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Perspectives

Chris Jepson

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I do not particularly blame either Congress or the presidency for where America has arrived in 2010. It would be disingenuous to do so. How in a representative democracy can you hold harmless the brain-dead electorate who elect these numb chucks in the first place? The American electorate is ignorant, infantile and just out and out goofy.

I am somewhat sympathetic with Tea Party folks, right up to the point where they place the blame exclusively on Washington, as if that somehow exonerates them (us) from our civic duty to 1. thoroughly understand the issues and 2. vote intelligently. That a majority of Americans do neither is the crux of the problem for our nation.

The Greeks, the Athenians specifically, came up with the word "idiotis." It meant any man who was blandly indifferent to public affairs. An idiot in other words. Indifferent, ignorant, infantile. And idiotic. That is your fellow American.

The current "vogue" on the right is to preach or make the claim of American exceptionalism. As a student of history I can and do appreciate how and under what circumstances the U.S. came into being and the values that our "Founding Fathers" prized as outlined in our Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The talk of being exceptional, however, strikes me as comically juvenile, something the genuinely insecure require to validate themselves. If America can "truly" make the claim to exceptionalism, it is an exceptionalism that today is tarnished and compromised. We have become like every other imperial power historically. How exceptional is that?

As a liberal, a progressive if you will, I am astounded by my fellow baby boomers. Folks, the only way that our nation can do anything from a social perspective is to have our financial house in order. We need taxes in line with expenditures. To clean up the environment, to educate our children, to have efficient and effective transportation, to have art (in all forms) that inspires, requires a vibrant economy capable of producing wealth sufficient to fund these priorities.

First, let's put Social Security on the table. Two things need to occur — in combination with one another. All income needs to be taxed for Social Security purposes. Retirement ages need to be extended. We're going to have to work longer, people. Determine the formula of revenue vs. benefits and do the deal that puts this program on a long-term sustainable mode. All will pay more and all will work longer. That is realistic. That is mature. That is what is required.

Second. If we are incapable of having a single-payer health care system because we are so myopically tied to the illusion that capitalism is the only answer to providing "quality" health care, well, that simply won't cut it from a financial solvency prospect will it? Either we actually control health care costs or we cut benefits? Like Social Security, our health care system must be sustainable. Expensive end-of-life care has to be brought under control.

It is asserted that a minimum of 25 percent of all Medicare expenditures are for end-of-life services for dying folks during the last year of their lives. That is an obscenity. The old, and I count myself among them, need to man-up and learn to die with dignity. If you are 80 years old and require a new heart or kidney, well, get in line. If you're fat and diabetic and your kidneys are giving out because you refused over your life (It's really hard to diet!) to responsibly eat, that's tough. Life's tough. If you've smoked for the past 30 years and you're a wheezing asthmatic with circulatory problems, please don't expect scarce public dollars to underwrite your poor health care choices.

I'd much rather that money provide services to our children or for public health. We've only so much revenue available for so many people. If the two are out of sync (which they are), it is unsustainable. Again, a mature, realistic electorate would understand this and demand responsible behavior from ourselves and our elected officials in order to achieve it. But we aren't mature. We aren't realistic.

Our congressional goofs are the biggest hypocrites going. Ask any of them if they want to "fix" Social Security and they'll cue immediately in the line for reform. Ask them for specifics on how to fix it and they'll become a bunch of mumbling monkeys. Know why? Because all they want is to get re-elected and we the electorate don't have the brains or cojones to demand that decisions need to be made now that will require more taxes and longer individual work lives. Same goes for health care. Either we raise more money and/or provide fewer services in order for our current health care model to continue or we inexorably bankrupt ourselves. And the specific alternatives offered by Republicans are no more than simplistic, idiotic slogans about letting capitalism be unchained to do its magic (Magic? See current recession). Yeah, right.

We are at a crossroads folks requiring that we bring our budget in line with our resources. Everything has to be on the table for revision and recalibration. Social Security, Medicare and national defense are the only three areas where we can realistically get our budget in line with revenues. Ask your congressman to speak honestly about all three. Ask them specifically if they want to cut Social Security benefits? And then laugh in their face.

We are an imperialistic, jingoistic nation and have been since the 1840s. We are constantly preparing for war or are at war. We do not mind our own business. We are meddlesome and aggressive. And we've allowed our military industries to corrupt our nation and our democracy. We have more than 700 military bases abroad! And we spend 45 percent of the entire world's expenditures on war or preparing for war. Our nearest rival spends 8 percent. Presidents Washington and Eisenhower, generals both, presciently warned us exactly what would happen to America. And we the citizens have allowed it to happen because we are indifferent, uninterested or too stupid to care. (Google: Chalmers Johnson).

We spend nearly a trillion a year on war or preparing for war (or for the euphemism of "homeland security"). It is killing us, literally. It is killing us financially. It is killing us democratically. It will destroy us as a people and as a nation. We are, America is, imperialistic. Imperial Rome is gone. Imperial Spain is gone. Imperial Britain is gone. Imperial America is inevitably gone, too. And should be.

We will not get our economic house in order unless we redefine who we are as people and what kind of a people we are among the family of nations. We have for so long been such a belligerent, imperialistic nation that we either reconnect to what our Founding Fathers envisioned for America internationally or we succumb to what we have become — an arrogant, militaristic tyrant that will inevitably stumble and fall. A failed state.

Either we get smart as an electorate and fix our economic mess (Social security, Medicare and our Imperialism appropriations) and redefine as well our role internationally or it is just a matter of time until we join the rather long list of "has-been's" in the dustbin of history. "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Either we get rid of our imperialistic ways or our empire shall have its revenge. It will, literally, consume us all.

Raise your hand now if you think any meaningful change is going to happen. And where, my fellow citizen, will the fault lie? For the failure of America?