1999: No major wars yet percolating problems in a dozen venues; budget deficit surplus of about 236 billion dollars, although Bush inherited about a 5.7 Trillion dollar National Debt; and a boiling but unstable and slowly cooling economy.
The decade that threatened to come in with a bang sauntered in with only the traditional fire works. Y2K may have been such an epic universal non-event because everyone realized that it was a real deadline that could neither be disregarded nor overlooked. It was not Y2.001K. Problems were timely addressed in a timely manner in time. That was not the attitude for the remainder of the decade.
An outwardly non-descript and largely unknown bumbling scion who had been shepherded by others for their own purposes through an uneventful life was appointed by the Supreme Court to run things. The ship of state sailed uneventfully for a time. A written invitation to impending disaster delivered to and disregarded by the White House in August, 2001 was honored in September, 2001 by a quartet of airships. The course of action was simple. Know who we are and remain faithful to who we are. Stay our course. Redouble our vigilance and redouble it again (and redouble it one more time). Too many in power and influence in the country lost their heads. Leadership was non-existent.
A perfect storm. An obscenely incompetent President, a flagitious and arrogant vice-President, a smug, bungling and petulant Secretary of War/Defense (Rumsfeld), hamstrung Secretaries of State (Powell and Rice), a mendacious Secretary of the Treasury in the second term (Paulson), a marginal Attorney General (Gonzales) and their ilk were not the Dream Team. The damage they inflicted in the decade will take decades to repair.
Bush proclaimed that WeMaD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) and almost everyone joined in the madness. No one ever made a compelling case for the invasion of Iraq. The national press (WP, NYT and so many others) yearned for war, any war, just give us a war with photo ops and film at eleven. The major television networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, Faux) were thrilled and went wild with glee. It was a time, the only time, to watch their coverage non-stop to bear witness in real time to the folly and the madness. The few dissenting voices (Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder’s Washington Bureau, Terry Gross and guests with NPR/Fresh Air, Walter Pincus with the WP and a few dozen other courageous individuals) did not reach a wide audience. They were voices in the darkness. The Iraq quagmire is the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history.
Deficit spending and economic looting became the national pastimes. Almost everyone involved in directing and controlling the economy (Reagan, Gramm and Rubin in earlier decades with the assistance of Bush, Greenspan, Paulson, C. Cox, Geithner, Summers and others in this decade) almost without exception (Brooksley Born and a few others) were committed to undermining the American economy at every opportunity for the benefit of a few. One must concede that they succeeded handsomely. Although they are domestic economic terrorists, their activities never became the subject of the vaunted “war on terror.” No one ever made a compelling case for the bribery and bailout of Wall Street. Bernanke* remains the enigma, the outsider and the ultimate insider, who did not recognize what was obvious before and after he became Chairman in February, 2006 and disregarded the advice of his colleague Edward Gramlich.
The first African-Irish-American was elected President. There were a few things they did not tell him before he got elected that he learned quickly after he got elected. He re-nominated Bernanke* to run the Federal Reserve which may be the only option given the limited economic talent in America. His appointments to date are adequate, yet the administration is still seeking traction and direction. Health care is becoming his domestic economic quagmire. Although it is not really the job of the government to provide jobs and/or homes, the populace wants a job to go to during the day and a house to come home to at night.
About the House. And the Senate. Congress could be declared a natural disaster area. The Republicans are useless, the Democrats are not particularly useful. Forty-five percent of Americans respond to and are motivated by fear and loathing; the Republicans know and stoke their base. The Republicans may make great strides in the November elections. The party committed to destroying government may again be given that opportunity.
The nine members of the Supreme Court are more myopic and narrow-minded than just about any other Court in the history of the Republic. The Court sports two religions (with one exception), two schools (with one exception), and two (mas o menos) schools of thought (with a few exceptions), yet it has two women, too. The war at the Court and for the Court continues. O’Bama may have an impact, although the impact of the economy on O’Bama’s future will greatly impact his impact on the Supreme Court.
The profit-maximizing universities in America should be part of the solution, but they are part of the problem; they may be more accurately described as part of the process and the processing. They recruit, train and drill the next McNamaras and Rumsfelds. To their credit, they adhere to a thirty-year business plan rather than the three-month strategy pursued by other businesses.
The information made public in the National Intelligence Reports over the decade patiently and exhaustively chronicles the decline of America’s role in the world after six decades of preeminence. America has done much wrong during that time, yet America has done far, far, far more good, often with resentment and usually without thanks. On balance, everyone is better off with the United States as the dominant superpower. This is China’s century.
Now: Multiple wars, battles, skirmishes and police actions with two major foreign base camps (Iraq and Afghanistan); massive and growing deficits and about a 12.3 Trillion dollar National Debt; zero private-sector employment gain and zero economic gain for the average family over the decade; and no industry to inflate other than the federal government industrial complex.
[See the “e-ssays” dated Jan. 5, 2009 titled “The Millennium to Date”; dated October 6, 2008 titled "A Bleak Day: The Trillion Dollar Tragedy"; dated September 29, 2008 titled "Futile Efforts"; dated May 4, 2009 titled “Picking the Supreme Beings”; dated May 14, 2007 titled “Term Limits”; and dated Jan. 30, 2006 titled “Greenspan’s Legacy: Apres moi, Le Meltdown.”]
Bumper stickers of the week:
The Recession is Over.
The Recession is Over; Let the Depression Begin
Halcyon Ano Nuevo