The United States is in a sorry state because it elects leaders who cannot see beyond the next election and whose policies are dictated solely by the profit motive. They don't consider the consequences of their actions, what's beyond the next bend in the road or over the next hill. They don't contemplate the lessons of history and so they usually repeat it.
Government by such as these -- what Bush the First contemptuously called "the vision thing" -- offers no hope for digging out of the terrible hole we're in.
In a recent discussion, an engineer friend agreed with my statement that we've got the technology right now to run our vehicles with cleaner engines that don't use fossil fuel. He shrugged and said, "As soon as they figure out how to make money on them, they'll start making them." I inferred that he was OK with that . A preponderance of his fellow Americans share the same attitude.
If you're in Congress, or in the White House, or in a governor's mansion, you know that pandering to the industries stuck in the present, earth-polluting, climate-changing but obscenely profitable operating systems, and taking their bribes and calling them "campaign contributions," is a sure path to re-election.
And the jobs you're re-elected to are the easiest jobs in the world. If you're a legislator, you don't need to understand anything about science, education, war, history, finance or social responsibility. You just take the bills ALEC writes, sign your name as a sponsor, and send them to committee as your own. When they reach the floor you vote for them. If you need extra cash despite all your graft, you telegraph hesitancy to support this or that bill and, presto!, a lobbyist for the special interest involved will appear with a handful of cash for you.
Whether you hold a legislative or elected executive job, you hire spokespeople who wite and talk the same doublespeak advocated by the likes of Frank Luntz. In this cockamamie dialogue things are what you call them, not what they really are. It's a world populated by "financial cliffs," say, or "sequestration," or "entitlements." These are all scarecrows, designed to sow fear among the people in order to obscure the ever-growing power of oligarchs and big business over every aspect of their lives. In a smiliar vein, "collateral damage" or "enemy combatants" become the useful euphemisms for the horrors of murder, assasination, torture and endless incarceration that our government commits in our name.
If you're President Obama, your rhetorical flights to neverland mask the import of your policies to serve our real overlords. You nominate Penny Pritzker, the bankster who funded your rise up the political ladders, to be Secretary of Commerce; Jack Lew, a gofer for the very too-big-to-fail banks that almost destroyed our economy, to be treasury secretary; Rep, Mel Watt of North Carolina, who is owned by Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other insurancce and lending industry corporations, to oversee the mortgage shenannigans of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. You proclaim the need to assure that every man, woman and child in this country is guaranteed decent health care, and then sell out to the profit-rich drug makers, chain hospitals and insurance giants so they can further engorge themselves on profits written in our blood.
You shy away from commitments to the environment, the social safety net and government spending to enhance the lives of the people. You don't even think about the inevitable outcome: a war-mongering police state run by a handful of the richest among us while everyone else becomes the poorest among us, wallowing in hunger, poverty and fear.
That will be the legacy of our short-sighted so-called leaders, who can't see beyond the next bribe or rigged election.
Maybe the next attempt to build a democratic republic of the people, by the people and for the people -- wherever and whenever it takes place -- will learn from our mistakes. That's the best we can hope for.