Sunday, April 03, 2005

Pity The Future

I never thought I'd ever say this, but George W Bush got one thing right. He's thinking way ahead. Okay, so the President's idea of Social Security Reform is one of the worst policy notions to come down the pike for a long, long time, but in one key respect it shows a healthy concern for one thing that politicians rarely pay any attention to at all.

The Future.

What separates different political philosophies is what each touches in the human spirit. Progressives, to a great extent, appeal more to the good in humanity; for example community, inclusivism, altruism. Conservatives appeal almost exclusively to what's base in human nature, such as individualism, greed, and ego.

What neither party appeals to, in this country at least, is the simple, inalienable fact that we are all only here for a short time, and are but guardians of the planet for future generations. Without us acting as wise stewards of our small and limited world, our children will not have it as good as we did, and something about that seems just plain wrong. Making things better for those to come is in our genes, it's the reason we procreate, it's our evolutionary mandate.

Ironically, human history molded a system called democracy which often encourages behavior which runs counter to this fundamental notion. We entrust our futures to those who believe in exploiting the present for the preservation of their own power, and choose between various parties and entities who's vision of that present and the immediate future appears to best suit us. The current Republican hegemony has turned opportunistic short-termism into an art form.

But that appraoch will not work for long. A confluence of different pressures will almost certainly create problems that will be almost impossible to solve without invoking two very rare human traits; forward thinking, and sacrifice. And the President Bush isn't exactly number one on the jukebox when it comes to either of them, although the poor lad does try.

Take the President's tireless stumping across the nation whipping up a crisis in Social Security by 2017 or 2042 or whatever the latest long-distance date the Social Security Trustees have set for us to put in our diary. But his mighty plan is not working. For two simple reasons. Firstly, nobody believes there's a crisis. And secondly, as a result, the idea that they'd have to sacrifice a portion of their benefits (to finance the private account scam) doesn't seem justified.

So how about the President taking his road show out to the country addressing real crises and their dire consequences that really would hit around either 2017 or 2042? And here are a few suggestions for the kind of crisis he could maybe talk about. Say like global climate change (I use the Republican blame shifting term deliberately, because whether it's our SUVs that are causing it or not, we have to do something to stem the warming trend, or face the consequences when everyone in Bangladesh starts to row our way) or teenage obesity, or the looming health care crisis, or WMD proliferation to non-state terrorists, or the end of economically viable oil extraction, or the world population explosion, to name but a few.

Americans know a real crisis when they're presented with one. And being at heart, generous in spirit, it's as American as apple-pie that they'd find a way to solve it.

Unfortunately, American business doesn't like it when the American people pull together to find solutions, and they don't like sacrifices being made in their name, because sacrifices mean less crap sold, and more taxation, and a weaker bottom line.

They're getting their way, big time. And as a result here's the menu they've lined up for the planet for the next quarter century or so. In the short term, they're laughing. In the medium term, they'll use all the money they made in the short term to justify making more money. But in the long term, around say 2017 or 2042, or somewhere in between, the problems we all face get a whole lot worse, and the sacrifices needed to end them become more draconian, and ever more painful.

Americans know a bad idea when they're presented with it, and waiting for that moment to come is a really bad idea.

So what do we on the Progressive wing present as an alternative to this old-fashioned market approach? Well, we could do nothing which is what we're doing now. But that's not much better than what the Republicans have planned for us. So we need something with a little more bite to it.

Here's an idea that fits neatly with the rhetorical prism that 'Government runs America like you run your family'.

Let's present the truth about the future of America and the world through the logic of those who have to live it.

The children.

Ask any American man or woman, rural or urban, from any State in the Union, if they'd make significant sacrifices to make America and the world a better place for their children and 100% will say yes.

Once the Democratic Party, or its replacement party or parties on the Progressive wing, gets beyond the interest-driven, money-soaked, democratic tyranny of short-termism and builds a believable, principled mode of government that's about sacrificing some of the comforts of today to pave a better way for the next generation, they will finally be able to tap into the key demographic that supports our children's future.

And what is that key demographic?


It doesn't take a direct-mail guru from either party to tell you that you can't get a better demographic than that.


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