A race is a race is a race. So while we await the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing later this month, we were left with last night’s opening round of the Republican party presidential debates in Cleveland as a teaser. Turned out to be the best reality TV show Donald Trump has ever starred in. Call it Presidential Apprentice, high dungeon life imitating art. But other than ejaculate ratings for FOX, what was really gained beyond the entertainment value? Then again, let’s take what we can get.
As the Federal Reserve continues to offset the true recalibration of the American economy in the wake of the Great Recession — it ended its triple-down quantitative easing late last year, but still maintains an easy-money stance by keeping short-term interest rates at zero — what is needed in this election year is an impartial arbiter in the tension between capital and labor, one that understands the need for a moderating equipoise in that tension.
Perception is all, and the perception is the rich get, the rest don’t; bit of Bruce Hornsby’s ‘That’s Just the Way It Is’ at work. Until that organizing principle has been processed it will continue to run its course. But how long can the nation afford to see the health of one side come at the expense of the other? It simply isn’t in anyone’s long term best interest to disenfranchise millions so that millionaires can see their own stakes grow. Yet the immediacy of today means that there is no time for tomorrow.
With the forces of technology and globalization continuing to pull the two sides apart, the old nation-state rules particular to an individual economy no longer apply, even to an economy as vast as the USA’s, and no matter how well constituted that economy once was. And with capital’s natural tendency to seek cheap labor, more and more of America’s workforce is becoming marginalized, which in turn has the top of the capital food chain in hunker mode.
Stories abound about a “safe-room boom among the super wealthy”, “Fort Knox security amid comfort in Four Season’s suite”, and “the world a very scary place now, especially for people of means”.
Look, the Chinese erected the best damn wall in history. And while it has turned into a swell tourist attraction, it didn’t work as the impediment it was erected to be. So while San Diego’s wall across its portion of the Mexican border stemmed the flow from that crossing point, all it did was shunt the illegal crossings to other less guarded, more inhospitable desert and mountain locations.
Safe rooms? As we increasingly see, whether in Ferguson or Baltimore, too severe an economic imbalance can become combustible. But where to find our wise King Solomon, one that both sides will accept? Our pols have long since abandoned impartiality, bought off by the lobbying class. And once the nine Supremes defined corporations as persons in Citizens United, the average Joe got subsumed in the deluge, leaving only those few like The Donald with enough financial heft to muster an independent charge. Where’s the safe-room from that?
Thing is, there are policies purposed for exactly the kind of contingencies we find ourselves facing. But we’ve let the herd run too free too long, and now the range has been overrun. Yet each side sees the other as requiring compensating wolves to re-balance the ecosystem. That said, you don’t want to shock the system back into relative balance, you want to usher it. But that requires a meeting of interests.
This should be where leadership comes in. But no one can see beyond their base, and the world seems too polarized at the moment to hold and sustain a higher, non-partisan view. This is how history gets written, decade by decade, slow enough to accumulate, fast enough to connect before it’s on you in a crisis with all room for conciliation lost.
Problem is the time and the need don’t overlap. While we need a soft recycle of our own resources, we also need a hard enough hand to follow through on previous commitments, good and bad, social as well as military. But even retractions increase immediate military and economic contingencies. And since the military has been the guise that we have worn into too many places for too long a time, perceptions have formed and fixed, and before you know it, while A-Rod was juicing toward 700 homers, the ideals for which we had previously been known now seem more contextual. An ideals-based esteem, then, becomes lost in the mire of immediate self-interest.
The environment is just too tightly wrought, too much need for the space available, and all it does is drive up the human price and extend the misery.
The solution cries out for adult leadership. To date, only child-like petulance and alpha male posturing have been forthcoming. And yesterday’s doubleheader Republican debates in Cleveland, as entertaining as they may have been, failed to reveal the makings of a new direction, just another season.
(With the possible exception of Ohio Governor John Kasich who sounded at times like he could stand in the Democratic party debates, too, if they ever decide to stage any).