As the planet warms faster than the most fearful scientists predicted, as peak oil stares us grimly in the face, as the full faith and credit of the United States government is put at risk in order to bring down that (black) man in the White House, as the middle class craters and all the good in the America in which I grew up is looted, profaned and destroyed, McDonald's will make Happy Meals more healthy. The right moves in disciplined lock-step, seeking and winning a few large victories. The "left," such as it is, remains distracted by innumerable enthusiasms. So the health Nazis win one and gay people can marry in New York. Smokers, but not extremists, have been made second-class citizens. What does this matter compared with the real game that is taking place horrifically before our cow-like stares?
As expected, President Hoover and the corrupt/enervated Democratic Party gave away any tax increases in the debt-ceiling stand-off. The results of this "balanced approach" will be years, if not decades, of economic and social destruction. The Republicans have a partner in their cherished ambition to dismantle Social Security, the Great Society and the New Deal in the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As with the 24 million un- or underemployed Americans in a nation of 301 million, the damage will begin at the margins and not be fully felt for years.
The dysfunction in Washington may be felt much sooner, if the debt ceiling is not raised. Count on the fearsome deficit and debt to go away the moment that President Romney or Bachmann is sworn in. And depend on the right to have ready-made explanations for the chaos and destruction that are now guaranteed whether we get a deal or not. Their superstition and dogma will call for even more government cuts. Unions and public workers are the problem. Business isn't hiring because of too many regulations. Climate change is a hoax. All this will be dutifully reported by the media as if it is a perfectly legitimate response.
The debt and deficit have never been America's most pressing issue (and most of it was rung up under George W. Bush). Job One was addressing a Depression-like meltdown with a large and ongoing stimulus aimed at employment, infrastructure and competitiveness. It didn't happen. Instead, President Hoover chose to rescue the banks and set them right back to their risky business. This was to be expected by a man who bought into Robert Rubin's worldview, which also included an itch to gut "entitlement" programs. Not a single banker has gone to jail. The too-big-to-fail institutions are larger than ever. We are involved in more wars than under Mr. Bush. Gitmo remains open and not a single leader who besmirched American honor by elevating torture to national policy has been prosecuted.
China roars ahead. We have no response to Chinese state capitalism, besides Mr. Obama's "jobs czar," Jeff Immelt of GE, announcing plans to move more assets to the country just as the president was pleading for a debt deal. (Can you imagine Lyndon Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan making such a speech?) The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are making much of the shakedown pains of China's high-speed rail system, where $100 billion a year is being spent. This is to add to our collective fog, make us think, "yeah, single-occupancy vehicles and gutting trains and transit are the smart way to go." They have not a clue as to the growing pains of America's railroads when we were the rising power, or how much we will need rail and transit options for the future. China's bubble may pop. And then China will come right back. Merely counting on China stumbling is a fool's strategy.
We can now count on a few things. The plight of the poor will become worse, and their ranks will grow. They deserve it, losers. Health-care costs will continue to skyrocket, doing in Medicare and Medicaid. Hey, buy your own insurance in the free market. The commons will shrivel. The rich will have their own schools, parks and libraries. Tough luck. We will continue to be less competitive. The chasm between the haves and have-nots will become the Grand Canyon. Those are the breaks, indeed God wants it that way. The wars will go on. Cruelty and savagery will increase; Norway will be coming to a mall near you, all to be explained away or blamed on "liberals." Gotta fight 'em over there, or wherever. The country will get hotter until the Sun Belt is untenable. Hey, weather's always changing. The government will break down completely as the strains of energy costs, climate change, insufficient revenue and krackpottery hit critical mass. And what follows will not be a revival of common sense or a sense of the America that was.
I want to be wrong about this.