Friday, February 13, 2009

Washington & Lincoln Today

This is the anniversary period of the two greatest Americans in the nation’s relatively short history – Washington, the main mover and shaker in establishing the United States, and Lincoln, his counterpart in preserving it. Since 12 February 2009 is the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, all stops have been pulled out in remarking the extraordinary accomplishments of this man, and justifiably so. One shudders to think about how this part of the world would look today had not Lincoln, in the face of overwhelming odds, persevered in preserving the Union. Would what is now the U.S. consist of two nations, perhaps three...or perhaps none, just a colony(ies) of some other power? The latter is more likely the answer.

But there’s a sadness connected with the observance. Republican Lincoln insisted upon the optimism that – even though at great cost – the nation would not be torn apart. In the 1930s, Democrat President Roosevelt insisted during the nation’s most disastrous economic times that “happy days would be here again.” Contrarily today, Democrat Obama is boarding the plush presidential airplane to travel about the country (anything to get out of Washington, where leadership is sorely needed) to deliver the message of gloom and doom, attempting to scare the populace into being in favor of whatever he suggests, notwithstanding whether or not it makes any sense.

Sadder still is the fact that the currently bad economic times have been brought about not by the people but by the government, presumably the people’s protector. In 1930, there were not the tools to contend with the financial downturn eventuating in the Great Depression. The tools have been available for years to contend with the current one. Government regulators have been warning for years, as has President Bush, that something had to be done about the foolishness of lending money for house-purchases to people who could not repay the loans, often overseen or accepted by the quasi-governmental Freddie and Fanny. Political correctness kept the Congress – assuming maybe mistakenly that it had collective good sense – from acting before the housing crisis cast the entire economy into a tailspin.

Now, the government, both administrative and Congressional, seems to be absolutely clueless as to how to rectify mistakes brought about through sheer negligence, being asleep at the switch. According to Rasmussen, only 9% of citizens thought Congress was doing a good job last July. That figure is bound to be much lower now. When citizens lose faith in the people they elect, as is obviously the case, there is reason for deep concern, but the president ill-serves the citizens by his fear-mongering. He should be challenging the citizenry to hold fast instead of telling them the nation can buy/spend itself out of a recession caused by government, taking note not just of the unemployment figures but also noting that retail sales increased by one percent in January.

The public has always considered politicians as suspect, and with good reason. The media is filled with accounts of their peccadilloes every day. The president has added to the problem. He insisted on a self-confessed tax-cheat to head Treasury, and he was confirmed by fellow-traveling democrats. He nominated a pol being investigated for corruption to be Commerce Secretary. He had to withdraw (forced out, most likely). He nominated another tax-cheat to head up his new office to guarantee efficiency. She withdrew, as she should have. He nominated a big-time tax-cheat ($146,000 worth) to be Commerce Secretary, and he was forced to withdraw. He and his lobbyist wife had used Washington as a cash cow.

The president nominated a sitting senator to be Commerce Secretary and he accepted but withdrew later because of policy problems, the largest being, no doubt, that by executive order the president has transferred the Census Arm from Commerce to – of all places – the White House, the clear implication being that now, instead of gerrymandering on only state levels, there will be gerrymandering on a national level. A move this crass and brazen probably convinced the republican nominee – and might even convince a democrat – that skullduggery is alive and well in government, thus further eroding public confidence.

It’s worth noting that during the Great Depression of the 1930s (unemployment at 25% in 1933 and still at 19% in 1938) there was a huge effort made among workers to turn the country communist. Even the down-and-outers wouldn’t go for that. Now, in a period of recession nowhere near as bad as that depression, the president and his party are making a conscious effort to turn the country socialist. The difference lies in the fact that they are successful among the up-and-inners, especially located in the stringently partisan Congress, where a power-grab of huge proportions is possible and hard to turn around when the ball gets to rolling well.

What would Washington and Lincoln think of the country to which they dedicated their lives and substance in a manner beyond any current politician’s comprehension? If alive, they would see a soft generation governed by opportunists, at best, or know-nothings, at worst. They would see a president inordinately concerned with water-boarding terrorists (involving an interrogation technique that neither injures nor kills). They would see a House approve a trillion-dollar bill that not one member had read all the way through, indeed was cobbled together only hours before its was considered. Sad!

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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