Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Drowning in Debt: The New Socialism

...a small number of Americans, who believe that Obama is the new Anti-Christ, are arming themselves to the teeth, fully expecting to have to defend their property from marauding gangs let loose by the recession and a grasping government.

A political commentator for the BBC, Matt Frei, made the above comment in summing up a recent essay on polarization in American politics since the election of President Obama. Is he exaggerating? Not so much.

In an NPR interview the other day, I heard a gun store owner in San Antonio attribute the current nationwide shortage of ammunition--of which I was blissfully unaware till I heard the story--to the election of Obama because gun owners fear that a) their rights to bear arms will be eroded; and b) they will be victims of a crime wave generated by material needs of the millions of 'lazy and irresponsible' people who have lost their jobs due to negligence and subsequently don't want to work because they are already being bailed out for free by the new socialist government.

I exaggerate, but you get the idea. It's no joke, really. I genuinely believe that the thought of 'marauding gangs' is not ruled out by many ignorant and therefore fearful individuals who are stocking up on guns and ammo for 'the day'. This might be dismissed as the simply the reaction of the far right wing, but what disturbs me is the fact that though this group be but "tiny minority" of Americans, they actually comprise a sizable chunk of the members of the political community in the far right wing. In turn, this group makes up a considerable portion of the center, to which I ostensibly belong. Is that possible? Indeed. We've seen this pendulum go the other way; just because it's going one way now is no reason not to be vigilant and prepare for the return path.

Quite rightly, I think, Frei has observed that Obama, like his predecessor, has staked most if not all of his administration's ambitions on a single issue--in this case, the economy--on which his entire platform will succeed or fail. It's a big gamble. It's better than the gamble Bush took on the 'War on Terror' but similar in it's all-or-nothing approach to the game itself. Like it or not, Obama is 'all in' over the economy. And the conservatives are taking the bait and going in over the top in a effort to ensure that no compromise is possible and increase the probability of failure.

Frei says, "If the economy fails to expand, the rest could turn to ashes and America's children will grow up drowning in debt."

Really? That seems to make sense when you say it, but how does that actually work out? For example, what I don't understand is just how this ocean of dept will swallow up our children and their future. After all, the National Debt has been incomprehensibly large and getting larger during the whole of my lifetime. How will that change?

And what has the National Debt ever done to me? I have been able to work, own a house, a car and eat, travel and all the rest in spite of 'my' mounting debt. Ostensibly, I inherited that debt from the previous generation, but I don't see how or even if it ever diminished my opportunity. Nor can I see that there is any harm in simply passing this debt on to the next generation. I mean, all they are going to do is the same; turn it over, warts and all to their children. Here you go kids. It doesn't look any prettier than when I got it, but at least it didn't do me any harm.

So the fear of socialism and concomitant 'high risk gamble' we are supposedly taking with out children's futures just doesn't make sense. Much more likely, as we've seen, is the scenario in which (if I may borrow the gambling metaphor a bit more) someone stops to think about foolishness that underlies the whole damn house of cards and pulls up stakes. Then, before you know it, the game has gone to hell. Even now that this has happened, all we need is for everyone to get up, take a break and pick a new seat at the table when you get back.

We'll get, gee, what could we call it, a new deal? Or is that just the 'old' socialism? I ain't skeered.

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