Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Signs of a Declining Empire

Sometimes it appears that the country is stuck in a quagmire from which it cannot remove itself. We are a divided country along partisan lines. The Republican Party is controlled by the right wing, moderates having almost completely disappeared. The Democratic Party is controlled by the coalition developed during the Clinton administration which is in bed with commercial and banking interests, not unlike the GOP of old. Neither party can muster a controlling majority and candidates who would bring about real change cannot get elected. Obama is the classic example of a candidate that can get elected. He is charismatic, a good orator, and continuously triangulates in an attempt to please everyone. Unfortunately, that means perpetuating the stasis with which we are confronted. This stasis has led to several disheartening consequences.

1) We have become a nation of consumers, not producers, dependent on foreign countries for most of our consumer goods. Trade decisions are heavily influenced by international corporations that profit from favorable trade agreements. The economy is heavily influenced by a Federal Reserve Bank that does the bidding of Wall Street at the expense of average people. Trickle down is the modus operandi, and promoting the general welfare is on the back burner. Laws to limit speculation and prevent excesses are undone. Speculative bubbles are left to burst with catastrophic consequences.

2) We no longer can pass any real reform legislation, due to our inability to overturn the filibuster rule in the Senate. With the country nearly equally divided, with few prospects of sixty percent majority, legislation is watered down to where it is just nibbling at the margins of real reform. Major decisions boil down to catering to a few Senators from small states who are riding the political fence.

3) There is no will in either party to confront the dangers of the military industrial complex. The Republican Party never met a war it didn’t like and the Democrats are scared to death of being labeled weak on defense. We have supported a client state, Israel, in the Middle East that has resulted in our not being able to be an unbiased arbiter of thorny issues there.

4) We have left the prosecuting of military adventures around the world to a small group of volunteer service people, largely from the poorer segment of society, while the children of the rich and powerful are safe at home to pursue their personal ambitions. This has led to a lack of appreciation of the horrors of war and the terrible after effects on the participants in combat.

5) Foreign policy, heavily affected by multiple foreign wars and threats of war, has been been delegated to the military command structure to a large extent. What the generals want they get, so as not to anger the Republican right wing and make the Democrats appear weak. The money for war and the number and length of wars is increasing dramatically. Congress seems incapable of limiting war spending of any kind, while scrutinizing every penny spent to promote the general welfare.

Unfortunately, there are few signs that anything will change for the better in the future. We seem resigned to letting the system drift downward, like lemmings going over a cliff. There is no great outrage toward the intractability of our problems. The old don’t seem to be concerned about the state of affairs they are leaving their children and grandchildren. And, the young seem content to wile away their time in the fantasy of video games and reality television, rather than in preparing themselves to tackle the problems ahead of them. It’s all very disheartening.