Editorial: False prophets with megaphones

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson nailed it on the head last Friday when he wrote of the current political mood to toss out Democrats and put Republicans back into control of Congress that “this isn’t an ‘electoral wave,’ it’s a temper tantrum.”

He went on to note that a recent Wall Street Journal and NBC poll found the public’s favorable ratings for Democrats had fallen to a dismal 33 percent, seeming proof that Republicans would have a field day in this coming November’s mid-term elections, right? Maybe, but that same poll found the favorable ratings for Republicans down to 24 percent.

Apparently enough Americans can remember all the way back to 2007-08 and recall who was in power and how President Bush and a Republican majority in Congress passed huge tax cuts for the wealthy, huge increases in government spending on the war and national security, and yet had no willingness to cut spending elsewhere or raise taxes to slow the rapid increase in government debt.

Yet, even though those things are true, and even though President Barack Obama continued the bailout of the nation’s financial industry that was begun under President Bush, the wisdom within the political punditry is that the House could swing to a Republican majority this November and Democrats could lose significant political power in statehouses throughout the nation.

Why? There are many reasons, but one is that we live in a culture that demands immediate results from political leaders and has little facility to think through complex issues. It should not be difficult to understand that the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the lax regulation that prompted the economic crisis we currently face, the housing bubble that was allowed to balloon out of control and the bailout of the nation’s financial industry have largely been the cause of today’s economic crisis. None of those things were Obama’s doing, but the critics and Republican supporters have grabbed the public’s ear with falsehoods and propaganda that would shame our forefathers — and too many Americans are buying into a political song and dance that is little different from the snake-oil salesmen of a different era.

These mega-phoniacs (false prophets with megaphones), let’s call them, preach god and country, mother and apple pie and prosperity for all, and then quietly support policies that widen the wage gap by passing tax cuts to the wealthy, erode benefits and services to the middle class, and establish business practices that farm jobs overseas and erode our public education system of programs that will train American workers for the knowledge-based jobs of tomorrow. 

It is no wonder that Robinson questions the wisdom of the American people:

“In the punditry business, it’s considered bad form to question the wisdom of the American people. But at this point, it’s impossible to ignore the obvious: The American people are acting like a bunch of spoiled brats.”

That’s not a comment that will win over many fans.

But it speaks volumes.

Surely Americans know that when we live beyond our means, we rack up debt. Interest on the debt then skyrockets and troubles galore come falling down around us.

Obama’s current problems, according to several economists, are due to the fact that the stimulus spending was too little, not too much. It was not sufficient to restart the economic engine that had been so thoroughly undermined by eight years of neglect under Bush and a compliant Congress.

But now, the public is in no mood for more economic stimulus. The housing market is teetering nationally, and the economy is waiting for something akin to a magic moment before confidence is restored — but that is nowhere in sight. We are in un-chartered waters and what’s needed today is a grip on reality and a willingness to put nation above self and endure a bit of personal hardship and hard work.

We need to restructure our entitlement system, starting with Social Security. It’s no secret that the age in which benefits are doled out needs to be raised and more could be collected from those at the upper end of the income scale. We need to improve the nation’s infrastructure. We need to resolve our immigration problem. We need to improve our telecommunications infrastructure and research capabilities in that field as well as medical technology in universities across the land. We need to invest more in public education to allow our children and grandchildren the opportunity to compete with the world’s most prominent inventors and innovators — the source of tomorrow’s jobs.

To do that we’ll need to reduce spending (defense as well as entitlements) and increase taxes on those most able to afford them. But neither those who are losing the services or those paying higher taxes want to hear that. They want, as Robinson says, “quick, painless solutions.”

The problem is that we have gotten soft; we think we are entitled to riches beyond our means and we’re struggling to come to grips with today’s new realities. But instead of seizing the moment and rallying to the challenges we face as a nation, we are pouting on the sidelines and blaming anyone in power for not solving the very problems we so gladly embrace and willingly enmesh into our social fabric.

The question is whether the American public can face today’s realities, or will they bring back into power the very forces that wrecked the economy in the first place?

Angelo S. Lynn

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