Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Failure of the Imagination

David Michael Green:

"[The American] condition represents an utter failure of the imagination, and therefore the startling ‘success' of the regressive framing effort. This limitation of what is conceivable and the concomitant diminishing of expectations is the greatest triumph of right-wing marketing, and it's Orwellian to its core. What makes it especially startling is that the alternatives in question are so commonsensical and so proximate in real life form, and yet even some progressives in America have been trained to lower their expectations enough to ignore the existence of these ideas and models. What could be more basic than removing gushing profits and massive bureaucratic waste from a country's healthcare system, especially one that is groaning so clangorously under the burdens of runaway costs? What could be easier to figure out than nationalized healthcare, when every other developed country in the world already does it? And yet such ideas were nowhere remotely near consideration throughout these long months of tortuous negotiations over ‘reform' of what actually amounts to the care of corporate health in America. And yet even the most pathetic feints in the direction of real solutions - a public option or the extension of Medicare benefits - were immediately dispatched with, so that the profiteers' victory could be unequivocally complete.

Military spending is another excellent example. This country drops twice as much on ‘defense' as what is spent by every other country in the world combined, and we do that despite having not a single state enemy (you know, the kind you could actually use such a military against) anywhere on the horizon. And we do that despite having a nuclear deterrent arsenal that means sure suicide for anyone stupid enough to invade America or even seriously provoke the country. But even if none of that were true, and even if we were spending just a little bit more than necessary for national defense, what might one logically expect of the character of political debate in a country that cannot afford to educate its students, cannot provide healthcare for its citizens, and cannot maintain its infrastructure? What about in a country that cannot do those things, and which also happens to be so deeply in the hole financially that the Treasury Department has been relocated to the floor of the Pacific Ocean? What would you expect to see in a country like that? Perhaps a wee discussion of spending those bucks a bit differently? Would that be so bizarre?

And yet, do we see such a conversation about reducing these obscene expenditures anywhere on the political landscape? Can anyone name a mainstream politician who advocates these views? Can anyone find a major political party saying we need to cut defense spending in half - so that we ‘only' spend as much as all the other 195 countries of the world combined - and then use the proceeds to provide healthcare for all?

We could go on and one here. Where is the great movement for saving the planet from the destruction of global warming, even if it means foregoing that SUV? Where is that most commonsensical call to divorce special interests and their money from American politics? Where are remotely sensible policies on guns or drugs or crime? And so on, and so on. None of this is even close to happening, and it is regressivism's great triumph in removing from the realm of the politically imaginable even those things which are so transparently sensible, even those things which exist en masse in every other developed democracy in the world, even those that fairly scream out for adoption at home."

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