Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Baltimoring of America

As Congress and the President go down to the wire negotiating a package of enormous spending cuts and tiny-to-nonexistent tax hikes, this state-of-the-nation diagnosis by David Simon, creator of the epic of Baltimore street and political life The Wire, seems tragically as appropos as it was when spoken in 2006:

But what really ails America, in my opinion, is this:  Raw, unencumbered capitalism is an economic force and a potent one.  But it is not social policy and amid a political culture of greed and selfishness, it is being made to substitute for social policy.  The rich get richer, the poor get fucked, and the middle class of this country - the union-wage consumer class that constituted the economic strength of postwar America - is fast disappearing as the need for union-wage work disappears.

Raw capitalism - absent the moderating aspect of a political system that cares for the great mass of voters (or non-voters) who uphold that system - is not good for most of us.  It is great for a few of us.  We are building only the America that we are paying for, and ultimately, it is going to be an ugly and brutal place, much like the city-state depicted in The Wire.  So when Congress fails to raise the minimum wage for the first time in fifteen years because they will do so only if at the same they can eliminate an estate tax for the wealthiest 8,000 families in the country, as they did this month, I at least manage a smile to know that the content of my little television drama is not the stuff of hyperbole; if anything we've been gentle about what the American future is.

Race and race-consciousness - which seems to occupy so many viewers, black and white - seems almost beside the point when all of us, regardless of our melanin, are being subjected to such diminished opportunities and when the political structure is so indifferent to the social and economic fabric of the nation as a whole.

Is Obama better equipped to move this battleship a few degrees than the venal-idealistic Wire mayor, Carcetti?   After months of watching him negotiate with himself before finally drawing a hard line against a deal with no revenue increases, it's hard to keep faith. 

1 comment:

  1. keep your faith - President Obama is the best hope you have had in a long time to move our country in the direction of social justice