By George Gregoriou
John McCain lives in the past. He is too old for the job, his mother said. Lies, smears, and fear are the hallmarks of his campaign, with Sarah Palin the gun-toting crowd pleaser. The only words Republicans repeat are: tax cuts, capital gains, and welfare cheats. Some Bush-haters will not vote for Obama. They are undecided. To use David Sedarisʼ words, they cannot choose between ʽchickenʼ and ʽshit with broken glassʼ? The color of Obamaʼs skin bothers them, which is the under current in the McCain campaign. Will this be the unknown factor on 11/4/08? Millions of men and women, black and white, young and old, support Obama. In their words (Huffington Post): “We may all very well be witnessing our greatest president. Iʼm proud to be white-boy for Obama.” “I agree [a fan commented]. Itʼs an amazing thing to witness, to participate in. Thereʼs big change coming. Canʼt you feel it? He has the temperament, the intellect, the depth of character, the wisdom, the vision to be an extraordinary leader, not just for America, but for the world. I feel proud of him. We desperately need him to lead us to a higher version of ourselves and unite us as Americans. [Midwest, white girl] I know greatness when I see it.Thank you, Barack! We love you.” Wow!
Obama is the man for change. On October 24, The New York Times endorsed Obama for president. His qualifications were listed and compared with those of McCain. McCain falls short on all counts. Obama excels in first class intellect, and first class temperament. Well-known Conservative and Republican families endorsed him: Eisenhowerʼs grand-daughter, the grand-children of Barry Goldwater, Christopher Buckley, Colin Powel, former Mass. governor Weld, and a Bush II daughter? As Colin Powel put it: “electing Obama President of the USA will ʽelectrify, not only the country, but the world.” And Christopher Buckley wrote in the Daily Beast site “Obama has in him …the potential to be a good, perhaps even a great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.” Buckley lost his job in The National Review!
Obama will face tremendous problems after 11/04/08, if he is elected. The Bush eight years, compounded by decades of benign neglect and politics as usual, will be a nightmare. The movement for change has to undo the Bush legacy. Moving a gigantic economy and 300 million people in a new direction will not be easy. This economy and the world economy is in the same mess. This was evident in the financial meltdown. There are also the institutional fixities, the fragmentation of political power (reflected in the political paralysis, deadlocks, the usual politics ʽI will scratch your back if you scratch my back), and the conflicting policies between the privileged few and those in the twilight zone of unemployment. The new direction will require not only controlling both houses, but a mobilization of the forces for change at the street level.
The real new beginning starts on 1/20/09. Undoing the mess of the Bush years and the legacy of market fundamentalism is a lot more difficult. It is also the primary reason why the US economy is in the tank, or the cesspool (a real plumber told me).It is the effect of the deregulated doing what they are good at: money lust. The next president has to tackle the national debt, $6.9 trillion in 2000. In the eight Bush years, it went to $10 trillion, a 65% increase. When Bush leaves office on 1/20/09 it will be about $11 trillion. The price tag for the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, Joseph E. Stiglitz calculated, will be exceed $3 trillion. 28% of the national debt ($2.6 trillion) is owned by foreign governments, with an annual debt interest of $700 billion paid mostly to China, Japan, Arab states, and other financial institutions around the world. Not a dime of this interest benefits the American taxpayers. Bush is the first president who gave $1½ trillion tax cut to the top 1% of the wealthy, and borrowed $1 trillion to start two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. If Bush followed the same accounting practices required of corporations and state and local governments to follow, the national debt would be $59.1 trillion. Now, if Bush decided to get rid of the national debt, pay it before leaving office, each household would have to pay $516,000. No need to worry. Bush will be in Texas. And as old K (Marx, not Rove) wrote, “The only part of the so-called national wealth that actually enters into collective possessions of modern peoples—is their national debt.” This debt will be socialized capitalism. Our tax paying grandchildren will have to foot the bill.
John McCain wants to continue the Bush tax cuts, to stimulate the economy, which means he will have to borrow more money (if elected president) to fight the wars, tax the other 98% of the people, and cut health benefits, even privatize social security. He is committed to this policy, just like his hero/mentor Ronald Reagan tried to do in the 1980s. When he was told that the 37 million gray panthers (seniors) will kick him out of the White House, Ron backed off. Obama is not mincing his words. He will cut taxes for 95% of the taxpayers, and will have the top 1-2 % to pay the tax rate it paid in the 1990s. This will end the Bush-Republican tax honeymoon for the super-wealthy in the last 20 out 28 years they controlled the White House.
What is good for Wall Street is good for Americans. This what McCain and the rich folk want people believe. The bailout of Wall Street was mostly a redistribution of taxpayer money to the banking and financial institutions, to restore the confidence of the CEOʼs, even spend time at the spa. Though, the $800 billions were wasted on Wall Street, confidence was not restored. Only greed was boosted. The needy homeowners and the unemployed on Main Street are having garage sales, selling their possessions (including their childrenʼs toys) and moving into cheap apartments. There are no new jobs now. The US economy required 15 million jobs in the last fifteen years to keep up with the population changes. Only four million were created. The unemployment is now inching its way to 8% (6 million), 10% of the national work force (only those looking for work are counted). Wall Street layoffs could surge past 200,000. Goldman Sachs will sack 10% of its work force, and Chrysler will let go 25% of its white color employees. Sales dropped 25%. The worse of the Great Depression is not here, but those who lost their homes and their jobs are in a state of depression. The response of the government? The visible hand of the government came to the rescue of the financial institutions, with big money. The millions who are loosing their jobs and homes will have to wait for the “invisible hand” of Adam Smith to run its cycle.
Our society is in disarray, with the government in Washington is tinkering. Republicans are good at fighting their great battles–faith-based education, anti-gay rights, creationism, immigration, and trumped up lies to invade other countries. Praying and wearing a flag pin is more important than child immunization, bigger guns versus better schools, and who is a real American, and who is not. The results: the US ranks 17th among nations in high school graduation rate and 14th in college graduation rate; more than 75% of all high school graduates enter college, with half of the college freshman taking at least one remedial course; of the new Research & Development sites planned for construction in the next three years by 177 companies queried in a survey, 77% are to be built in China and India; US students recently finished 15th in reading, 19th in math, and 14th in science in the ranking of 31 countries by the OECD; only 29th of American fourth grade students, a third of eighth grade students, and barely 18th of 12 grade students perform at or above the proficient level in science. In Business Weekʼs ranking of the worldʼs information-technology companies, only one of the top 10 is based in the US and nearly 60% of the patents filed with the US Patent and Trademark office in the field of information technology originate in Asia.
Our bridges and highways are in disrepair. Improving the infrastructure creates jobs. So does the funding of education, for the 21st Century, and investing in health services, including a national health plan, which focuses on preventive care, not hospital intensive care. We can be a safer, healthier, and educated society. Republicans held power for 20 out of the last 28 years. We see the results. Politics, they proclaim daily, is not the solution. The market is, and it has failed. Profit is the goal, not the welfare of citizens. The focus on energy alternatives by Obama reflects the politics of a new and younger generation, with its vision for the future, not the quagmire of the past. New sources of energy will create new jobs, end US dependency on foreign oil, including imperial wars to control the paths for oil. The US produces 3% of the worldʼs oil and consumes 25%. In 2007, US drivers consumed 140 billion gallons of gasoline. This dependence grew from 35% in 1973 to 42% in 1978. It went to 55% in 2001, and to 53% in 2002. The finance ministry anticipates the oil bill to be more than $11 billion by the end of 2008. In 2007, the oil import bill had crossed $7 billion. The worldʼs resources will diminish by 2040. This will have a major impact on the industries, highways, and non-urban communities—the byproducts of the automobile age. The time to act is now, not 2040.
The Obama project for change is possible. This requires another look at the government policies and the military-industrial complex. Our governments spent $7.5 trillion on militarism from the 1940s to the 1990s, ½ of the $15 trillion spent by the entire world. This money is enough to bulldoze every house in the USA and build new modern homes for every family, and still have money left. Are we any safer? Is the $3 trillion war in Iraq (and Afghanistan) worth it? Why not diplomacy first, and war as the very last resort? Obama is committed to a new direction, and he has the intellect, the temperament, and the integrity to do what is realistically possible.
***** George Gregoriou, Professor Emeritus
Critical Theory and Geopolitics, Political Science Department
The William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey 07470