Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos

It was morning in America until Barack Obama was elected, right? Dave Johnson at Campaign for America’s Future addresses the collective amnesia.

But here is some reality anyway, even if we’re not supposed to see it. Just ten years ago we were paying off debt at a rate that would have completely paid it all off by now. But under George W. Bush we cut taxes for the rich and more than doubled military spending. We deregulated and stopped enforcing laws. We let the big corporations run rampant. Our federal budget turned from huge surpluses to massive deficits, and Bush said it was “incredibly positive news” because it would lead to a debt crisis they could use to shock people into letting the corporate right privatize and thereby profit.

And then, under and because of Bush, our economy collapsed.

I see the Republicans lacking a leader with the decency to stand against the most crazy superstitions of their right wing– the Birthers, the privatizing profiteers and the Ayn Rand disciples who claim that paying taxes to your own country and local government is the equivalent of rape and slavery– though they’ll keep the clean water, paved roads and Medicare, thank you. If the blinkered and callous statements about the uninsured is any indicator– ‘they can just go to the emergency room’- these people are not only ignorant but happy and complacent in their ignorance.

I see the Democrats lacking the vision and daring to bring a 21st Century New Deal to the American people. They, like the Republicans, are caught in a system where fundraising takes precedence over governing. The Supreme Court decision that money is a form of free speech was one of the worst setbacks to Democracy we have seen in our history. If you want to burn down a house, or level a playing field, or start fresh– look at campaign finance. Our politicians, most of them, are more to be pitied than censured. Save them from selling themselves on the streets!

Our President, Barack Obama, is a decent, smart, principled man. He is leading in a time of crisis. I think he is looking ahead, and what he sees is something neither party will find conducive to their political narratives.

We have seven billion people on this planet. In the developed nations, people are blessed to live to advanced age. This brings us a graying population and new challenges. Medicare is one of the best solutions we have, along with the Veterans Administration, and should not be cut, but strengthened and expanded. However, ‘hands off Medicare’ is not realistic. The salvation of health care is constant assessment of what works and what doesn’t. Barack Obama’s disclosure that his grandmother had a hip replacement that did not gain her health or comfort reflects the uncertainties and hard choices I see every day in elder care. But when I attended Town Hall meetings about health care reform, I found myself staring down some guys who were holding a sign that said, ‘Obama Lies-Grandma Dies’. This is not only a vicious slur against a politician who disclosed a real truth about his actual family–it was a slur against health professionals. I mean, we nurses are all supposedly jonesing for a seat on the ‘death panels’. I wish more of our politicians knew how much hard labor it takes to keep a totally disabled person in comfort and dignity. Many ordinary Americans know, because we are caring for our families.

Health care rationing? We have had it from day one. Health is rationed out to the rich, always has been. Look at the stats. Race being less a mark of heredity than a marker of caste in our very mixed nation– you see that health is distributed unequally. This matches unequal access.

But I think using ‘rationing’ as a scare word veils the truth. We have to decide how much of our national wealth will go to health care rather than other legitimate needs, such as education and infrastructure. Throwing money at Grandma will make some medical providers rich, but won’t necessarily make her healthier or happier. We have to fund research that will question accepted treatments and judge the outcomes so that we can avoid wasting money on dead ends– treatments that are painful and do more harm than good. A national health program like Medicare will always be ‘hands on’.

Another reality we are facing is peak oil. ‘Drill Baby, Drill’ gets harder when we run out of areas where rich people won’t be inconvenienced. Worldwide the demand for fossil fuels is getting harder to fill without political and environmental damage. George Bush famously said that history doesn’t matter, because we’ll all be dead. Others believe in The Rapture. The vast majority of us, though, do think about what we will leave to our children. We can’t honestly promise an endless future of increasing consumption because physics doesn’t work that way. So what do we do? This ‘austerity’ will be working its way up from the people who are ‘used to it’ sooner rather than later. If we care about the future we have to invest in damage control today.

I hope that President Obama will get out of the middle of the road. As a former presidential candidate, Fred Harris, said, ‘The middle of the road has nothing but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.’

If Barack Obama is, as I believe, a good president in bad times, he needs our vocal support for his best ideas. If he is, as some of his critics say, just another politician– then we have to hold his feet to the fire.

Some are saying that a President Romney would galvanize the opposition and swing the pendulum to a new resurgence of the left. As I recollect the Reagan years, it doesn’t necessarily work that way. And after eight years of George Bush we are darn tired of holding signs in the rain and snow.

The time to organize is now. I’m not surrendering, and I’m not staying home on election day. The Bush administration drilled holes in the ship of state before handing it over, disaster capitalism has salvage profiteers ready. This is a mess, but if you blame the last two years of President Obama, you have to forget the previous eight when George Bush turned peace and surplus into war and deficit. That being said, it’s President Obama’s watch now. Our president and party need to offer the American people a New Deal.

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3 responses

  1. I sure hope Obama loses,but I’d be satisfied with a Republican Congress to stymie his appointments and tendency towards bad law like Cap&Trade,and to put a damper on his internationalist leanings.
    Right now there no Republican candidates I really have any confidence in,although I don’t know anything about John Huntsman.
    I didn’t like Bush 2 and didn’t vote for him,but replacing him with this president was no improvement.
    His two SCOTUS appointments are not good.
    Sotomayor has taken a hard left turn since being appointed,particularly in the non-political area of criminal law and I always thought Kagan was a product of upper West Side NYC brunch crowd uber liberal idiocy.
    There really is no more middle ground left.
    I’m somewhere in the middle on health care unlike some other issues,but I am dead set against any amnesty for illegals that will put maybe 20 million more people in the eligible category.
    We can’t be the world’s policeman nor the world’s HMO.
    Obama seems to like the “citizen of the world” persona,which is unacceptable for an American president.
    Let him go run some NGO somewhere-he’ll probably mess that up too.
    Don’t toss those signs yet,you may still feel the need for them.

  2. You are a nurse, yyou need tocomment on this. Take a pain pill…

  3. We do need to look at the evidence of whether surgeries and other interventions have a good track record of improving health and quality of life. There have been a lot of changes in back surgery– some kinds proved to work no better than placebo. Pacemakers can sometimes bring up dilemmas that put people in terrible situations at end of life. A woman wrote an account of her father’s suffering at end of life when everything failed but his heart which could not stop beating due to the pacemaker.
    What Barack Obama is addressing is a very difficult topic, and easily turned against any politician who dares to ask these questions.
    I notice also that this film is edited– you see the questioner and then footage of her with her mother. It’s not news, it’s a commercial, and every commercial has a sponsor.
    The questioner has some good points, and though I think her question is valid I don’t think there is a ‘one size fits all’ answer. Have you spent much time with people in nursing homes?

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