Jumping before it's too late
Could we have an example of an American frog being slowly cooked in a pot whose water is gradually getting hotter?
You know the story. If the frog is thrown into boiling water, it jumps out. That’s what’s happening in Europe where there’s been a sudden shock of severe government austerity measures.
But in this country, the socio-economic water temperature has been rising ever so slowly for years. The increases in tuition have risen steadily for 25 years but have relentlessly far outpaced inflation. Likewise health care costs.
Likewise the slow but steady growth in the gap between rich and poor. Likewise consumer debt. Likewise the stagnation in the middle class. Likewise the decline in our schools. Our federal deficit as been building and growing for more than a decade.
The other reason young American frogs aren’t jumping around in anger is that they enthusiastically elected a president perceived to be a cool, rational progressive. The Obama presidency is not seen as “hot” waters, unlike the two terms of Bush/Cheney.
If there was an American jolt, it happened nine years ago on 9/11. After that, everything else was part of a national, irrational response. Talk about jumping around!
Because America has no draft, young Americans, particularly college students, took little or no action. Sure there were marches and demonstrations but with time that energy was defused and re-directed into politics (“The Politics of Hope” "Change We can Believe in!") and away from the streets.
As unemployment grows, the jobless have reason to be grateful for war. The military is this nation’s employer of last resort. Seen in this way, war is a our “healthiest” economic sector. And the military-industrial-financial-media ruling class is thriving while young, formerly unemployed Americans are “working” — and dying — far, far away.
The Obama administration simply transferred war from one dysfunctional nation to another. Opposition to the war in Afghanistan has been softened by the president’s very public hand wringing and media-staged, patriotic speeches to the hapless troops.
If there’s been a visible, angry reaction in this country, it has been that of the Tea Party. Tea Party activists have been suffering from sudden stove-top heat (unemployment, foreclosures, mounting debt) of the last three years, but they jumped into the hands of a pseudo-movement cynically financed by the very forces causing the anguish.
In short, the Tea Party-goers were duped, as they are now finding out. Did the Tea Party faithful really want to extend the tax cuts for the rich? Did they really want to help out the Wall Street flimflam artists who made this mess, reaped billions from it and then plowed a share of their winnings into the Fall’s Congressional campaigns — and the Tea Party?
Did the Tea Party followers really want to end unemployment benefits? Did they really want to drive up federal deficits?
With less than two years to the presidential election, my guess is that the energy that might otherwise show up in the streets will be siphoned into various political campaigns. The corporate media are already shaping the “horse race.” The political windbags and pundits are already grooming candidates. Soon they will be slowly paraded from the paddocks to the starting gates.
You can be sure bets are being placed.
Expect left and right wing “extremist” candidates to tap into rising, but well-contained political energy. Also expect the primaries to result in “extremist” presidential candidates’ losing to “stay the course” middle-of-the-roaders, presented as cool, rational, “trust us” leaders.
Read: Obama, Bloomberg and Romney.
Congress, on the other hand, will continue to be a countervailing, unmanageable zoo of conflicting, implacable, hard-line interests. But that’s another story.
As for the frogs in the pot, us, the heat — literal heat, if you consider global warming — will slowly, ever so slowly, continue to rise. Will we jump before it's too late? And where, exactly, where we land?