Bob Herbert this morning manages to support the veterans, call for an end to the wars, and suggest that we, as a nation, make more of a commitment to common enterprises, such as the military during war and unfinished domestic business such as infrastructure, in a manner more substantive than cutting taxes and going shopping:
On this same page as this economically written column, correct in each particular while demonstrating their interdependence and our insufficient, unrealistic response to them singly and together, Timothy Geithner suggests that the recovery, while slower than anybody would like, is, in fact, in progress, and that the stimulus helped forestall a free fall while aiding recovery. The two juxtaposed are sad, in that Geithner isn't listening to, much less responding to, Herbert. He'd better, as Obama had better.
The distance between Geithner's position and the perceptions of much of the country is huge, and getting bigger. After decades of being told that greed is good, consumerism the very apotheosis of civic life, personal debt not much of an issue, living beyond one's means is as quaint as Gonzales thought the Geneva Conventions, we now face 'structural,' that is, chronic unemployment and underemployment. Even the too few available jobs increasingly exclude such things as light manufacturing in cities and regions dependent on them. A country where doctors, lawyers, upper management, financiers and software jocks do well, and the rest are in service industries, simply isn't even sustainable, much less kind to most of its people. The home equity loans that financed a lot of remodeling, college tuition and consumer debt consolidation are going or gone as housing prices fall. Credit card debt, at usurious interest rates--generally accepted by most people, including those outraged at the very thought of a sales tax increase or government deficit--benefit banks with fell long-term consequences. So not only are things tough, and not getting easier all that fast, but long-standing behaviors, thought of as not merely pleasant choices available in times of plenty but rights due Americans, the cornucopia always available under 'free market' capitalism, are being challenged, less part of life. Some might call those alleged rights not the just due of the hard-working, but 'entitlements': just deserts whose unavailability, in the slightest, demonstrates an America in trouble. Some might even say health care is a human right for citizens of the largest economy ever seen in the known galaxy; the very notion is opposed by the right as not just wrong but tyrannous.
Which means not that we should pull together to make things better; quite the opposite, in fact. It means that it's somebody's fault. Not yours. The Democrats, with their tax-and-spend fiscal madness and absurdly complex health and finance reforms which most Americans dislike, distrust and don't benefit from. Those hordes of brown people who invade our country like locusts, stripping us bare. Those black folk whose racism and parasitism make a mockery of American values while they suck on the government teat at others' expense. The crooks and liars in the government, all Democrats, whose taxation policies amount not just to governance but theft, enriching themselves and aggrandizing power at the expense of the virtuous. Those greedy unions, winning zero-sum games at the expense of taxpayers and stockholders. Or so we're told, over and over again, by strident voices who don't stop there, but move on to conspiracies, birth certificates, Godless abandonment of values, on and on: their opponents are not merely mistaken, but entirely lacking legitimacy, criminal, even treasonous in their abandonment of the True Faith, in their wanton destruction of what we're told the actual Constitution, the actual views of the Founders, the very roots of the country.
Too easy, it seems to me, in the context of the poverty of our public discourse since at least Reagan, and entirely consistent with the worst of this country, for that to be the default position. And it's not happening in a vacuum, but aided, abetted and aroused by the most ignorant, intolerant, racist, supercilious, self-satisfied, unconstructive, amoral people I've ever seen in a lifetime of watching politics and society, who aren't challenged nearly enough by those who should know better. Framing it thus, I'd think it obvious, and viatl, to oppose such a stance, and provide a better alternative, not only in the current debate, but for the future of the country and the world, moving the political and social debate even a little bit towards the legitimization and actualization of common enterprise as well as self-actualization. These cowardly, greedy, intolerant, psychotic bastards don't care if they destroy the country or the world. We must provide a counternarrative, as vigorously persistently and purposefully as they do. Conduct politics and government along the lines of 'Galaxy Quest': never retreat, never surrender, and, if event demands more than rhetoric, and actual lives are on the line, to make the rhetoric reality. The occasional Geithner op-ed isn't enough, neither as policy nor even as rhetoric. Bob Herbert knows this.