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Here’s What’s Wrong with America

6 | By Shah Gilani

So you really want to know what’s wrong with America?

Okay, I’ll tell you.

But you have to do me two favors.

First, I respectfully request that you put aside any preconceived notions you might have about my agenda.

I’ll tell you right up front. My agenda is to get Americans to stop thinking the way they’ve been tricked into thinking.

You see, I used to have an ideology and strong political leanings.

Now my ideology conforms to the real world, as opposed to the tyranny of magical thinking, and my political leanings shift against the ill winds of stale rhetoric. In other words, I am a realist.

Second (and this is a huge favor), as you read this, pretend you don’t have any ideology, any political leanings, or any opinions.

Okay, ready? Here it is.

What’s wrong with America is that too many Americans don’t think for themselves anymore.

Not that it’s their fault. Most of us have been deluded. Not brainwashed… more like lobotomized.

We’ve been lied to, again and again and again. Lied to by self-righteous poseur Americans who want to divide us into believers and nonbelievers, free market capitalists and socialists, Republicans and Democrats, red states and blue states; because either you’re an American or you’re un-American.

They put it to you like this: You’re either with “us” or against us.

Who are these ugly Americans that are lying to us and dividing us, and why are they doing it?

They are our leaders (and our would-be leaders). They are our legislators.

We have ceded the American spirit of democracy and free thinking to the government we created, and to sycophant wannabe politicians who pander to the partisan corners they push us into. We have become their pawns.

Why do they do it? For the power – the power to make money, lots and lots of money.

Why do we do it? We are fools and believe them. We don’t believe in them, but too many of us believe what they want us to believe they stand for.

And that is the problem.

They don’t stand for what you think they stand for. What’s worse is, that means some of you may not stand for what you think you stand for.

We’ve been thrown.

Politicians are jujitsu masters, flipping their positions as they shake our hands and flip us on our backs, until we don’t know which way is up and who stands for what.

That’s how they like us – dazed and confused, and all riled-up and ready to kill each other for what we stand for, for their agendas, not ours.

Okay, now, here’s where I’m going to need you to drop any ideology or political leanings you might have.

Let me show you how we’ve been flipped around by the jujitsu moves of both Democrats and Republicans, and why it’s hard for anyone to think clearly on their own.

Almost 30 years of “conservative ascendancy” from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush got us to where we are today. (Stop right there. If you’re thinking I’m going to bash Republicans and you’re getting defensive, or you’re thinking I’m going to bash Republicans and you’re hoping I go on the offensive… you’re wrong.)

It is what it is.

“Free Market” deregulatory zeal stripped prudent regulations from the books of law that governed our history of capitalism.

I say “our history” because our particular regulations and laws only came into being in reaction to fraud and manipulation that exposed the darker side of self-aggrandizement in our system of free market capitalism.

It is what it is.

But here’s the first “I got you,” “No, I’ve got you,” political jujitsu move.

A free-for-all bacchanal, replete with financial whores, ravaged the American economy by leveraging the largest field-bet ever: the American Dream, home ownership.

Everyone gorged themselves. There were no innocents.

And when we realized how the “system” we coveted had run amok, which we were all mostly responsible for, we cut short the ascendency of greed and voted “for change.”

To be fair, I was a fool smitten with the notion that real change was possible, and I backed it.

Flip number one (in this jujitsu jamboree) was that, immediately upon the ascendancy of Barack Obama, Democrats started to act like Republicans by kow-towing to banks and big business.

Talk about change…

The truth about “change” in the Democratic Party is that Democrats have now gotten rich playing the game, and they kind of like that change in their fortunes.

The dilemma for Democrat leadership is how can they be the party for the people if they are no longer of the people? Well, as they say in Brooklyn, fugghetaboutit! Follow the money.

How else can anyone explain why a president with a worldwide mandate to fix the incredulously large hole in American financial services – which bled the entire (new) Old World like some leech-sucking medieval prescription – would choose to champion healthcare instead of immediately triaging the patient in intensive care?

The Republicans, for their part, want us to believe that utopian capitalism was mowed- down in its adolescence, and if we only double-down now, the Holy Trinity of deregulation, limited government, and free markets will make the rich richer and the poor less poor.

It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs, and jujitsu.

How else can Tea Party neophytes, waving the banner of conservative Republicanism, rail against bailouts, when their deregulated institutions buggered free markets, and cry rape even before new rules (which are nothing more than the old rules rewritten) deflower their moneymaking schemes?

How else could liberal Democrats have embraced Wall Street salesmen like Larry Summers, Ben Bernanke, and Tim Geithner in a “group hug” of change America can believe in?

Because… in this flipped-around world, the right becomes the left, and the left becomes the right.

And we’re left on our backs trying to figure out which end is up.

It’s about the synergy of profits and politics. It’s about the money, stupid.

It’s about us not realizing that politicians get rich by dividing us.

Absolutism is the only sure road to all or nothing. And there is no “all.”

If you and I want to fix what’s wrong with America, we can start by not being resolute about any politician’s 100% all-or-nothing prescription for what ails us. We need to demand that our rhetoric-spewing so-called leaders compromise to build workable bridges across the divide that separates us from getting back to being America.

And if we can stop believing in our own self-righteous blind faith, maybe we can see for ourselves how we are part of the problem.

You’re either with me or you’re not… (That’s a joke!)

Shah

P.S. GO GIANTS!

6 Responses to Here’s What’s Wrong with America

  1. RAMBO says:

    Mr. Gilani:
    I’m with you 100%!!!
    I’m looking to you to lead us through this valley of corruption, larceny, political sleaze, & state sanctioned banditry.
    I’ll be right behind you covering your six!

    • Ron Umberger says:

      Yes, yes, yes. Truth does speak louder than words. What to do about it is the question. To be or not to be

  2. Owen K. says:

    Great article and right on the money. I wish I could disagree, for the sake of our country, but I can’t. Case in point; the Speaker of the House profiting off insider trading. Another case in point; the former Speaker of the House profiting off insider trading. This among all the nonsense, noise, and rhetoric coming off both sides of the aisle, achieving nothing. No real solutions, no real debate. Only personal profiteering and gain.

  3. Dave says:

    On the whole, I agree with you (and I used to be a Republican, and am now a Democrat-by-default since the GOP went so far to the right), but on this point:

    “How else can anyone explain why a president with a worldwide mandate to fix the incredulously large hole in American financial services – which bled the entire (new) Old World like some leech-sucking medieval prescription – would choose to champion healthcare instead of immediately triaging the patient in intensive care?”

    I do have to ask exactly what you mean by this, as it’s a little vague, off-target, and simultaneously being rather accusatory. “Triaging the patient in intensive care” – meaning financial services? That did happen – remember, the bank bailout happened starting in Sept/Oct of 2008, with the TARP – that was Democratic Congress-passed and GWB signed. Obama did agree to the second half of that, and released the other half of the TARP funds to the banks (which by the way, got TRILLIONS more from the Fed.). How is that not triage? So I guess I’m not sure what you mean by suggesting Obama championed healthcare over the financial world being propped up first, which, if you remember, the health care fight didn’t happen until the summer AFTER all that happened (in 2009 – remember Charles Grassley’s comment during Aug 2009 about “killing Grandma”? And the healthcare bill didn’t even get passed until MONTHS after that). Check the record, and the year each was passed. It’s a pretty significant difference.

    Just sayin’. In any case, I tend to agree with your overall points, so I’m just nitpicking where you kinda went off the mark a tad.

  4. Rick says:

    Mr. Gilani left out a lot of context in his attempt to paint this as Cantor protecting his Wall Street buddies. Why not mention the reason Cantor took that provision out of the bill? The language was so poor, that it could infringe upon the 1st amendment rights of a variety of groups who get together regularly to discuss politics – everyone from local rotaries to media conglomerates. You want everyone in the country to register as a lobbyist? Even Joe Lieberman (no Wall Street hack himself) voted against this provision in the Senate for these very same reasons. In addition, Cantor extended the law to include the Executive Branch and put stronger restrictions on lawmakers and their staffers with respect to unfair IPO access (the Pelosi Rule), which is actually Slaughter’s real issue as she was quite offended (who cares). Mr. Cantor further strengthened the sanctions in his version by banning lawmakers convicted of a crime from collecting their pensions (I really liked that one). All-in-all, his version is stronger with respect to the intended scope of the bill – Congress and Administration insiders. I’m sure the two chambers will reconcile the bill and put back in a lobbyist provision that is properly worded so that you and I will not have to register as lobbyists if we ever visit the Capital. If you’re going to rail on politicians, at least be honest enough to give your readers the full context so they can make up their own minds – not everyone sees a conspiracy around every corner. I believe lobbyists are already subject to current insider trading rules anyway (just like all the rest of us) – the issue was that CONGRESS was exempt and that’s what this law fixes. Cantor’s changes made it even stronger on that score!

  5. Robert W. says:

    Shah, I completely agree with your article. I’ve have been telling my friends and anyone who’d listen the same thing for years.
    Congressional members have an annual base salary that is more than four times the average American household’s annual income. $174,000 to $46,326. Remember, almost every American household has more the one job and/or income earner.
    Congress gets the best healthcare insurance, providers, and facilities that our money can buy. Yet, they don’t want National Healthcare System equal to France’s, which is ranked number one in the world. This is due to the insurance lobby.
    They get free transportation, cars, gas, airfare, all paid for by the American taxpayer. Plus they get a per diem, about $3,000/ trip – no matter how short the trip.
    Members of Congress have a 3 day work week. This year they are slated for 112 days in session. The average American works approximately 243 days per year. That’s calculated by 52 weeks at 5 days per week, with 10 days of vacation and 10 days of holidays subtracted. Not everyone gets two weeks off, nor do they all get holidays… PAID VACATION – who really gets that?
    And they have a fully funded (by us) staff to help them do their jobs.
    At age 62 retired members of Congress begin receiving 44% of their annual salary as a pension. Yet, they voted to lower American’s social security benefits raise the retirement age to 67 and they’re trying to get it up to 72. BTW – there is no pension plan for the average American.
    Social Security was designed and supposedly protected by law to fund nothing but a retirement program for Americans from their taxpayers’ dollars. Congress changed the laws and have robbed it almost to extinction.
    How can a member of congress say they understand the plight of the average American? They are too wealthy.
    The average net worth of an American at retirement age is about $230,000… maybe. The median wealth of a House member is $765,010… For a senator it’s $2.38 million. And don’t forget they continue getting a pension for the rest of their lives.
    Most Americans put their money in 401k retirement accounts. 401k accounts are generally stock investment accounts. Wall Street has seen to it that any investing over the past ten years or so has been so risky that many people pulled their money out of these accounts. The sad thing is – those who have left their money in their retirement funds have lost just about everything. Those who removed their money were taxed at high rates which left them with only a fraction of what they had saved and no way to grow their money through interest or dividends.
    But, does Congress think we should regulate Wall Street or banks? Nope. In fact most of the arms of our government meant to watch over banks and Wall Street, the FCC or the Federal Reserve, the branches that are supposed to provide a flexible – safe monetary and financial system, all of those governmental branches are lead by people who come from Wall Street. Can you say, “The inmates are running the prison!”?
    Something else that everyone seems to overlook is the fact that Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, receive huge amounts of money on a daily basis from interest groups via lobbyist. They get millions of dollars that somehow never gets mentioned when discussing why they vote one way or another. The problem with that is, we have laws against bribery. Bribery is taking money or gifts to sway your vote. It’s illegal for any elected official to accept a bribe, yet it is done every day and no one says anything about it.
    United States citizens have become so involved in their own lives, just trying to survive, they have forgotten to be members of society and watchdog their government. We’ve had many of our rights removed and no one has batted an eye. We have lost our education system and no one seems to understand. We have lost our health and retirement systems and no one can figure out how it happened. One group of people, our government – Democrats and Republicans, has stolen everything from us – from rights to money and no one wants to stand up to them for it.
    Like most abusers our political officials come back to us begging for our votes to put them back into the jobs that they use to take from us. And like the stupid abused people we see on TV or read about on the NET, we say, “It’s okay. We know they love us.” And we vote them back in to abuse us some more. STUPID!
    We have become a society that behaves like a battered women or people that have been so viciously beaten and so veraciously verbally abused that we can’t move, stand up, or even think for ourselves. We are like prisoners of war. Like Stockholm syndrome, we go back the same abuser, even defend them, knowing they’ve done us harm, they’re hold us prisoner and that they’ll do it again. We do it again and again and again every election. STUPID. STUPID. STUPID. No wonder the rest of the world laughs at us silly Americans.
    We are all guilty and it will take all of us to fix it. The only way to do that is to vote. Vote for anyone who isn’t an incumbent. DO NOT LET SOMEONE BACK INTO OFFICE – ANY OFFICE. THE ONLY WAY WE CAN CHANGE OUR GOVERNMENT IS TO CAHNGE THE PERSONNEL. That is where we need to start. I’m voting. Are you?
    We sit and watch TV play games on our computers or plug into our iPods so we don’t have to see, hear, or feel the pain of the abuse or think about the total loss of our world. We are the proverbial monkeys, See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. We just don’t want to think about the evil that our government, our society, our country, our world, has become. It is sickening and it is all because of GREED. Their greed. Your greed. And my greed.
    It’s good to be a Public Servant. It’s the most lucrative job in the world. I want this job. Vote for me, Robert W. – write me in, please. But not on the Republican ticket there are too many yahoos on that one. Set me up a Super PAC, I could use the money. Write me in please and I promise… I’ll get rich. These are my views expressed here and they are based in fact.

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