Bumper Stickers and Wake-up Calls

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A reader advised me to do a better job of letting people know about George W. Bush’s out-of-control budgets, his debt and deficit spending. I should employ new tactics to portray his Arabian Gulf land rush, and the tenuous empire he thinks will be supported by the lifetime earnings of our unborn grandchildren. Fewer words and more visuals. Shorter treatises and more bumper stickers.

Where is H. Ross Perot when you need him!

We all have access to the numbers warning us about the dangerous and constitutionally deadly direction George W. Bush is dragging us. Like disheartened mules, we hope against hope that if we take one more step, maybe the pain will stop. Many of us share this sense of impending doom and ambiguous futility on the federal spending front with American soldiers in Iraq today, waiting anxiously for the next day and the next, waiting to come home, praying today won’t be their day to die in Iraq, and scoffing at the $10,000 re-up bonus.

The Bush administration has scurrilously desecrated our nation, in less than three years. We count the costs in unlived lives and degraded health of our soldiers, in unfunded promises to support soon-to-retire baby boomers, and of unearned future paychecks of working people already spent for things nobody wanted or needed. A science station on the Moon and a man on Mars? Yeah, that’ll be cheap! Yet the magnitude of government consumerism often seems meaningless, unless there is a corresponding picture. Our local paper recently depicted a huge ravenous monster, a bed precariously perched on his back, with the Mr. and Mrs. arguing over who should get up and do something about it.

Republicans and Democrats in bed together, each insisting the other “Get rid of the spending monster” is a picture that speaks a thousand words.

We have the U.S. National Debt Clock, and associated news on the economic situation. There is plenty of insight on ramifications of the growth of government at the Mises Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Cato Institute.

But still, people don’t get it. Warren Buffett, who invests for a living, took the George W. Bush short course "Breaking America’s Economy the Fast and Easy Way" a long time ago. He started moving money into foreign currencies for the first time in his investing history, in 2002. Buffett has been thinking seriously about the way we are all being forced to fund George W. Bush’s domestic policies and Bush’s neoconservative wars of regime change and capital occupations of weak but potentially wealthy land masses. In the article, Joe Rothstein says a likely result of Bush’s policies and Washington’s acquiescence to them is this: "Interest rates go up to meet investors’ demands. Prices for everything go higher. The economic climate is stunted. More jobs go away. It could get very ugly."

Do we really care? Maybe we won’t until interest rates do go up, prices go higher, and more jobs go away. What if we had numbers that say federal spending is at its highest level since World War II, at $20,000 per household? The Heritage Foundation does. There are plenty of good graphs in their report, like this pie chart. A lot of folks think we are only fleecing the future for needed defense, with a little offense and occupation built in, in a post 9-11 era. Not true! Even the Heritage Foundation, which supports George W. Bush on many issues, can find no wisdom in his oversight of our money.

I received an email from a man in California, a person a few years away from collecting Social Security, who owns a couple of nice houses, half share in an airplane, and appears to the casual observer to be a happy, well-heeled upper class American. He told me to "Cheer up," because the economy is doing great and our government is in good hands. I don’t like to play the class card, but for the first time, in reading this guy’s presumably well-meaning email, I sensed a real divide between people who look at facts on the ground, and people who don’t. This guy isn’t worried about the explosion in government spending, or the resultant government impact and potential control over every aspect of our lives. He seems really happy that a Republican was wasting our money instead of a Democrat.

The answer may be to let the chips fall where they may. Collapse when debts come due is a fact of life, and when Bush’s Ponzi schemes start to crumble, so be it. The problem is that governments accustomed to being well funded don’t fall easily. Especially well armed and hungry governments, and governments that have systematically gutted the tenuous restraint on its most egregious behavior against its own citizens. Especially a government that can boldly lie its way into an unpopular war, and then send folks to jail for holding up a sign complaining about it.

You know the story. A guy holding up a sign in Columbia, South Carolina was deemed a threat to the President, arrested, prosecuted by the Federal Government under a 1971 law that says you have to do what a Secret Service agent says, and just this month, was convicted. Incidentally, both defense and prosecution agreed that Bursey was actually not a threat to the President, but that’s irrelevant to his other crimes. Now, Mr. Bursey is a professional activist, and he’s been in jail before. But his experience may well be the future for all of us who decide to speak our minds only to find out we are seditionists. Or perhaps we will be called "neo-seditionists." In case you missed it — the Sedition Act of 1918 seems to be a very popular within the George W. Bush administration. It prohibits, among other things,

"Uttering, printing, writing, or publishing any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language intended to cause contempt, scorn … as regards the form of government of the United States or Constitution, or the flag or the uniform of the Army or Navy … urging any curtailment of the war with intent to hinder its prosecution; advocating, teaching, defending, or acts supporting or favoring the cause of any country at war with the United States, or opposing the cause of the United States.

I especially like "opposing the cause of the United States" and look forward to my day in court, ideally with some of the writings of the Founding Fathers, if they haven’t been classified by then, to use in my defense.

As always, there is hope. I’ve noticed that there are very few Bush/Cheney 2004 bumper stickers out here in hard-core Republican Shenandoah County. Maybe it is too early in the election cycle, eight months away. More likely, given the stream of contempt coming from White House for American conservatism and the lives of real working class Americans, it is too late.

Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.

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