Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"What He Shoulda Did Was..."

So. As far as we know, His Serenity has devoted the remainder of his regime to dealing with obstructionist Republicans, bringing them along as it were, and to making his owners happy. The rest of us figure not so much in national affairs. No, to be more accurate, the rest of us figure not at all.

At best we are annoyances. At worst, our man Rahm comes up with outbursts like, "Fucking retards." Well. The feeling, I'm sure, is mutual, as the White House's plunging polls indicate.

It didn't have to be this way. There was so much Hope for Change.

If there had been an honest effort to deal with the household debt problem in the United States, for example, instead of devoting almost all the economic efforts to serving the interests of those at the top of the economic pyramid, then some of the animosity that's built up over the Health Care issue might have dissipated or not emerged at all.

The Obama economic policies have been eerie mirrors of Hoover's at the beginning of the Great Depression, with -- not surprisingly -- similar results. Gee, how does that work? Household debt problem is enormously greater for many Americans because the costs for all the top-loaded bailouts and whatnot are falling on the middle classes and the poor, and they're breaking under the strain with record numbers of bankruptcies and foreclosures, none of which does a damned thing to raise the country out of the recession but simply digs the hole deeper.

And no matter what, the Economic Brain Trust around Obama will not even consider doing anything about it. It goes against their ideology, and they can't conceive of doing anything to directly help the lower orders beyond what is being done: extending unemployment insurance somewhat. If you can qualify to begin with and continue to qualify for extensions. Good luck.

These same people will not do anything substantive to reduce unemployment. They will not put into place any kind of public sector jobs program that addresses the absence of employment in the private sector; they will not do anything to prop up wages or benefits.

Well, Hoover wouldn't either. It was against his ideology, and he couldn't do it.

I'm reminded of the contrast between the current administration's point of view and that of the Roosevelt administration in the midst of World War II, when during Roosevelt's last election campaign -- when he was physically ill, and when he surely didn't need any more accolades on his legacy -- he offered a startling proposal, almost inconceivable to the modern Ruling Class:

He called it The Second Bill of Rights and it grew out of his famous Four Freedoms framework enunciated on January 6, 1941.

To review the Four Freedoms:

The Second Bill of Rights built on the notion that the political rights guaranteed in the Constitution "proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness," particularly with regard to economic freedom, and freedom from want.

What he proposed was a means toward a political solution to the question of want.

The Economic Bill of Rights would guarantee to Americans:

  • A job at a living wage

  • Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies for farmers and businessmen

  • A home

  • Medical Care and good health

  • Social Security and protection from economic uncertainty

  • Education

    Obviously, the man was a Damned Dirty Communist.

    In fact, the proposition he was making in 1944 was relatively mainstream, growing out of ideals that had been developing in the United States since the latter 19th Century. At the time, what he was proposing was not radical at all, especially given the fact that the nation was at -- or actually exceeding -- "full employment" with most of the men off at war and the women hard at work in industry or services; most everybody was housed -- however inadequately, and there was a severe housing shortage that caused a lot of households to double up; free public education through up to high school was universal, and in some areas, college education was also tuition free.

    Yet looking at these propositions today, they seem almost impossible to imagine, even as the nation's people spiral ever farther into destitution while the handful of UberWealthy dance their jigs and have their hirelings count their bags of money.

    Joblessness in this country is at levels we haven't seen in this country since the Great Depression, so the first "right" of Roosevelt's five Economic Rights, if implemented today, would have an immediate impact on the public's perception of well-being. Remember, Roosevelt was making his proposal at a time of full employment. Imagine if he had made it in 1933 instead of 1944.

    Strict regulation on business, monopolies, and war profiteering were in place in 1944, something almost unheard of now, and these regulations were enforced, a strange concept to us moderns. So the exploitation of farmers and small business people for the benefit of a few was far more difficult then than now, and Roosevelt's proposal to protect farmers and small business people was merely common sense.

    Absence of adequate housing in America had long been a crisis, solutions explored every conceivable way from the end of the 19th Century until well after World War II. During the War, the housing crisis became acute. Having a decent home -- or just the promise of a home -- was seen as a major advance for Americans. The post-World War II building boom would start to deal with the pent up demand, but there would continue to be terrible rural housing conditions (as there still are for many farm workers) and many urban dwellers as well. The massive numbers of foreclosures experienced for the last several years have forced millions of Americans out of their own homes, and there has been no adequate follow up to determine what has happened to them. Americans need a decent housing policy once again.

    We're still wrestling with the notion that Americans have a right to medical care and good health, a cage match which seems to be unresolvable, but which is swiftly draining the United States of whatever public wealth that hasn't already been stolen by the Oligarchs and Plutocrats.

    Social Security is under direct threat by every one of the Powers That Be. We may well see it extinguished in our lifetimes.

    Access to public education in the United States was still not fully available in 1944, though in most regions it was theoretically guaranteed/required through 9th or 10th grade. The major problem, of course, was segregation, which was practiced almost as widely outside the South as it was in the South. It would be another decade before segregated schools were outlawed, and more than another decade after that before public schools were actually desegregated -- which was countered by an expansion of private (and essentially segregated) schools for whites, and the defunding and deterioration of public education in general.

    Higher education is becoming more and more difficult for average Americans to obtain, and K-12 public education has been deteriorating for years, so much so that the United States has one of the lowest functional literacy rates in the developed world. How did this reversal come about? It was, in my estimation, deliberate policy implemented during and after the Reagan administration to ensure that Americans would never again be educated sufficiently in public schools to attempt the kind of student revolts that characterized the 1960's, and to ensure that those educated in private schools were conditioned to acceed to the needs and interest of the Ruling Class. It is astonishing to review the issues that drove so much of the student revolts of the '60's and realize that at root, it was anti-corporate, rejecting and resisting the notion that university students were being "manufactured" as "products" to be "sold" to corporate interests. Today, university students more or less celebrate their future as corporate tools.

    We need a new public education policy.

    Finally, Roosevelt's proposal of an Economic Bill of Rights was a matter of security -- something that today is limited to "Homeland" Security, ie: the perception of being "secure" from attack by terrorists.

    How far we have fallen.

    And how very much farther we still have to go.

    FDR Fireside Chat, January 11, 1944:

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