Sunday, August 7, 2011
No More Days of Wine and Roses
I got a flyer in the mail this week from the Pacifica Graduate Institute in California, inviting me to join writer and therapist Ginette Paris for a "heartbreak clinic," intended to "understand what happens in the brain when we are heartbroken," and to develop strategies for navigating the darkness and beginning the healing process. But it was one particular statement that really set me thinking--which was that, in the psychic realm of mourning, the brain does not distinguish among various types of loss. Whether it happens to be loss of love, professional identity, country, vocation, health, youth, or wealth, loss is loss. The unexpected insertion of the word "country" on this list is what got my attention and struck a chord. I realized that I am now grieving the loss of my country.
Truth is, over a long lifetime, I have actively experienced all the other losses on this list at one time or another. And since these days I no longer have a salary and currently survive mostly on income from investments, I am also bracing for an imminent loss of wealth. If/when the stock market crashes, my clean, well-lighted days of wine and roses will also come to an abrupt and unkindly end. I expect I will endure these losses as I have previously endured all the others, and certainly when it comes to wine and roses, I have had my fair share. (Item: I once received three dozen long stemmed red roses from the writer Michael Crichton, after he had dined at my house in London, having been invited by Jasper Johns, who was staying with me at the time. Jasper became very cross when he discovered that I had no suitable vase to put them in.)
But this time, unlike others in the past, the failure to come to an appropriate congressional agreement may just sink the global economy, which is already on life support. This time the growth economy will probably not come back. Stock portfolios will not rebound again in the foreseeable future.
That said, we really didn't have to lose our triple AAA credit rating, and along with it, the respect and trust of the world. Before the rotten deal was struck, credit agencies had warned the president exactly what was needed to avoid a downgrade: at least $4 trillion in deficit cuts, and some revenues on the table. The president knew it, and John Boehner also knew it. The deal they put together followed those guidelines. But the Teasies and their corporate backers wanted to make a stink. They wanted to show everyone who was boss. Some of them even salivated over default as a good and great thing. In the end, they would only allow passage of a smaller, weakened bill that would not fulfill the necessary parameters. It was a given that this bill would not stave off a downgrade in our credit rating.
Along with everyone else, Standard and Poor's took note of the mayhem and were duly appalled. In the end, America was downgraded, not because of the size of its debt, but because of its political brinksmanship--and a perceived inability on the part of the U.S. government to come together and rectify its problems. The political brokenness was on full view, for all the world to see, Extreme polarization had resulted in paralysis. The lack of any remaining moderates, of the sort who used to engineer compromises, was obvious to all.
On page 4 of the official Standard & Poors' report on what they did and why, published on August 5th as the explanation for why they believe Congress--and even the as yet unformed Gang of Twelve--will be unable to actually deal with the US debt crisis, states: “We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.”
The final outcome, however, now provides Republicans with the perfect opportunity for attacking Obama's leadership, To blame the Tea Party, if you are a Republican, is absolutely off limits, a recipe for sudden death, and nobody is willing to risk it.
And so, the new GOP mantra issues daily from the rancid mouth of Mrs. Electrico (and wannabe presidential candidate) Minnesota Republican Michelle Bachmann: "President Obama has destroyed the credit rating of the United States through his failed economic policies and his inability to control government spending by raising the debt ceiling. He is destroying the foundations of the U.S. government one beam at a time." You better believe it!
In an essay that appeared recently on truthout.org (which is also where I found the illo for my blog of today), Noam Chomsky has this to say: "Another common theme, at least among those who are not willfully blind, is that American decline is in no small measure self-inflicted. The comic opera in Washington this summer, which disgusts the country and bewilders the world, may have no analogue in the annals of parliamentary democracy.
The spectacle is even coming to frighten the sponsors of the charade. Corporate power is now concerned that the extremists they helped put in office may in fact bring down the edifice on which their own wealth and privilege relies, the powerful nanny state that caters to their interests."
So, if the market tanks, and Michelle Bachmann becomes president of the United States, I expect I'll be jumping off my roof--that is to say, if at that point. I still have one.