Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fixing America

By Tom Kando

There is a new book by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum titled “That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come back.” (Reviewed by Trudy Rubin, Sacramento Bee, October 5, 2011).

Unfortunately, “the book doesn’t deliver on the last part of the title.” So let me tell America how to solve its problems:

First, a summary of Friedman and Mandelbaum’s diagnosis. It is familiar (and correct): America has failed to adapt to globalization, we have neglected our infrastructure and our education, our immigration policies have become counter-productive, the federal surplus of the Clinton years has been squandered into a gigantic deficit.
But the most important aspect of the disease is the fact that the American people still don’t get it. They are seduced by slogans like “take our country back” and a Republican Tea Party that rails against big government. Such remedies are the equivalent of medieval bloodletting. They don’t cure the patient. They make him sicker and end up killing him.
The media are no help. They are confused and cacophonous (this includes the Sacramento Bee)

Since Friedman and Mandelbaum are short on solutions, let me help:

1. Never vote for Republican candidates and policies. While there are some nice Republicans, the Party’s very identity and reason for being are wrong: It stands for smaller government and lower taxes, when we need the opposite. It stands for freedom, competition and individualism (praiseworthy values in another era), when we need more justice, collectivism and cooperation. Today Republicans - moderate or not - harm America.

2. Taxes must be raised. On the rich and on the rest of us. Everyone must sacrifice. We are in a fix, and we won’t come out of it without pain. There is good pain and there is bad pain. Right now, we experience the bad pain of 10% unemployment, loss of home, etc. Bad pain gets you nowhere. But higher taxes which lead to more jobs, better schools, better roads, better health and less poverty are good pain.

3. Collective bargaining must be strengthened. The percentage of unionized Americans is half what it was in 1980, and Republicans are trying to eliminate unions altogether.

4. We have no other choice but to vote for Obama and for other Democrats. A third, more progressive Party sounds nice, but right now, it would hand over the Presidency (and the Supreme Court) to the Republicans, the way Ralph Nader robbed Al Gore of the Presidency and gave it to George W. Bush. In time, yes, this country needs a much more progressive party.

5. The media must become intelligent. There are only a few intelligent venues right now, for example NPR. But these are struggling financially (Republicans want to defund NPR).

6. We must become intelligent. There is no hope as long as we are seduced by morons like Glenn Beck and Rick Perry. This can be done through education and more responsible media.

7. We need a massive social movement. It worked in the 60s. The current Wall Street protests are a good beginning. Even Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke approved of them! This is the only way to counterbalance the noisy Tea Party, because the stupid media only cover sensationalism. A recent labor rally in Washington drew 100,000, yet the media barely reported it.

8. Stop focusing on Identity Politics (sexual preference, transgender rights, ethnicity, etc.). It’s not about heterosexuals oppressing gays, one ethnicity oppressing another, men oppressing women. The TRUE problem is the plunder of the working class by the plutocracy. It’s all about bread-and-butter. The rest is distraction and division.

9. Stop blaming politicians. You elected them. YOU are the problem.

10. Stop thinking that the problem will go away. It’s worse than you think. We hear a lot about Greece and the imminent collapse of the Euro, but think about this: Greece’s sovereign debt is 140% of its GDP, and ours is already at 100% of GDP. Furthermore, there isn’t a single country on earth whose trade imbalance comes even CLOSE to ours: We hemorrhage half a trillion dollars per year that way. Out of 191 countries, we rank 191st. The next closest countries (Spain, Italy, etc.) run trade deficits about one tenth ours!

(See: List of sovereign states by current account balance) 

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