Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Tale of Two Countries

Thomas Friedman has been spot on lately. I suggest reading his op-eds contrasting Denmark and the United States on energy policy as well as his call-out of John McCain’s hypocrisy on energy policy.

Pandering and campaigning. No one does it nearly as impressively as the United States. Campaigning is the art of using a lot of words to say absolutely nothing of substance. I read the draft of the Democratic Party Platform, entitled Renewing America’s Promise. There is a lot of rhetoric that it is easy to get behind. But, as always, it is the standard “America is great”, “teachers are great”, “protect the environment”, “health insurance for all” document that promises a whole lot of values but doesn’t put any meat on the bones. It is a steady diet of ribs that have already been stripped clean. It is clear that McCain is far more apt to blither, but Obama panders as well. The difference is that McCain and his Party disdain government and wants to choke it to death. Obama wants to continue the work the Al Gore undertook while he was Vice President to make government efficient and accountable. I recommend listening to the Fresh Air interview with Thomas Franks from August 4th. Franks, a Wall Street Journal columnist, has written a book called The Wrecking Crew, which demonstrates the pattern of Republican Presidents putting incompetent people in government positions because they want to create a legacy of public sector ineptitude.

In addition, Franks seeks to illustrate a systematic suppression of public sector salaries in an effort to ensure that government cannot recruit “the best and brightest”. It has, by and large, failed because the GOP have never understood that to some people public service is more important than wealth. But I digress…

The problem with this pandering is: it is our own damn fault. We have been brainwashed into believing what oil companies, health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and large financial institutions say, as if they have no stake in the outcome. Namely that alternative energy is not price competitive, socialized medicine will result in waiting lists and ultimately worse health outcomes, competition in the drug market will suppress research and development, regulation will cost the American people huge sums of money. What we are slow in learning is, this is all BS. Ultimately, no one in this country is interested in making the commitment necessary to change. We are afraid of the unknown.

We are told that reforms (reforms that would bring us toward the mainstream of developed nations) run contrary to our libertarian spirit. Americans aren’t libertarian, we have been fed a steady diet of misinformation which make us afraid of perceived outcomes from proposed progressive reforms.

The failure of the Democratic Party is the common thread with my peeps. They are a bunch of pansies and are afraid of being called out. They try to play the game by the rules laid out by conservatives. I am here to tell you that it is a recipe for disaster. We may win elections, but we will never win our progressive policy revolution because our victories will be built on a foundation of misinformation, half truths and all out lies. Like the Siberian apartment building, built without a foundation on the permafrost, as the Earth warms, it will all come crashing down.

If we are interested in real change, and not just winning elections, we need to challenge the conventional "wisdom". We need to set the record straight on policy. We may well lose the election, but we can’t lose the larger struggle.

Not everything has a public solution. Government should not be involved in all aspects of our society. I do not believe in pure nationalization. Likewise, I oppose pure privatization. The invisible hand of the market functions best when regulated to remove the possibility of abuse by people who are solely concerned with financial outcomes regardless of the impact on society.

I believe that we should respect the American people. We need to present them with the truth. The situation is dire. The challenges we face are immense, but all is not lost. This is no time to panic. Sticking our head in the ground like an ostrich is a form of panic. Some become indiscriminately hysterical when faced with dire challenges and some avoid the situation. Neither does anything but delay the inevitable. We will have to address energy challenges. Delay only makes it more difficult.

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