Hard to Get Excited

I've been less enthusiastic than some of my fellow Obama-ites.  Yes, we made history.  Yes, we made the right choice.  Yes, we'll eventually turn the country around.  Yes, it would have been a disaster if McCain had won.  I'm just finding it hard to be enthusiastic about the whole thing, and it's because I think the damage has already been done. I was very supportive of Senator Obama while he was running.  I gave money in small amounts - $25 here, $50 there.  I changed minds within my own circle of family and friends.  I didn't get to events, rallies or phone bank dial-fests, but I'll get to that in a minute.  I really wanted to get involved with this campaign and use the Internet as a focal point for activity.  Unfortunately, most of what I saw from Senator Obama, right up until the financial crisis really came to a head, was the use of e-mail as a fundraising mechanism.  It seemed like at every turn, Obama's people or the DCCC were asking for money, and I was left wondering what else I could do than plunk my credit card down.

Then the bailout came.  I was so frustrated that both McCain and Obama voted for the bailout that I stopped giving money to Senator Obama altogether.  I understand that it would have been a huge political challenge for Senator Obama to come out against the bailout, but anyone with any sense of intelligence could see that the bailout represented throwing good money after bad.  We should have let the free market decide.  Instead, firms that should have gone out of business will waste our money for a while before going out of business at some later date, or they'll hoard the money and continue to avoid loaning it out, or they'll use it to enrich their executives.

So I stopped giving money after the bailout vote.  That's when I started to see Senator Obama doing all sorts of really cool things to rally support using the Internet.  If I hadn't been so disgusted, I probably would have gone to one of the Obama parties in my neighborhood and dialed up likely voters in Pennsylvania.  I might have bought stickers and t-shirts.  I might have downloaded Obama's iPhone app and used it.  I was so disgusted, though, that I didn't.  It makes me feel crappy that I didn't participate like I wanted to, but I'd feel even crappier today if I had.

Obama was the right choice, but he's now going to spend much, if not all, of his first term dealing with the magnitude of the error he and his fellow senators and congressmen have made.  Key players in the financial industry looted the economy by telling all of us, essentially, that we needed to turn over a huge sum of money or the economy would collapse.  Despite many smart people saying that turning over $700 billion wouldn't do a damned thing, we did it anyway.  And it turned out pretty much the way we thought it would - the financial industry said "thanks" and continued screwing us.

So when we think about how Barack Obama was going to change the course of things and fund programs that made sense for our country, we wonder whether he'll be able to get things done.  $700 billion is a lot of money.  (And the impact is actually a lot greater.)  $700 billion is around $2,300 for every man, woman and child in America.  That much money simply vaporized - it was used to pay a ransom, essentially.

I've got three in my household.  If you average the $700 billion out over the U.S. population (yes, I know this isn't the right way to illustrate things, but I want people to understand the magnitude of what we're talking about here.) then the government gave $6,900 to corporations on behalf of my household.  In an instant.

My heating oil bills just doubled.  Even at the new, inflated rate, though, $6,900 heats my house for an entire year and gives me $1,500 left over.  $1,500 fills up my truck with gas for six months.

When I start thinking about things in these terms, it's hard to believe that we're going to be able to accomplish many of the goals Barack Obama wants to try to meet.  It's easy to keep chanting "Yes, we can!" but until I start seeing some concrete plans for getting us out of this mess, those are just empty words.

Sure, we might make some social progress, and I'm excited about that.  But when we talk about increasing the quality of life for the average American, and closing the gap between the haves and the have-nots (or, rather, the ultra-wealthy and everybody else), I remain skeptical.

I have nothing against being ultra-rich.  What I have a problem with is the ultra-rich staying ultra-rich by force rather than through playing by the rules.  When people who have money can put a gun to our heads and our government just gives them whatever they want, they haven't played by the rules.  They've stolen our well-being.  And shame on our government for letting it happen!

Until we all get smart and we learn to see these things coming, we're not going to be able to keep these schemes from unfolding and continuing to rob our society of what it needs to grow closer to being a true meritocracy.  And when people feel like there's nothing they can do to keep the ultra-rich from plundering our society - watch out.