Big-Time Trouble, but Why Worry?

By Molly Ivins, AlterNet

If you had done a poll in November 2000, or in November 2004, I don't think you would have gotten out of single digits with this proposition: "George W. Bush wants to radically revise American law, including complete repeal of the New Deal, and take us back to the economic legal system that prevailed at the turn of the 19th century -- Robber Barons Redux."

During the past five years, both media and political circles have devoted an enormous amount of attention to social issues and culture wars -- rise of the Christian Right, anti-abortion groups, our debates over moral decline and moral relativism, prayer in the schools, school vouchers, displaying the Ten Commandments, sex and violence in entertainment, bias in the news media, gay marriage and all the rest of it. I sometimes think all of it amounts to a bunch of people saying, "The world would be a much better place if everybody else thought exactly the same way I do." Reminds me of Dr. Henry Higgins in his famous philosophical disquisition, "Why Can't A Woman Be More Like A Man?" Higgins finally discovers the ultimate problem: "Why can't a woman be more like ME?"

Then, of necessity, we have spent huge amounts of time on Sept. 11, terrorism, Iraq, and related and ancillary problems. It is not necessary to review the bidding here, but Iraq is becoming as divisive and unpopular as the Vietnam War.

While we have been absorbed in the silly circus of cultural issues and the riveting questions of the war, we've also been getting our pockets picked. Big time. I am impressed that cartoonist Lloyd Dangle in the strip "Troubletown" managed to get the whole problem into 12 panels, each announcing some piece of economic news accompanied by an American saying, essentially, "What, me worry?" The U.S. is over $7 trillion in debt (no problem); China buys $1 billion worth of U.S. treasury bills a day (thanks for floating us); Americans love the prices at Wal-Mart (made in China, cute!); the Chinese save 50 percent of their domestic product; the average American has $9,000 on his credit cards; our economy is fueled by a fragile housing bubble; the minimum wage is $5.15 per hour ... ; taxpayers who earn over $1 million saved $30K under Bush tax cuts; the war in Iraq costs $9 billion a month; by 2040, our kids will be unable to do more than pay the interest on the national debt ... ; bankruptcy reform makes it impossible to escape your debts; in Darfur [Sudan], people earn $1.25 a day.