Jun 2012 12

by Michael D. Meloan (a.k.a. TheMountebank)

Mitt Romney wants to build a new fleet of battleships to ensure that the US remains world’s undisputed superpower. And he believes that trickle-down economics is the cure for our economic woes. Both represent a doubling-down on failed strategies from the past. The projection of military might into Afghanistan and Iraq has sacrificed our soldiers, depleted our national treasure, and done little to ensure security. US defense spending, at $700 billion, is bigger than the next 17 countries combined. And unregulated American capitalism brought the world economy nearly to its knees, and has destroyed the middle class. Yet conservatives maintain that more of the same is the answer.

Both parties have been compromised and infiltrated by corporate interests via relentless pressure from lobbyists. This has led to a sense of resignation in some camps. Many voters on the left feel betrayed because they believe Barack Obama has not been progressive enough.

I share some of those frustrations. But I also believe that Obama has a deep understanding of the political chess match. It’s a long game, he’s looking many moves ahead. He has a pragmatic sense of governing a country that is profoundly fractious.

The upcoming election marks a pivotal moment in American history. The divide between rich and poor has reached critical levels. This issue is not just about fairness. It cuts to the heart of one of America’s traditional strengths — social mobility. Now, more than in other developed nations, the economic circumstances of our parents will tend to dictate our future prospects.

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project found that 42% of men in the US from the bottom fifth of incomes, stay there as adults. This American disadvantage is much higher than in Denmark and Sweden (25%), and traditionally class-conscious Britain at 30%.

Conversely, about 62% of Americans from the top fifth bracket, will remain within the top two-fifths.

The inadequate American safety net creates more vulnerability for children than in other wealthy countries. Also, the upward spiral of educational costs is a limiting factor for mobility. In addition, the decline of unions in the US has been driving wages down in comparison with Europe.

Even Republican Representative Paul Ryan has written that “mobility from the very bottom up is where the United States lags behind.”

But the conservative answer for all of these negative trends is to stay the course and let the free market work its magic, instead of looking at the attributes creating greater mobility in other countries — strong unions, a robust safety net, access to higher education, and a regulated business environment.

The conservative spin machine has adroitly injected patriotic, religious, and individualistic sound bites into the pop culture allowing conservative politicians to leverage these American values toward a brand of hyper-capitalism that is unparalleled in the world. It serves corporations and shareholders before our citizens. The destruction of the middle class has been the result. If Mitt Romney is elected, we will make another major leap in this direction, and it will have profound human costs.

We need a Democrat in the Whitehouse. We need Barack Obama. In the next few months, work phone banks, walk precincts, talk with friends.

Only 57% of voting age Americans participated in the last presidential election. Many new voters can be mobilized. It will take a grassroots effort. This is the time. Your involvement is key. The ballot box is powerful, and it belongs to us!


Michael D. Meloan’s fiction has appeared in WIRED, BUZZ, Larry Flynt’s Chic, LA Weekly, SuicideGirls, on Joe Frank’s NPR program, and in a number of anthologies. He is coauthor of the novel The Shroud, and also a Huffington Post blogger. In addition, he was an interview subject in the documentary Bukowski: Born into This. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmeloan.

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