Sunset on the “American Century”

It’s Election Day and I felt compelled to wax a little reminiscent on US politics, as well venture a look forward in the way of scouting out what lies ahead in the way of way of future shocks, rocks, shoals and storms.

Where to begin…Well, in the name of defending liberty, democracy, free markets and less government intervention and spending, the policies and actions of Pres. Bush and his administration have delivered anything but. Hasn’t someone already mentioned the great irony in all this?

We now have more government intervention than ever, and not only when it comes to banking and finance, a full-blown banking and economic crisis that rivals the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, one that lax and misguided regulation and excessively loose monetary policies that driven by their short-term, mercenary greed and profligacy Wall Street, banking and corporate bigwigs, exploited to the hilt.

Now we’re bailing out, “rescuing” I should say, the already excessively well-compensated folks who drove us over the brink. Not to mention the fact that instead of investing in and providing incentives for public infrastructure, education, job training and such, we continue to fight two wars that our great leaders assured us would be short, quick and victorious, whatever that means.

Worse, this latest crisis threatens to siphon off attention and resources from longer-term problems and challenges, such as a rebuilding national infrastructure, transitioning to renewable energy sources and adapting to climate change at a critical juncture.

Public trust, moral obligations, fiduciary responsibility–What’re those?

Along with Wall St., banking and property development executives, the main beneficiaries of this latest round of short-term greed, irresponsibility and excess have been the large, multinational oil companies, military-industrial companies and special interests that have been stood firmly behind and supported the Bush administration and Republican Party all along. Rah rah and bully, bully.

The government deficit and debts are going to expand exponentially in coming years from what are already record levels. This thanks once again to the stunningly deceptive and hypocritical actions of a Republican president and largely Republican Congress during the past eight years, one that has hid its actions behind the flag of “free markets,” “less government” and “less taxes and spending.” Could anything be more ironic, disgraceful, or sad?

Iconic names in US and world industrial history such as GM, Ford and Chrysler, along with banks, shamelessly demand help from a government that turned a blind eye to regulation as they betrayed the public trust and their moral obligations and responsibilities.

Harping on and feeding fears of terrorism and threats to national and international security, constitutional, civil and human rights rights have been trod upon, abused and constrained. Defending “traditional American values,” the executive branch has called on executive privilege and made every effort to obscure and make its decision making process and actions more opaque while calling for more open and greater disclosure elsewhere. Small, private sector businesses, along with the general populace, have been forced to bear the high costs.

As US servicemen and women continue to risk their lives and die in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere based on the lies and machinations of a president and his administration, the US government continues to spend tens of billions of dollars a year to finance the war effort; what they have succeeded in doing is hastening the hollowing out and decay of the American economy and society. Not that they’ll pay or suffer for it.

This present economic crisis is likely to be only the beginning. Never mind Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the crisis in banking, health care and all the rest, the US General Accounting Office has long warned of that as the Baby Boom generation moves into retirement the financing needs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will make current record levels of government financing look miniscule. Their warnings have yet to stimulate any real long terms plans to deal with this.

While they may not be applauding, leading emerging market economies such as Brazil, India and China, and in the Middle East are now poised to assume a much greater role in calling the shots on the global political, diplomatic and economic stages.

I wouldn’t expect much in the way of change whoever gets elected. The financial and operational mechanics of our political system are just too deeply ingrained and the challenges too large and complex to expect much in the way of consensus, real change and honest, responsible, far-sighted leadership.

Our largest financial, energy and industrial companies are no longer American, they’re multinational, and they are focused more on those very overseas markets than they are on the US, except where there are government contracts, subsidies and tax breaks to be handed out. Politicians in Washington have swallowed the globalization mantra hook, line and sinker without the due diligence and the serious reflection and healthy, critical thinking that’s prerequisite to any such broad, multi-faceted, complicated and complex ideology and societal change.

It seems to me that every generation has to learn its most important lessons anew. I’ve come to believe that the real, true strength of America lies not in its leaders, who all too often prove all too prone to human foibles, greed and the lust for power, but within the hearts and minds of its “everyday,” working class people, white or blue collar, of whatever color, creed or social persuasion, and in the values and beliefs espoused by the US’ Founding Fathers in their most impressive documents.

That’s a heritage that I carry with me each day, wherever I go, one that I can only try to live up to, and I believe that’s something I still share with the majority of Americans. Whether we can come together and make America as good as it can be n the challenging times ahead remains to be seen.

Andrew Burger
Andrew Burger
A product of the New York City public school system, Andrew Burger went on to study geology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, work in the wholesale money and capital markets for a major Japanese bank and earn an MBA in finance.

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