Good news… bad news… another new year’s eve…

For whatever reason, the President has announced that the United States will be doing the right thing, and he has increased American pledges of tsunami disaster relief some ten-fold, to $350 million, and sending a delegation led by lame duck SecState Colin Powell and presumed dynastic heir apparent JEB Bush. On the bad news side, those dollars are worth less than they have been before, as the dollar sinks to a nine-year low against a “basket” of other currencies, especially the euro. Well, no matter. The year is at an end.
And so, we come to another new year’s eve. Countless millions enter the new year fighting for their survival, for any number of reasons, from the wars raging in Darfur, Congo, Eritrea. West Africa, Iraq, Chechnya, and God knows where else, to those currently fighting for survival in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami. We hope and pray that these people will somehow make it through– that in the face of calamity, some good…
And we in the fat and happy first world, especially this richest and most profligate of first world countries, might actually go back to one of the meaningless catchphrases of the 2000 campaign: prosperity with a purpose. Right now, we remain prosperous (a relative term, though few in the world are anywhere near at our national income or wealth levels, and our GDP, of course, blows away everyone else’s) because of (1) people working harder, and for lower wages and fewer benefits and less security than they have since we adopted the modern labor standards of “the forty hour week” (which is really not all that long ago); (2) borrowing, borrowing, and more borrowing, whether its consumers propping up the economy by borrowing against home equity, or credit cards, or whoever will lend, or the nation, borrowing to pay its bills at the rate of over a billion dollars a day and counting; (3) centuries of accumulated wealth from our industrial and economic might…
While (as a liberal) I’m naturally inclined to whine about the calamitous dangers we face (because of “them”, of course), everything is relative. I simply think we are accelerating a day of reckoning, when even our best creditors will simply be unable to prop us up with debt, rather than unwilling… and a series of unfortunate (financial) events will follow. I think this is easily, and relatively painlessly corrected, and our current government is unwilling to do so out of short term expediency and misguided ideology. Unfortunately, as I’ve also pointed out, it’s not like our opposition party has anything much to say beyond, perhaps, some isolated policies likely to make things worse.
On the foreign policy front, the future threat really comes from not so much Al Qaeda itself, which, if you ask me, has largely, though obviously not completely, shot its wad, so much as other small scale, rapidly evolving guerrilla/terrorist groups, who realize that our military, designed as it is to fight the Red Army in Central Europe with heavy bombers, aircraft carriers, slow tanks, etc., is no match for their fast moving, rapidly deployed hit and run maneuvers. The fact is, I could cut the military budget, right now, by about 80%, and, by spending money more intelligently, give us a more effective defense from our future threats. Of course, no one is asking me, and the Pentagon, defense industries and Congress have a nice sweetheart deal set up to make sure that nothing of the kind happens. Prediction for ’05: look for more of the same of this year. Iraq will mire on, we’ll still be there after the elections, Afghanistan may get better (or not), we’ll posture as Iran and North Korea get closer to their nuclear weapons (or get them), Israel will pull out of Gaza… a little… and not much else… the opportunity presented by Arafat’s death will be wasted (that’s my prediction; I do get pleasantly surprised sometimes, though.)
In short, inertia is a very powerful force. I don’t look for significant changes in the nation, in the world, or in much of anything. On this blog, I’ll be trying to focus more on what we can do, rather than on bitching about what we’d wish “they” do. “They” really do have a mandate: they have the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches of government. Margins and approval ratings mean nothing. They will govern at the limits of what they can politically get away with. If they go too far, or if we have that economic collapse I fear we will, they’ll likely be shown the door commencing in the 2006 mid-terms, regardless of much else. Otherwise, our bitching about “we wuz robbed” or anything else will be… bitching.
I suggest we don’t do that. I suggest we develop a rather simple understanding of what liberalism is, what the Democratic Party is, and simple explanations of why it is better than its alternatives. Or we can enjoy our minority status (as, btw, I am convinced our so-called Democratic Congressional leaders do, as minority status precludes that irritating “accountability”.)
Well, let’s be careful out there… let’s try to make this a better and nicer world in our own little ways, or bigger ways if the opportunities present. Happy new year, everybody.