National Greatness Agenda: WHEN WILL AMERICANS BE PROUD AGAIN?
Posted on November 15, 2010 by Neil Garfield
David Brooks, NY Times Opinion. Nov. 11, 2010
“Elections come and go, but the United States is still careening toward bankruptcy. By 2020, the U.S. will be spending $1 trillion a year just to pay the interest on the national debt. Sometime between now and then the catastrophe will come.
“It will come with amazing swiftness. The bond markets are with you until the second they are against you. When the psychology shifts and the fiscal crisis happens, the shock will be grievous: national humiliation, diminished power in the world, drastic cuts and spreading pain.
“The country is restive and looking for alternatives. And before the next round of voting begins, I suspect we will see another mass movement: a movement of people who don’t feel represented by either of the partisan orthodoxies; a movement of people who want to fundamentally change the norms, institutions and rigidities that cause our gridlock and threaten our country.
“My optimism is also based on the conviction that serious, vibrant societies don’t sit by and do nothing as their governments drive off a cliff.
Editor’s Note: I suppose that there is some good news to report about the status of the American economy and American politics. Americans seem to be united in their anger at government, banks and big business. Actually all three appeared to be the same institution. The president went abroad with a message that was carefully crafted by banks and big business. The message was completely rejected by both our friends and our adversaries. The problem as I see it is that we have already lost our leadership position in the world and, as David Brooks points out, it’s going to get worse.
There is no possibility of any meaningful change without a significant change in our attitude toward each other as Americans. But if you look closely at the anger emanating from each political group in the total spectrum of American politics it is easy to see that they have much in common. And now the consciousness of American citizens is piercing through the veil and paperwork that has been used successfully to divide us. Everyone is feeling the pain and the biggest pain is our loss of pride in ourselves and as a nation. If you view this from a broader perspective, it looks like a nascent movement has already begun.
The rest of the disaster is coming. Despite all efforts by government, banks and big business to distract us from the inevitable catastrophe Americans understand not only that things are not right, but that they are getting much worse and that it is happening quickly. The overall business model that we have been following for at least three decades has been sucking the life out of all but very few elite Americans. Nearly all the other Americans know that business model has been operating and that it has been eating away at the core of our country the entire time.
David Brooks outlines the main attributes of the movement that is coming together and bringing Americans together. I think he is right and I think the movement has already begun. His optimism and mine derive from our view of American history. Most of the time ordinary Americans simply try to get by, working day by day and leaving the business of government and the national agenda to those who are elected to public service. When these “leaders” either fail to fulfill their function or allow third parties to dictate the rules and the national agenda, Americans have a history of awakening and rudely turning the tables.
There isn’t enough money in the world to buy our way out of our current predicament. The solution to our problems lies in a national agenda that is addressed to reality and dealing with the truth of how we got to this point of imminent catastrophe. Whether we make the corrections before the catastrophe occurs or afterwards, the solutions are the same. The business model in which the distribution of wealth and the power of government, banking and big business to control the national agenda must be reversed in much the same way that “trusts” have been busted several times earlier in our history.
Distribution of wealth is considered a bad thing by those people who control the microphone, even while they pursue policies and an agenda that sucks wealth out of the entire country into the hands of a tiny group of financial deviants. That entire process must be reversed. The means to do so are readily at hand. The banks have painted themselves into a corner in which existing law with centuries of precedent must be overturned in order to maintain their survival and viability. The house of cards is coming down. The question is no longer whether the banks will fail. It is pretty obvious that they will. We don’t know exactly when and nobody to my knowledge has even considered the creation of a plan that deals with the aftermath.
We have lost our credibility in the world. We have thrown homeowners into the quicksand, the middle-class to the wolves, and defrauded virtually all major sources of capital in the world. We have allowed the creation of a proprietary currency (derivatives) that is 12 times the size of government issued currency in the world. We have put ourselves in the position where central bankers and politicians around the world, with full understanding of the consequences, may decide to put their trust in a new reserve currency replacing the US dollar. This will be the equivalent of a substantial increase in the deficit. Neither this administration nor any member of Congress has proposed anything meaningful to deal with these crises. What may be the worst part is that as a nation we have not expressed through any spokesman our apology for our own misbehavior and negligence. The acts initiated by Wall Street over the last three or four decades could be interpreted as an act of war, since we undermined the societies of dozens of countries.
When will Americans be proud again? When they decide as citizens and as voters that they will exercise their ultimate power over the national agenda and who serves in official capacity. When will Americans regain credibility? When the American agenda is returned to the credo of truth and justice. When will America regain its position as a world leader? When the world takes us seriously because we tell the truth and take actions to correct things that have gone wrong––in other words, when people around the world stop seeing us as a bully and start seeing us as “a light on the hill” where we serve as a symbol of hope and progress for humanity.
National Greatness Agenda
By DAVID BROOKS
Elections come and go, but the United States is still careening toward bankruptcy. By 2020, the U.S. will be spending $1 trillion a year just to pay the interest on the national debt. Sometime between now and then the catastrophe will come.
It will come with amazing swiftness. The bond markets are with you until the second they are against you. When the psychology shifts and the fiscal crisis happens, the shock will be grievous: national humiliation, diminished power in the world, drastic cuts and spreading pain.
Nothing in this past election has averted this disaster. The Republicans talk about cutting deficits, but a party that campaigns to restore the $400 million in Medicare cuts included in the health care law is not serious about averting a fiscal meltdown. Some Democrats, meanwhile, don’t even bother to pretend. Look at the way many Democrats completely rejected the draft proposal unveiled by the chairmen of the fiscal commission. Nancy Pelosi, the public sector unions and many liberal commentators are not only unwilling to compromise to prevent a catastrophe, they’re unwilling to even consider a compromise. They seem to regard anybody who would negotiate as fundamentally immoral and unserious.
The report from the chairmen lists some of the best ways to raise revenue and cut spending. But it comes with no enactment strategy. In this climate, asking politicians to end the mortgage deduction and tax employer health care plans and raise capital gains taxes and cut benefits for affluent seniors is like asking them to jump on a buzzing sack full of live grenades. They won’t do it.
So we continue on the headlong path toward a national disaster. And along the way our dysfunctional political system will leave all sorts of other problems unaddressed: immigration, energy policy and on and on.
Yet, I’m optimistic right now. I’m optimistic because while our political system is a mess, the economic and social values of the country remain sound. My optimism is also based on the conviction that serious, vibrant societies don’t sit by and do nothing as their governments drive off a cliff.
Over the past few years, we have seen millions of people mobilize — some behind President Obama and others around the Tea Parties. The country is restive and looking for alternatives. And before the next round of voting begins, I suspect we will see another mass movement: a movement of people who don’t feel represented by either of the partisan orthodoxies; a movement of people who want to fundamentally change the norms, institutions and rigidities that cause our gridlock and threaten our country.
You can’t organize a movement like this around pain — around tax increases and spending cuts. But you can organize one around a broad revitalization agenda, and, above all, love of country.
It will take a revived patriotism to motivate Americans to do what needs to be done. It will take a revived patriotism to lift people out of their partisan cliques. How can you love your country if you hate the other half of it?
It will take a revived patriotism to get people to look beyond their short-term financial interest to see the long-term national threat. Do you really love your tax deduction more than America’s future greatness? Are you really unwilling to sacrifice your Social Security cost-of-living adjustment at a time when soldiers and Marines are sacrificing their lives for their country in Afghanistan?
Like the civil rights movement, this movement will ask Americans to live up to their best selves. But it will do other things besides.
It will have to restore the social norms that prevailed through much of American history: when narcissism and hyperpartisanship was mitigated by loyalties larger than tribe and self; when competition between the parties was limited and constructive, not total and fratricidal.
This movement will have to build institutions to support the leaders who make the hard bargains. As in the civil rights era, politicians won’t make big changes unless they are impelled and protected by a social upsurge.
Most important, this movement will have to develop a governing philosophy and a policy agenda. Right now, orthodox liberals and conservatives have their idea networks, and everybody else is intellectual roadkill. This coming movement will have to revive the American System: a governing philosophy that believes in targeted federal efforts to arouse growth, social mobility and responsibility.
Like the chairmen’s report, this movement could demand that Congress wipe out tax loopholes and begin anew. It could protect federal aid to the poor while reducing federal subsidies to the upper-middle class.
The coming movement may be a third party or it may support serious people in the existing two. Its goal will be unapologetic: preserving American pre-eminence. It will preserve America’s standing in the world on the grounds that this supremacy is a gift to our children and a blessing for the earth.