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We’re Number Two!

The American middle class is no longer the world’s richest. What a relief! The guilt of belonging to the greediest bunch in the history of the world was starting to get to me. 

How did we let our society get so out of control? How did a free people allow our government to insinuate itself into our lives so thoroughly, mandating a minimum wage, a 40-hour workweek and workplace safety rules? It was painful to watch my boss struggle along on only 360 times my salary so that I could enjoy a comfortable home, two cars, the ability to educate my children, and a decent retirement.

How on earth were we convinced to create a progressive tax code that redistributed wealth from the richest Americans to programs that benefited the rest of us? How were we gulled into funding overreaching government-controlled programs like Social Security and Medicare with our own hard-earned tax dollars? Sure, not being destitute and without health care in our old age might sound good, but at what cost? 

For too long we were persuaded by politicians that taking care of each other was in our own best interests, that the common good was more important than amassing wealth. Thank goodness we no longer believe that nonsense! Fortunately, we’ve come to our senses and stopped electing people who put the so-called well-being of the American public ahead of narrow partisanship and rigid ideology.

That said, there is still much to undo. Yes, we’ve turned our backs on the long-term unemployed, who’ve been allowed to bleed the treasury for way too long. Get a job, people! Congress is finally talking seriously about destroying what remains of the insidious social safety net that has undermined personal initiative and made us so dependent on each other.

Even with the recent decline, our middle class is proving to be so resilient that almost thirty years of relentless assault have only reduced it to number two in the world. We know that Republicans in Congress and their allies in the business world (and a few frightened Democrats) will continue the noble fight to destroy it once and for all, but victory is hardly assured.

We let our president impose government-controlled health care on us, and unless we can repeal it, we’re going to be paying forever for sick people who have no business getting insurance. There’s even a foolhardy attempt to raise the minimum wage once again. You’d think we’d know better than to go down that road by now.

This November, we have another chance to vote against our own narrow self-interest and elect an unprecedented slate of politicians dedicated to rolling back our misguided experiment in prosperity for all.

Let’s not let this historic opportunity pass.

The Republican Response

Shortly after President Obama concluded his inaugural address, the Republican Party released the following statement:

Moments ago, President Obama challenged the American people to come together as one nation to address the many issues that confront our nation.

Without offering specifics, the president mentioned the numerous tasks we must undertake to ensure the continued strength of our nation, from managing the deficit and an economy still recovering all too slowly, to the difficult choices me must make in dealing with climate change, gun violence, immigration policy, national security, energy independence, the social safety net, and extending the full benefit of our nation’s freedoms to all it’s citizens, whatever their gender, ethnic background or sexual orientation.

Mr. Obama called upon us all to work together, across philosophic differences and party lines, to see past the poisonous partisan politics so that the next four years will be marked by progress toward a better, stronger, more just America and a safer, freer, more democratic world.

Faced with a such a stirring call to ignore our baser instincts and appeal to our better angels, to work hand-in-hand with the president to lead America and the world into a brighter future, we in the loyal opposition have a responsibility to respond to the challenge laid before us.

Mr. President, here is our answer:

NO

The Problem With Hagel

Opposition to President Obama’s choice of Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary continued to mount as Republicans and others voiced doubts about the selection. While representatives of Jewish and gay groups expressed concern about previous statements made by Mr. Hagel, the main criticism came from Senate Republicans.

“I’m a Vietnam vet like Chuck,” said John McCain, “I appreciate that he’s the first enlisted man ever to be nominated for this post, that he understands what it’s like to be in combat, that he was wounded twice, that he’s a war hero. That’s exactly why he’s wrong for the job.”

Senator Lindsey Graham echoed those sentiments. “This nation has a long history of old men who never saw combat sending other people’s kids to war. Will a guy who actually knows what being under fire is like be willing to use our nation’s youth as cannon fodder in a completely pointless war?”

A former official in the George W. Bush administration, who asked not to be identitifed, added, “While I respect Mr. Hagel’s war record, he was one of the first senators to recognize that the war in Iraq was a total sham. And he’s a Republican! The guy just can’t be trusted to get us into the next unnecessary conflict.”

“Our whole bloated defense budget depends on us jumping from one trumped-up war in some failed backwater state to the next so that our defense contractors can keep the assembly lines humming. And those companies are huge campaign contributors,” noted McCain. “I don’t think Chuck gets that.”

Texas Senator John Cornyn was especially blunt. “He’s the worst possible guy for the job. Chuck Hagel doesn’t understand how much of America’s economy depends on putting as many of our young people as possible in harm’s way for the sole reason of enriching mega-corporations like Halliburton.

“Where the heck would this country be today if we’d never invaded Iraq or Afghanistan?”

Texas, My Texas

Well, my former home state of Texas did it again, with the Republicans choosing Ted Cruz, yet another Tea Party fruitcake, over David Dewhurst, the establishment-backed candidate, in the Senate primary (which means Cruz will almost certainly be going to Washington, given that Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office in living memory). That the establishment is now represented by a wingnut like Rick Perry is bad enough, but not bad enough, evidently, for the Texas Republican party, which apparently is going all in for the truly loony Right. I keep waiting for the whole Tea Party thing to implode as people discover just how genuinely moronic and destructive their agenda is, but the voters keep choosing them despite their insistence, in the name of ideological purity, on obstructing any kind of meaningful compromise. After their dismal performance in the last Congress, we’ll see how many of them the voters send home in November, but I’m not hopeful that anything close to a functional legislature will emerge any time soon.