The Next Four Years – Just Like the Last Four Only More So

It’s four-thirty here in Ajijic, five-thirty in the east, and I was too old to be that naive even four years ago. I let myself get caught-up in the Obama fever, just after the beginning of the primary season. I wanted so badly for the guy to be the real deal, that I didn’t want to hear about his adventures in Illinois, his “career” in the Senate, or in fact anything about his prior history. For all I cared, he could have arrived from another planet six months before.

In 1969, I went to work for an unknown company in Maynard, Massachusetts, called Digital Equipment. They built computers, mini-computers, in a time when the only computers anyone had ever heard of were massive devices that wouldn’t fit in the average supermarket of the day, let alone a private home. I felt that I was a very small part of an industry that was going to change the world — and I was right. There’s a feeling you get when you are in on the ground floor of something like that that’s like no other. You walk around like you know a secret that no one else knows, you would work for them for free, in fact, you would pay them if they asked. I waited for many years to feel that feeling again, and I thought I had it when Obama came on the scene.

I worked tirelessly for the campaign, doing everything a volunteer could do. Knocking on doors, hours on the phone, registering voters, and GOTV activities once balloting started. I thought we were changing the world, especially after eight years of Bush. I had many of the same feelings I had with Digital, and for many of the same reasons. I was convinced, in spite of some contrary evidence, that he would do, or at least try to do the things he campaigned on.

What came of that wasn’t merely disappointment, that’s what we feel when someone doesn’t quite “measure up” to our expectations; what resulted was betrayal — what we feel when someone does the exact opposite of what we expect, as though they had a different agenda from the beginning.

Four years ago tonight I was elated, flushed with the expectation of a massive victory for Obama, and looking forward to all the things he was going to accomplish. Tonight, I’m feeling a bit depressed, because I know, based upon the evidence of the last four years, that the United States is going to continue its downward spiral, and the condition of our once-robust middle class is going to continue to deteriorate. There is no doubt about this! There simply is NO evidence that anything other than that is going to happen. None!

If I had written four years ago that within a very few years the government would be killing American citizens without due process of any kind, would you have believed me?

If I had written four years ago that an American citizen, and a soldier, would be locked away in solitary confinement for years because he tried to blow the whistle on murder and corruption, would you have believed me?

If I had written four years ago that the President would sign a law that allowed the indefinite confinement of American citizens without recourse, would you have believed me? How about if I had written that within four years trade unions would be virtually dead, twisting in the wind, without any kind of support from a Democratic President? What if I had predicted that the administration would continue virtually every environmental and foreign policy of the previous administration?

I could go on and on, but lastly, if I had predicted four years ago that the United States, under a Democratic President would be carrying on an illegal terror campaign against women and children in a country that we’re not even unofficially at war with, would you have believed me, or thought I was nuts?

So, assuming he wins the election, which seems almost certain as I write this, what do I think the next four years look like? Will the United States pull its way out of the recession, will the jobs return, will a rejuvenated middle class start spending again? Will the wars end?

America is already the most highly surveiled society in history, and there’s no reason to assume this won’t continue. How about some checkpoints at state lines? Sound far-fetched? There are already plans within TSA to do this. It was done to trucks for a short time after 9/11, I know, because I was a commodities relocation engineer for a short time. Baltimore is installing microphones and recording devices on public buses as a pilot program, can taxis be far behind? Every single email you send, and every post you make on the Internet, if it contains certain key words or phrases, is sucked-up by the NSA, and someone somewhere reads it. We are already spending billions on efforts such as this. Taking such things to their logical conclusion, next it should be cell phone and land line communications that gets fed into the NSA hopper.

I hope everyone realizes that there WILL be a “grand bargain” consummated between Obama and the Congress, allowing the defense budget to be untouched at the expense of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. There will be no tax increases for the rich, and we will be told to suck it up, because they are the job creators. You will hear a lot about “shared sacrifice” over the next four years, the only problem is, it will only be shared by those making less than 200K a year.

Look for health care to go through the roof in the next few years, as soon as the insurers get their new (forced) subscribers on board, they will begin raising the rates on all of us. Do you really see any end in sight for this? America has the best health care in the world, for those who can afford to self-insure, but for the rest of us, well, America will continue to lose ground to other, more civilized nations, in infant mortality, life span, and health care costs. Medicare may have completed morphing into a voucher plan by the end of Obama’s term, but if not it will be nearly there. Social Security will be radically different by 2016, new enrollees may only get to participate in a private system, and the rest of us will probably see cuts in our monthly payments, even though it’s our own damn money!

We passed peak oil a bit ago, and all the noise about “energy independence” is just that – noise. By 2014, Mexico, one of our largest suppliers, will stop exporting oil, because they simply cannot do so and continue to meet its own needs. Because of the incursion into Iran, the Mideast oil supply chain may be a bit dicey. The entire XL pipeline should be completed by 2014, but all that sludge is bound for foreign shores anyhow. The various shale oil plays should just about peter out by the end of Obama’s term, and there will be nothing to replace it with. Cars and airplanes don’t run too well without copious supplies of oil, natural gas just won’t do, so we won’t have to worry too much about infrastructure repairs towards the end of the next four years.

There’s even the possibility of a bit of civil unrest in the United States, especially as the economy is going to go into contraction mode. It can’t do anything else, given the energy situation, and the simple fact that thanks to all the trade agreements, we don’t make anything anymore! The skills are gone, or leaving quickly. The next generation is being educated by adjunct professors who are, in some cases, on welfare themselves. Education is becoming a scam, at least for the poor who used to be middle class, as the ones that do graduate do so into an environment where there are no jobs to pay-off the student loans they are dunned for a month after graduation. The public school system could be completely privatized within the next four years, totally eliminating the teachers unions, and turning the whole system into nothing but a consumer-producing stupid factory.

Corporations, especially international ones will have a lot more clout after the TPP agreement, which is now being secretly negotiated, is passed early next year. Go ahead and google it. It’s NAFTA on steroids, and will kill what’s left of US manufacturing. But who cares, right? We have a service economy now, it will just get more so. The jobs will come back, all that’s required is that wages in the US reach the same level as the rest of the third world. Have no doubt, that’s the object of the exercise, and the logical conclusion of what’s been happening for the last thirty years.

Not much hope here. Well, there isn’t much. There might be a way out of the toilet we’re being flushed in, but you can’t take advantage of it sitting in front of the tube watching Survivor. To learn what it is, pick up a copy of “Peoples History of the United States,” by Howard Zinn. He wrote the playbook for the only real way out of the situation in which we find ourselves. If you’re out of work, and can’t afford one, send me an email, I’ll send you a copy.

6 thoughts on “The Next Four Years – Just Like the Last Four Only More So

  1. tim meidroth

    at the bottom of the piece there is reference to email…but i don’t see anywhere on the page to do that…how do i mail you?

  2. I read ‘A people’s History’ by Howard Zinn from cover to cover. It was most impressive and illuminating. I’m not sure of the ‘way out’ you are hinting at, except solidarity. I have even seen a comic book version of ‘A People’s history’, which mentions some stuff which wasn’t in the book. The ‘Cool war’ between white establishment and black counter-culture was in there.

    I’ll mention one thing I see as a bright spot for the USA. It’s 3-D printing.

    Karl Marx said that there would be a worldwide worker’s revolution where the workers would own the means of production. In his mind, the ‘means of production’ were huge machines the size of locomotives, and seizing them meant deposing the factory owners. Today though, ‘the means of production’ are small enough and affordable enough so that everyone can have them. Computers and the internet, as well as shareware make it possible for everyone to have their own media. In many cases these programs are ‘freeware’ or ‘shareware’.

    Similarly, things like 3-D printers (Fab lab, Rep rap) are making it so that everyone can produce the things that are made by workers in factories in their own home or garage. This is the beginnings of something like a Star Trek ‘replicator’, manufacturing on demand. With further development, this will be the end of assembly line manufacturing and the wage labour system.

    It is my belief that we are heading from a monetary/ manufacturing system and into an age of post-scarcity. We have reached the ‘technology singularity’, which means things are being discovered and invented faster than anyone can keep up with. This is one of the reasons why the Governments of the world are so SCARED, and trying to implement a world-wide totalitarian state. They, like the corporations and the financial elite, are becoming obsolete. The internet is linking everyone in the world together, and we are finding out that everything the government says is a lie, and scarcity is artificially imposed.

    There are still obvious obstacles. Global warming is real and is threatening more than just the economy, it’s threatening the entire ecosphere. Peak oil is real and has been passed, and there is a developing shortage of everything from metal to fresh drinking water. The most powerful and psychopathic people on the planet are all competing with one another to be the ‘owner’ of the last of the planet’s resources, so as to enslave the rest of humanity.

    The problem these psychopaths have is they rely on the absolute loyalty of their subordinates to carry out their orders. Their subordinates have no incentive to help their superiors enslave the planet, so it ends up being like some kind of Shakespearian play full of intrigue and treachery, deceit and murder.

    1. Pete Soderman

      Thank you, John, for your thoughtful comments. What I was referring to in “Peoples History,” was that every serious advance for working men and women, from labor issues to civil rights was the direct or indirect result of people in the streets. Massive change, such as what we need now, is not accomplished, was never accomplished, at the ballot box, but was the product of massive civil disobedience. I managed to escape learning that simple fact in school. I remember studying labor strife, for instance, but the workers were always the “bad guys,” at least in the books we were given in the 50’s, and I’m sure it’s the same today.

      I don’t advocate violence, but if the United States is ever going to get free of the looters that are bleeding us all dry, some form of citizen revolt will be necessary to accomplish it. I said in this essay that the jobs would come back, all that was required was that the wages in the US had to reach the same level as those in the third world. That was slightly inaccurate, I should have said, reach the level where the entire cost of producing the product, including shipping from overseas, reached the same level. Lo and behold, I opened Alternet this morning and there was this essay from Tom Hartmann that says the same thing. This essay from Hartmann doesn’t mention TPP, if it did, it would be even more ominous.

      As you can tell, I’m not nearly as optimistic as you. I see no way that the oligarchy is going to give up power without a struggle, and I don’t mean at the ballot box. TPP will be another game-changer, as parts of it give multinational corporations nearly as much clout as the government. Don’t lose the optimism, but temper it with a realistic look at the situation from time-to-time.

      Pete Soderman

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