John Colson: Hit and Run
Aspen Times Weekly
When Barack Hussein Obama invited himself to the feast of presidential politics, I wonder if he gave sufficient consideration to the mess he was stepping into.
Back in early 2008, as the race was heating up, the economy was still in boom-drive, although it was beginning to fray around the edges and those who study these things were warning the rest of us that a big bust was coming.
Obama, like others steeped in the institutionalized insanity known as politics, probably knew all this, but considered it a manageable thing given his confidence in his own abilities and in the economy’s ability to weather periodic storms.
Indeed, it has become almost a regular aspect of our form of “capitalism” – which is more appropriately labeled welfare for the wealthy at every level – to have big booms that earn fabulous amounts of money for a select few, followed by busts that injure only the lower rungs of the economic ladder.
The upper tiers, of course, are shielded from harm by the rules that they themselves made and by the fact that they are all part of a regulatory club that includes our elected representatives. So they all rush to ensure that the money tree will continue to blossom at the top, even as the lower branches suffer from drought and deprivation.
But now, Obama and the rest of that club are faced with a little bit more than they bargained for, as the twin towers of our national economy – the finance system and the health-care system – both are crumbling quickly. Just as the World Trade Towers dropped in an instant, our leaders have to be worried that their corrupt machinations could result in a broad economic collapse that could bring average Americans into the streets and onto the backs of Congress, state houses and the like.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Obama is the best possible president we could have right now, given our choices back in November 2008. I cannot imagine what the world would look like right now had John McCain and Sarah Palin been elected, and actually, I’d rather not think about it, at least not until Palin gets the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential wars.
I also believe Obama is a very smart man with his head and heart in as close to the right place as any politician active today.
Unfortunately, he is easily swayed into questionable decisions, such as his choices to lead the administration’s battle to rescue the economy. Timothy Geitner and Ben Bernanke are cut from the same cloth as the faceless fools whose greed and blindness pulled the trigger on the world’s economy over the last year and a half, and only fools would expect any true measures of reform from these guys, as has been proven out by their actions.
But Obama can be swayed in the other direction, too. At least I hope he can.
That’s our job.
We all need to let him know, along with our congressional representatives, that there are three things we want right now:
• No escalation in Afghanistan. For too long, the profiteers of war have been able to use military adventurism as a way of distracting the American public from its real needs, and the current debate is no exception to that technique. As the noted thinker and author William R. Polk wrote in a recent “Letter To President Obama,” published in the Oct. 19 edition of The Nation, we need to step back, take a breath and use that time to better understand the history, political underpinnings and cultural particularities of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and then work to help those nations figure out their own destinies in a way that does not reduce the region to nuclear rubble. More soldiers in the region will not do anybody any good.
• Reform the U.S. financial system, return it to a true capitalist standing with less reliance on credit and the selfish focus of Wall Street brokers, wipe out the lobbying class and corporate welfare, and get back to a system where we actually make things in this country and sell them to ourselves and the rest of the world.
• Fix the health-care system, which is bleeding our country dry with its emphasis on profit and, again, a corporate culture that leads to the enrichment of those on top, overemphasis on bureaucracy and underemphasis on health.
As I mentioned initially, it’s a mighty big, stinking pile that poor Obama has stepped into. But, with a little help from the people, I think he can do a lot to clean it up.
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