The Coming Four (Eight) Years

October 18, 2008 | By | 2 Replies More

Maybe there’s something wrong with me.  I am not enthused about the coming election.  I hope Obama wins, but only because I have had enough of the Republicans and their wistful, “wish it were 1952 again” attitudes, and the ideological leech they’ve been carrying around since 1980 that wants to turn the United States into a theocracy.  The fact that the Constitution actually does permit us to successfully fight that possibility doesn’t mean we can’t grow very, very tired of the effort.

But I’m not a huge Obama supporter.  I like a lot of what I see and hear, but I’ve learned to discount that.  Politicians, even when they tell the truth, are seldom capable of delivering on promises—the system is too complex and fluid—and I’m never sure where the gravy will go anyway.  What I have admired is Obama’s refusal to be pinned to the wall.  He seems to know that the most important thing is to keep one’s options open, because as much as he thinks he knows now about what’s going on, it has been clear to me that once someone wins the election, the subsequent “orientation” sessions coming into the White House must be hair-raising.  They hear things they had no idea were going on, things which doubtless change whatever they thought they were going to do.

Whoever wins will have three big foreign policy problems to deal with, as well as the ones that have become fixtures.  Pakistan, Iran, and China.  (Yes yes yes, Palestine, Russia, and the chaos that is Africa—but those are constant, always there issues.)

Pakistan is a problem because, despite the fact that it is a democracy, the ruling class has never—NEVER—considered “the people” worth considering.  They act like most such quasi-dictatorships and relegate the public to some category of irritant that must from time to time be molified.  This had led to a severe gap in aspiration between the two elements, which is why Pakistan can’t do much about the Taliban camped out in its western provinces.  They have been on the brink of an Islamic revolution for 20 years and unless something is done to rectify the dysjunction between The People and The Government, it will happen and it will cause us no end of grief.  Never mind Iran, Pakistan already is a nuclear power.

Iran is the biggest bully in the Middle East right now, but they are fragile.  We keep paying attention to Akmadinijad (sp?) and his rants, but he actually doesn’t run the country.  It may be possible to cut a deal with those who do, but it must be done carefully because they had pushed their people to the brink of another revolution, albeit one which may be less volatile than Pakistan’s.  Iran has a very modern-thinking population of young people who chafe under the Islamic rules imposed from above.  With this global financial collapse, Iran is actually teetering on the brink of insolvency—despite having huge oil reserves, they have no refineries to speak of (they buy gasoline from abroad) and their budget is stretched thin on any number of fronts.  They depend a lot on China for revenue.

Speaking of China, they have been buying debt.  Which for a while made them look like they were poised to start gobbling up markets and becoming some sort of financial superpower.  The problem is, debt is solvency.  If the debtors can’t pay, you have nothing but a promise.  And if we can’t service our debt and cut back on imports, well, China will find itself in a very difficult position.

But they are also flexing their aspirational muscles in other directions.  China is building its first aircraft carrier.  Very expensive and one must ask Why?  They have never been able to sustain foreign military adventures.  They do not have the logistical know-how to extend themselves militarily past their own borders.  We’ve seen this time and time again.  Vietnam, Korea, Russia.  So why an aircraft carrier?  Prestige?  Who would they target?  Or defend?

Taiwan, of course.  Stay tuned.

But getting back to the financial issues for a moment.  China has been attempting to buy its way into international markets for a long time now and has been filling in the gaps left by other financial powers, especially in Africa, but also int he Middle East.  Given the way the markets have been going, we have to ask what happens to all those new money roads they’ve been building if they suffer a collapse.  Whole economies are becoming dependent on Chinese investiment.  Chinese fragility is coupled with an absolutist self-serving protectionist viewpoint (much more severe than ours) and in times of crisis, they’d just abandon their commitments.  Where does that leave those parts of the world?

I have no answers, but I believe these will be the biggies for whoever inherits the Presidency this time, and they will have to be dealt with sooner than later.

Domestically?  Well.  Health care is, I think, primary, for many reasons, and it’s clear that McCain wants to get the government out of the health care business.  It’s going to implode and he doesn’t want government involvement at any level.  But that’s not realistic.

The problem neither candidate has addressed yet is the shortage in G.P.s, which is accute.  It won’t matter what you do to shift payments around if the price keeps going up because doctors over-specialize.  So-called primary care physicians are getting scarce on the ground because (a) medical school debt is HUGE and general practitioners don’t make the coin to pay for it and (b) malpractice insurance is distorting all other costs.  Both factors need to be addressed before costs start coming down.  Preventative medicine is the way to go, but saying that doesn’t help anything if there aren’t enough consulting physicians at the lowest level to counsel well care.

CEO compensation packages must be addressed.  I am loathe to see any kind of legislation limiting how much money a person can be paid, but it’s not the actual sums that are at issue.  It’s what those sums are paid out for.  If CEO pay was tied exclusively to improved performance of the company (not the stock), then the problem might correct itself, but if you pay someone that much just because the company didn’t do as badly as expected, then you have a fundamental disconnect.  That disconnect is exacerbated if while slowing the failure of a company is done while paying stockholders higher dividends from increased revenue from monkeying with the books, then you have a recipe for total collapse.  CEOs should only get bonuses while their companies are in the black and improving that way.

Alternative energy sources.  Another biggie and this one has probably the thorniest public relations problem.  The first thing we need to do is start telling people the truth about bio fuels and energy expectations—but that ties into education, which also needs reparing.  No Child Left Behind must be scrapped.

Just a few things that occurred to me while I was sitting here this morning.  And why I am not enthused about Obama.  He may well be the one to handle these issues, but I’m not going to put money on him being able to.  If anything, he has my sympathy.  No, I’m much more concerned about the congressional elections.  That’s where the power of this country really is.

Anyway, I just wanted to share some of these thoughts.  Have a good day.


Category: American Culture, Communication, Culture, Current Events, Economy, Education, Energy, Health, History, ignorance, Medicine, Politics, The Middle East, War

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

Comments (2)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Mark: I agree wholeheartedly that the real game starts in January. At that point, all of those promises made for the past two years mean nothing. What is the new President going to do, and what is he even capable of doing, given the immensity of the problems we face.

    Here's why I have supported Obama over McCain. Obama is a quick study in a world where the President needs to be a quick study. He has shown that he is quite willing to surround himself with very smart people and he listens to them. He has made it clear that war is a solution of last resort.

    In short, he will not be the sort of President who will start needless wars. That might sound odd, except that it is something that distinguishes Obama from McCain. McCain has a history of being a war-monger. McCain pushed hard to invade Iraq back in 2001. He made false and irresponsible statements attempting to tie Iraq to anthrax attacks. McCain has repeatedly made it clear that he would like to declare war on Iran. Wars are both morally reprehensible and incredibly expensive, however–the Iraq invasion has cost the U.S. unspeakable sums of money that could have been invested in smart ways that are too numerous to count. (see also here).

    Maybe Obama won't be able to pull off miracles, but he is not the kind of guy who will pull the U.S. into another unnecessary war. That is a huge difference, compared to John McCain.

    Obama has also demonstrated the social tools necessary to pull off difficult diplomacy. McCain, the warmonger, has not.

    McCain has also given us a huge reason to question his judgment. Her name is Sarah Palin. By picking Palin, McCain has also proven to us that he will be marching to the beat of the republican base. That base, because it is so viciously adverse to real-world evidence, has been responsible for Iraq as well as the Wall Street meltdown. The relish Middle East conflict and they scoff at long-standing Constitutional protections. Based on where they have brought this country over the past 8 years, the Republican base can't be trusted. Economically, the Republicans can't be trusted, as this dramatic graphic shows.

    Obama is facing immense obstacles, most dramatically the lack of money necessary to do most of what he plans to accomplish. Honest people know that the U.S. is bankrupt and that we are entering a new era of "pay as you go." It will take immense talent to hold the country together as the American way of life sags to new low levels. How do you do a great job for Americans without any money? I haven't the faintest clue.

    But one thing is clear. The next President should ascribe to the Hippocratic Oath: Do no harm. That would be a great advantage over the affirmative harmful policies of George W. Bush, policies supported, for the most part, by John McCain.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Noam Chomsky recommends that we vote against McCain and therefore for Obama, but "without illusions."

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