Class of 2024

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  • pt
  • The stock market crash of 1929 and the great depression that followed, destroyed the traditional American faith in limited government and benevolent business. “Disabused of the old myths, and unable to get a job, the class of 1933 went to Washington instead of to Wall Street.” (Thomas Frank’s “The Wrecking Crew”)

    I assume that at some point in time it will become completely psychologically exhausting living in conditions of daily crisis on a large-scale reality television show. And then, I think, things will get really really dangerous for everyone else on the planet.
    Jon Husband, commenting at Improprieties

    I fear we’ve passed that point, Jon; and there is only a spark of hope remaining for writing ourselves a happy ending to the story of America’s flirtation with corporate governance. As of now, the boulder is rolling down the hill out of control. We Sisyphusan dung beetles wait at the foot of the hill and those of us who aren’t flattened by the thing will again put our shoulders to it and try to push it up again. Meanwhile, our bards and minstrels will sing of the days when there were clean hospitals, when machines eased the burden of human labor, when great paved highways swooped across the land and plentiful and fattening food could be found at any exit beneath golden arches.

    Where did it all begin, this race to the bottom? How dangerous can it get? From Charles Dickens to Henry James an arc of economic progress is drawn, and global political conditions along the way were uniformly brutal. From the ambition of Napoleon Bonaparte to the colonial fantasies of Belgium’s Leopold II, the lot of the commoner was subordination to the will of an upper class, rich and powerful people who were happily expanding empires in every direction. As the old “trust buster” Teddy Roosevelt himself said, “American and Indian, Boer and Zulu, Cossack and Tartar, New Zealander and Maori, — in each case the victor, horrible though many of his deeds are, has laid deep the foundations for the future greatness of a mighty people.” Teddy Roosevelt offered Americans, well — white Americans of a certain class and station, a “Square Deal.” But somehow, slowly, like a lichen spreading on granite, year after year there was an expansion of a “middle class,” people cushioned from the brutality being visited on the mass of humanity, but people largely in service to that upper class.

    The two world wars of the 20th century happened within the space of thirty years or so. The twenty years between the wars was marked by capitalists posturing and positioning themselves for a struggle with communism, and it was a roller coaster ride of boom and bust.

    The great engine of commerce is war and certainly war has driven economic growth in Europe and North America. While the foundation for modern warfare was built on the rise of the iron and steel industries in late 18th and early 19th century Europe, it fell upon Americans and American ingenuity in our own Civil War to industrialize war and make death an object of mass production. For the next eighty years we demonstrated a horrible proficiency at the craft. But I would argue that (with the possible exception of some candy-ass incursions like Grenada) America hasn’t won a war since 1945, although we have been perpetually engaged in conflict since then.

    The Class of 2024 stands at an intersection. They can turn right down Wall Street with McCain, Bush, and their cast of cronies; or, they can turn left to Washington D.C. and re-visit the use of government regulation to guide economic recovery and growth. They have it in them now to apply brakes to the boulder, to stop it before it rolls out of control to the bottom and randomly destroys so many of us.

    The way the bailout bill is managed, and the media frenzy that will surround la Palin’s pronouncements from the podium at Washington University tonight will give us an indication of what we have in store. I hope we’re sending the class of 2024 to Washington to brake our descent and put us on a new path. I’m sorry we have prepared them so poorly to understand the potential of ethical governance to increase well being for everyone.

    Regarding Jon’s Trudeauvian concern about the danger’s inherent in being anywhere near the elephant when it’s in its death throes: if we can get the class of 2024 energized to work on the issues in an Obama administration, I think there is no need to fear. But if the Republicans are returned to office, if Palin and McCain through some diabolical ploy actually find themselves with the privileges and responsibilities of leadership, then there will be no safe haven. No one on the planet will be protected from the conflicts McCain and Palin will ignite out of willful ignorance, pride, and the escalating necessity to deflect public attention from their inadequacies. Consider George Bush. These people make him look good.

    Posted in Government, Peace and Politics
    6 comments on “Class of 2024
    1. Betty Jo says:

      Good comment. I am struck by the point that but for perhaps Granada we’ve not won a war since 1945.

      Seems to me that since then, the Bomb has made ‘police action’ rather than ‘war’ the only viable, necessary and appropriate use of force in pursuit of civil society and a rule of law.

      Those like John McCain, who speak of “Victory” have, in my view, completely missed that fundamental change in politics and international relations.

      Whether economic, diplomatic or martial, police action is, of course, an entirely unsatisfying activity.

      It’s not a roulette table where one might stake a sense of luckiness against some glorious gain, certain that even with loss, it won’t be any worse than what you’ve already been through.

      Police action isn’t exciting, it isn’t ‘fair’.

      Police actions are like washing the dinner dishes, you clean ’em, put ’em away, take out the garbage and then start all over again doing the same thing the next day. The task is not even entertaining enough to give back a grin for the effort.

      And so instead, they speak of War – War on Drugs, War on Cancer, War on Terrorism, War on Poverty. With “War” might come “Victory”. Nothing like those taps on the mat to provide closure to the conflict.

      And yet, the very use of the terms War and Victory lead instead to the frustrations of “fighting with our hands tied”, or “not enough troops, or resolve, or funding” to win. When, in fact, all we might reasonably expect on any of these ‘fronts’ is to hold some lines until something else changes.

    2. I have a little speech I give called “The War Against Everything.” I agree fully that the appropriate use of military is police actions. But even as far back as Korea, nominally a UN “police action,” the politicians spun it as a war so indeed we lost — or at least we did not “win.” The “War on Terrorism” is a particularly self serving usage. Our War on Iraq turned into a War in Iraq, and while it’s billed as a scene in the play titled “War on Terrorism,” it’s really just a battle in the “War for Western Corporate Control of the Planet’s Resources (WWCCPR).”

    3. JH says:

      I’ve been reading about the growing corporatism and incipient fascism for 20 + years … and even played my small bit part in supporting its evolution as a management consultant for some time. Well, it is actually happening and is in its later stages of takeover now, I think. Welcome to the plutocracy Paul Krugman warned about 7 or 8 years ago.

      50+ years of conditioning as a “nice” person makes me keep on wanting to do something useful, say something positive, have some ambition and hope for better times and things on the horizon. But everything I see suggests otherwise.

      My (I think rational) head tells me things are so complex, so dependent upon models and structures from yesteryear, and so camouflaged by dross and intentional feints and sleights-of-hand, that the smartest thing to do is to stay under every radar and plan for a simple life that may support some form of survival. Or maybe move, leading a low-level bohemian life style as an ex-pat in a small apartment somewhere like Amsterdam or Barcelona.

      I don’t know how much longer I can take the full-bore unreality of what’s happening in North America.

    4. Mike Golby says:

      “… if we can get the class of 2024 energized to work on the issues in an Obama administration, I think there is no need to fear. ”

      That’s pretty much the bottom line, Frank. And Obama administration can only be infinitely better than that which we have (for we have all had Bush in spadefuls) and as much better than that which we might have.

      I still can’t wrap my head around the notion that, not only are Palin and McCain the opposing ticket, they could conceivably steal the prize.

      Today’s global market indicators will then be beyond being the stuff of fond memory. None of us will survive the crash (that is if we survive this one). And the thing is, given a potential eight years, the problems now besetting us are not insurmountable. Left to run their course though, they will bury us.

      May 2024 be a year of trying to distinguish or extricate Wall Street from Washington and vice versa. I mean, who the hell does Hank work for anyway?

    5. Hank exits with George, and maybe Ben can go as well. There are brilliant economists around who are not caught up in the “kill government” movement.



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