Thursday, February 12, 2009

Intellectual Obesity

Nobody can deny that obesity is a big problem in this country, but those who are morbidly obese intellectually pose an even graver threat.

Republicans are clearly suffering from a severe case of intellectual obesity which comes, in part, from eating too many sour grapes. If Judd Gregg's stepping down as commerce secretary nominee is their idea of getting back in shape, they're in worse trouble than they've been since about as far back as Abraham Lincoln.

After nearly a generation of living like rich cats, lapping up the excess luxury that came largely as a result of the labor of 98% of the rest of us, they complain about a stimulus that invites a value system designed to invest in opportunity not decadence. One needs merely to look at what was left out of the stimulus, under the rubric of "compromise," to recognize the flatulence of the 44th president's opposition.

If trimming the fat means cuts to education, and the arts, while insulating Wall Street, banks, and the credit card industry from this economic plunge, those who emphatically rejected the original stimulus package should be more concerned with whether their constituents are able to read the fine print, in fifty years from now, than expanding the deficit. After all, Reagan and his neophytes have presided over the greatest national debt since this country's founding and, if left to their devices, by 2050, we'll be faced with two choices: Mandarin or Szechuan.

No one is suggesting, for a moment, that the Republican Party is the only one responsible for the monstrous deregulation that has gotten us to where we are today, only that their pecular penchant for personal profit, and gluttony, have taken us to the edge of a bipartisan financial cliff.

But, as Rep. Barney Frank suggests, "I think it would be a very big mistake to assume that the Obama administration is going to be as lax as the Bush administration" when it comes to keeping an eye on how the banks manage their bailout money. Moreover, it is reasonable to expect that the Obama administration will sleep with one eye open, and push for greater regulation of banks, and credit card companies. By way of contrast, the only rules George W. Bush's administration were concerned with were the ones they could break legally.

What honeymoon there was in Washington ended quickly; no surprise there. Obama is not far off when he suggests his presidency will be determined by what happens to 98% of America over the next 12 to 18 months. And, even Houdini would be hard-pressed to pull us out of this one which is why it's imperative to look at the ideas not just the numbers. It is under this new administration when, for the first time in decades, there is the opportunity to make significant progress towards eliminating homelessness, hunger; make health care, and college, accessible to all.

While more than half of Americans give a big thumbs down to Charles Darwin on evolution, according to the latest Gallup poll, when it comes to meat and potatoes issues, they recognize those whose corpulence has increased in direct proportion to their own hunger.

No one's suggesting that any member, of any political party, needs to start an ideological fast, only that bad cholesterol is also a metaphysical thing. Those who sign off on behemoth executive salaries, or deferred compensation plans, are indulging in the kind of feeding frenzy usually associated with sharks.

Over the next four years, as part of a regular work-out regimen, we must be reminded that those who most want the Obama phenomenon to go away also want to be first in line to fill their pockets with our hard labor.