Who speaks for me?

A good friend argues that the United States of America is a great civilization in decline.

I’m afraid he is right and I’m beginning to think we will always refuse to help ourselves. It’s too easy to blame Chicago-style politics, which implies it’s all the fault of President Barack Obama, who came to Washington from Chicago.

Anyone who believes this has a short memory. To wit, take what Tom Quiner, a  Des Moines business owner, composer and playwright calls Federal Spending for Dummies:

In 1980, the federal government spent an average of $2,498 per citizen.

In 1990, the federal government spent an average of $4,943 per citizen.

In 2000, the federal government spent an average of $6,138 per citizen.

In 2010, the federal government will spend an average of $11,640 per citizen (estimated).

If we adjust for inflation using 1980 dollars, federal spending has climbed 79 percent, from $2,498 per person in 1980 to $4,470 today.

Democrats AND Republicans are equally to blame for the mess in which this country finds itself. Trying to use reconciliation to approve health-care reform — what the so-called fair and balanced journalists at Fox News called “the nuclear option” — has been used to change federal fiscal policies for 35 years.

 We all know Democrats can spend money. They have more than proven that in the past year. But focusing only on that makes it easy to overlook the  three times President George W. Bush and a Republican-controlled Senate used reconciliation (or nuked the economy, which is how I imagine Fox would report on it if it had been done by Obama and Democrats) to cut taxes while simultaneously increasing spending to fight two wars.

The Far Right blames every problem on the Far Left and vice versa, leaving the rest of in the middle frustrated and angry. I agree that so far Obama is tone-deaf to the chorus of frustration coming from the majority in the middle. His ego may be his downfall. His counterparts on the Far Right — from Sarah Palin on down — aren’t any better. All of them — Republican or Democrat, right or left — put their own self-preservation ahead of what might help the rest of us.

And then there are the Keith Olbermanns, Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world who are motivated more by ratings and what’s good for them than they are by anything else. The only thing they are really good at is keeping everyone angry at each other. Because of them, we may never begin to listen to each other and stop labeling each other.

For years, I’ve been hearing people say: Throw all of them out of Congress and start over. It will never happen because we all love the guy who brings home the increase in federal spending for us while we HATE the rest of them. Talk about a conundrum.

Congressman have been owned for as long as I can remember. And I don’t see how that will change in light of last week’s 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that removed limits on corporate political speech, freeing up unions and big business to spend even more money on negative campaign ads on behalf of the Democrats and Republicans, respectively, that they own in Congress.

At election time, the odds have long been stacked in favor of incumbents. I don’t see that changing no matter how much people holler to throw the bums out.

I’m really starting to think my friend is right — that we are a civilization in decline.

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