SYNDICATED COLUMN: The New Pessimism

Will Americans Act To Prevent Economic and Environmental Collapse?

I am touring to promote my new book. “The Anti-American Manifesto” lays out America’s biggest problems and what we can do to fix them.

Before I started out, I knew that Americans were angry. With a real unemployment rate of 20-plus percent and a government that gave $1.4 trillion to banks instead of people in need, how could they not be?

Americans have lost faith in “their” government’s willingness or ability to address their needs and concerns. But Americans’ pessimism is deeper and broader than I thought. And their rage is burning white hot.

At the beginning of each event I ask attendees to answer two questions:

Question One: What is the worst problem that you face? Something the government could solve or at least mitigate? The top response is healthcare; either or they or someone they know can’t afford to see a doctor. Other answers include making college affordable and improving mass transit. Some are arcane: at the top of one man’s wish list is the metric system.

Question Two: What is the biggest problem the world faces today? Whether or not it personally affects you, what should be job one for government? Most people say global warming or ecocide in general. Many complain about poverty and income inequality.

“Now think about your two top issues,” I ask them. “Do you think there’s any chance—not a high chance, not even a 50 percent chance, but any significant chance whatsoever—that this system, our American capitalist system and the two-party political structure that supports it, will impact either one of those two issues?”

I reset for clarity. “Do you think you will see any improvement, on even one of those two problems, in your lifetime?” I ask for a show of hands. “Raise your hand if you have any faith, any optimism at all.”

Depending on the city, between 10 and 30 percent of my audiences raise their hands.

Bear in mind, these are Ted Rall readers. Few if any voted for John McCain. So when the man they did vote for urges Americans of all political stripes “to stick with me, you can’t lose heart,” as he did in Madison recently, he’s wasting his time.

According to the latest Gallup poll 54 percent of Americans expect the economy to be the same or worse by this time next year.

If you’re one of those 54 percent of Americans (or 70 to 90 percent of Ted Rall fans) who see the government as unwilling and/or unable to alleviate their suffering, what should you do?

In my “Anti-American Manifesto” I argue that the time has come to stop putting up with a regime so incompetent that it can’t protect us from 19 clowns with boxcutters, who are allowed to fly around the nation’s airspace for two and a half hours because our military prioritizes killing Muslims over defending the United States. I say that it’s insane for the citizens of the richest nation in history to watch their living standards shrink while lawless corporations and a tiny cabal of ultrarich pigs feed off the public trough. Why should we accept a $1.4 trillion handout to wealthy bankers, while the unemployed are told to pack up their children and get out of their homes?

If you don’t think the government will do anything for you, why not get rid of it?

There is one logical answer: because it could be reformed. Well? Could it?

Barack Obama is living proof that it cannot, that the system is broken beyond repair. Because, like him or not, this system is never going to give us a better president. We will not end up with a smarter, more well-intentioned person in charge. He’s the best they’ve got.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen since he took office almost two years ago, he’s not good enough. As I wrote in my book, there’s only one difference between Bush’s policies and Obama’s: opposition. Under Bush, there was a semblance of a Left.

So now Americans are faced with a choice. They can accept that nothing will ever get better, watch the rich get richer while they get poorer, sit on their butts as the planet heats up and the coral reefs die off.

Or they can act.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto,” now in stores. His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL

28 Comments.

  • I’m sorry, because it’s so depressing, but I was listening to an interview of Mr. Rall on a radio show. Every single caller was a Truther. Mr. Rall, having a degree in mechanical engineering, is not. Unlike the Truthers, Mr. Rall does not see the need for Bush, Jr. to have driven his pick-em-up truck to the World Trade Centre, where, with the help of Mossad, he planted explosives in the central shafts and set them off on 9/11.

    Finally, exasperated, Mr. Rall said, ‘So what? Even if they found the four airplanes somewhere, thereby proving that the US government had perpetrated the attack, no one would do anything.’

    ‘So what would make them do something?’ asked the moderator.

    ‘They have to buy my book,’ was Rall’s reply.

    Sorry, I’ve heard this before from my Nigerian e-mail buddy.

    If there was a solution, and if Mr. Rall had found it, he’d be giving it away.

    There isn’t, so Mr. Rall is trying to be a good little Capitalist, since that’s the only game in town.

  • Let’s act! But none of that violence stuff; why settle for other than the best? We need boycotts, strikes, …. Those of us with some money need to fund candidates, media outlets, etc. that support our ideals. Those of us with some time need to talk to everyone especially those who are moderate or conservative, bring-out-the-vote, design and advocate for alternatives to the inanities that we are witnessing.

    Those of us with an audience need to focus on how the good ideas are better than the current ideas. Trying to prove that the current ideas are worse than “doing nothing” is harder because it is too low a standard; those current ideas have to beat out the good ideas! On the peace issue … don’t tell me how the Iraq war is worse than if we’d left it all alone. Instead tell me how determined negotiation made Israel its best neighbors; solved the conflict in Northern Ireland, made Martin Luther King Jr. oodles more effective than Malcolm X, etc. On the stimulus issue … tell me all the good that came from the last time it was done right. And so on, for every issue.

    You can argue that violent action is better than doing nothing, but that is totally irrelevant. It has to beat out the alternative ideas, which I have attempted above. Please contribute to bettering them further!

  • >>>Barack Obama is living proof that it cannot, that the system is broken beyond repair. Because, like him or not, this system is never going to give us a better president. We will not end up with a smarter, more well-intentioned person in charge. He’s the best they’ve got.>>>

    I doubt all of this very much. Obama could have at least declared a moratorium on housing foreclosures, if nothing else. Would it have killed him to do that? It wouldn’t have cost a dime.

  • Michael,
    There’s a big thing out there set up to print and spread the book as well as get Ted on the waves. One must sell to take that ride. Will he will see a fifth of the dough I spend on the book? I don’t know.
    I think it’s how we get free stuff most of the time.

  • Lee,
    You reference three failed workers movements. Also, in all three cases, the more violent side won!

    1) The Zionist workers movement was opposed to a Jewish state because they knew very evil people were behind its creation, and that it would just lead to years of war. Too bad. So sad. They failed. A terrorist became Israel’s first prime minister.

    2) Ireland is the red headed bastard child of Europe. My friends there say guest workers have been looting the economy for decades. The IRA killed about 20 people a year, and it did not matter because they were not strategically aligned with workers movements. Go back to the beginning, and you will see, the more violent side won.

    3) Martin Luther King was just about to institute his real plan: A total socialist revolution. That is when he got shot. Today, no one even knows what he was fighting for, even though we have a day off every year to “honor” his legacy. Maybe a few Black Panther body guards would have done him some good.

  • I hadn’t thought of these three struggles in terms of workers, rather I think of them in terms of people who didn’t want to be killed. I’d have to some research on the worker perspective before I can address olegna78’s points there.

    However, I am having trouble with the statement that “the more violent side won!” In all three cases, I think pretty much everyone won. Israel and Egypt are not killing each other’s citizens, and likewise for the British army and the Irish “terrorists.” Martin Luther King, Jr. made huge strides to the benefit of us all. I’m not saying that everything is now perfect, or even close, but, in all three cases, tremendous progress was made in situations that previously had seemed unsolvable, and everyone won!

  • Said Rall:
    According to the latest Gallup poll 54 percent of Americans expect the economy to be the same or worse by this time next year.
    […] those 54 percent of Americans […] who see the government as unwilling and/or unable to alleviate their suffering, what should you do?

    There’s a big leap of logic there in assuming that those 54% who correctly think that the US economy is going to get worse, also think gunvernment could do something about it, as the author does.

  • I think that is Ted’s point.

  • There is a reason the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal rank France beneath the US on the Economic Freedom scale. One reason is that they believe France’s government does too much alleviating of people’s suffering.

  • Ted,

    How can you expect a successful revolution when people can’t even organize well enough to write in a candidate who isn’t a total tool into office? Barak Obama, like any politician, would sell his free will for the trappings of power and be totally deaf to the irony of that trade. We didn’t have a choice of leaders in 2008, we had a choice between two shoddy consumer products. We accepted that choice because it was the path of least resistance, not because it was forced upon us. The corporate media and two party system can be defeated if a sufficient number of people just stop playing their game.

    Besides, a violent revolution would never work. Ignoring the cops and National Guard for now, just look at the Fox News demographic. The people with the greatest thirst for establishment propaganda have all the guns!

  • I doubt all of this very much. Obama could have at least declared a moratorium on housing foreclosures, if nothing else. Would it have killed him to do that? It wouldn’t have cost a dime. No, he doesn’t have the right to break a contract between two parties..

  • I came to the similar conclusion about Obama. The last two election cycles were our best shot in the current system. It was clear that this is a liberal country (as described by Ted in Wake Up, You’re Liberal) and we demanded change. Obama’s election was a tremendous accomplishment in the face of the unrelenting propaganda, thinly disguised racism, corporate money, and rampant election fraud. The 2008 election was a clear mandate for change that was quickly subverted by corporatist bait and switch artists.

    After the initial disappointment and frustration, it’s liberating to see the truth. Now we can stop spinning our wheels. Like a recovering victim of domestic abuse, we can finally begin our journey to freedom and independence. Don’t go back to the abuser. No matter how pretty the lies or beautiful the apology, nothing will change.

    For me personally, violence is not an answer. I recommend the route of the “refusenik”. The US is at the end of empire stage on the brink of total economic and governmental collapse. It’s best to stay clear of the falling giant. Like the ordinary citizen in the USSR, we can finally see that there is little we can do to correct the system as it now stands. Our media is filled with lies, our government is corrupt, and our military is engaged in cruel corporate campaigns that have nothing to do with our defense. This is the way of all empires. I had hoped that we could change the course of history, but I’ve given up that hope. My current plan is to opt out of the insanity as much as possible and be ready to pick up the pieces once the collapse runs its course. I will be building networks with people close to home who I can trust and respect. I wish it could be different, but I’m going to stop wasting my time.

  • Obama’s election was a tremendous accomplishment in the face of the unrelenting propaganda, thinly disguised racism, corporate money (emphasis mine), and rampant election fraud.

    I don’t mean to sound like Highway, but it’s not like Obama was ever short of corporate contributions (cough, GS, cough…)

  • You’re right Bucephalus, I should have known, but better late than never. I still have friends who think Obama will come through for us. He’s burdened by bad advisors, playing multi-dimensional chess and too good to get into the gutter with republicans, etc… I don’t know what it will take for them to finally see the truth, but I’m grateful to be free from that particular insanity.

  • Ladies & Germs, may we begin with the Greece option now? Because as we sit here Spain and Italy have taken up with the Greeks on direct action.

  • I don’t mean to sound like Highway, but it’s not like Obama was ever short of corporate contributions (cough, GS, cough…)

    let’s not forget Obama’s lower-case racism against blacks during his campaign as well.

    “They’re acting like boys instead of men, and the foundations of our families have suffered because of it. You and I know this is true, but nowhere is it more true than in the African-American community.”
    -Barry Obama

    See, the narrative dictates that irresponsible, childish black men tell women “lets have a kid!” just so they can have sex. When the woman has the child, he says “psych!”, and runs out the door. The kid eventually ends up in prison because he did not have his father’s guidance.

    I wonder if black sons of affluent singe parent homes have a greater likelihood of ending up in prison as well. Maybe ones likelihood of being jailed for committing crime has less to with irresponsible black dads, and more to do with (GASP!) income.

  • Barb,
    This is not a liberal country. People identifying themselves as conservative are double those identifying themselves as liberal. Don’t believe me? Wait until Nov 2. Your party is about to be sent to Siberia where it belongs.

  • Barb,
    Was Biden racist when he said “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean that’s a storybook, man.”

  • Heya Barb,
    Is this racist? “Senator Reid is quoted in a new book by two journalists about the 2008 campaign, “Game Change,” as saying privately that the US would be “ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama – a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’ ”

    How about this little nugget about accused rapist BJ Bill: The day after Iowa, he phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

    Any of those racist enough for you Babs?

  • Hey Highway-

    What are you going to do on Nov 3 when the Dems STILL control both houses of Congress (In large part directly BECAUSE of teabaggers like yourself)?

    Had you chosen sane, moderate, candidates, you mightve taken back Congress. Instead you and yours went with people who are so far out of the American mainstream (despite deluding yourselves that your tiny, uninformed, partially racist movement IS the American mainstream) that you shot your own chances right to hell.

    On behalf of sane people who want what’s best for this country, thanks.

    Republicans gain less than 30 in the House, Less than 5 in the Senate. Bank on it.

  • Whimsy, route, others….what has any of this got to do with Ted’s little essay? Nothing. The country will collapse as we argue about tit-for-tat crap, and we all know it. It doesn’t matter who controls Congress after November 3rd…it just doesn’t…..the country needs to face up to the consequence of a host of actions, not the constant tit-for-tat spin that partisans put on events.

    This whole damn country is low on its amino acids, Ted included.

  • Aggie, Aggie, Aggie- The country will hit the wall and collapse regardless of whose in control of Congress, that much is true. But if people like Highway have their way, we’ll hit the wall at 120mph instead of 20.

    So yeah, it matters a lot whose in charge. At least if you give a damn about minimizing the damage from the (unavoidable) crash.

  • Whimsical,
    See ya on Nov 3! Keep up the name calling. It’s all you progressives have left.

  • Whimsy,
    NO! Softening the crash is exactly why the parasites are still alive. Let them speed at 395 mph down the highway and let us explode into a fiery ball of flame. Rebuilding will be hard, but I’m sick of being sucked on!

    No one ever had to explain precisely what the consequence would have been if there were no bailout. I think part of the reason is the principal agent problem. You don’t need to actully ask your servant for anything. The arraNgement is set up such that the servant will automatically execute himself by not doing what the master obviously requires.

  • I agree with Oleg…..but I also don’t think democrats are softening the crash either.

  • Democrats are not softening the crash, they are making it last longer, though. Crash is a verb. We are, in fact, crashing actively right now. The crumple zones are almost completely compacted, the kids are flying out the window, dad’s head is being embedded on the dash…
    And this has been going on for almost 40 years. There were little blips of hope, like that part when the car was rolling, and it looked like we might come to a rest, right-side-up…but the incline was just enough to keep us going and going and going. There is a bottom, and we are headed toward it. When we get there, we might have a chance to rebuild better.

  • No one ever had to explain precisely what the consequence would have been if there were no bailout. I think part of the reason is the principal agent problem. W kept telling us how we had to pass the original bailout by Friday, on a Monday. If not, the economy of the world would fall apart. W was duped by Hank Paulson, then Treasury Secretary and former CEO of….. Goldman Sachs! This was immediately following the collapse of Sachs competitor Lehman brothers.

  • I just can’t believe that in such a high stakes game they were able to just say “the economy of the world will fall apart” and not have to explain what that means. Another theme I remember hearing was “irreparable damage to our economy”. WTF

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