Masters of Diversion: Your game is slipping. I cannot speak for the Bishops, or pretend to fully grasp what motivates them. But I think I know what's driving the Republican leadership. It isn't necessarily birth control. And it isn't really about religious freedom. No. What motivates them is any and every chance to take a dig at health care reform. To dismantle it, and, in the process, foreclose any possible political advantages that it might bestow upon the President once people start to notice that they are actually benefiting from these reforms.
In the wake of Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to evict the OWS protesters from Zuccotti Park yesterday, pundits are asking: what will the protesters do now? Given the way in which OWS has catalyzed debate and action about reclaiming our institutions and reimagining our economy, and given that larger numbers of people are now naming the corruption of our political economy by monied interests as our nation’s greatest challenge, the question should be what will we, the people who make up the rest of the 99 percent, do now?
Since the colossal crash of our nation’s financial system three years ago, progressive and left social movement groups have been trying to legitimize a set of ideas around bottom-up democracy and a new, morally-grounded, equitable and sustainable economy. Related proposals have aimed to rein in corporate power and make government more responsive to the needs of workers and communities. The resulting showdowns, accountability sessions, negotiations to provide foreclosure relief and legislative battles for financial reform have yielded some impressive results.
Venture, if you dare, into our little shop of horrors, with plenty of frights and scares to turn your American dream into a nightmare.
Exhibit A: Last year's Halloween Party at a major mortgage-related firm featured costumes and props designed to mock the victims of foreclosures. The firm, Steven J. Baum, represents banks and mortgage servicers when they foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. This kind of callous behavior speaks volumes about the mindset that prevails in many financial institutions.
The year started with creeping realization of just how much worse things might become, politically and economically, given the results of November 2010 elections (with the right wing takeover of the House of Representatives and many statehouses). Soon we started to hear about massive demonstrations in Tunisia. By mid-February we were completely mesmerized by the protesters in Tahrir Square, as we watched what would come to be called the Arab Spring.
As I surveyed today's countless op-eds and commentary about commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the attacks that took place on September 11, 2011, I was pleased to find these thoughtful words in a New York Times editorial:
A series of tornadoes has left thousands of people homeless across Alabama. One town’s mayor is refusing to allow homeless residents to obtain FEMA trailers for temporary housing. He says the trailers will make the town look “trashy.” And besides, people may be tempted to keep the trailers instead of finding ways to rebuild their homes. Like most mayors, he has few, if any, local resources to bring to bear. He rejects FEMA’s help, but he’s not offering any viable alternatives.
All this talk about deficits and spending cuts got me thinking about something that is in short supply today: trust. Our trust deficit is far more corrosive to the body politic than fiscal deficits. Why? Because trust is a necessary ingredient for an open, democratic society. It is why we support programs that may not benefit us directly, for something called the 'common good.' Without trust, people are less inclined to get involved in the process of governing. They are less likely to interact with elected and appointed representatives who have been entrusted with doing the peoples’ business. Over time, they feel less connected to, or concerned about, their fellow citizens.
The headlines say a government shutdown was averted at the eleventh hour. But was a crisis averted? Instead of an abrupt shutdown of the entire government, where we all can see what's at stake, we face a slow and, to many, less obvious crippling of government programs that are part of our shared safety-net. A rolling shutdown of sorts.
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