In its attempts to mystify the American people the Bush administration and its Republican backers have concocted a mythological universe in which they claim to support family values, high educational standards, a strong work ethic, sound economic and foreign policy, the rule of law, national security and peace through military might. Politicians often make such claims, but the puzzling aspect of this particular stance by these particular leaders is that they still elicit support from a significant segment of voters when events so consistently belie the mythology.
Those most knowledgeable about Middle East politics and movements agree that by invading Iraq, although we did indeed depose a brutal dictator, we inadvertantly empowered Iran whose nuclear ambitions we now seek desperately to forestall. And having misread the character of Iraq, its history and people, and having invaded on the basis of unreliable intelligence bolstered by wishful thinking and neo-con ambitions, it is hard to make the case that Iraqi belongs in the win column in terms of the administraton’s putative ‘war on terrorism.’ In fact by conflating disparate elements of Islamic culture and stirring them in one pot, the president and his people have only made the task of resolving international dilemmas all the more intractible.
Now on the eve of the Labor Day holiday weekend, the economy is said to be in fine shape with low unemployment, a healthy stock market and rising incomes. But scratch below the surface and one finds something less robust with retail sales off, layoffs in the thousands and many individuals and families who lack health insurance or wages that keep pace with inflation. And despite the hoopla about the Republican-inspired, if oddly constructed, prescription drug plan it does not benefit all uniformly nor does it exact competitive pricing by the pharmaceutical industry. And, as some are finding, that “doughnut hole” can be reached rather rapidly, leaving the consumer with thousands to spend until the plan kicks in again.
In discussions about immigrant labor businesses make the argument that such workers do jobs Americans won’t do. The reason this seems to be the case, however, is that American workers often demand fair labor conditions, decent wages and the occasional benefit. People don’t always realize that when low-wage workers at Walmart, for instance, have difficulty making ends meet they seek relief with food stamps and public health services. Thus such business owners reap out-size profits made possible in part with tax-payer subsidies – – yours and mine. In addition in places where Walmart and Home Depot have driven small businesses out, prices at these big-box establishments may be low, but salaries may be low as well, leaving seriously depressed, one-employer, local economies. And it isn’t clear that these companies, whose owners live elsewhere, contribute a great deal to localities – – reminiscent of an earlier time in Harlem when shop-owners who lived outside the community took their profits with them at the close of business each day, in that way depriving residents of the benefits re-circulating dollars might have produced.
And the furtherance of virtuous-sounding bromides about the value of education are just one more chapter in the administraton’s mythological construct. Testing programs that encourage ‘teaching to the test’ in support of the “no-“child-left-behind” program are not adequate techniques for educating young people and are, in any case, unfunded mandates for the most part. It is also unclear how the heavily promoted notion that a voucher program would provide better and more easily-attained educational opportunities would work. As private institutions scooped up the more easily assimilated youngsters, one is left to wonder what kind of student body would remain in an increasingly under-funded, under-staffed and poorly-housed school population and if such vouchers would be a proper use of public monies.
It is similarly true that higher education doesn’t always reward its recipients since many foreign workers are enticed into the country to be trained by American personnel who then lose their jobs to those they have trained, creating in effect a personnel deficit to go with our trade deficit. How does our government explain to the recently, and sometimes long term, unemployed skilled workers how their education and experience has provided for their well being and the security of their family? How does this administration’s stated support for family values and the work ethic come to grips with this strangely skewed society that is emerging in our country?
We are developing or have already developed into a top-heavy economy in which huge corporate enterprises control government and the lives of ordinary Americans. The “Yankee ingenuity” that was, in the past, the bulwark of our country, providing jobs and sustaining a vibrant middle class has been diminished leaving battered communities at the mercy of mega-businesses whose bottom line doesn’t necessarily promote the general welfare. It was ever thus, but we used to make things besides war materiel, and expansion provided many opportunities for success. That is no longer the case. If even positions in our home-grown communications industry are outsourced or resourced to foreign nationals where exactly are we at? And if innovative techniques in the areas of energy alternatives and the environment are pooh-poohed by politicians and lobbyists whose interests remain submerged in oil fields and coal mines, from what source will the next cycle of economic expansion be derived?
Myth-making is the strength of the current administration, but it is by its very nature totally unsuited to the development of sound economic or foreign policy, nor does it produce a framework for the empowerment of future generations.

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