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Republicans Have Become the Failing Power Grid of America

Watching the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, I found myself repeating something I’ve complained about for decades. I watched the tired story of millions of people living in dark because of power lines being whipped about in a storm. What a metaphor that is for how truly in-the-dark America has become.

I listened to stories of power companies and the U.S. government spending millions of dollars to get trees off of power lines and replace transformers that blew up due to the downed lines or to water entering them. I watched thousands of people redo work they’ve redone every time a storm has blown through town, and I wondered why a nation thinks of itself as great yet cannot even attain the most obvious solutions to problems that repeat as routinely as the tide. U.S. power companies repeat the same cycle every fall and winter of rebuilding power lines after storms. Yet, some European countries put all of their power lines underground everywhere, safely out of reach of storms forever, decades ago.

Now I apply that to our present economic disaster and wonder why weren’t those billions of dollars in federal bailout money over the last five years spent rebuilding our infrastructure — including the power grid — into superior systems? We are as stupid as Sisyphus, pushing the same rock up the mountain just to watch it roll down again. We rebuild now-ancient technology the same way we did it before. Because of short-sighted greed, we do not seize the opportunity to do it all better this time by burying the lines in conduits because that is too expensive in the short term. We are a myopic nation that lives in a Dark Age of our own making. We can waste trillions on banks, but won’t risk spending those same trillions on an underground power system that no storm can ever tear apart.

 

Divine power

We listen to our power companies as if they are divinely inspired when they tell us that they are unable to engineer their way out of the single problem of buried systems — flooded underground transformer vaults. Rather than demand better, we accept this excuse, even though we’ve all seen new communities put power lines underground with total success. The power companies, themselves, apparently lack the brains to do what would be best for themselves in longterm, and the reason they lack the brains to do things differently is because they are obsessed with short-term profits.

Entire nations have put their power lines underground, as have some of the United State’s newest communities, simply because their towns look better that way. They care about how they look. We don’t. Many American communities have always been more interested in cheap shopping or saving themselves taxes than in creating beautiful communities. They lack vision because of the almighty dollar’s value in their lives … above beauty and even above common cents. They are penny wise and pound foolish, preferring to patch streets endlessly or rebuild portions of power grids every year, rather than dig deep into their pockets and solve a problem for the next hundred years. Perhaps we no longer care about posterity or about creating a legacy. Most American communities are willing to live forever under a net of wires and exploding transformers for the sole reason that it saves money now — even though it will cost them more money over the long run to keep replacing the net every time it tears. And tear it does — every year — sometimes in a few small places and sometimes all over the place, depending on the scale of the storm.

Perhaps many Americans are too individualistic because of our pioneer past to band together to accomplish great civic projects. Perhaps it is only because we value money so much that we don’t bat an eye at our government — Republican or Democrat — when it spends trillions to bail out criminal banksters. For years, at least half of Americans have believed the lie that we must depend upon the rich to create jobs and to create an economy and to create and manage our economic system.

U.S. citizens like to boast of the technological prowess of our companies even while accepting companies that continue to use delivery systems invented over a hundred years ago as if that is the best we can ever do. We live as if we should aspire to no better because we don’t want to pay taxes. We boast of having the most expensive medical system, even though our health is not one dime better than the health of people in any first-world nation on this earth. It is a simple fact that we do not live longer than Canadians or the English or Germans or the French. We do not live in less pain either. We do not lose fewer babies in child birth. We boast of being a great nation while living with transportation systems that pale in comparison to Japan or France or England … even though we have far more area to cover.

 

What has derailed America?

I have said throughout this Great Recession that all the bailout money should have been spent on infrastructure, not on bailing out corrupt banks. We could have already started laying high-speed monorail by now, as the engineering and planning could have been completed (while creating jobs for young engineers coming out of college), except that we no longer accomplish grand community projects because we prefer to spend years in political process and in suing ourselves over where the rail should run and over whether we should really have the best, smoothest and fastest mag-lev train technology or just seventy-mile-per-hour trains that are good enough and that run on rubber wheels that were invented over a hundred years ago.

If we could even accomplish the low-tech rubber-wheel trains, we would think we had accomplished something magnificent. I watched in Seattle as voters approved a monorail of the old design three times over three years (because of opponents always bringing it back to a vote). Seattle didn’t even dare dream of the more expensive but better mag-lev monorails — just the old rubber wheels. On the fourth time in as many years and the voter-approved monorail was voter-defeated forever because local businesses finally raised enough opposition to vote it back down. The city had already spent millions in designing, buying up land, and discussing the project to death with the public due to the first three elections that approved it. Then they voted it down and had nothing to show for any of that effort.

I lived in Honolulu for a few years and witnessed exactly the same thing repeat itself there. We are a nation of penny-pinching individualists with no great community vision left. Seattle argued for more than a decade about the monorail and literally spent millions just spinning its wheels in endless argument, getting nowhere but spending a fortune to get there. Now Honolulu is running down the same rails. We have traffic gridlock in many cities because we have political gridlock. We get nowhere because of obstructionist government, but we spend billions of dollars nationally just to argue about it, vote on it and argue about it some more.

Over the past five years of this economic depression, we could have already laid underground power systems throughout the country. We could have started laying fiber-optic system telecommunication systems everywhere — government-owned infrastructure that private industry would to pay to lease in order to provide superior service because private industry either was not willing or was not able to take the financial risk of such great projects on themselves. We woudn’t want to do that, though. That would be communist to do something on a societal scale. Better to have nothing. We could have started building mag-lev trains that whisk along quietly at 300 miles per hour on all of our major corridors — trains that are so inspired, beautiful and fun to ride because of their speed, their dips, their thrills, that they would actually entice people out of their cars. We could have begun a path to reducing gridlock for the next hundred years. But we didn’t. Instead, we bailed out financial monsters and have not even come close to recovering the old dinosaur economy, let alone building a new one. We have gotten nowhere, but have spent four years arguing about it.

In short, we could have spent these trillions of dollars of debt that we did, in fact, spend anyway … on things that matter and that help build a better future society. It is not that this would give us something to show for OUR money. It is that it would give us and the next generation something to show for THEIR money. But we have gone through five years with no vision at all, endlessly patching broken systems … and mostly just arguing and repeating exhausted beliefs, such as trickle-down economics.

Republicans will say this lack of vision is clearly Obama’s fault, since he has been president through four of those five years. (Actually, they’ll only talk about four out of four years, lest they admit that this entire economic collapse came about during their years.) Yet, it is these Republican retards who have not presented a single bright or innovative solution in four years, but have only thrown up the same things they’ve been tossing up for thirty years. They openly declared they were going to focus on running an obstructionist government to get the presidency back, and that is what they did. In the nation’s worst crisis in nearly a century, they chose to put the whole nation at risk for four years during which we should have been pitching in together and battling for our survival, not battling each other. And then they got voted back into congress for having done this morally treasonous act of putting their own political advancement ahead of the survival of our nation during one of its worst times.

For four years Republicans deliberately stood in the way of every infrastructure project proposed, yet they readily voted for bank bailouts. Socializing the costs of welfare is no good in their mind until it becomes necessary for the welfare of failed capitalists. You would think these Republican dinosaurs actually believe that government-built roads are a bad idea … as if there is some Republican ideal that stands opposed to good roads and good power systems and truly rapid transit — all of which would empower the economy of the future. No sense creating work today by building long-term solutions that provide a foundation for solid economic growth tomorrow.

 

The Republican road to ruin

I’ve decided Republican politicians must hate this country at a very deep and selfish level because they would rather see it die under a Democrat than succeed under a Democrat. They want to privatize everything, and yet look at what a horrid job many companies do at even running their own business … such as the power companies or FedEx and U.P.S.. These companies already cost more than the United States Postal Service, yet Republicans won’t approve a five-cent increase in postage that would save the entire U.S. Postal System because they WANT to see it privatized. They are so addicted to the idea that private enterprise can do everything better than government that they want to see the post office fail so that its work can go to private companies. Never mind that the U.S. Postal Service (even at five cents more) provides some of the cheapest postal delivery on earth — even cheaper than its private counterparts in this country — along with a federal investigation service to protect that delivery, which no company can match.

Republicans have retreated to the backwaters for four years because it has become their religion that private business could and should handle all services better … except, of course, the sacrosanct military. Rather than approve the only kind of spending that would be good for the country when Obama has timidly proposed it (project that create jobs and pave the way to accelerated commerce in the future), they have done everything they can to assure the country fails on Obama’s watch. The saddest truth is that they got re-elected for doing so. So, I lay the blame squarely at the feet of American people. The last thing Republican voters want is for a Democrat president to get the glory for the nation doing better — better to keep obstructionists in office who have no ideas whatsoever other than the bankrupt ideas that got us here.

Republicans — the party I used to vote for most often but now do not vote for at all — have become truly stupid politicians. I’ve grown completely weary of them and their tired ideas and especially weary of their unadulterated hatred for Obama. This hatred rises beyond any hatred for any candidate I’ve ever witnessed. Again and again, I’ve heard Fundamentalist Christians refer to Obama as the Muslim Antichrist. How Christian of them to jump to such lurid conclusions on such pale evidence. What great harm has Obama done to the nation in four years that even halfway compares to the harm George Bush did? Granted, Obama, hasn’t done much that’s great for the nation, but Republicans have also done nothing to help him help the country.

Republicans have offered no new vision in four years to help heal this country from economic collapse. Romney talked up his claim that he would reduce the national debt, but he refused to spell out how he’d accomplish that. Republicans were content to vote for him anyway just because he said he would. All we heard was the same old Republican mantras about the wealthy creating jobs because of the Bush tax cuts. Somehow, it never dawned on Republican voters that the wealthy in this country are still doing fine and that we’ve had nine years of the Bush tax cuts, yet jobs have not been this bad since nearly a century ago. You’d think such huge facts would be hard to miss.

Throughout this tedious two-year election cycle, Republicans voters totally denied the simple fact that the rich pay lower taxes, not higher taxes! It is a fact that the rich make all their money off of capital gains, which are taxed at our lowest tax rate — our poverty-level tax bracket. They have ignored the truth that the rich pay only eighty percent of the taxes in this nation while making more than eight-five percent of the money. Clear proof that the rich are not even paying a proportionate share of the taxes, much less paying more than their share. They ignore this even when the very Rich like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are putting it in their face every month.

In these dark days when the nation needs a truly inspired leader, Republicans rounded up the dimmest string of candidates I’ve seen in my lifetime — more than half a century. Talk about a brown-out of intellect! If “Palin, Perry, Bachman and Romney” was the name of a legal firm, I wouldn’t trust that firm to represent my dog in a cat fight. This string of dim bulbs could not even draw moths to their pale illumination. Ask them an intelligent question like “What newspapers do you read,” and you can see the filaments of their minds begin to flicker and dim under the load. Yet, apparently, they represent the best and the brightest to Republican voters, for the Republican party searched the nation for two years, and this was the best they could come up with.

In terms of foreign diplomacy, it is apparently enough for Republican voters that a presidential candidate can see Russia. Palin never completed a single term as governor before she became one of their top choices for president of the United States. Prior to that, her highest elected position was mayor of a one-light icy berg on the fringe of the known world. Romney couldn’t even travel to merry old England without turning himself into an embarrassment to the U.S. and the enemy of an entire nation at an event that is supposed to be fun. It was as if his tongue was a jump rope, which he kept tripping over in front of everyone. The entire British press criticized him. Yet, almost half of America voted for this misspoken, rude jester to become president. Never mind that he was the perfect figurehead for Wall Street, which created these economic dark days, who ran a company with a name as villainous in sound as “Bain,” which made millions off of government bailouts while closing down American factories as its contribution to the U.S. economy. The only jobs Romney ever created were in China.

Romney argued another tired Republican mantra that “government does not create jobs, yet in the very same speech proclaimed, “I will create millions of jobs if I am elected president.” How could Republican voters not notice the obvious contradiction of those two comments occurring in the same speech? If government cannot create jobs, how is it that electing Romney to the highest government position would enable him to create millions of jobs? Romney convinced Republican voters of two opposites at the same time.

How stupid can people get?

 

Where there is no vision, the people perish

Apparently people can become pretty stupid. We have destined ourselves in this last election to stumble along with four more years of the same divided, grid-locked, obstructionist, zero-vision government. We have done so because a great many Americans are more wedded to tired and failed political ideals and to proving they are right and the other party is wrong, than they are to solutions and success. We have become a nation that would rather die being right than live again by admitting we were wrong.

While Obama has not articulated or pursued any truly inspiring vision, he has, at least, proposed spending a small portion of this mountain of government money we are throwing around on projects that can provide lasting good to the people we are going to stick with the bill. I do not think that at any time in history a nation has so willingly handed its children such enormous debt with so little to show for it. And Obama has reached much further toward accommodating Republicans than they have reached toward him. Heck, they spat in his outstretched hand two years ago because, if they helped pull the country forward with him, he might look good and get re-elected. Better that the whole country should wallow in the doldrums than that it should succeed and a Democrat get the glory.

Well, the Democrat got re-elected anyway, but so did most Republicans; so we voted as a nation for four more years of the same power gridlock.

 

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of ExtremismShowdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Battled the GOP to Set Up the 2012 ElectionBeyond Outrage: Expanded Edition: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it (Vintage)

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