Years ago I was in a terrible car crash. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day, and we were headed for Panama City, Florida. My friend had just replaced his four thousand-pound Ford with a new MGB convertible. The back tire, the driving wheel, got into the gravel and lost traction. The car swerved and he jerked the wheel to correct, but it wasn’t a four thousand-pound Ford, just an eighteen hundred-pound sports car. All of my life compressed into one instant of stopped and frozen time and a realization that even today haunts my nights. One fleeting thought passed through my mind, not with fear, for it was far too quick for fear to catch hold of its coattails. My thought was, “We’re not going to get out of this.”
I admit openly to being cynical, but why shouldn’t I be? I’ve seen my industry devastated with the associated plant closings and suicides. I started two businesses myself; isn’t that what they told us we should try to do? I’ve shuttered them both and because of that when I see a vacant storefront I don’t just see an empty building, I see a devastated dream. The dream of people who tried to do better for themselves, who took out loans and sold off property on a gamble. People hounded night and day by bill collectors while the banks that gave them loans are bailed out.
But it occurred to me, and as they were discussing limiting executive compensation, I thought to myself, "Wait a damn minute here! If they’re going to take federal money, then we need to send those executives to Urine University for a whiz quiz." After all, everyone from high school athletes to tens of millions of Americans merely seeking employment are forced to submit to a urine test for drug screening. It is a search without probable cause, and it’s not the test I mind but the idea of the test. But these executives have failed; they have crashed their industry, and if we whiz quiz bus drivers involved in fender benders, why not the banking executives?
No private physicians, no, you go to the doc in the box just like everyone else and have the orderly stand next to you while you pee. I mention this because it illustrates the two-tiered system. Banks get bailed out; bankers get bailed out; insurance companies get bailed out. But when the issue is brought to the fore to rescue workers or the big three, immediately the issue becomes over-paid union auto workers and Americans that will just have to settle for less. Well, I’ve got two words for them, F**k You!
The sufferings of the man on the street are ignored, but zoo XYZ just got a new panda cub! The thousands lined up at a food pantry in Detroit, that’s not news in America; if you want to read about that, try Europe. Just this morning I heard it described again as a crisis of confidence. The Pollyanna /Phil Graham notion that if we think it is all right then it is all right school of economics. As the debate continues about the dangers of government intervention interfering with the free market, I scream, "Don’t you get it? We’re not going to get out of this!”
I supported President Obama’s campaign and I think he is a very intelligent man. But he is a captain without radar picket ships. Does he honestly believe that he’s going to get anywhere by talking sweetly to Republicans? You can’t fight pit bulls with “nice doggie.” The stimulus package is a patch for a flat tire when what we need is a new tire or maybe even a new vehicle.
The thirty-year Republican revolution of Ronald Reagan has cost us our manufacturing base and brought us declining wages for all but the top 20%. It's given us the most expensive health care system in the world, which enriches the corporations at the expense of the poorest among us. Bill Clinton tried to buck the system but found out very quickly that it puts the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose. Only when he co-operated was he able to pass legislation such as NAFTA and Welfare Reform, and thanks a lot for that.
This revolution of deregulation and redistribution of wealth has brought us to the brink of financial ruin, and “We’re not going to get out of this!” We are not going to negotiate our way out of this or barter our way out of this. This debate going on right now in Congress is telling. It is telling of an impotent system that no longer works in the interests of the people of this country. We have a confederacy of legislators fighting for local corporate interests with no national vision save to exempt the wealthy from tax increases.
We went to war because of 2,752 deaths in the World Trade Center, accompanied by the siren song of media potentates. There are two million American families who have already been thrown out onto the road and there are two million more who will be thrown out onto the road. We’ve spent $594,103,393,531 on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and what are we going to do to assist the American workers and their families? They don’t know yet, they’re still thinking about it. They question if we have enough money in the budget or if it might not hurt long-term growth.
I grow weary of this system, a system where others profit off of my labor or my loss or my illness or my age, and even by my death. We're no different than the cattle in the stockyard, waiting for the herdsman. A system of parasites, we are the United States of Bernie Madoff. If so, what then is our future? This debate is not about the stimulus package; this debate pulls the masks from our antagonists. The real debate will come soon because “We’re not going to get out of this!”