Guest Blogger

What's wrong with America?

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 06, 2010 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media, Politics
Tags: President Obama, right vs left

Editors' note: Guest blogger Carlos Mock has published three books and is the Floricanto Press editor for its GLBT series. He was inducted in the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame in October of 2007. He grew up middle-class in the suburbs of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

carlos mock.jpgPresident Obama has been our commander in chief for slightly more than a year. We were in Paris for two weeks recently and as we returned to Chicago/Michigan, I realized we are facing the same problems that we faced when we boarded a plane to Europe.

According to the right, "All of our problems are because Obama--who is not an American citizen--is a radical left wing ultra liberal Socialist/Communist who is surrounded by Hitler styled Chicago mafia czars hell bent on destroying the Constitution and our way of life."

According to the left, "All of our problems were caused by the brainless George W. Bush--a cocaine addict and an alcoholic--who allowed Dick Cheney, Carl Rove, and their neo-con mafia to abuse every power in our Constitution and got us into two wars and the biggest financial mess since the 1929 depression.

But perhaps our problems stem from the fact that the American political landscape has become a conspiracy of ignorance and invective, in which no problems get solved because everyone is too busy calling each other names. They are too busy passing the blame to the other, side that nothing gets done. The arguments presented by both political parties--for every important issue--has become ever more infantile. Our citizenry has been alienated--they've developed eyes that don't see, ears that don't hear and brains that don't work. We are too tired and defeated to care. The truth is:

  • It was Republicans, led by Phil Gramm, who started de-regulating the banks and investment houses.
  • It was Democrats who insisted we provide mortgages to folks who couldn't really afford them. The result was adjustable rate mortgages provided to people who could not pay, and then their mortgages were bundled into securities--known as derivatives--that were sold as investments, which became worthless.
  • This was a bipartisan effort that crashed the housing market and collapsed the banks and investment houses.
  • It was Republicans who used the Big Lie of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to conjure up an illegal war and Democrat lemmings who voted for both the war in Iraq and the abhorrent destruction of our Constitutional protections.

What no one wishes to hear, why we keep playing a blaming game is the fact that:

  • There have been two wars with a death toll exceeding 6,000 Americans, with nearly 35,000 wounded -- many grievously.
  • There was a bipartisan effort that led to both Wars that neither party knows how to end.
  • We have caused the death of over several hundred thousand innocent Iraqi people--and score of Afghans--and have displaced over two million of them--and when they helped us fight our war we abandoned them to a certain death. The USA has granted asylum to less than 1000 of the affected individuals in the region, leaving the surrounding countries--Jordan, Syria, and Iran--to deal with the three million refugees created by the two wars.
  • And in the meantime, The Bill of Rights is in shambles. We have a Constitution that no longer protects its citizens from an intrusive government. Elections are for sale to the highest bidder--thanks to the recent Supreme Court election finance decision--soon Congress will be controlled by corporations and not their constituents.
  • It may have been Republicans who were gung ho to outsource American jobs overseas to help their big business friends. But it was Democrats who supported unsustainable contracts in several industries to help their big labor friends. Both parties have caused manufacturing jobs to disappear by the millions and harmed the labor unions they tried to protect in the process.

It was a bipartisan effort that has turned us into a nation that exports waste and imports foreign-made goods we can't afford because our economy is crippled.

And to make matters worse, intransigent incompetence is now the rule. You've likely heard of the U.S. Senate needing 60 votes to pass legislation. There is no law that requires 60 votes--a simple majority of 51 is sufficient. Not anymore. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has placed a "blanket hold" on at least 70 of President Obama's nominations until he receives over $40 billion worth of earmarks for his state, and it takes 60 votes to end a filibuster so a vote can be taken.

In a scene that would have made Hollywood director Frank Capra proud. Republican Sen. Jim Bunning stood up courageously to stop Congress from committing a very popular move: sending unemployment checks to hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans. Democrats could hardly believe their good fortune. It was one of those congressional moments that tell you everything you need to know about why Washington doesn't seem to work these days: Neither side sounded like they were listening to themselves, let alone to anybody else.

The Republicans needed 60 votes when they were in power because the Democrats wanted to stop everything in its tracks and the Democrats now need 60 votes because the Republicans are engaged in the same shameless cause.

To me, what is most discouraging is that we know the root cause of our problems. It isn't Rush Limbaugh and it isn't Sarah Palin. It isn't the liberal pundits or the liberal media.

We elect these folks and then re-elect them over and over. Instead of demanding they listen to us, we keep listening to them. Instead of demanding solutions, we keep accepting their excuses. We form Tea Parties and are full of pretty speeches from our President searching for bipartisanship solutions. However neither of these actions will solve our problems.

We look at the source of this farce every morning in the mirror. The Truth is that we have met the "problem" and it is us. There is no one else to blame.

We returned home recently; nothing had changed since we left. What the hell is wrong with our country? I'll tell you what is wrong with America; get rid of the two party system and change our government to the Parlamentary system. You'll see how soon politicians learn to work with each other and get the country back to work. That's change you can believe in!

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"It was Democrats who insisted we provide mortgages to folks who couldn't really afford them."


A. J. Lopp | March 6, 2010 11:51 AM

The whole quote is this:

It was Democrats who insisted we provide mortgages to folks who couldn't really afford them. The result was adjustable rate mortgages provided to people who could not pay, and then their mortgages were bundled into securities--known as derivatives--that were sold as investments, which became worthless.

Yes, I agree with "kathygonome" that this point is mostly BS. The Democrats may have promoted fair housing and lending laws, but it was not the Democrats who invented adjustable rate mortgages and then signed up people who could not afford them. That was the fault of the banking industry, and the absence of regulations and oversight that could have prevented it. Moreover, the Democrats did not say that banks had to write loans on 3000 square foot houses when a 1500 sqft house would have been more appropriate for that family's income. Nor did the Dem's sell borrowers on the notion that their wages were guaranteed to rise faster than the future index of mortgage payments --- that was another fantasy pushed by the banking and mortgage industry.

Thirdly, Carlos does not mention that the mortgage industry was so deregulated that mortgage lenders could write bad loans, collect the commissions, and then almost immediately turn around and sell them on the paper market. It is on the other side of the paper markets where "their mortgages were bundled into securities--known as derivatives--that were sold as investments, which [eventually] became worthless." Since mortgage lenders could sell off the risky, time-bomb loans they were writing, there was absolutely no accountability in the mortgage industry.

I have other disagreements with Carlos's details here and there, but I won't bore people with them. I will say, though, that I agree with Carlos on his conclusion: our government is broken because of the representatives that the people elect and re-elect. The voting populace itself is so polarized that we elect candidates who we think can give the other side Hell --- it's the Republican/conservative voters who fantasize about somehow legislating the Democrat/progressive/liberals out of existence, and vice versa. Obama was wrong: there are two Americas, a Red one and a Blue one. And we do not want to work out our differences, instead we want a divorce from each other, or even worse, each side insists on trying to overpower the other. As long as we have this mindset, the unproductive family bickering will continue.

Fair lending also wasn't resulting in greater defaults. It has nothing to do with the crisis whatsoever. It's nothing more than an utterly false racist Republican talking point.

Until we can stop with the false equivalence and other lies about the reality of what is going on in the country, we are not going to get anywhere.

If anything politicians on the democratic side are listening far too much and using their own wisdom far too little--responding to every paranoid fear that the far right implants and capitulating on the things they know we need to do to save the country.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 7, 2010 8:18 AM

AJ, during my imprisonment in Palm Beach I, at a restaurant, sat across the table from a gentleman who I only met once. He was in this market and insisted he was helping people fulfill their dreams, but their completion of those dreams was up to them.

He also went into ecstasies of self congratulation about how the people he got into a house thanked him. Property at the time was increasing 20% per year in the county. They were selling appreciation in home values.

"OK swine," I thought to myself, "not only are you giving these folks a raw deal, you are somehow not even satisfied until they thank you."

One very notable musician was at this table with us, Yo Yo Maa, and it was hardly a gathering where you confront anyone about anything. I got my check and we left. We never "yo yoed" again.

Chitown Kev | March 6, 2010 2:38 PM

Like A.J., while I think we can quibble about the specifics here and there, I essentially agree with the the broad strokes of Carlos's analysis.

Blaming working-class people for the financial meltdown has to be one of the biggest coups ever scored by the politicians and fatcats. They would have us believe that it was all caused by wageslaves who were horribly irresponsible for trying to find a place to live and a future for their families.

The whole "sub prime" crises was a sham. The real problem is systemic; we have a situation where people have no real way of saving money, coupled with a philosophy in monetary policy that says consumption must be maintained at all costs. This lead to "printing" unprecedented amounts of money to keep the credit machine going, and "quantitative easing" that inflated housing prices across the board. So we end up with people flipping houses as "investments" with loans made at ridiculously low rates, because of their credit rating, in a game of hot potato. Then when the music stopped these "prime loan" people simply walked away from their investments, taking the loss on their taxes. And even that is the real source of the problem.

Does anyone really believe that all these 1950's crackerbox houses are suddenly worth 350k? That's inflation at work. We've been told the lie that inflation comes from a robust economy, and the solution is a simple tweak of interest rates. People also believe that the consumer price index is an accurate reflection of inflation, which it isn't. The new money entering the economy will be seen in the housing sector earlier than it will at the consumer end. That is due to the way the Fed engages its "quantitative easing" machinery, i.e printing money. They have quite a scheme going involving the largest financial intermediaries for accomplishing the goal of putting money in the economy. These are the famous "open market" transactions that are used to influence the money supply.

We've been told for the longest time that printing money will have no effect on inflation if it is offset by other actions such as raising the interest rates by the Fed. Accepting that as true, how high do you think they will have to raise them to soak up the now $1 trillion+ a year they are adding to the money supply?

This style of economist also tells us that there is no relationship between the money supply and inflation at all on other occasions- or they let that thought lie at the root of the discussion without addressing it when they pursue their policy objectives. But if you double the money supply with no accompanying increase in the output of the nation, what do you think will happen? And that is exactly the situation we've had over the last decade.

It's a subject worth studying if you are interested in the real causes of our economic troubles, and the political solutions that are playing out in the news right now.

The president is only the comander in chief of the armed forces. I'm a civilian, I don't have a commander in chief. Civilians are not to be commanded by a president.

diddlygrl | March 6, 2010 5:35 PM

I agree, we have met the enemy, and he is us.

When being in congress has become a profession and not a calling, then the spirit on which our republic was founded has been raped. There are no good congressmen and senators, just some that are less bad.

Democrats and Republicans are flip sides of a coin, but it's still the same damn coin.

The republicans in Congress have followed the tenet of Marx. "Religion is the opium of the masses." They have taken advantage of the ignorant and intoxicated condition of the masses and led them over the brink. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Knowledge is power." Every child born in this country that the republican Congress refuses to educate is one more weak link who soon will be intoxicated and following them and supporting them. Planned that way? I don't know. I'm not paranoid. But that is what's occuring. The ignorance if frightening.

Wait, is this post pro-bipartisanship or against it? Because calling out bipartisanship for the war and deregulation of markets doesn't make much sense with this:

The Republicans needed 60 votes when they were in power because the Democrats wanted to stop everything in its tracks and the Democrats now need 60 votes because the Republicans are engaged in the same shameless cause.

Dems weren't blocking everything republicans wanted. And I agree that's a bad thing.

But the problem isn't that Dems and republicans don't know how to work together, as the end of this post implies. The problem is that they're colluding on several levels to screw over working Americans.

And part of the problem is definitely us, although I'd say general confusion about the political process (as demonstrated in this post) is the biggest problem.

A. J. Lopp | March 8, 2010 4:22 PM
But the problem isn't that Dems and Republicans don't know how to work together, as the end of this post implies. The problem is that they're colluding on several levels to screw over working Americans.

Alex, I don't think we should waste time arguing whether the problem is A or B ... it is A and B ... plus possibly a few C's and D's that we haven't even identified here.