Obama's Retort: “You're On Your Own”

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By Rick Lucke

Barack Obama's acceptance speech as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee alluded to an issue that did not, and never does, get deserved attention in mainstream media coverage. Saying John McCain “just doesn't get it”, Obama said:

For over two decades -- for over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.

In Washington, they call this the "Ownership Society," but what it really means is that you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck, you're on your own. No health care? The market will fix it. You're on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don't have boots. You are on your own. Well, it's time for them to own their failure. [Emphases added]

One of the most glaring failings permeating American society is the “you're on your own” mentality. Two points should be made.

First, in all honesty, it's not “their
failure”, it's OUR failure; it is the failure of both parties and of
American society at large that this mentality permeates American
culture. While it is true Republicans are the primary proponents of
“trickle-down” economic philosophy, they are not solely responsible for
legislating that philosophy. With this in mind, there are serious doubts about how much real change will occur as a result of an Obama presidency, given the gridlock that exists in congress, and which is a reflection of the character and values comprising American culture itself.

The second point; if this you're-on-your-own cultural trait is to be changed,
its origin must be addressed. One argument says it is merely the
inherent greedy, self-interested nature of human beings. That diagnosis
completely ignores other inherent human traits, which counter greed and
self-interest. That diagnosis ignores the fact that greed and
self-interest are promoted and enhanced by environmental factors that activate
those traits. For instance, when survival is threatened, greed and
self-interest become prominent features of a person's relationship to
the environment. An environment in which fellow citizens are pitted
against each other for their livelihoods can lead to what end other
than greed and self-interest?

If solutions to you're-on-your-own
are to be realized, attitudes of Americans regarding capitalism as a
foundation for every societal institution must change, which will
require an honest national discussion about, and exploration of, the
weaknesses of capitalism and what must be done to limit the societal
damage those weaknesses cause.

One glaring weakness of capitalism is the characteristic that some argue is its strength; it is based on greed and self-interest. That argument says that humans are greedy and self-interested, and capitalism utilizes greed and self-interest productively.
That argument seemingly defies logic; a societal-economic system based
on human weakness will necessarily promote and perpetuate said
weakness. Just as this weakness must be controlled in the human being,
so must it be controlled in a societal system that promotes it, which
is why excessive deregulation is misguided. E.J. Dionne says in his
article, Capitalism's Reality Check, “What’s
becoming the Panic of 2008 will mean an end to the latest Capital Rules
era.” Dionne addresses blind-faith acceptance of dogmatic deregulation
quoting conservative Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve:

sounded like a born-again New Dealer in calling for “a more robust
framework for the prudential supervision of investment banks and other
large securities dealers.” Bernanke said the Fed needed more authority
to get inside “the structure and workings of financial markets” because
“recent experience has clearly illustrated the importance, for the
purpose of promoting financial stability, of having detailed
information about money markets and the activities of borrowers and
lenders in those markets.”

Dionne says, “What’s
striking is that conservatives who revere capitalism are offering their
own criticisms of the way the system is working.” Dionne continues:

Stelzer, director of the Center for Economic Policy Studies at the
Hudson Institute, says the subprime crisis arose in part because
lenders quickly sold their mortgages to others and bore no risk if the
loans went bad. “You have to have the person who’s writing the risk
bearing the risk,” he says. “That means a whole host of regulations.
There’s no way around that.”

Of course, even these references to regulation
are constrained and cautious, as any discussion indicating capitalism,
itself, being part of the problem is considered sacrilegious. With
regard to the current presidential campaign, Dionne says;

the presidential campaign so far, John McCain has been clinging to the
old economic orthodoxy while Barack Obama has proposed a modestly more active role for government. But the economic assumptions are changing faster than the rhetoric of the campaign. [Emphases added]

The economic “rhetoric of
the campaign” does not address the larger picture that has emerged
through “deregulation” of capitalism, particularly on a global level.
Representative Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, the chairman of the House
Financial Services Committee, said, “We are in a worldwide crisis now because of excessive deregulation.”
Neither presidential candidate has adequately addressed that simple
truth. To do so would require expressing the inherent weaknesses of
capitalism, which would challenge the capitalistic dogma that permeates
American culture. Without a cultural shift in thinking regarding
capitalism, the gridlock in congress and in American society will
remain, regardless of who is president.

can be a useful system in society, but only if society keeps the
weaknesses of capitalism in check. Keeping those weaknesses in check
will require recognizing that profit margin is not a valid criterion for every societal institution, nor for solving every societal ill. Services that meet human or societal-national needs and services should not be based on monetary profit derived from providing them; police, firefighters, social security, medical services,militaryservices, and all other infrastructure development, etc.

Additionally, the runaway threat of corporations' influence must be reduced and restrained significantly. At present, America's political system is rife with corporate corruption.
Major corporations are writing their own rules at the expense of
average citizens, in both, America and other nations. Noam Chomsky points out:

internationalized capital to take advantage of cheap labor abroad, and
intensified the class war that business has always waged against labor
and the disadvantaged. [Their fiscal policies are] driving
the United States itself toward a country with a Third World look in
infrastructure, services, the disgraceful state of health and mortality
standards -- a two-tiered society with enormous wealth and privilege
amidst poverty and suffering. It's not like Brazil, because it's a
wealthier society -- but fundamentally of the same type, created with bipartisan agreement. [Emphasis added]

They divide the world into two classes; shareholders and “inferiors” (consumers). At a shareholder's meeting of Allianz AG, major shareholder Hans-Martin Buhlmannn expressed the view
that there is only one limit to the increase of the dividend: "The
inferiors must not be bled so much that they can no longer consume.
They must survive as consumers."

Capitalism's value lies in its ability to serve society; when society serves capitalism, that value is lost. Currently society is serving capitalism rather than being served by
capitalism. Therein lies the fundamental change that must occur and
which is not addressed adequately by either presidential candidate or
their parties, nor in the mainstream media, and certainly not within
the majority citizenry. One thing is certain, however, in this
presidential campaign; the Obama team may at least slow our journey
down this erroneous road, which may perhaps begin to turn the tide;
meanwhile, the McCain team will merely hurl us faster down this
perilous road with blinders on.