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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Moving the pile - capitalism, socialism and liberation

A commentary from my examiner.com page:

I have a pile of small, white stones that have washed down the walkway beside my house and now cover, quite completely, the drain we installed to carry the rainwater under the yard and out to the creek.

Mr. Obama, move these stones! (PBG)

One day, I'll have to move that pile and liberate the square grid of black plastic that filters the water into the drain. Only then will the water flow where it's supposed to, instead of gurgling over the stones and turning the backyard into a swamp.


Barack Obama is doing to the government what I need to do to that pile of stones. He is pushing against the pile, trying to get the money flowing again. For him, the task is sisyphean, because the harder he tries to move the mountain of stones, the higher the bulwark of dirt the special interests and lobbyists throw against the pile to try to keep it just where it is.

"Industries from health care to agribusiness to mining that stand to lose under President Barack Obama's policy agenda are ramping up lobbying campaigns to derail or modify his plans," wrote the Wall Street Journal, Thursday.

The WSJ article goes on to cite several groups that are gearing up to lobby Congress to their way of seeing things (boldface type is mine):

"...the former chief executive of HCA Inc. [Hospital Corporation of America] unveiled a $20 million campaign to pressure Democrats to enact health-care legislation based on free-market principles."

" 'We were surprised President Obama included farm payments in his speech [Tuesday],' said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. "But it is Congress where the rubber meets the road.' "

"...an alliance of electric utilities, coal and mining companies said it will spend as much as $40 million to make sure Congress approves a global-warming plan with funding for technology to reduce emissions that includes carbon capture and storage at coal-fired plants."

"The Aerospace Industries Association of America has spent $2 million so far on an ad campaign urging that defense spending shouldn't be slashed to offset shortfalls in other areas."


In his Saturday radio address, however, President Obama said he was up to the challenge. He said that the budget he submitted to Congress "is the change the American people voted for in November."

He also was assertive in his defense of ending subsidies and tax breaks for farmers, the energy industry and the medical insurance companies:

"I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I."

The president knows that the pile of stones is no pushover. "The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long," he said, adding, "but I don’t."

What he has to do, what he finds necessary to do, is to start skimming off the top layers of the pile in order for the water that was not reaching the stones on the bottom through trickle-down, to saturate them directly. Only then, he believes, will the water flow through the system properly.

"...that is the change I’ll be fighting for in the weeks ahead," the president concluded, "change that will grow our economy, expand our middle-class, and keep the American Dream alive for all those men and women who have believed in this journey from the day it began."

To me, it seems clear that those who defend the status quo as capitalism are the same people who condemn the president's vow of "change" as socialism. They want to keep the pile of rocks tall and top heavy. They see letting anything flow to the middle and former middle class as entitlements and socialism.

What they may not realize is that they ought to be grateful President Obama is taking this on for them, because otherwise, our decades of apathy will turn into anarchy, and then there will be no one left to pick up the pieces.

By the way, if you're looking for me next week, I'll be out in my backyard moving rocks.

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