Song of Sorrow or Call to Arms? Four Stratagems to Improve Our Politics

Song of Sorrow or Call to Arms? Four Stratagems to Improve Our Politics

Friday, August 12, 2011 - 6:47pm


The TakeAway:   While extremist politics dominate Washington, financial markets continue to seize, and US credit-worthiness takes a beating, advocates of sustainability and good governance need to stop moping and get off the bench. Here are four stratagems to reverse the tide: educate and engage a broader public, hold political candidates accountable, and support Bob Massie for US Senate.   

What a week this was: in the face of a double-dip recession, the Dow exhibits bipolar behavior, its wild volatility (including the worst trading days since September 2008) an apparent reaction to last Friday’s unprecedented downgrade by Standard & Poor’s of the nation’s debt rating, from “AAA” to “AA”.  President Obama hit the airwaves Monday afternoon, less than a week after signing a debt-ceiling bill that many believe is a complete capitulation to right-wing Republicans because it failed to include any tax increases while calling for massive cuts—which in the long run won’t make much of a difference. Adding insult to injury, Congress abdicated its authority to a 12-member “Super Congress” that supposedly will recommend at least $1.5 trillion of additional deficit measures, further concentrating public power in the hands of a few.   

Meanwhile, despite last year’s passage of omnibus financial regulatory reform, its opponents have taken to the courts while seeking to castrate the SEC by defunding its ability to make and enforce rules based on the law’s provisions. Unemployment remains at historic levels (9.1 percent), with nearly 14 million Americans out of work and more than 6 million of them jobless for more than six months. Income / wealth inequalities – exacerbated across racial and ethnicity lines – continue to rise, with most Americans unable to cope with a $1,000 emergency. This is a picture far removed from Washington’s political gamesmanship as politicians gear up for 2012 elections. Last night’s Republican debate was the opening salvo in what promises to be a dreary, dirty campaign season.

No wonder the public is fed up. A Washington Post poll reveals that three-quarters of the American people have little or no confidence in Washington’s ability to repair the economy. The vast majority are dissatisfied by the way the way our political system is working, and believe Washington is focused on the “wrong things”.  The decline in confidence has potentially profound implications for coming elections,” reports the Post, “although the anger appears directed evenly between the two parties.”

We’re suffering from a “failure of leadership,” opines the New York Times, telling us what we already know: that our elected officials have no sense of what we need, no empathy for our plight, and no apparently ability to speak our language, define the problem and call upon us all to rise to the occasion and fix it.

You’d think that in the face of this mess that my colleagues, who’ve dedicated their lives to sustainable prosperity and social justice, would rally quickly and use their power as civic change agents as effectively as they’ve used their power as private sector change agents.  You’d think that they would apply their recognition of the links between private prosperity and the public good and the overlapping interdependence of healthy ecosystems, and work to complete an incomplete picture of what’s wrong and what’s needed.

But you’d be wrong.


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