a newly elected Democratic Congress trying to put the brakes on the worst
American president in history, many are breathing a sigh of relief.
A number of Democratic legislative goals
would impact working people positively: increasing the minimum wage,
decreasing student loan rates, negotiating for lower Medicare drug prices,
and promoting alternate energy sources. To prove they are tough on
national security, Democrats will tighten security at ports and vulnerable
industrial plants, and possibly increase the size of the military.
Egregiously destructive Republican environmental policies will be stymied
and small positive steps will be taken to decrease our ravenous appetite
for oil. A mild ethics law may be passed. Republicans will fight each
issue with every political weapon in their arsenal.
Unfortunately, Bush and the Republicans dug the country into a hole so
deep, we may never recover. After an orgy of deregulation, globalization,
free-market pirating, privatization and the unprovoked invasion of Iraq,
Americans will have to cope with the destructive long-term results.
During Republican control of Washington, corporations have become so
emboldened that they run the place: they bulldoze opposition by lavish
spending on lobbying, bribery, hiring congress member's relatives and even
running their campaigns. They write the legislation and manipulate
government agencies to change regulations. The Democratic victory will
merely lead corporations to move their contributions and payoffs to the
other side of the aisle, and to invest more heavily in the next election
to regain lost power.
Ending the occupation of Iraq will remain an illusive goal. Congressional
hearings on the occupation of Iraq -- one of the reasons cited for GOP
electoral losses -- reveal that none of the consequences will prove
beneficial after Bush trapped the country in a classic, "damned if we do,
damned if we don't" situation.
American arms producers are making too much money to leave Iraq. The
Muslims who cheered 9/11 won't want the US to pull out because Iraq serves
as a diversion for radicals who don't seek change in their own countries.
Even worse, Bush may bomb Iran at Israeli insistence, guaranteeing more
enmity. Given the choices, complete and immediate withdrawal may be
disastrous but the best of the options. More likely, the US will continue
to waste resources and lives, muddling along like a senile grandparent
driving a gas-guzzling Hummer with nowhere to go.
Democrats probably won't stop the flow of red ink, which now totals $9
trillion after Bush's tax cuts for the rich, increases in weapons spending
and record-breaking deficits. Iraq alone could wind up adding another $1
to $2 trillion. Every person in the US now owes $27,067 in national debt,
whose interest will consume a growing share of national resources.
Bush produced the most highly leveraged economy since WWII as low interest
rates fueled a real estate bubble and American savings fell to record
lows. The resulting "prosperity" was fueled by loans from Communist China
and Japan, and redistributed wealth upward, leading to record consumer
debt and supporting unsustainable levels of imports. These huge levels of
national and consumer debt bode ill for our future economy.
Corruption has become embedded in Washington's culture. Environmental
policies have been relaxed to allow permanent damage to pristine areas.
The rich grabbed a larger share of wealth than anytime since 1920, and
life was made harder for everyone else. A "private profit,
public-be-damned" mentality has usurped the public agenda; civil liberties
and privacy rights have been destroyed; church and state boundaries have
been removed; the courts have been stacked with free-market libertarians;
reactionary right-wing propaganda media has increased; and fundamentalist
Christians have been encouraged to take over the government.
Bush and the GOP succeeded in moving the political spectrum farther to the
right, alienating large sections of the population from the political
process. The task of returning the country to a shared vision appears
daunting and political activity may not be up to the task.
In some ways, it may have been better for the Democrats to lose the
election because if they fail to right the many wrongs of the past six
years, they will be blamed for the problems. After waving the banner of a
turnaround in policies before the election, Democrats are waking up to
just how difficult it will be to make substantial changes.
Once Democratic issues are addressed, global warming and destructive
weather cycles will place added burdens on our society, making solutions
even more difficult. On the other hand, the degradation of the environment
and the attendant crises could become a new rallying cry for progressive
forces. Squabbles over burning a flag, same-sex marriage, and abortion as
a woman's choice will appear minor as we experience drastic upheavals in
our natural environment.
Only a radical change in our outlook, away from a focus on personal greed,
environmental destruction and uncontrolled consumption and toward personal
fulfillment, sustainability and cooperation, will enable us collectively
to address the problems wrought by a political establishment fighting over
deck chairs as the Titanic sinks. Rather than a narrowly defined political
party, Democrats need a social movement to revision the country to address
Don Monkerud is a California-based
writer who follows cultural, social and political issues. He can be
reached at: email@example.com.
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