Friday, September 26, 2008

Welcome to Iraq

After more than five years of trying to remake Iraq in our image a transformation has finally occurred- the US has become Iraq. As the nation teeters on the brink of financial meltdown three factions duke it out. The Shiites and Sunnis in Congress bicker over emergency measures, while the Kurds in the White House remain sidelined.

Conventional wisdom holds that an advantage of our bipartisan system (despite its many drawbacks) is its intrinsic flexibility in a crisis. Because it has the capacity to gel into two negotiating camps emergency compromise measures can be reached quickly, freed from the complexities of a multilateral debate. Well, kiss those days good-bye.

This tripartite standoff might seem to parcel blame out equally to all concerned. In fact, however, the fault lies with the two Republican sides of the triangle. The policies that brought us to this juncture are all Republican ones. Deregulation of capital markets combined with tax cuts and deficit spending created an enormous speculative bubble, the bursting of which has created the current crisis. The sectarian rift which has opened up in the GOP is between the White House, which has belatedly awoken to the need for a compromise of the ideological principles that created this disaster, and House Republicans, who with their proposals for new tax cuts (!) are intent on continuing to walk, lemming-like, down the same path that has brought us to this precipice. There are differences of degree to be distinguished here, but both sects are guilty.

It is hard for those of us who have endured years of Republican sanctimony about how tax cuts and deficits create wealth to contain our anger at this point. If tax rates had remained at their pre-2001 levels, the $700,000,000,000 being poured into this bailout would have been prevented from fueling a speculative bubble in the first place. Imagining what might have been done with that money in the hands of responsible leadership is enough to make one weep. Investment in alternative sources of energy, health care, education, infrastructure: capital improvements that would have both stimulated the immediate consumer economy and generated income streams of wealth for generations to come. Instead that money has been gambled away, or at least the part of it that has not been spent on luxury cars and vacation homes for speculators. For shame.

There has been enough talk of patriotism. Any citizen who continues to suborn the politics of House Republicans has no right to call themselves a patriot. Anyone who cares about this country should be on the phone to Republican representatives and senators, demanding that they reach a compromise solution to this crisis. Hopefully, as Paul Krugman wrote in today's New York Times, adult heads will prevail and catastrophe will be averted. If not, we may be visiting a future in which being compared to Iraq would feel like a lucky break.

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