If you've been paying attention to the news these days, you know that the US is in deep economic do-do (a technical term I learned in Econ 101 at OSU).
Bush, Cheney, and their Congressional Republican minions have run the economy into the ground with their tax-break-and-spend policies. They handily eliminated the Clinton budget surplus years ago and continue to build the LARGEST budget deficit in history. Their oil man perspective on energy and environmental policy has not only led them to ignore international treatees on reducing global warming but also to work against any regulations that would encourage fuel-effiecient cars or meaningful research into alternative fuels. Being "anti-big-government" (except when it pertains to gay marriage or abortion), they also turned a blind eye to risky lending practices, which have now created a stagering mortgage crisis across the country. If all this is not bad enough, gas prices are over $4/gallon in some parts of the US and rising; automakers are closing plants and laying off thousands of people; the dollar has tanked on world markets; the stock market keeps slipping; people are losing their homes and jobs; and the Chinese are beating the pants off us at our own games (ie, capitalism and conspicuous consumption of energy-- not baseball).
Whew.... what a list. So, why don't we have a parilentary system, so we could have voted these self-serving, self-rightous oil barons out of office before they destroyed our country? I digress...
Tonight, my question is: Franklin and Jimmy, where are you when we need you most? Of course, I'm referring to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter.
In the 1930s, the US was in dire financial straits; there was a banking crisis; people were losing their jobs and homes; and stock market volitlity led to huge loses. Hmmmm.... sounds familiar! Anyway, what did FDR do? Did he send everyone a $300 economic stimulus check so they could buy cheap imported goods? Noooooo.... he created social programs to give poor, sick, and elderly people a safety net and created jobs programs to put people to work. The alphabet soup of public works programs created by FDR went a long way to fix and build US infrastructure-- roads, sidewalks, parks, dams-- while giving people the work, money, and self-esteem to rebuild their lives.
We have people out of work, and we have infrastructure problems. Why not put the two together?
1) Politicians lack political will and long-term vision to take dramatic steps (even if they would benefit millions of people).
2) Sending checks is easier and very popular in an election year.
3) Sending us $300-600 dollars to spend not only helps some citizens but also helps business-- if we buy something.
4) Giveaway gimmicks are good PR amongst the poor and less educated. (Ok, sorry to sound elitist, but given some level of sophistication, you recognize the stimulus package for what it is.)
So, I've made a case of FDR, but why, you ask, do we need Jimmy Carter, too? Those of us who were around in the late 1970s, remember the last "energy crisis"-- long lines at the gas pumps, rising prices. Jimmy made a series of presidential tough-love, tighten-your-belts speeches on TV. He called on the nation to reduce energy consumption and to work together to develop an energy policy that would reduce our dependence upon foreign oil. He encouraged us to buy fuel-efficient cars, turn down our thermostats in the winter (55 at night and 65 during the day), and put on a sweater. (He wore a sweater when he gave one of these speeches.) I drove a Datsun B110 in the 1970s-- 40mph. People used to brag about the milage of their cars!!!! (Check out his speeches on YouTube.)
What is our president doing about our current energy crisis? First of all, you can't call it a crisis or people would really panic (especially since they're losing their houses and jobs, as oil and food prices rise). Are Bush and Chaney (his boss) asking people to conserve? Hell no! (Conservation is for wussies; that's what Ronald Reagan taught us.) Their solution is more oil production and exploration-- here and in the middle east.
What would the US be like today if we had re-elected Jimmy and continued to work toward energy independence? Sigh.....Of course, Americans aren't into sacrifice so we elected Ronny instead of Jimmy. Ronny said that there had been a "malaise" in the country and that now (with him as president) it was "a new day in America". Ronny (the great communicator) was selling us a "Don't Worry Be Happy" philosophy and we bought it. Magically, big cars were ok again, the energy crisis was a thing of the past, and global warming was a theory. Almost 30 years later, gas mileage for most cars is worse than it was in the late 1970s. Thanks, Ronny, George I and George II for allowing us to burry our heads in the sand, while you and your friends profitted from our ignorance.
So gasoline is fast approaching $4/gallon here in Arizona and has surpassed that mark in some states. This will put a dent in summer vacations, most likely, but what will the price of energy be in the winter when people have to heat their homes? This is a very scary thought, but, of course, except for NPR, no one in power is addressing this. (Winter is after the election, and, therefore, too far in the future.)
So, where are FDR and Jimmy when we need them? Will Barack Obama or John McCain be the type of strong, visionary president that we need now?