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article imageOp-Ed: Obama’s Gettysburg — Jobs and an IQ test for Congress

By Paul Wallis     Sep 8, 2011 in Politics
Sydney - Although Congress may look like a verbal Vietnam, a more accurate analogy would be the Civil War. Why go to all the trouble of firing on Fort Sumter and seceding when you can just sit on your ass in DC, get paid for it and do more damage that way?
Actually, Congress has probably done more damage than both those wars. America’s real power isn’t military- It’s economic, and has been for decades. American capital and credit built most of the post-war world. Now it spends weeks trying to decide whether or not to fund itself.
Obama proposes a $447 billion dollar package of payroll tax cuts, incentives for employers and some political positioning.
The New York Times:
In setting out his program in the House chamber, Mr. Obama was, in effect, daring Republicans not to pass measures that enjoy support among independent voters and business leaders. If the Republicans refuse to embrace at least some of the measures, Mr. Obama will take them directly to the American public in the coming election year, portraying Congress as do-nothing and obstructionist.
All due respect, NYT, but the American public’s opinion of Congress, now at all-time lows, wouldn’t be quite so polite when describing this happy little gathering of altruists. Bipolar America’s identity crisis now contains a very unhealthy measure of self-loathing and self-distrust. People simply do not believe that Congress even knows Main Street exists any more. The War Between The States is now the War Between the Vested Interests. You have to make an appointment with a publicist even to get shot at in this war. The national IQ, as "represented" (excuse the expression) by Congress, apparently has a decimal point to its left and needs to prove it can do basic arithmetic.
This isn’t the Cold War. It’s a Civil War, just fought with dollars instead of bullets. Nukes can only kill you. Economics can send you broke for generations. Nations have collapsed more frequently because of economics than because of war. America’s baffling desire to destroy itself through apparently eternal mismanagement has finally torn the cushions off the economic car seats. The ride has been very bumpy, and since nobody could be bothered to pay to build any more road for the ol' national jalopy to travel down, it's a shaky suspension that's going cross country in future. (Well, why not beat a metaphor to death?)
A comatose domestic economy means capital is stagnant at best. There’s no more apt comparison than the Civil War economies of the Union and the Confederacy. The Union had enormous economic power and manufacturing capacity. The Confederates barely managed to produce their own uniforms. The United States (the word “united” is supposed to mean something) is currently transforming itself from the Union into the Confederacy.
It’s the loss of jobs- The economic powerhouse of the world is turning itself into a financially-based hot dog stand. Compared to the amount of money that has to move through the US economy every day just to keep businesses open, Wall Street is a pretzel sales franchise. A few billion per quarter is nothing.
328 million people can generate a lot of capital, and they’re not being allowed to do that. 9.1% of the workforce don’t have jobs. That means that percentage of people can’t contribute capital. The real economy has effectively shrunk, and the effect has been to rip money out of the business sector.
At the time of Gettysburg, the Union hadn’t been doing too well. Lee had moved north, and the greatest battle of the Civil War, the decisive battle, in fact, because it decimated Confederate offensive power, took place over an encounter between Union troops and some Confederates who came into Gettysburg looking for shoes.
The Gettysburg Address got panned by contemporary critics. It was considered “embarrassing” by an English commentator. Edward Everett Horton told Lincoln he said more in a couple of minutes than he’d said in an hour or so:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
(This version of the speech is the only one in Lincoln’s handwriting, signed by him.)
Obama’s jobs speech is being made at a historic low point in American history. Whether this Congress is of the people, by or for the people, is highly debatable. The fact is that like Gettysburg, the battle over jobs is critical to the future of the economy. If the dead are jobs, and the new birth of freedom is the right to have them, this unhallowed political ground is the battlefield.
The living may yet have a future. This ugly backroom war has been raging mindlessly for nearly two generations. The result of war is eventually peace, and a time when the maimed, battered and soul-scarred can at least rest.
Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest battles in American history, including both World Wars. The battle over jobs is infinitely bigger, and many more lives, current and future, are at risk. America will get up as usual the morning after the jobs battle, go to work or not go to work, get on to its brokers or its UI office, and read the casualty figures in stocks, bankruptcies, foreclosures and trashed lives. Appomattox looks a long way off.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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