Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union

This evening Barack Obama, the President of the United States, will read his first "State of the Union" address to Congress (and to the American people). Hopefully he will level with us and admit -as Gerald Ford did back in the mid-70's - that "the state of the union is not good" (I'm actually old enough to clearly recall hearing this speech) but likely since our new President has proven himself a consummate master at the art of ecquivocation we will be told something other than the unvarnished truth. Some of the measures that he is expected to propose as a solution to our current economic dilemmas resemble those taken by Herbert Hoover after the Great Crash of 1929, and as my entry below implies, it is my expectation they will have similar results. A band-aid is inappropriate when major surgery is required, but there are few politicians in either major party who have any stomach for the kind of surgery necessary, indeed they would regard even the mere proposal thereof as politically inexpedient to their careers.

I voted for Obama - mostly as a vote against the conservatives (whom I really strongly oppose) rather than as a vote for the candidate himself - but like many I had indulged high hopes that an African-American running on a platform of "change" would actually bring at least some component of genuine progressive thinking to the office. I have been disappointed so far - he has proven himself as merely a progressive liberal by rhetoric, but a pragmatic Centrist by policy, and fundamentally conducts himself no differently than any other Washington politician. The Right has made a sensational rhetorical game out of attacking Obama as a "socialist" and a man who keeps company with "radicals" etc. and has won quite a few converts among a disaffected and not very well informed population - but the truth is there is little substantive difference between either of the major parties in terms of the actual conduct of policy. Both Democrats and Republicans remain equally committed to upholding the existing status quo - in spite of the fact that the evidence - to those who really care to take a good hard look - is that the present way of doing the peoples business in the Republic is failing, and that genuinely progressive alternatives are needed. The people voted for "change" because that is what, deep down, the people really want and need - we haven't seen any!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blog format has changed

As of todays date I am altering the format of excaliburs word - this site will no longer be a public forum on public policy & faith, but has been converted to a personal electronic journal which will include commentary on current affairs and issues. However, this journal will continue to be available for public comment.

2009 has been a stressful year - last February, my desperate financial circumstances in the wake of an extended layoff from my last job made it necessary to re-locate from Tampa and move in with my recently widowed aunt and two twentysomething cousins here in Pinellas Park. My aunts house is comfortable, but family circumstances here make it a three-ring circus most of the time, and the adjustment has been difficult for one like me who is accustomed to the serenity of living alone. It now appears that I am facing a possible layoff from my current job as a civilian staff member with the Police Dept. (I work in an office that handles fund-raising for Police-related public charities such as the Police Athletic League). I started in this position last March and have almost a year of service, but our productivity numbers in our office have dipped precipitously due to the impact of the economic recession on charitable donations.

With reference to the recession - in the opinion of economists we are currently experiencing a "recovery" in terms of most of the major indicators upon which these things are measured, although it has not impacted unemployment which remains at record lows not matched since the 70's - and not exceeded since the Great Depression of the 30's. However many of the economists have suggested that this is really a short-lived psuedo-recovery that will be followed up by a second recession likely more devastating than the one from which we are now recovering.

Personally, I am inclined to agree with this Cassandra prognosis, as I'm aware the long-term cause of the crisis itself was the multi-dimensional failure of the finance-capital system of Wall Street, and is a demonstration to me that the American-style de-regulated brand of corporation capitalism is a non-viable system given to repeated cycles of instability. Moreover, economies today are no longer "national" economies, but we now live in an interdependent global economy in which trans-national actors (such as transnational corporations) have a more significant impact on economic events than do the policies of individual nation-states. What the present occupant of the White House does, or does not do, has only a marginal impact on an interconnected global system. The USA has only a minimal production basis for its economy today and is dependent on off-shore production from industrial contractors in other nations (especially China), what was once the center of US economic strength has now been sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed. We are now but a consumer market for mostly foreign produced goods - and as the economic system proceeds to unravel, even our viability in this regard will rapidly disintegrate. In short, I'm not sanguine about our future.