Now that Barack Obama has been hanging out in the Oval Office for a whopping two weeks, he’s starting to show his true colors. Turns out those colors aren’t bright blue. They’re purple, with a red tinge. Obama has bought into the Calvin Coolidge notion that, “The business of America is business.”
In other words, damn the torpedoes. It’s full steam ahead for the idea of economic growth, even though Obama surely knows the days of economic growth are behind us.
Obama is well-informed, and he’s intelligent. He must know the 0.5% annual decline in crude oil during the last three years has plunged us into our current economic turmoil. And he surely knows the International Energy Agency has projected an annual decline rate of 9.1% starting this year. He knows the empire lives on cheap oil, as Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez recently explained. Obama knows that a 9.1% decline translates to world oil extraction at the end of his first term approximately matching that of 1970, when the world was far less industrialized than it is today, and when the world’s population was approximately half today’s 6.7 billion. As Chris Hedges points out, “It’s Not Going to Be OK.” Hedges doesn’t even mention unemployment is at 18% and skyrocketing, GDP is at -4% and freefalling, and we haven’t even begun to scrape the economic bottom yet. When (if?) stock traders catch a clue, capitulation could happen overnight.
The “solution” couldn’t be more obvious: Keep pushing the idea that we’ll grow our way out of this mess. Keep adhering to the ideology of a cancer cell, growth for the sake of growth. To make sure everybody’s on board with Mission Impossible, Obama has began populating his administration with Republicans. This makes sense, if only because we are all Republicans now.
Consider, for example, Obama’s recent selection of Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire as Secretary of Commerce (a position made available when Bill Richardson bailed out due to ethics issues). Not everybody thinks this is a good idea, in part because Gregg has earned a lifetime rating of 4% from the AFL-CIO, the obvious flagship group the Commerce Department’s actions should be targeting. Now that Republicans have very little power at the national level they’re warming to the idea of bipartisanship in ways I never dreamed possible when they controlled the House, the Senate, and the presidency. Obama is trying to appease the right, knowing his base will put up with anything he does, at least for a while. My initial thought about Obama’s selection of Gregg: The Democratic governor of New Hampshire will appoint a Democrat, thus giving the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate.
But, no. The governor has already agreed to appoint Gregg’s hand-picked successor. If anybody still thought we had a functional two-party system in this country, you should be disabused of that quaint notion by now.
Which brings us back to Chris Hedges and his recent assessment, which begins thusly: “The daily bleeding of thousands of jobs will soon turn our economic crisis into a political crisis. The street protests, strikes and riots that have rattled France, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland will descend on us. It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability.”
For many years, I thought Sinclair Lewis nailed it in his 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here: “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Now I’m inclined to believe we need to put a little twist on the genius of Lewis: “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a disposable diaper and carrying an iPod.”
Looks like we’re there.