This image by Barry Blitt tells the story of Frank Rich’s latest column in haunting elegance. The Bush Administration and the fully complicitous Republican party are doing more than Madoff – they are getting off Scott Free for major travesties to the laws and stature of the US Government. Yet the Obama team is reluctant to take the time and have the ensuing partisan rancor during a period of enormous economic and political peril foisted on the country by this President and his Party.
But wait a second, this is a GOP party that got a majority in Congress for 6 of 8 Bush years. And this is a President that won more than half the popular vote in 2004 election and decidedly less than half the popular vote in 2000. If Al Gore had been President – he would have connected the Dots and there would have been no 9/11. There would have been a Kyoto Accord and already a movement away from dependence on foreign oil and the 8th year of a Green Revolution. There would not been the wholescale ceding of manufacturing jobs to Southeast Asia. Microsoft would have been split into two parts – the Web based MSLive company that would be challenging not losing to Google and the Desktop+ Server Group that 3 years later had split again and was now worth, like AT&T 20 years before, more than triple the original value of the organization.
The real crisis in Washington would be between the Autocrats of Business and Finance that say that markets work best when government stays out, and the Interventionists that argue that in the short term Adam Smith’s invisble market hand works well but strategically over the long term governments need to set the rules, the accountability, and the long term goals (including the tax incentives and investment rules) that will allow Business to move in their local market driven ways toward broader National and International goals.
But the fundamental problem confronting the US and many democracies is fourfold:
1)the electorate is slowly but surely ceding more vote and voice in government. Electoral turnout continues to decline even in 2008 when everybody agreed that this was an election which required participation – yet turnout declined in many areas;
2)the process is becoming ever more expensive – ballooning into nearly $2 billion for the US presidential election alone;
3)the issues are becoming more complex with globalization and environmental problems being typical – they are wicked problems that cross borders and interests in complex ways. The conundrum is that these issues are hard to understand among the experts let alone the effected voters(who may not be aware of how and to what extent they are effected);
4)the need to respond quickly and effectively is becoming ever more critical as the recent Financial Crisis has shown – a financial and fiscal meltdown still has not been averted despite rapid and unprecedented actions by the Treasury, Fed and other World Governments.
So how can the US Government be the Beacon on the Hill when
a)it has allowed the World to suffer a growing number of toxic failed States (think Zimbabwe, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, etc, etc);
b)sponsored a failed policy of Regime Change and condoned two others;
c)compromised many of its own Democratic principles in the process of doing so;
d)allowed Financial markets to bubble out of control in 30 years of decreasing regulation but increasing magnitude and frequency of crises/bubbles such that the current crisis is worldwide in scope and still out of control;
e)and as Frank Rich points out and Barry Blitt so caustically depicts, the US can’t even afford to examine and reform its own political processes and institutions that got us into this fine mess in the firstplace. That is the question that Frank Rich is inevitably posing – not does the US have the time to find out what was done in 8 years of unprecedented cronyism and corruption – but is there the ability and will among the public and the leading elites to confront, investigate and reform the conditions and processes that have enabled 8 Years of Bush+GOP Madoffs?