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The Decade in Review: Checking Out Our Big Ideas

Pete Karman

Our leaders have come up with some big ideas in recent years. Virtually all have been bought by ordinary Americans, and many are still being paid for in one way or another. Nearing the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I thought it a good time review some of these brainstorms. FREE TRADE was the idea that we would be able to buy tons of cheap Chinese stuff at Walmart if we merely gave up our good-paying manufacturing jobs and went into hellacious hock to foreigners. It has worked out perfectly--for the Chinese! DEREGULATION was the idea that if you let greedheads run our financial system without rules and regs it would not only make everyone rich but automatically correct itself if, by any chance, something went wrong. Though the system then drowned in a cesspool of corruption, that seems no reason to sour on the basic premise of capitalism that the worst people for the worst motives will somehow work for the benefit of us all. COUNTERINSURGENCY is not what happened at the mall on Black Friday, but is rather a euphemism for conquest. Its main idea is that, using translators, we can get perfect strangers in distant countries to help us kill their own people and run their countries for them. The idea has a spotty record, with its worse recent showing in Vietnam. Two things in its favor are that Americans, particularly SimCity players, love to organize other people's places, and that since it's being done overseas and thus out of mind, counterinsurgency offers fabulous opportunities to steal both from foreigners and our government. HEALTHCARE REFORM is the idea that if you oblige people by law to buy inadequate insurance from financial companies who make their money by denying healthcare they will not only be healthier but somehow save money. This is considered superior to socialistic foreign systems where people go to doctors and hospitals when they get sick. GREEN is the most dazzling sales tool since the first marketer figured out that you could get people to spend money simply by using the word Save in ads. Just call them Green and you can sell white elephants, red tag items and blue light specials. USURY is finally acceptable after centuries on religion's moral shit list. The Bible dumps on it bigtime, and in 1179 Pope Alex III and his cardinals decreed that it be punished by excommunication. No matter, usury now comes with every credit card in your pocket and personal loan you make. Organized religion, obsessed with matters sexual, seems to have taken a vow of silence on this particular sin. Banks are charging such ridiculous interest rates that loansharks are biting themselves. It won't be long before Shylock's House of Vig opens a branch on your block. FULL SPECTRUM DOMINANCE is an old idea in a new Kevlar helmet. Schemes to take over the world were once evils ascribed to the Soviet communist empire and villains in James Bond movies. Now they're the official mission impossible of the American empire. This bit of Pentagonese means what it says--that the U.S. and its 'interests' should dominate the whole world, including the oceans and the skies, not to mention the oil fields. The other 95 percent of humanity hates FSD, but Americans are either ignorant or approving of it. One of the great questions for history is why the American people, who know nothing and care less about the world, are so willing to empty their wallets and volunteer the lives of their kids to boss it around? This post originally appeared at The Karman Turn.

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Pete Karman began working in journalism in 1957 at the awful New York Daily Mirror, where he wrote the first review of Bob Dylan for a New York paper. He lost that job after illegally traveling to Cuba (the rag failed shortly after he got the boot). Karman has reported and edited for various trade and trade union blats and worked as a copywriter. He was happy being a flack for Air France, but not as happy as being an on-and-off In These Times editor and contributor since 1977.
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