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Funky Town

I'm usually not home in time to catch "Lou Dobbs Tonight" on CNN, but I had called in sick to work on Monday (July 30) and I found myself watching more television than usual. Watching Dobbs get upset can be fun, even when the things he's upset about are not funny at all.

The intro to Monday's show featured the following observations, among others: "The federal government has utterly failed to fix the illegal immigration crisis. (snip) Also, the Bush administration (is) failing to maintain defenses against dangerous imports from communist China and other nations, but imports of dangerous foods and contaminated food, in fact, soaring. (snip) And a new threat to one of the most fundamental principles of our democracy, our right to vote. Every single e-voting system tested by the state of California turns out to be vulnerable to fraud."

The transcript is worth reading.

Anyway, Dobbs seemed to utter some variation of the same question repeatedly during the broadcast, "Why can't the Bush Administration do anything right?"


CNN correspondent Kitty Pilgrim reported that there are only about 450 inspectors for every 20 million shipments of food imported into the United States. CNN correspondent Christine Romans reported that Thomas Moore, appointed to the Consumer Product Safety Commission by President Clinton, said that, "Staffing cuts and other resource reductions have limited the commission's ability to carry out its mission." Dobbs asked, "Why in the world is the United States government not protecting American consumers here?"

Regarding immigration, Dobbs said, "The federal government's failure to enforce existing immigration law have left the states with the responsibility and certainly the consequences." He went on to say that, "...just as we have with what is happening with the FDA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the funding of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Citizenship and Immigration Services and a host of other agencies, this administration has absolutely refused to fund the enforcement of U.S. law. It is no accident. It is not simply negligence. It is a committed, committed decision to not enforce this nation's laws."

CNN Correspondent Casey Wian reported that. "Teams of hackers employed by the University of California conducted sample elections and found the technology and security of all three (California electronic voting) systems could be compromised." If that's not bad enough, Wian also reported that, "Another disturbing conclusion, all the investigators said they needed more time to thoroughly examine the e-voting machines, and may have missed other serious vulnerabilities."

The trend here is obvious. Our government is not effectively meeting its most basic functions of protecting its citizens and safeguarding democracy. And we're only talking about a few domestic issues here; Dobbs attacked many others during the broadcast. When Dobbs opined that, "It is a committed, committed decision to not enforce this nation's laws," and asks "Why in the world is the United States government not protecting American consumers here?" it got me thinking.

For most of this decade, the Republican Party has been driving the federal government. All of the shortcomings that Lou lamented are really just byproducts of the Republican attitudes toward governance. If the core of the Republican values system is small, limited (read: ineffective, but business-owner-friendly) government, then nobody should be surprised that the government protections that we Americans have taken for granted for years and years should suddenly vanish. This is what Americans chose when they elected Bush. Twice.

So Lou Dobbs is in a bit of a funk, and so is the average American according to a piece by Michael Barone that appeared on the right-leaning RealClearPolitics.com on Monday as well. Barone, citing a recent Pew poll, noted that, "(The Nation's funk is) partly a partisan response: Almost all Democrats are negative about the nation's future. But when one considers that America has not suffered another Sept. 11, and that it has enjoyed a surging and prosperous economy, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that citizens of this most blessed country are registering a verdict that is in tension with reality." Barone also asked, "But what basis do Americans have to suppose that, for the first time in history, a younger generation will be worse off than their parents? Perhaps it's just a feeling that things cannot possibly get any better. In any case, we seem to be in a pronounced national funk."

To answer Barone's question, perhaps it is worth revisiting the transcript from Monday's "Lou Dobbs Tonight." About two-thirds of the way through the show, Dobbs addressed three talk-radio hosts, Joe Madison of WOL in Washington, D.C. among them. In response to a comment about a sense of rising tensions, "...over jobs, over wages as a result of illegal immigration," Madison said, "Well, one of the concerns I've had is this smoldering situation in urban America. You know, ever since, I guess, the last 30 years, we've seen a diminish in youth job opportunities. The government -- look, I had a summer job thanks to the government. And there are many CEOs that got their first job (thanks to the government). And now what we find is that 80 percent of young African- Americans, mostly in urban areas -- and also white Americans in rural areas -- teenagers are not working. They're idle this summer. And then we wonder why there's a rise in crime. We wonder why we're seeing the situation. And many of these kids are being undercut by, again, people who, as you report, who are paying (illegal immigrants) off the books... (they) should be employing teenagers."

Mark Simone, of WABC in New York told Dobbs, "I tell people today's truck driver is the dry-waller of three years from now. We are losing our jobs. We are importing cheap labor and exporting the means of production. The stock market is running at records right now, but it's reflective of the profits of the multinational corporations. Hang onto your hats. If a young kid in the inner city can't get a job, it's just a question of time until that works its way up."

Perhaps it is Mr. Barone's analysis of the national mood that is, "in tension with reality." While we're all glad that we haven't (yet) suffered another September 11-style attack, not being attacked doesn't put food on the table. If average Americans can only look forward to jobs that earn less money and come with fewer benefits as they compete with communist Chinese laborers and illegal immigrants for jobs and wages and the food that they can afford is the product of an unregulated and unsafe food distribution system, then what does Mr. Barone expect? Part of the reason that Wall Street has seen some fantastic numbers lately is because the Republican (lack of) governance that has been the source of discontent among working Americans is the same Republican (lack of) governance that is concentrating America's wealth into the hands of the already-wealthy. Precious little is trickling down. But, this is what Republicans want, isn't it – an every-man-for-himself free-for-all?

Perhaps Dobbs hit the nail on the head when he asked, "...have we really reached that point where we're just -- in this country right now, our expectations have been compressed to such a low level that there is just now numb acceptance?" - I hope not.


Michael Barone is just wrong on this, and so is every other pundit that says "things are great. what are amerians complaining about?" Well, well to do baby boomers, fast approaching retirement (like Barone) don't have much to worry about. Their at the tailend of their working years, and will be fully covered by Social Security benefits, pensions, etc. It's the rest of us will be forced to clean up their messes and take care of them as they become even more detached from reality. So we're worried, but Barone and his wine drinking buddies are not. Like Bill Maher said, if you're not angry, you must not be paying attention.

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