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Vertigo

I have little faith in people. Most humans, I think, are profoundly ignorant, unthinking and, in many cases, stupid. That makes it very difficult for a forward-thinking person like me to stay on message — that things will change, it does get better and we’ll get through this. Some days the best I can do is live with the hair-raising feeling that we’re watching a real-life Alfred Hitchcock movie. Something horrible is going to happen. We may or may not know precisely what it is, but we know it’ll be dreadful. We also know exactly what must be done to stop it, or at the very least the first steps to that. But we don’t know if our story’s hero is capable of the heroics it requires, and beyond that, we don’t know if it’s already too late. The Liberati pundits have taken to calling this Kabuki, and while it does share the exaggerated and overblown actions with that Japanese theater form, it’s far more frightening because these actions have real-life consequences. Kabuki has never given me the chill up my spine that Hitchcock does. And while some of the players are far more bumbling and obvious than most characters in a Hitchcock film, he always does have a few of those around too. The gods honest truth though is how much time and energy we’re all wasting on things that don’t matter. The problem we have in this country isn’t about how much money Congress allows it to spend. It’s how well we deal with the crisis its people are experiencing. And that’s not an artificially decreed debt ceiling. It’s a direct result of failed Republican policies that have put so many of them out of work and kept them there was the Teapublicans play their sophomoric games and tease my colleagues to buying the bullshit they’ve been feeding journalists for decades now. It wasn’t true 30 years ago, and it isn’t now, and it’s been proven time and again. What’s that saying? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me? What about “fool me three or four times a year, every year, for three decades?” What does that make you? Low taxes do not create jobs. If they did, we’d have abundant jobs because American taxes are among the lowest in the developed world. But we had more jobs back when the highest tax rate was 50 points above what it is now. And under a Republican president. But the GOP has gotten the tax rate down so low now that the government can barely function. That’s the plan. Now they can keep it from getting the money it needs with one simple campaign slogan: “No tax hike.” We all know that. The problem is that the masses don’t, and we are seemingly perfectly incapable of communicating that, and many other things, to them. I want to tell you this: It’s not our fault. Well, sometimes it is. But for the most part, it’s a little like trying to explain the workings of an electric coffee grinder, in English, to an Amazonian native who only speaks his own language. With no charts, graphs or other images. Just words. Not gonna work, is it? Truth is, there is no simple language for what we need, and by we, I mean all humans. And the need for simple language — the conservatives’ native tongue — along with the absolute greed and unconscionable disdain for “the other” among some conservatives spells disaster for real change — real progressive change. This afternoon I read an explanation of the Affordable Health Care Act written by former Obama budget director Peter Orszag. It was about as wonkie as wonk can possibly be. Words, hundreds of words explaining a very technical bill with very technical processes and very technical strategies for implementation. At the end, I understood it much better than ever before. But even I, a wonk with a bent for history, had a headache when I was done. If I get a headache coming to some kind of understanding, how will other Americans fare? Especially those who can’t be bothered to read, to understand. Who want someone to come along and tell them “no tax hikes vote for us” and be done with it. The ones who don’t want to hear the Byzantine logic by which they’ll learn how voting for “NTHVFU” will actually achieve just the opposite of what they want, while not threatening to burn down the White House if the AFCA isn’t repealed might actually improve the economy. Orszag said the bill wasn’t perfect — no bill ever is. But it’s a far sight better than what we have now. But explain that to people who’d rather be watching America’s Got Talent and Dancing with the Stars. No. Can. Do. So what do we do? That brings me to another article I read today, and I can’t even remember who wrote it. It was about articulating a grand foreign policy strategy, but something stuck with me. Sometimes, the article said, you’ve just got to do the right thing and forget about the consequences to yourself, then explain the strategy later. It’s the old “better to ask for forgiveness later than permission first” thing. And in a third article, and again I can’t remember the author, was an example of how that might work. It explained how then-German Chancellor Gerhard  Schröder pushed the economic Agenda 2010 in 2003, got it passed and then lost the 2005 election to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party. But Agenda 2010 stayed — in Germany, there was no push to defund it — apparently, because in “Old Europe” the politicians are more grown-up and less petty than they are in the United States. And, although it certainly wasn’t perfect, Agenda 2010 is the reason Germany is not sitting on the brink of default. Where we are.  Schröder lost because he did the right thing. Germany is better for it, but he is no longer in power. the CDU got all the credit, and Merkel is still chancellor. The danger in doing that here, of course, is that in our inferior two party system, one of the parties doesn’t give a rodent’s derriere about the country’s well-being, let along the citizens. All they care about is power, and for that they need money. Yours and mine, because, in any good feudal system, whatever is yours and mine is really the king’s. And here’s the really ridiculous part. They probably actually believe they’re working for the better of the country, because they’ve bought their own simplistic explanations of very complex issues, and because they think they’re superior to the rest of us by virtue of having flown in on some big balloon or something. Which, in my book, makes them delusional and dangerous. So what do we do? Keep pulling back the curtain. Sooner or later Dorothy will show up and everybody will listen because she’s so cute and can sing. And she’ll point out the obvious, and everyone will say, OMFG, as if it only happened just that moment. Something will happen at just that moment — true transition. What comes next will banish the current crop of conservative cretins to the nether regions forever and set us up on the path to become the next grumpy old men and women resistant to change. But that’ll be a few decades off. You and I, we’ll probably miss it. Unfortunately, we may miss the transitional moment too, because I can’t even begin to guess how long it’ll be before Dorothy dumps water on the Wicked Witch and saves us. We don’t even know who Dorothy is yet. I’m kinda hoping she’s a black, deaf, Latina lesbian in a souped up wheelchair. But that’s just me. I’d be OK if that turned out to be god instead.  

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