For eight years the White House and Congress floated along, aimless and bloated, defying gravity. They waged unwinnable wars (on borrowed money), granted lavish tax cuts to those who needed them least (again, on borrowed money), paved the way for an insanely lethal housing bubble (inflated, once again, with borrowed money), jury-rigged the nation's financial system to exploit the cheap, borrowed money game, and generally spent borrowed money like drunken whores.
Then, just as the nest of scams collapsed under its own, massive weight, the executive branch took its leave and handed the mess to the new kid, Barack Obama.
Barack Obama, the man who promised hope and a better day, landed in a mess so bad that he can afford to deliver neither. Just how bad is the mess? That depends on who you listen to. There are the false prophets who ginned the whole thing - going back to Reagan whiz kid David Stockman and Fed boss Alan Greenspan and an enormous supporting cast with names like Abramoff, Gramm and Cheney. Or you might prefer to listen to some people that last bunch used to dismiss and ridicule - people like Nobel prize economist Joe Stiglitz or Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman - the guys who were yelling "fire" while everyone sat comfortably in their seats and chomped the popcorn. I think I'm going to give those guys a chance this time.
According to these guys, "bad" doesn't begin to describe America's fiscal catastrophe. Stiglitz has worked out that Bush's War on Terror will cost America's taxpayers about three-trillion dollars when all the hidden costs are worked in. That's a 3 followed by 12 of these - 0.
It is so bad that Barack Obama will be the first Democratic president since WWII who will have to increase the federal debt as a percentage of gross domestic product. That will put him in the club with the fiscal lunatics who prescribed his fate - Ronald Reagan, George H.W.Bush and his idiot son, W.
Obama had a plan for a trillion dollar stimulus package to help free the American economy from the muddy bottom of recession. The idea was that,if you could just get it moving upward, it would find the surface on its own. All it takes is enough lift.
Krugman has maintained a trillion isn't enough to free the hull from the sticky mud - but he said it's a start. The floaters in Congress didn't see it the same way. They trimmed over 200-billion dollars worth of lifting power from the package and, worse, demanded that tax cuts be built into a huge chunk of the remainder. Tax cuts? Don't these idiots understand that it was irresponsible tax cuts that helped drive their nation's economy straight to the bottom?
For a guy who hasn't been in the job a full month yet, it's a pretty shitty situation but there's worse to come. There's a move afoot in Congress, being spun like crazy by rightwing think tanks, to offset the stimulus spending by raiding the unpillaged remainder of American workers' Social Security fund.
You hear the word "entitlements" floated around a lot these days and it's being transformed into a dirty, socialist word. Entitlements are just the undeserving public sucking at the dry teats of government, a throwback to the nanny state.
Now the first three years of the Iraq war have proven one thing beyond any doubt. If you tell the American people a blatant lie, even a whole bag of lies, and you feed it to them often enough, from every direction - they'll believe it. Much as Americans claim to be the best informed people on the planet, they're actually the most readily misinformed, the most disinformed, the most gullible and the least skeptical folks to evolve since the end of WWII. The far right know that, they know how to exploit it and they're counting on it to convince the American working public (as in the "American people") that they're somehow undeserving of the entitlements they've already paid for in full.
Imagine if you walked up to a bank teller, pulled a gun and said "give me all the money, your bank doesn't deserve it", and the teller sheepishly handed it over with a simple "okay" and then just let you walk out of the bank to freedom.
The Social Security programme is holding on to about 2.5 trillion bucks in workers' payroll tax contributions. There ought to have many times that much on hand, invested and generating even more income except that congress stole it. For decades the American congress has been siphoning off the Social Security surpluses, popping those trillions into general revenue and issuing IOU's in exchange. This is, of course, the very same congress that allows a White House to wage enormously expensive failed wars on borrowed money while simultaneously granting tax cuts to the most advantaged few, again with borrowed money. These were the surpluses that were supposed to be amassed for the day when the Baby Boomers began to retire. Gone.
But there's still a bit of meat left on the Social Security skeleton and the right wingers are fixin' to steal that too. The way they'll do it is by making the blue and white collar classes believe that they're not actually entitled after all.
Now, imagine you go up to that same teller, this time to withdraw your savings. But the teller says you really don't deserve it and explains that the bank simply can't afford to pay it. What the teller leaves out is the fact that the bank has stolen your savings and handed it over to the rich folks. There's only one way to pull off that scam. They have to make you believe, actually believe, that you don't deserve what you've had to pay for all your working life.
Some American observers think this will be the defining and possibly the most daunting challenge for Barack Obama. Will he stand up for the American people or will he turn his head while they're raped again by their own congress in order to buy support for stimulus spending?