March 2, 2011

Settling in America (Overview and Opinion Alert)

Settling in America. Sounds like the title of a History Channel program, doesn't it? Settling, setting in roots, establishing a family dynasty, making waves, making wealth. Settling means all that. It also means settling for what is reality now. Settling not for excellence but for getting by. Settling for bad jobs, bad government, bad representation in Congress, finding love on the internet, finding knowledge in online schools that advertise and aggressively pursue students, settling for not enough rather than for ... put in your own dreams. Settling for letting dreams flutter away like those lunesta moths on commercials. And isn't that just the reason why lunesta and other sleep aides sell so well?

Now we can argue that perhaps people shouldn't dream about home ownership, education, good jobs, healthcare, or wealth. Perhaps we can even argue that government has no business being in the business of providing mortgages, tax breaks for homeowners, educational loans, work place regulation, Wall Street bailouts, or public funding for the Public Broadcasting Corporation. I disagree. I think the government should be in the business of making a difference in peoples' lives. It should be there pointing the way towards excellence, towards learning, towards a safe future for its citizens.

Sure, people overspent in the 1980s and 1990s and on. Sure, the people were egged on by the media to 'buy, buy, buy.' Luminaries like Allan Greenspan kept saying that we were in great shape. President Clinton boasted of reducing the deficit. President Bush said he had been handed a government in debt and then there was 9/11 and we citizens were all exhorted to make America strong...spend money. And truly all this persiflage was spamming the minds of the citizens.

So, my question is just when did we go off track in this country? Everyone will have their own opinion on this. But in my own life, I would have to say around the 1970s and 1980s. Those years saw more change than the 60s. I know, I know, the 60s were magical. Women stopped wearing bras, the English invasion of rock stars, short skirts and then real mini skirts with high heels, the Pill, Roe v. Wade, Twiggy, Vietnam, and all that folk singing. Exciting stuff.  Iconic times.

But in the 1970s and 1980s, we saw stagflation, no-fault divorce forcing more women into the workplace and away their kids, from being there to wipe bloody knees and care for them to relying on the television to keep the kids company during the day. We also saw the defeat in Vietnam, President Nixon, Vice President Agnew, Watergate, Disco (god help us!), the American Embassy takeover in Iran, President Carter's inability to deal with it, OPEC, demoralized citizens who felt that the revolution was right around the corner and began to build bunkers.

All of which laid the foundation for the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan. So far, so good. President Reagan had a positive effect on the morale of the country. No matter what you thought of the shape we were in, Ronnie was able to sooth, encourage and cajole when necessary. We ignored George Bush, Sr.’s comment of voodoo economics, those of us English majors who knew nothing of math. But even I suspected something was wrong, when President Reagan began his trickle down economic policies. I didn’t know what was wrong. I just felt I’d been sold a bill of goods by a huckster, a patent medicine salesman. See for an explanation. And, of course, President Reagan had plenty of advertising face time with General Electric and was an actor and politician.  He was really good at selling a bill of goods.

And the country has gone down hill from there.

At this moment in time, March 2011, Congress is split between people who honestly want to cut the deficit and those who are using the budget cutting issue as a bully pulpit to make the rich richer and the middle class into a poor relation that is not invited to the table to eat. The real question is does Congress support the people or the people who fund their campaign?

 The proposals that are being made to reduce the debt are ludicrous. God forbid that the politicians proposed long term solutions like honestly tackling medicare and social security, government fraud, and other abuses. The key phrase in the last sentence was 'honestly tackling.'  Oh, no, these politicians just go after short term fixes like reduce funding for abortion, pre-school education, educational loans, homeownership help, funding for families in need, and then redefining rape and when life occurs.  What bunkum!

And now these so-called budget cutters want to quit funding the Public Broadcasting Corporation. Getting rid of all the educational programming like Sesame Street or Front Line would continue this 'dumbing down' of the public forcing us to 'settle' for less. While it is not unconstitutional to cut public funding for PBS, it is against the ideals of the founders who felt that an educated citizen was the best defence against tyranny that democracies have. Think about it like this...the best way a tyrant can get into power is to keep citizens distracted. I am surprised, frankly, that the government doesn't fund reality programming and 24/7 news programs.

Let's not settle for less. Let's work for more.

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