I’m Mad As Hell and I’m Not Gonna Take It Anymore! This Government Is An Unprecedented Failure. It’s Time For Change!
The financial sector is failing. The dollar is already a lame duck in currency markets, and the Fed just printed up another trillion dollars (God knows where that will come from!) so Wall Street can pay their C-level executives. The presidential campaign is like a bad joke, and the absence of laughter in the crowd is deafening. And then there’s this woman.
I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!
Howard Beale’s “mad as hell” speech in the film Network is a famous one. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend this movie. Many of the themes in director Sydney Lumet’s 1976 film, about a fictional news network struggling with ratings, are surprisingly relevant today:
That was written over 32 years ago, and we’re still worrying about the banks, inflation, the Russians, and the oil crisis. What the hell has the government done for us in 32 years! What have they accomplished?!
As the economic crisis unfolds and especially as this presidential campaign plays out, I’ve struggled with a lot of disappointment in some of the people of this great country, and although I try not to be too political on this blog, it’s well past time for me to school some of you. As November approaches, I actually have plans to move abroad for a year, and in this post I’ll share some thoughts on why I’m eager to hightail it out of the U.S. for a while at this moment in history. I won’t even dance around the issue: this post is certain to be divisive and get some of your panties in a bunch, and I promise to offend! If you can stand it, please stick with me through the end of the post, where I’ll try to share some solutions to the questions I raise in this article.
First, This Bailout Business
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have been hard at work spending your tax dollars for the last several months. Not only my tax dollars and your tax dollars, but they’ve been spending future generations’ tax dollars, and spending Monopoly money we don’t even have! First it was AIG, then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, now most recently a nearly $807 billion package to bail out nine of the largest banks in the country—including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, State Street, and Bank of New York Mellon Corp.
Wall Street has been making poor decisions for a while now, foremost with the subprime mortgage mess, and now it should be paying the consequences. But a free market doesn’t exist in this country and never truly has. If the market were allowed to function freely, the banks would suffer and in some cases even go bankrupt through the forces of free competition. (If you or I were going bankrupt, or your friendly neighborhood small business, you wouldn’t see Congress running around trying to help bail us out.)
Instead, the deregulatory, so-called “free-market conservatives” have turned us all into socialists to keep the banks afloat. And somehow they want to do all of this while at the same time lowering your taxes! Erica Douglass wrote a great summary of the banks’ poor moves in the long history leading up to this credit crisis. She quotes Henry Hazlitt on the economics of a bailout: ‘“The taxpayers must lose precisely as much as the people in X industry gained.” $700 billion is a little over $2000 for every taxpayer in the United States. That $2000 must come out of your pocket at some point. That is $2000 less than you had before, to spend, save, or invest.’ Meanwhile the Fed also flooded the market with another $620 billion in U.S. dollars worldwide, on top of the Congress-approved bailout package. So seriously, where does all this funny-money come from?! As Larry Edelson said: “The biggest cost is going to be the sheer destruction of the purchasing power of your money, an outright devaluation of the dollar that’s going to occur, no matter what.”
Boston Gal says it will discourage consumer saving, pointing out that the government is forcing individual workers pay for their retirement twice, “first by saving what [they] can in the individual accounts, then again as a tax payer by bailing out these companies. A horrible deal for the individual worker.”
Now let’s look at what we’re actually making this sacrifice for. At first it was a $700 billion plan, but to pass the House of Representatives, the legislation grew from three pages to 452, and over $100 billion in special interest earmarks were added to the bill:
- $109 million for Nascar race track builders.
- $200,000 a year for the manufacturers of wooden arrows for children.
- $192 million for rum producers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
- $19 billion over two years for companies who do research.
- $478 million for film and television producers over 10 years.
- $62 billion for 24 million households excluded from the alternative minimum tax this year.
- $17 billion for alternative energy producers.
- $8 billion for Americans affected by hurricanes and floods.
All of this was enough to make hedge fund manager Andrew Lahde leave the business, with his own finger-wagging resignation letter: “[L]egislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reigned in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. […] Capitalism worked for two hundred years, but times change, and systems become corrupt.”
Lies, Rhetoric, and Incompetence
Now who was there to lead the charge, heroically suspending his campaign and seeking to postpone presidential debates to go back to Washington and “save the nation” from economic crisis? Senator John McCain, just two weeks after being quoted as saying that he didn’t think U.S. taxpayers should be on the hook for bailing out AIG or anyone else!
The McCain campaign publicized on the Wall Street Journal online that he had won the first debate before it even took place (let alone before he had even clarified whether or not he would be there). Then McCain himself prematurely claimed responsibility for the bailout plan’s success, saying he had helped “bring everyone to the table” and agree on legislation, when it later turned out he couldn’t even secure the votes of his own Republican colleagues. McCain is quick to take credit, but his empty words mean nothing.
Then again, when you’re on TV, if you say something often enough and loud enough, people will believe it. McCain positions himself as a “maverick” who wants to end our oil addiction and clean up Wall Street. He loves to say what people want to hear, and he will pander to any audience you put him in front of (watch John Cafferty give a good summary of his flip-flops on oil taxes, offshore drilling, the Bush tax cuts, Guantanamo Bay, and torture).
Then there’s the Palin pick. It was as if John McCain turned this entire presidential race into a joke, at all of our expense, when he chose an inexperienced crony cheerleader from a backwater Alaskan town to be his VP. Time columnist Joe Klein summed up what a lot of people have been thinking—conservative and liberal alike—when he said “It was a gimmick. It was one of the most disastrous decisions I have seen in a presidential campaign since I’ve begun covering them.”
Palin sounds like a teenager who didn’t study the night before the big essay test, stringing together extraneous topics and peppering her answers with buzzwords, pretending as best she can like she read last night’s assignment. But there’s no substance. In her interviews with Charlie Gibson, Katie Couric, and even with Sean Hannity, as well as her performance at the Vice Presidential debate, it is clear that the woman is not fit for the job. She doesn’t know what the Bush Doctrine is! She claims Alaska’s proximity to Russia gives her foreign relations experience. She thinks the bailout plan is about healthcare and job creation. She can’t name a single news source she reads regularly. She had never been outside of the country before 2007! (Here are a few more interview clips that should confuse and/or frighten the hell out of you.) The campaign claims that her “executive experience” as a mayor and a governor qualify her for the second highest seat in the government—though Wasilla is a town of only 6,000, and the Alaskan constituency is only about 680,000 [source]. That’s smaller than population of the city I’ve grown up in, just one moderately-sized city in California.
Michael J. Cecchin is calling November 4th a national IQ test, citing that the folks in charge of running our federal government should be the cream of the crop:
“[W]ith the introduction of hick-ish religious zealot and uninformed hockey mom Sarah Palin as the VP candidate, the rules have changed. The prospect of having a future Vice-President with so many fundamental cognitive loop holes and personality defects sends a terrifying shudder through most thinking Americans. It leads us to believe that if selecting Palin is the McCain administration’s first major decision its likely just the start in a line-up of future disasters.”
McCain has shown poor judgment with his selection of Palin as his running mate, and when he stalled presidential debates during the bailout talks. I admire McCain’s service to this country, but he’s quick to take sole credit for Congress’ successes, and he has demonstrated a strong tendency to be reactionary, aggressive, divisive, and out of touch—with the internet generation, with the majority of the American public, and with his own Republican colleagues in Congress. His ideas are old and exhausted: when he talks about foreign relations, he boils it down to military bullying. When he talks about energy policy, the only solution he can offer is to give big oil even more subsidy money and less regulation. When John McCain talks about “change,” he’s not talking about progress. He’s talking about maintaining the status quo, and giving even more power to the people who already have it.
The Politics of Hate
Together, McCain and Palin have been playing on the fears and hatred of American voters. The campaign has repeatedly incited racial, religious, and nationalistic hatred among supporters, at times accusing Barack Obama of fraternizing with terrorists. When General Colin Powell appeared on Meet the Press, he spoke of how McCain supporters have been allowed to call Obama a Muslim and link him with radical Islam and gone unchallenged by the candidates:
“Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, ‘He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”
He then goes on to tell the story of 20-year-old Kareem Rashad Sultan Kahn, an American Muslim who went to fight in the Iraq war after 9/11 and gave his life for the American people, making an appeal for religious equality and respect.
“Those kinds of images going out on al-Jazeera are killing us around the world… we have got to say to the world, it doesn’t matter who you are—if you’re American, you’re an American.”
A similar issue on the California ballot this year is Proposition 8. Prop 8 would change the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California, and provide that only marriage between a man and a woman would be valid or recognized in California. Ben Casnocha did a very thorough evaluation of both sides of the argument and comes to the conclusion that we should act to “keep out actively homophobic and discriminatory language from our constitution and keep in the state the people and culture which make this place so great.”
So, why is there such a strong push to repeal the decision that was made just months ago to award equal rights to gays and lesbians? I may disagree, but I can respect and understand other people’s individual moral and spiritual beliefs. I have no problem with a person’s right to feel however they choose about homosexuality and their right to define marriage as they see fit, but religious and spiritual beliefs of that nature are a very private domain. It’s time we stop allowing the conservative Right to determine civil rights for the Left and the Middle. Nobody should force others to adopt their religious ethics—biblical teachings are to be kept by the believer, not enforced upon the non-believer. And except in cases where someone’s well-being is in danger, I don’t think the government is suited to enforce a moral code, because there are as many different ideas about morality as there are people on this planet. When it comes to one’s rights in the eyes of the law, it’s well past time for everyone to be on the same playing field. This is no different than the civil rights or women’s rights movements.
Rick Jacobs, a homosexual columnist who grew up in the Orthodox Jewish tradition, says that “those speaking in the name of their God and prophets, led principally by out-of-state Mormons and joined by evangelical Christians, have made the removal of my rights a holy war for the new century.” He continues:
“I feel laid bare that people I do not know can vote secretly to remove my rights. This is, unfortunately, reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Laws that led to Kristallnacht, that horrible event 70 years ago next month that resulted in the burning of over 200 synagogues and countless other Jewish-owned establishments. The Nazis stripped rights from Jews piecemeal until finally Jews lost the right to eat and then to live.”
A young woman I know has to deal with the hard fact that her own father would vote to deny his daughter equal rights, because she is a lesbian. What does that say about our society?
It is funny in this country how many people claim that a vote for Barack Obama will lead to socialism. The media and Republican talking heads throw that word around a lot. But in fact, this nation is much further to the right than many people are willing to admit, and for some reason no one is comfortable to use the word “Fascism” when they speak about the Neoconservative agenda or the many constitutional trespasses of the current administration. I fear a move from the Right towards Fascism much more so than I fear a move to socialism from the Left in this country. When I look at how this government has chipped away at the Constitution in the last eight years, I see things aligning similarly to how they did just before Germany’s Third Reich—extreme social conservatism, civil rights abuses, a surveillance state, propaganda in the media, the looming threat of hyperinflation, imprisonment without charge, institutionalized torture, even internment camps!
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a huge supporter of Barack Obama either. On the FISA bill in June, Obama went from opposing warrantless domestic wiretapping to giving President Bush and the telecoms full retroactive immunity for the administration’s illegal wiretapping program. He also supported the $807 billion bailout mess just like McCain did. Nobody’s very fiscally conservative, no matter what they tell you. It’s business as usual, and Obama really is the lesser of two evils.
Both political parties offer us the same mediocre results. This two-party system has utterly failed us. It has devolved into a mindless back-and-forth popularity contest. They keep any third-party contenders out—intelligent folks like Ron Paul who actually want to discuss real change and restore our Constitution to its former supremacy. Big government and big business strive to keep the masses ignorant, because the rich prosper off of a large, stupid populace. As long as we have our flatscreen TVs and our gas-guzzling Escalades, the American people won’t ask questions. They fill our heads with myths about a “liberal media” and the necessity to stay involved in a war that costs us many, many lives and billions of dollars each month with no clear end goals. They frame everything as black and white, good versus evil, red states versus blue states, and you buy it. The political climate we live in is no different than the medieval Crusades. We still buy into an “us versus them” mentality, but it’s just not true. The world is not that simple.
I would have hoped that the human race would have evolved by now. I would have hoped that we would could get beyond wars as the solution to our problems. I would have hoped that we’d be a bit more intelligent, and realize that, like Colin Powell so eloquently said, “We have got to stop this nonsense, pull ourselves together, and remember that our great strength is in our unity, in our diversity.”
Must we learn the same lessons over and over again? Must we really revisit a woman’s right to choose? Gay rights? Freedom of religion? Must we really let the Democratic and Republican parties distract us as usual with issues that were decided upon 30 years ago, while our young men and women are dying overseas and the value of the dollar is freefalling? It’s all a bait-and-switch. They are keeping us distracted from the issues that really matter.
As the election draws near, I have this growing fear that all of our worst qualities will become blatantly clear to the world on November 4th—the fear, ignorance, racism, hatred, bigotry—and the United States will show itself for what it really is: an uneducated, divided, fearful nation. I fear that if John McCain is elected President, it will seal our fate for another four years of poor judgment, gross mismanagement, poor international relations, economic recession, and perhaps much worse.
America was supposed to be the Great Experiment. This was supposed to be the most democratic, progressive, tolerant nation in the world. We pride ourselves on being the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. But we’re acting like the Land of the Fearful and the Home of the Bigots. Who did this to my country? Who’s responsible?
Every one of us is responsible. I’m not asking you to vote for Obama. Vote for Bob Barr. Or better yet, write in Ron Paul. Vote for Stephen Colbert. Or vote for me! I don’t care who you vote for. (Click here for the full list of candidates.) All that is clear, in this writer’s opinion, is which candidate you should NOT vote for. Smart Republicans are walking away. Take my advice or don’t, but whatever you do, don’t bury your head in the goddamn sand! Don’t ignore the issues. These topics will affect your life, and the lives of your children and your childrens’ children. Please make your voice heard, and please use your vote wisely.
If you agree with my sentiments, pass this article along to friends and family or vote for it on Digg or StumbleUpon. If you disagree, then call me names in the comments! But whatever you do, get fuckin’ angry, and get yourself to the polls on November 4th.
So what can you do? Well here are a few great articles by other writers (to get you thinking) and a few resources to make the most of this election and rough economic times ahead:
- Learn why many Republicans and Conservatives are voting for Obama at ConservativesForChange.com
- Read and share Ben Casnocha’s thorough evaluation of Prop 8 on the California Ballot
- Why I’m voting Obama by Andrea Zak
- Why You Should Vote for Obama, Even If You Don’t Agree on the Issues by Holly Hoffman
- Maximize Your Influence in the Election – Lifehacker
- How Do I Help Fight Prop 8 and Keep Same-Sex Marriage Legal in California? – Huffington Post
- What Can You Do To Help Solve The Credit Crisis? by Erica Douglass
- Stash your cash in an ING DIRECT Orange Savings or Emigrant Direct American Dream Savings account
- AARP’s Divided We Fail site
- DeclareYourself.com, where you can get state-by-state ballot info