Monday, November 21, 2011


I made this mistake, this morning, of glancing at the New York Times headline before sitting down to meditate--which pretty much ensured a prolonged battle with futile thoughts before I managed to get the mind settled down. The headline read: "Lawmakers Trade Blame As Deficit Talks Crumble." That this was the predictable outcome was obvious from the start. No surprise there. But what bothers me is the implication of blame on either side.

Our current economic slump, as I understand it, has two proximate causes: the huge tax cuts in the early days of the Bush administration, and two protracted, unfunded wars. Reaching further back, it is the result of several decades of blind adherence to a trickle-down theory of economics which should have been long ago discredited by anyone with a fair and rational mind, but has been adopted as an article of faith by Republican loyalists; and by a program of deregulation that has given increasing responsibility for the fox to guard the financial hen house.

To attribute equal blame for this mess is to ignore history. These are right-wing actions and policies that have brought us to this pitch. It is right-wing intransigence that denies us a fair and rational solution. To address the clearly non-functional tax code is not the only part of the solution, but to refuse adamantly to consider it is to ignore reality in favor of a demonstrably misguided ideology. Yet this is what Republicans are doing. From what I have read and heard, I have reason to believe that Democrats have been prepared to yield ground on matters of profound importance to them--perhaps too readily. But their willingness to compromise has not been matched on the other side.

Blame, then, in my view, is not equally distributed. Both historically and in the present context, it lies heavily on the shoulders of Republicans. Yet one of their apparently successful strategies, mimic'ed in knee-jerk fashion by the media, is to purvey to the American public that there is equal blame on either side.

The Democrats are not faultless, obviously. They participate in an electoral system that requires them, if they wish to retain their seat, to pay heed to the corporate masters and their lobbyists. In the course of these past decades, they have surrendered more and more of the democratic principle for which they are supposed to stand. They have trembled in their boots before their Republican opponents and the moneyed interests they represent, and have yielded mile after mile of the territory they were supposed to occupy on our behalf. The name of the "Occupy" movement is no accident.

So yes, in the long perspective, there is perhaps shared blame for the current impasse. But don't try telling me that the blame is "equal." It's not. The anger and frustration that such thinking inspires is hard to shake when I sit down to meditate. Both reason and emotion get engaged in this internal battle that I know to be unwinnable but find hard to resist. I keep reminding myself to pay attention to the breath, but my rebellious brain is having such great time that it is reluctant to surrender to the wiser mind.

There was a striking difference, on last night's 60 Minutes, between the interviews with Grover Norquist, gatekeeper of the absurd Republican loyalty oath on taxes, and Christine Lagarde, the new head of the International Monetary Fund. Norquist impressed me as small-minded, smug, tendentious, self-important; Lagarde was modest, thoughtful, open-minded, with a broad view not only of the financial crisis but of humanity in general. At the end of her interview she reminded us, gently, that our seemingly great problems recede into insignificance when seen in the greater perspective of life, and death, and love...

No comments: