Here are some thoughts at the end of September.
Most Americans wish someone would push the fast forward button to January, 2009, so we can see George W. Bush kicked back to Texas. Pundits agree Hillary has been running a flawless campaign and will likely be the Democratic nominee. She has been impressively competent. Once her nomination becomes reality, the selection of her running mate will be the hot topic. Obama would be an exciting choice for his freshness and a wise one to enable his seasoning and preparation to be the successor.
Today Bush is threatening a veto of a bi-partisan act to expand the federal subsidy of health insurance coverage for children. Even the insurance industry favors the expansion, but Bush says he will stick to his mission to stop government spending. The expanded coverage would cost $35 billion over five years, the same amount of our tax money Bush is spending every six months in Iraq. I think the nation is finally realizing that the “free market” has never been able to provide universal health care and that a Medicare type program is needed to provide insurance coverage for everyone.
Also today, the Iranian President and Bush both address the UN General Assembly. Reminds me of the movie, “Dumb and Dumber”. The UN will keep Iran in check, because the Security Council members with veto power all want that. The US makes the most noise, but China’s position is the key to getting things done.
At the UN, Bush verbally attacks the military junta which has ruled Myanmar for 19 years. Like the Iranian President, Bush likes to hear himself talk. But China is the major player in what is happening in Myanmar. The military government of that country is being restrained by Chinese pressure from cracking down on the protestors who are now emboldened. Maybe some progress will be made on starting to free that nation from the hold of its oppressive regime.
The new PBS series on WWII documents the overwhelming magnitude of the death and devastation of that War, particularly as it fell on civilians, starting with the blitz of London, progressing through the fire bombing of Germany and ending with the Atomic bombing of Japan. The axis powers had delusions of grand imperial expansion and the vast majority of their civilian populations, with the possible exception of Italy, were wildly supportive. Think of the Bush program pushed in 2003 to spread democracy to the world and of all the cars driving around with American flags and yellow ribbons and you begin to get the idea.
In many invaded and occupied countries during WWII, civilian patriots fought the invaders and resisted the occupiers by whatever means available. We rightly celebrate their bravery and heroism. Yet in our own time, the Bush administrations has been striving for years to get our courts to adopt the concept that such civilians who oppose our actions should be called “enemy combatants” and forfeit all legal rights to fair treatment under either agreed military conventions or civilian constitutional protections. This effort is correctly seen worldwide as a shame on America.
We learned a lot from WWII. Ken Burns, the producer of the PBS series, was rightly concerned that we may have forgotten those lessons and that we have failed to teach them to our younger generations. The UN, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, bona fide international legal tribunals, international regulation of atomic energy and the peaceful resolution of disputes between nations were all needs that were addressed and met after the end of the War. America, the chief advocate for world peace following WWII, has sadly in the last couple decades, through the Republican Party and especially under George W. Bush, seemed to be working to undermine institutions of international peace.
Back on the home front, a somewhat unexpected strike by the United Auto Workers has once again put needed attention on our beleaguered auto industry and the insecurity of employer provided pension benefits. Our auto maker corporations ignore the simple fact that they make crappy cars and instead blame their financial woes on being saddled with retiree pension costs. The union wants to take the pension responsibility off the auto maker hands, which makes a lot of sense to me. The auto makers should just turn the pension funds over to the union to manage and then stop whining about the cost. Whatever it costs them they can write off, let the stockholders eat any loss, and then move on to 401k type plans with no guarantees. Of course, this would mean giving up the option of escaping current pension promises by filing bankruptcy. Moving the pensions to union control, forgetting about bankruptcy tricks and focusing on building better cars is what needs to be done to keep American cars competitive. We should build American cars so good the Chinese people will want to buy them instead of waiting for their government to enable the building of good Chinese cars. We could follow the example of the deal Japan and the US made, and build a negotiated number of American cars in China as a condition to be allowed to sell even more of our cars over there.