Monday, January 19, 2009

Turning point?

"Comes the revolution," my mother used to say, imitating her grandfather's Yiddish accent, "we'll all eat pitches and krim."

It was my introduction to irony, and, as a young child, I totally didn't get it. We ate peaches (canned) and cream (sour) as often as we liked -- and George Washington had won the revolution way back in olden times. I caught on later, though, in the sixties, when my radical friends and I were busy changing the world -- and it seems that Mom first heard the phrase from great-grandpa back in the thirties, when she and her radical friends were busy changing the world.

A sizable chunk of the population of the United States seems to think the revolution will be starting tomorrow, at the Obama inauguration -- to which I reply, "pitches and krim." Disappointment, I'm afraid, is inevitable. George Washington really did win the revolution -- the bourgeois revolution -- way back in "olden times," and the plutocrats have been firmly in charge ever since.

This is not to say that some revolutionary change didn't take place in the thirties, with the coming of welfare capitalism, or in the sixties, with the expansion of the welfare state and the gains accomplished for civil rights. It's just that the changes didn't match the expectations. They never do.

So what can we expect of Obama? Anybody who's been paying attention can see that while he speaks like an idealist, his actions are guided entirely by pragmatism. He will not expend "political capital" fighting the health care lobby, so we will not have the single-payer health insurance system we so desperately need. He will not stand up to the financial industry, weakened as it is, so we will continue the long-standing practice of socializing losses and privatizing profits. (Yes, taxpayers, you soon will own a shitload of "toxic assets.") He will not instruct his Justice Department to prosecute the leaders of the outgoing administration for war crimes, and he's likely to entagle us in Afghanistan just as thoroughly and painfully as Kennedy entangled us in Vietnam.

I think the best we can hope for is the reversal of some of the catastrophic mistakes of Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush II -- although nearly thirty years of free-market excess aided and abetted by government is not likely to disappear in eight, despite the clear failure of Milton Friedman/Alan Greenspan economics. Still, all of us can be happy that The Worst President In The History Of The United States Of America will no longer be around to make things even worse.

Is that enough of a "turning point" for you? I hope so.

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