– Lewis Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly, Spring 2008
Only in such a country of complete contradiction could the warmongering John McCain emerge as the frontrunner for the presidency.
Begun in earnest under the reign of Ronald the Vague and Queen Nancy, the destruction of the second leg of the tripod of democracy is now almost complete. Sen. McCain is thus positioned to become the Herbert Hoover of the 21st century.
I don’t know about you, but with Great Depression Part Deux in the offing, I’d rather skip Hoover and go directly to a new Roosevelt.
But we are usually not that smart and probably won’t be again as we once again dumb down our voting to soundbytes of bigotry about guns, gods, gays and gringos.
Back when the non-privatized American educational system taught such useless disciplines as civics and history, students were informed that representative democracy can only survive if all three legs of its underpinnings are of roughly equal proportion.
Business, labor and government must balance each other for the republic to stand.
We never had a Big Labor. The highest percentage of unionization of our workforce came in the 1950s and 1960s, when one in three workers was represented by a labor organization. A peak in unionization combined with a fair and redistributive tax code and public investment in education and infrastructure gave us the strongest economy in the known history of this bloody world, peaking in 1968.
Then came 40 years of conservative rule and we’ve never been the same.
The average American worker hasn’t had an inflation-adjusted pay raise since 1973. Reagan declared war on organized labor within three months of taking office in 1981. He also famously declared that “government is the problem.”
George W. Bush is now completing the seventh term of the Reagan administration. Little Labor has shrunk to less than 10 percent of the private sector workforce. Dubya’s dastards have transformed “government is the problem” into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Other than Bush family corporate cronies and contractors, the only guys scoring big bucks off the carcass of democracy are authors documenting the scene of the crime. Not that any of the lurid exposés matter. Cheney and company know they can flout the law, the press and the public with equal impunity.
It thus comes as no surprise that our government has been lying to us in order to better pick our pockets.
In the cover story of the May edition of Harper’s magazine, GOP maverick Kevin Phillips demonstrates how key statistics have been manipulated to serve the gods of greed. It’s been a matter of record for years that national unemployment figures have been juggled by not counting the underemployed or those so discouraged that they’ve stopped job hunting. The real number is currently somewhere between 9 and 12 percent.
Back when I was forced to take Econ 1-A, we were taught that the country’s output of goods and services was measured by something called the gross national product (GNP), a term now properly applied only to celebrity pop culture and war.
Phillips notes how GNP was dropped for gross domestic product (GDP) in 1991 as a way to diminish the effect of rising international debt costs. GDP is now a worthless number, as is the hallowed Consumer Price Index. Beginning under the unlamented Jimmy Carter and continuing under his Democrat and Republican successors, the feds have cooked the books, cutting the official inflation rate by half or more.
Workers who got lowball raises and Social Security recipients robbed by the bogus CPI should be righteously outraged. Pennsylvanians might thump their bibles with their gunbutts in an outpouring of bitter umbrage.
“As Robert Hardaway, a professor at the University of Denver pointed out last September,” Phillips writes, “the sub-prime lending crisis ‘can be directly traced back to the [1983 Bureau of Labor Statistics] decision to exclude the price of housing from the CPI.’ ”
Harper’s is producing singularly the best and most readable coverage of the storms engulfing the nation. If you’re not scared now, you will be. I’ve been sending up warning flags for years, as have other commentators of all persuasions.
But our governments at the local, state and federal levels have not listened because they haven’t had to. Pandering to parochial interests has generally guaranteed re-election to mayors and presidents alike.
That time has not yet passed as President John Herbert Hoover McCain leads us back to the future.
Onward to 1929!
Adios to two great
Former Mineral County District Attorney and longtime Clark County Democratic Chairman Charlie Waterman, 79, died of a heart attack last Thursday in Las Vegas.
I first met Charlie during the 1973 legislative session when we worked to substantiate a rumor that a major oil company had capped a new gusher in the Nevada outback during the nation’s first energy crisis.
If Charlie hadn’t been an attorney, he could have made it as a standup comic. His political opponents over the years found nothing funny in the way he kicked their butts. Love him or hate him — and many often did both — Charlie was one wild and crazy magnificent son of a bitch.
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 363 (better known as the stagehands union) lost its president last week. Stuart Gale was 58.
Rest in peace, old warriors. You done good.
Green felt fuzzies
The gambling-industrial complex is inundating Nevada media with stories about how bad business has become. It will all disappear if the teachers union petition fails to score enough signatures when the circulation season closes. If the Nevada State Education Association qualifies its gross gambling tax increase for the November ballot, expect the cries of anguish to reach new levels. My heart bleeds.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail barbano@frontpage. reno.nv.us. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.