Over at the Coffee Party blog, my friends Annabel Park and Eric Byler argue – strongly and articulately, as always – that, “Years from now, we will think of February 2011 as the tipping point in America’s great awakening.” According to Park and Byler, “this be will remembered as the time when the American people decided to come together, confront the plutocracy that plagues our republic, and do something to change the economic inequality/instability that has grown from it.”
Park and Byler then list “Ten Wake Up Calls” – Egypt, Wisconsin, growing income inequality, the “Great American Rip-off,” the BP disaster, the “House of Representatives run amok,” the “Stiglitz Defict-reduction plan,” etc. – they “predict will help define February 2011 in America.”
Are these really “tipping points” for America? As much as I wish they were, I don’t believe they are. In fact, everything I’m seeing indicates the opposite – that we’re treading water at best, backsliding at worst, in the quest to make America a better, more truly prosperous, better educated, healthier, fairer, more just and peaceful, greener/cleaner America. To kick off the conversation, here are a few thoughts from a smart, progressive, politically astute friend of mine.
*”I also think we’re at a tipping point, but I’m not as optimistic as the Coffee Party of where it’s going to take us… Everything feels too 1910s, 1920s, 1930s to me. Replace Britain with the US, Germany with China/Russia… Well, you catch my drift.”
*”… 1848. That didn’t turn out so well in terms of democracy.”
*”One of my concerns right now is oil prices. If Saudi Arabia & Libya fall, and you get a sustained period of lack of access to oil in those places, that could dramatically increase oil prices and inflation, killing Obama’s re-election chances and leading to a rising of the radical right in future elections plus added turmoil in unemployment, economic discontent in general.”
I agree with much of that analysis. I’d also add a few more concerns: 1) the media is almost completely dumbed down and corporatized, providing almost no decent coverage of anything (e.g., see anything on today’s protests around the country in support of Wisconsin unions?); 2) there is simply no serious progressive movement in this country, just one extreme-right-wing party and one center/center-right party (and one that adopts much of the extreme-right-wing party’s framing); and 3) our political system is almost completely incapable of doing what needs to be done to get us out of the mess(es) that we’re in, whether we’re talking about long-term structural deficits, environmental/energy challenges, whatever.
Finally, with specific regard to Park’s and Byler’s wake-up calls, I don’t see how Egypt – even if it succeeds in achieving Democracy, not just another military regime or, even worse, an Islamist-dominated government – is meaningful for the United States. What’s the relevance? As for growing income inequality, that just keeps getting worse and worse, no end in sight as the tax code becomes increasingly regressive and as other forces, such as globalization, cause a “race to the bottom” for the working and middle classes. With regard to the BP oil disaster and other environmental catastrophes, what has our political system done to address those? I’m not seeing it. Finally, with regard to the Wisconsin situation, the bottom line is that even if progressive forces battle to a semi-acceptable compromise there, the fact is that organized labor in this country has been declining for decades, again with no end in sight. Heck, here in Virginia we’ve got top Democratic leaders – Kaine, Warner, Deeds, Armstrong, you name it – who proudly defend “right-to-work” (aka, “right-to-be-poor” union busting). How does any of that add up to a “tipping point?” Got me.