Lurching Toward November

The USA continues its inexorable grind towards the elections on November 7th. Here in the land of 10,000 lakes we are constantly bombarded with political campaign ads representing the only two major parties that can actually afford a sustained media blitz. It’s interesting that the new trend appears to be using either state or national political parties to sponsor the negative attack ads while the candidates themselves usually take the higher road in ads they directly fund. I’m not sure who they are expecting to fool, but I seem to overestimate the collective interest and intelligence of the US citizenry on a regular basis.

While I’m very interested in all things political, my reservoir of patience for the constant drone of the elections is long-since exhausted. It appears the Republicans may lose control of one or both branches of Congress. While some commentators are positively giddy about this, I could really care less. The only advantage of having the Democrats controlling either the House or the Senate is that they can throw up some roadblocks for the more egregious examples of Republican legislation that contain either fiscal irresponsibility or yet another assault on our personal freedoms in the name of security.

On the really big-picture problems, the Democrats either are offering little in the way of fresh thinking. The main reason for this is that they too are almost totally beholden to special interests and big business, which are their main sources of funding for the political advertisements you and I are subjected to daily. Without their money, the media machine that makes up the engine of a modern political campaign will grind to a halt. With the dwindling membership and influence of the Labor unions, the Democrats have had little choice but to embrace the corporations.

The net result of this Faustian bargain is pretty easy to see. In the last six years, the Democrats have put up only token opposition to most bills not relating directly to one of the side-show social issues that both parties use equally to energize their respective bases. The real issues that loom over us are either used to incite fear in the populace without offering any real solutions, or they are simply ignored.

As President Bush often states, we are “at war.” An undeclared war against a nebulous enemy perhaps, but since the defense industry is cleaning up all the same, it doesn’t really matter. In the past, wartime meant sacrifice. Stories abound about paying higher taxes, mass drafts of young men, rationing, and general belt-tightening. Not this time, though. We have note been asked to do much of anything as a society as a whole, other than to keep shopping, as Mr. Bush famously told us in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Recent history would seem to indicate that we needn’t have sacrificed anything, since the Dow Jones average has stayed up (ignoring inflation, of course), taxes have stayed flat or gone down, and life has more or less returned to normal for most people. That’s not the complete picture, though. The sacrifice is there, but like most everything else in America, it’s not evenly distributed.

Military families have sacrificed much, whether through the loss of a loved one, extended or repeated tours of duty overseas via a back-door draft (“stop-loss”) and financial trouble. They make up a relatively small percentage of the population though, so it’s OK to publicly lionize these folks while privately screwing them through loss of benefits, among other ways.

The poor have seen their social services cut. Regardless of one’s position on the necessity of welfare, it is a fact that many people today rely on the safety nets the government has provided in lieu of actually taking any action to help people rise out of poverty. When it makes financial sense to be on the dole instead of working, many people will do so. The cutting of these benefits further punishes poor children who are put into bad situations through no fault of their own. For a nation as rich as the US is, the way we treat the poor, and especially poor children, is appalling. But, since poor kids can’t vote, they can be ignored.

The US economy consumes way more than its fair share of goods and resources. We have used our military, political and financial might to appropriate what resources we need from other countries that are still mired in abject poverty. Thus the majority of the world involuntarily sacrifices so that we Americans may benefit.

It’s this imbalance that is the crux of our war on terrorism, I think. We cut deals with despots and dictators, who live well while the majority of their people suffer. This is the case in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and most of the other second/third-world nations we deal with. If I lived in a nation that had abundant natural resources and had to watch foreign companies strip them out at bargain prices, I’d be mad as hell too. It’s said that a certain amount of terrorism is the price we pay to live well and dominate the world political scene. As the meme of oil depletion slowly reveals itself to the world, I expect that anti-Americanism will only intensify.

We have set up a Pax Americana of sorts, and like ancient Rome, we are stripping our border provinces to feed the mob and keep them happy. Like all previous empires, this is an unsustainable course of action, and eventually the global imbalance we currently thrive on will swing the other way, and it’s unlikely that most of us will be able to get out of the way. Jim Willie succinctly points out valid reasons for why the US is acting the way it is now, and how it will act in the future, and it doesn’t bode well for anyone:

Among the main certainties of life are death, taxes, poverty, pestilence, reproduction, and war. Malthus makes sense. The United States leaders want war. Many question why. The answer might be as simple as:

– They own oil & gas, the lifeblood of economic vitality, and we do not

– We have enormous debts which we cannot repay, and they hold many debts

– We have flooded the world with USDollars, choosing inflation over work

– We are free people who rushed into bankruptcy through profligate lifestyle

– We own powerful weapons, and choose not to go quietly into the night

We are locked into our energy-intensive economy, and both major parties will do nothing to upset the apple cart while we still can extract the world’s goods and resources in exchange for paper dollars. I will vote, and will vote for Democrats and Independents, if only to slow down the erosion of both personal liberty and the dollar. I don’t expect any major sea-changes in policy on anything vitally important to our future. Perhaps they will re-instate habeas corpus for American citizens, but beyond that, it’ll just be more of the same.

In the meantime, I’m waiting impatiently for November 8th. Regardless of the election results, the return of ads for cars, erectile dysfunction medications and alcohol will be a marked improvement over the dreck that we’re seeing now. Both parties claim the other one is full of immoral liars… tell me something I don’t already know.

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