OK, Mr. Obama, you have my heartfelt congratulations! A Chicago grassroots organizer is now president of the United States. That is a major accomplishment in and of itself. It is early in your presidency and I am pleased that you have dealt with some of the worst offenses of the Bush administration through executive orders, but I must say that your larger policies concern me greatly. GREATLY.
First, there is the matter of privacy vs. warrantless wiretapping and electronic spying on Americans. Your Department of Justice, Mr. President, not only supports but goes beyond the Bush administration in preventing government accountability for willful violations of the law regarding COINTELPRO-style electronic eavesdropping. Your DOJ recently argued that the U.S. possesses “sovereign immunity” from misconduct lawsuits. Yet you pledged government accountability during the campaign. Strike one.
Then there is the matter of giving away billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to the same capitalist bankers that helped loot the public treasury in the first place. They must be laughing all the way out of the bank while our money goes to offshore accounts just as fast as they get their grubby hands on it. I got news for you: giving money to the banks is not going to stop the coming depression.
It seems to me that someone with ties to the Chicago grassroots community would bail out the unemployed and working poor first so that people do not lose their homes to the Wall Street thieves; to make sure that everyone has adequate food and access to health care whether they have a job with benefits or not. As you know, companies are laying off employees, eliminating health benefits, cutting back on retirement, and reducing hours in order to save money. What are people supposed to do? Starve? Turn to crime? Strike two.
Now I hear that you are asking Congress for more than $83 billion for continuing the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I remember very clearly what you said during the campaign and I even made a ringtone out of it so everyone I am around is reminded as well: “When I am elected president I am going to end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home.” (Crowd cheers.) $83 billion will bring the total amount of money wasted on war up to $1 trillion.
One Trillion Dollars. That is One Thousand Billion Dollars! Or One Million Million Dollars! And there is no end in sight because you cannot fight a cowardly hit-and-run tactic like terrorism no matter how many people you kill and no matter how much money you spend in trying. Of course, the money enriches the military contractors who constantly lobby for more money. But the American people suffer; the Iraqi people suffer; and the Afghani people suffer. Osama bin Laden could have been captured years ago if Bush would have asked for the world’s help rather than insisting that the United States did not need help -- and then talking crazy about smoking evil-doers out of their holes. Bush was like a bad cartoon.
One Thousand Billion Dollars wasted while states scramble to find money to pay state employees, pay unemployment benefits, and pay for educating our children while teachers have to meet the unfunded burden of No Child Left Behind. States like Ohio are even looking at gambling to bring us out of of debt, as if the Wall Street gamblers have not done enough damage. Now the rich and super-rich casino operators will be holding us by the ankles and shaking us to make sure they get all of our money.
Casinos to pay for educating our children? What kind of craziness is this? Does this make sense to a Chicago grassroots organizer? Is this the way the United States should be operating? Isn’t there a more fair and equitable -- indeed, a more reasonable -- economic system that we could work toward? Shouldn’t we be making 5, 10, and 20-year plans in order to ensure that human beings are able to have a job, decent housing, health, dental and eye care, safe food, and clean air and drinking water? What has happened to our priorities in a nation that espouses freedom and democracy, yet leaves its citizens’ dreams at the mercy of the market?
Socialism may seem like a dirty word to the Wall Street bankers, casino operators, military contractors, FOX News anchors, and other assorted con men and thieves who now thrive in the every-man-for-himself jungle of international capitalism. But a nation can have both personal freedom and genuine democracy and take care of citizen needs. It’s not that hard. You nationalize the banks, utilities, oil companies, health care conglomerates and other major industries then run them in the public interest, not for private profit. You eliminate the profit-taking at the top and reinvest at the bottom. Imagine a wellness-based single payer health care system free of insurance tycoons who now have the audacity to step in and change a doctor’s orders because it would interfere with their profits? No more of that nonsense.
This does not mean that the United States become the Soviet Union. No one wants that. We make our own brand of socialism based upon our long-held belief in liberty and justice for all. We do not restrict personal freedom; we expand it. We welcome those immigrants now living and working in our nation by giving them the opportunity for citizenship. We pay everyone a living wage, provide expanded Medicare for all citizens, make sure that schools are fully funded, and we invest in green technologies to provide millions of jobs and get away from fossil fuels. We invest in rebuilding our dilapidated water and sewer systems, our bridges, our railroads, our inner cities. We develop high-speed rail. We use science to find new ways to improve our lives through research and development. We change outdated laws that now keep many non-violent offenders in prison and we use community policing and community corrections to focus on genuine rehabilitation rather than prison warehousing. We get government out of citizens’ bedrooms by permitting marriage unions between same sex couples.
Which road should a Chicago grassroots organizer choose? A road to individual prosperity and full-employment or the same old road where the rich man plays while the little man pays? We can rebuild our infrastructure or watch it crumble as roving gangs go from neighborhood to neighborhood stealing whatever they can. We can rethink our priorities on taking care of ourselves as citizens or we can watch our prisons become the number one industry in the nation. We can develop new green transportation now or do nothing as gas prices skyrocket to $10 or more per gallon.
Strike three? Let’s be real before you swing at the next pitch. The United States is a mess and there are no easy solutions or quick fixes. This ain’t McDonald’s. Social and economic change takes time and a willingness to sacrifice now so that future generations will not have to. Rebuilding infrastructure takes time, perhaps even more than one generation. Can we accept a way of life in which we may not see the benefits in our lifetime? It takes time to convert from a “me” society that leads the world in the consumption of fossil fuels to a “we” society that has a low carbon footprint. Until we can produce millions of electric commuter cars, we may even have to ration gas at some point, making sure that fuel goes to farmers and distribution outlets before personal use in automobiles.
Many sacrifices, some of which are unpredictable now, must be made so that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren can live in a humane nation that prioritizes its needs and produces to meet those needs. If we fail to act soon, our children will be living in a fascist dictatorship where nothing is provided or guaranteed by government, including Social Security; where fuel is unavailable and food is not affordable for most people; where brown-outs and blackouts are commonplace as the electric grid fails from the lack of upkeep; where clean drinking water is unavailable because polluters have lobbied against regulations that impede their profit-taking; where few people can afford health insurance and those without the ability to pay up front are turned away by armed hospital guards. This is not science fiction. This is a glimpse at the future unless we, collectively, as citizens, demand of our leaders that we take a different road now.
Which road should a former grassroots organizer choose? The count is 0-2.