
Obama ran for president on the platform of "change" which wasn't strong enough because even Reagan and Bush were for change. Obama's administration should focus on "saving America" which needs innovative approaches not the standard tax cuts and government spending that were instrumental in creating the problem. This three-part series explores one such innovation and could work if only someone in the administration would listen to what the people are saying and admit that there may be some ideas among the people that are much better than the ideas within the administration.
We had Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal to rescue us from the Great Depression and the Fair Deal of Harry Truman, mostly scuttled by a conservative GOP Congress. We now need the Honest Deal from Obama to counter the lying, cheating and financial scandals of the past three Republican decades.
The Honest Deal would work, if given a chance, as Democratic Capitalism, a system that operates on the elimination of both the income tax on wages and salary and the payroll tax that funds Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and replaces them with a tax on profits of all kinds. In his recent New York times column economist Paul Krugman stated that, "The prosperity of a few years ago, such as it was--profits were terrific, wages not so much--depended on a huge bubble in housing, which replaced an earlier huge bubble in stocks." That profits would soar for whatever reason while wages don't only underscores the validity of taxing profits, not wages, especially the huge profits of corporations that have not been taxed in years and that use their profits to take over competing companies and firing thousands of employees of the acquired firms. If the present "stimulus" package, financed mainly by wage-earning taxpayers, works it is only fair to begin taxing corporations's profits when it will be the corporations saved by the stimulus. And the millions of dollars executives receive to leave the corporations they led into disaster would all be considered "profit" to be taxed to help put the nation back on its rightful course.
Democratic Capitalism would address several issues without heavy-handed government. It also would lead to a smaller Internal Revenue Service without letting tax cheats get away with evasion. How it could address the record debt and the Medicare and Social Security "problems" will be addressed in Part II, coming soon. How Democratic Capitalism would address the gap between haves and have-nots, outsourcing jobs, low productivity growth, corporate corruption, illegal immigration, and retouching healthcare and Social Security will be detailed in Part III of this series.
Thomas Bonsell is a former newspaper editor (in Oregon, New York and Colorado) United States Air Force cryptanalyst and National Security Agency intelligence agent. He became one of (more...)