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Posted by hfojvt in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Fri Jan 25th 2008, 02:56 PM
Reading through this old Clinton speech I was at first encouraged by the first half of the speech, but then repulsed by the second half.

The Two Americas and the problems of ordinary working people

"The determination and quiet courage of these brave Americans has kept me going through the toughest moments of this campaign. Every day, their struggles and their stories have reminded me what this election is really all about.

This campaign can't be just another shallow political quarrel between Republicans and Democrats in Washington. For more than a decade, both parties have failed us there."

Similar message to what both Edwards and Obama are saying. This election is about the people (Edwards) and Washington has failed them (Obama).

One huge thing though, is that now Bill Clinton himself is added to the list and so is Hillary. Between them, they have now had 16 years to try to change things, and yet we seem to have the very same issues.

"Last October, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a remarkable series called "America: What Went Wrong," which documented in statistics and stories what has happened to the country we love. The series, written by Donald Barlett and James Steele, is must reading for any student of politics, ethics, or business -- and it holds important lessons for politicians and voters alike.

Barlett and Steele found that for the forgotten middle class, the '80s were an economic disaster. The size of the middle class fell for the first time since the '30s. Middle-class people are spending more time on the job, less time with their children, and bringing home less money to pay more for health care, housing, and education -- while those at the top of the totem pole saw their taxes go down and their incomes go up.

People who make over $200,000 saw their incomes rise fifteen times faster than average Americans. The average middle- class person, by contrast, is working 158 hours a year more than in 1969 for about the same income -- an extra month of work without extra pay. A new social order is emerging, more unequal, more divided, more impenetrable to those who seek to get ahead.

The U.S. fell from 8th to 22nd in wage inequality in the 1980s. According to a recent study, one percent of the people in the '80s got 60 percent of the country's growth. America is evolving a new social order, more unequal, more divided, more impenetrable to those who seek to get ahead. And although America's rich got richer in the 1980s, the country did not. Ten years ago, America had the highest wages in the world. Now we're tenth, and falling. We went from being the world's largest creditor to being the world's largest debtor. The stock market tripled, but wages went down. "

There he seems to talk about the two Americas. The prosperous America of the rich, and the struggling America of the working class. He is in the election to help the working class, but in the second half he offers his plans for helping them. How is he gonna help our country and our workers? - mostly through economic growth.

The One Solution - economic growth

At this point, many are probably thinking. Well, what could be wrong with that? In a society that constantly teaches that more is better and that growth is not only good, but the only alternative to death, growth is taken for granted by most people to be a good thing. My main problem is that it is a validation of greed, of selfishness, basically of the rat race. Here's how he describes the purpose of education.

"It means giving every young American who works hard and plays by the rules a chance to get ahead:"

There is the goal. Not a good life. Not a chicken in every pot or a car in every garage. Not service to others or compassion for the needy. But to "get ahead". That can be a motivator, no doubt, but it also seems to be a recipe for personal and social unhappiness. I am not happy bicycling or taking the bus, because other people have cars. I am not happy with my car, because other people have nicer cars. I am not happy wherever I am, unless I am "ahead" of other people.

So there we are in the 1980s, one of the richest countries in the world. A country that uses more than its proportionate share of the world's resources. And what do we want? More! More! More! And when do we want it? Now! Now! Now! Just like that ad using that Queen song that I love, the advertising people always enourage everyone to "want it all", and to "want it now!"

"Together, we can build a new American community that honors individual achievement, neighborhood security, economic growth, academic and corporate excellence, government efficiency, and national strength. The new American community will summon -- by example, encouragement, by exhortation, and sometimes by law -- a new spirit of service at every level of our society."

How rightwing that all sounds - individual, security, growth, excellence, efficiency, strength. Those are all code words to me. There is nothing wrong with them per se, except when you make them the over-riding standards. Individual over co-operation. Security over conviviality. Excellence over humanity. Growth over moderation and balance and perspective. (Is too much really never enough? When will you finally say 'no mas'?). Efficiency over compassion. Strength over friendship (a bully to be feared versus a respected friend.)

Michael Harrington made this point so well. Some people were complaining about mine safety regulations, showing that those regulations resulted in lost productivity (gasp! Inefficiency. Slower growth.) Harrington pointed out that they resulted in SAVED LIVES. Corporations always value efficiency, growth, productivity, and profit. Those are corporate values. Saved lives, reduced injuries, the personal well being of their workers, reduced pollution. Those are all things that get in the way of economic growth, that slow the progress of the forward stampede of the rat race.

Clinton calls for service at the conclusion of his speech.

"So that citizens will serve their families and their consciences; managers will serve their workers; corporations will serve their clients and their customers; executives will serve their shareholders; elected officials will serve the national interest; and government will once again serve our people."

But service to what ends? For what purposes?

"And when we build this community, this mutually reinforcing fabric of rights and responsibilities, challenges and commitments, America will rise above the perils and uncertainties of this moment, and become most productive, most prosperous, most energetic, and most respected nation in the world again."

The goal is the same as it has been in American history - more money. To make America "productive", "prosperous" "energetic" and "respected". That sounds like a really fast rat who thinks he can win the rat race, that any rat can win if they only train hard enough.

He seemed to miss the message of the 1960s, that even the winners of this race are losers. That it is the race itself that is the problem. It's a race that everybody loses, even the lead rats.

As it turned out, the first "Boomer" President was not a hippie. He was a yuppie.
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