I opened the op-ed section of the NY Times on Wednesday and saw the lead article "Pretty Good for Government Work" by the fabulously wealthy investment guru from Omaha, Mr. Warren Buffett. In this belated love letter, Mr. Buffett, commenting on the U. S. Government's intervention to prevent a total economic meltdown observes:
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"The challenge was huge, and many people thought you were not up to it. " Well, Uncle Sam, you delivered. People will second-guess your specific decisions; you can always count on that. But just as there is a fog of war, there is a fog of panic -- and, overall, your actions were remarkably effective."
My initial response was to say a quiet "thank you." I am all for citizens recognizing the value of government, particularly in a time when the right does everything it can think of to delegitimize it. I am all for citizens speaking up about the value of government in their lives, and in our lives. Government, contrary to the popular bad rap group, Glenn Beck and the Teapublicans, is not our enemy. They are. Or at least their "non-rational propaganda" is.
Since the founding of this country, "assent to " laws for the public good" has been the consensus purpose of government. And in a time of crises, it is the government that we turn to for answers. Once again, it was the government that came through. Was the government's intervention perfect? No. But it averted a disaster and it continues to be the only mechanism we have available to us to continue to address the problems created by thirty years of fiscal and moral irresponsibility sponsored by conservative politicians and endorsed by an increasingly non-rational electorate.
It was that non-rational propaganda machine from Reagan to now that has used "taxes" and "big government" as a whipping post for their campaign against America. It is that propaganda campaign that has brainwashed voters into cutting revenues to a point where there is a critical lack of adequate funding to support the public good (e.g., healthcare, education, infrastructure, and jobs) and a plethora of foolhardy deregulation that makes everything from our food supply to deep water drilling to the survival of cities to the security of our investments in our homes and our retirement funds vulnerable to the heartless drumbeat of unrelenting corporate greed, corruption, and incompetence made possible by complicit politicians.
Wake up, America! We have almost lost the country and our children's future to the continuing success of this propaganda. Contrary to the mediated bandwagon of the faux "landslide" of the 2010 election, we Democrats did not lose everything. We still have the Senate and the Presidency. And perhaps t he loss of the House will serve as a rallying cry for those remaining in office to redeem our faith in them before 2012. Perhaps our elected officials and especially our president will realize, a little late but still in time, that bipartisanship is a fairy tale and the only way to manage change is to just do it.
But let's return to Mr. Buffett's belated love letter. Why now? Why not six weeks ago? Or six months ago? Mr. Buffett knew that making such a pronouncement prior to an election would influence the outcome, so maybe--discretion being the better part of valor and all that--he felt that it was wiser not to. So it goes. But the appearance of his letter today makes me think that the outcome is at least as scary for him as it should be for the rest of us, and perhaps he is trying to do whatever he can do to prevent the predicted gridlock from taking place in January. Praising government as the best way to solve big problems also may encourage those who are responsible for governing to actually do their jobs. We certainly have big problems. And we certainly need big solutions.
So the question becomes: will the love Warren Buffett expresses for our government be returned? Will the love all of us have for our country, and for the purpose of government to protect and promote the public good, also be affirmed? Will Mr. Buffett's professed love lead to a marriage of true minds?
I recall the popular, hopeful passage from I Corinthians in the Bible often invoked as a blessing during Christian weddings: "Love suffereth long, and is kind." Amen
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