Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Rules Have Changed

That the message of Barack Obama. Yes... the average person in the US has taken in on the chin. Funny... the fancy bankers on Wall Street got taxpayer money to make the whole and allow them to give themselves outrageous bonuses. They aren't suffering. But here is what Obama in his State of the Union address tells ordinary Americans:
That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful. I've seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts on once busy Main Streets. I've heard it in the frustrations of Americans who've seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear -– proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game. ...

So, yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn't discourage us. It should challenge us. ...

And now it's our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.
What is this? I say it is crumbs from the table. Trickle down "feel good" speech making. The only rules that have changed is that the scales of justice have the fat finger of the wealthy and powerful holding down the side that gives tax cuts to billionaires, that gives nearly a trillion dollars to make Wall Street "whole" while telling ordinary citizens that "the rules have changed" (with the implication that they will just have to "suck it up" and trudge on without any real legislative help from his administration).

Americans already work the most hours of any advanced country in the world, and when I hear Obama saying that they must "out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world", I'm hearing a call to replace an eight hour week with a ten or twelve hour day, to replace the five day workweek with a six or even seven day workweek. This is a call for a Stakhovite America.

I would really like to believe that Obama is the street organizer who wants to help the bottom 99% of the population. But I just can't. Not when he gives tax breaks to the rich, when he waters down regulations to keep the bankers happy, and when he talks about "fiscal austerity" in the face of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

When I hear Obama say:
Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don't meet this test. That's why instead of just pouring money into a system that's not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all 50 states, we said, "If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we'll show you the money."
I hear Bush's "No Child Left Behind" idle promises. He's already had two years on the job and as far as I can tell the inner city school are just as decrepit today as they were two years ago. It is hard to learn with the ceiling leaks. It is especially hard to learn when your parents are unemployed and you are getting fed because there is no money. Promises "educational reform" when 10% are unemployed and 20% are either voluntarily withdrawn from the workforce or working short hours because that's all they can get is a farce.

When Obama says:
In fact, to every young person listening tonight who's contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child -- become a teacher. Your country needs you.
His actions belie where his heart really lies. He happily lets Wall Street types make billion dollar incomes, a single person makes enough to employ 15,000 teachers. Why would a person in his right mind "aspire" to be a teacher when they can make a King's ransom on Wall Street? You would have to be a fool to "aspire" to teach when the real money is to be made chasing digits across a screen on Wall Street. The American economy has been gutted over the last 30 years by allowing jobs that built stuff to be shipped overseas while the big rewards go to guys who play the role of "Master of the Universe" chasing digits across a screen on Wall Street. People are not stupid. They will work where there is decent pay. Having the President make hortatory speeches about self sacrifice for "the good of others" might motivate the few saints among the populace, but real people will go where the money is. By regulating society to allow the big money to go to Wall Street means you get a Wall Street economy. Schools fall into disrepair and only those with no other job prospect will go into teaching. The people with talents and vision and inspiration will head for Wall Street.

This is pure blarney:
If we take these steps -– if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they are born until the last job they take –- we will reach the goal that I set two years ago: By the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
When JFK wanted America to reach for the stars he put spelled it out as a tough struggle that would require perseverance and commitment (ask not what your country can do for you, but you can do for your country). Obama presents a glowing future as ripe fruit that will effortlessly fall into your hands because Americans a "good people" an just deserve this. The reality is that the US is falling in student competence in tests judging knowledge and the dropout rate in America is rising. Nothing said by Obama addresses these fundamental flaws in the social fabric. He has given pixie dust and "clap your hands" hopes to Americans, but no tough roadmap that will make them competitive.

Obama has called for a mini-1937 recession inside a depression with this bit of "belt tightening and austerity" to satisfy the right wing deficit hawks. This is the same mistake FDR did and it created a real setback in the recovery from the Great Depression. But Obama is ignorant of economics, so he is calling for the same mistake:
But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.

So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. (Applause.) Now, this would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.

This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we've frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years. I've proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs. The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without.
The inability of this President to tell the American people the truth is disheartening:
Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high. (Applause.) American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America's commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end.
Iraq is a disaster. It was an unnecessary war. Americans hideously slaughtered hundreds of thousands in a useless war. Strategically it was a disaster because it has handed Iraq over to Iran, the great enemy of the US. Policies in Baghdad are now set at the behest of Ahmadinejad and the theocracy in Teheran. Calling that something you can "hold you head up" over is a joke. A cruel joke on those who sacrificed to bring it about. Especially when those who planned and executed the illegal war -- Bush and his admininstration -- still walk about a free men. They should be bundled off the the International Criminal Court to be adjudicated for the blood on their hands. For an illegal war and for a policy of torture (which Obama continues!).

I really wish Obama could bring better government and a better economy to the US. But until Obama faces facts, admits his mistakes and the mistakes of previous administrations, until Obama get serious about the flaws in America and honestly presents how hard it will be to turn the misguided ship of state around, nothing will change. Words won't change the future. Obama is good with words. But he needs to deliver deeds. I don't see the deeds.

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