Commentary: It’s hard to get into the holiday spirit

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 25, 2009 

It's traditional to count our blessings at this time of year, but given the general state of affairs and Washington's whole lot of talk and no action, it's hard to get into the holiday spirit.

It's harder still if you're one of the many in the unemployment lines or one of the many who are cleaning out the shelves of the charity food pantries so their children don't go hungry.

The national treasury is pretty much empty, and our line of credit with our traditional allies, formerly known as Red China, is drying up. We still have plenty of paper and ink, though, and the Treasury's printing presses are running 24/7 with no sign of a respite. The dollars they crank out are sinking like the Titanic, and gold is at $1,300 an ounce and rising fast.

Our new president is either snake-bit or vampire-bit, and he hasn't managed to keep even a token number of his campaign promises. But that's about to change with next week's Decider act on Afghanistan, when he's expected to up the ante by another 34,000 or so U.S. troops, bringing our total investment in a losing situation to more than 100,000 if they all get there next year.

He did promise to do something about that eight-year-old war, but he didn't promise that it would be the right something.

Health care reform — which was supposed to be passed and signed into law by last August — isn't even halfway done yet and will likely be pushed off to next year.

Our president left this badly needed fix to our broken-down health care system to the tender mercies of a Congress that's largely bought and paid for by the big health care and pharmaceutical and insurance corporations who are what's wrong with our health care system in the first place.

Predictably, they've neutered the bills of any real possibility of reform, turning even the thought of a public option alternative to the robber barons into an exercise in socialism, communism and Nazism.

As if nobody in America ever heard of Medicare or the Veterans Administration medical system — both very popular programs run by and paid for by the big bad Government.

What's the point in having a Democrat in the White House and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress if they all act like Republicans?

The new president arrived in the middle of a very scary recession triggered by the unabashed greed and incompetence of a bunch of Wall Street bankers and brokers and insurers. A trillion dollars of taxpayer money was flung at them on the grounds that they were "too big to fail," and reforms were promised to restore some semblance of order and legality to what had become a nest of pirates and looters.

Now we approach end-of-the-year bonus time on Wall Street, and you can believe the bankers and brokers are already salivating as they wait for their millions in reward money to arrive.

Nothing has been reformed. Nothing has been done to keep the thieves from doing it all over again. They feel quite secure if no one else in America does. After all, the new president put some of Wall Street's favorite handmaidens in charge of the Treasury, the Securities and Exchange Commission and our very economy itself.

Happy days are here again. Or still.

Now, let's turn back to Afghanistan. There are several very good reasons why sending 34,000 more U.S. troops there is a very bad decision. The terrorist enemy they are supposedly going there to fight, al Qaida, isn't there at all. They are really going there to fight the Taliban, who are 100 percent Afghan, on behalf of one of the most corrupt governments we've ever installed anywhere.

We've politely asked President Hamid Karzai and his kleptomaniacs to stop stealing most of the millions we've sent to help rebuild a country torn apart by four decades of war. We've asked Karzai to counsel his family to get out of the opium and heroin trade. They've all promised to do much better, and no doubt they will.

So billions more of the money we can't afford will be poured down the Afghan rat hole, and hundreds more fine young American men and women will die and thousands more will be injured or wounded in pursuit of an impossible dream.

If this is the best the new president and his Congress can do, then God help us. We might just as well have kept George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for another four years. Those guys wouldn't have dashed anybody's hopes.

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