The Parting of the Clouds
In every literary, historical or cinematic masterpiece, times must grow darkest before the sunrise and deliverance. Tolkien worked that classical theme to great effect. A sense of fatalism overtook a seemingly doomed Gondor — right before the overthrow of Barad-dûr and the dawn of a new age of men. The historian Herodotus, in literary fashion, also brilliantly juxtaposed the Greek collapse at Thermopylae (the Spartan King Leonidas’ head impaled on a stake), and the Persian firing of an abandoned Athens, with Themistocles’s sudden salvation of Western civilization at Salamis. In the classic Western film, hopelessness pervades until out of nowhere a Shane rides in.
What Was Hope and Change?
We are living in an age of such morality tales, though the depressing cycle reminds us that the gloom is hardly fiction or artistry. For those with a little capital there is only a sinking stock market. It seems to wipe out more of their 401(k)s each week, as if each month cancels out yet another year of prior thrift. Near zero interest means any money on deposit is only insurance, not any more a source of income. Millions are trapped in their unsold houses, either underwater or facing an end to any dreams of tapping equity by sale.
And for the greater number without savings? Stagnant GDP, 9.1 unemployment, another $5 trillion in debt, $1.6 trillion annual deficits, and sky-high fuel and food prices have combined to crush any notion of upward mobility. (If in 2004 5.7% unemployment was supposed to mark a “jobless recovery,” what exactly is 9.1% called? If Bush’s average $500 billion deficits over eight years were abhorrent, what must we say of Obama’s average $1.6 trillion over three? Really bad?)
In response, the Obama administration — let me be candid here — seems clueless, overpopulated as it is by policy nerds, academic overachievers, and tenured functionaries (cf. Larry Summers’ “there is no adult in charge”). They tend to flash Ivy League certificates, but otherwise have little record of achievement in the private sector. Officials seem to think that long ago test scores, a now Neolithic nod from an Ivy League professor, or a past prize translates into knowing what makes America run in places like Idaho and southern Michigan.
Yes, I know that Steven Chu is “brilliant” and a Nobel laureate. But that means no more than suggesting that laureate Paul Krugman was right about adding even more trillions to the debt. My neighbors know enough not to quip, as the know-it-all Chu did, that California farms (the most productive in the U.S.) will dry up and blow away, or gas prices should reach European levels, or Americans can’t be trusted to buy the right light bulbs, or a failed Solyndra just needed millions more of taxpayers’ money.
Solyndra and Van Jones are the metaphors of these times, reminding us of the corruption of the very notion of “green.” In the age of Al Gore, it has eroded from a once noble ideal of conservation to a tawdry profit- and job-scam for assorted hucksters and snake-oil salesmen. Without the lofty hype and shake-down, most otherwise would have had to find productive jobs. Tragically, “green” is the new refuge of scoundrels.
Costal del Sol Community Organizing?
I fear we have not seen such a divisive president since Richard Nixon. Suddenly there is a new fiscal Rubicon. Those crossing $200,000 in annual income now are to be suspect (“fat cat,” “corporate jet owner,” “millionaires and billionaires” [note how the two are sloppily associated — as if 1/1000 the wealth of one is still approximate to the other ]); those still on the other bank, are far more inherently noble (cf. Michelle Obama’s selfless legions, who, like the first couple, supposedly were to take her advice to turn down guaranteed riches in the abhorrent, but easy, corporate sector, to take on a life of noble service and relative poverty as hard-working community organizers and reps).
When did immigration law become embedded within the racial industry? If millions of Koreans were entering the U.S. illegally, would the National Council of La Raza insist on their amnesty, or be indifferent, or worry that such an influx might tax existing social services that provide for U.S. citizen poor? Did we ever have a president who issued a video (cf. 2010) appealing to constituents by their race, or suggested that border enforcement was equivalent to “moats” and “alligators,” or beseeched his Latino allies “to punish our enemies”? Is the president trying to turn enforcement of a federal statute into community organizing?
The Black Caucus has sadly become a caricature of itself, bewildered that Great Society II has further decimated the black community — now in racial solidarity with a failing president, now lashing out at the Tea Party. Yet the latter’s advocacy of fiscal discipline, greater deregulation, oil exploration, smaller government, and entitlement reform would unleash the private sector — and, to use the administration lingo, really create for the inner cities “millions of new jobs.”
So we are all confused by this new Morgan Freeman-esque (one of my favorite actors) racial illogicality: electing Obama was proof of racial harmony; but criticizing him proof of racialism; wanting to end his policies (that have impoverished black America most of all) borders on racism; expanding what will further harm blacks is proof of racial harmony? So one was supposed to vote for Obama to prove himself not racist, and then to stay quiet to ensure that he was still not racist? *
Readers will add here the end of an investigative media, ObamaCare, the new Solyndra and Fast and Furious scandals, “lead from behind” foreign policy, spread-the-wealth demonization of business, crony capitalism, punitive measures against everyone from guitar makers to plane manufacturers, distrust of oil and gas producers, Eric Holder’s politicized Justice Department, and so on.
OK—So Why the Optimism?
Why, then, do I see blue sky and a break in the present storms? For a variety of very good reasons.