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Fear and loathing in the U.S.A.

By Pete Riehm
Mobile Free Press
The nation is gripped with fear. The economy is stagnant at best, business is paralyzed, and government is ineffective or incompetent (you pick).
 
As the Great Depression hit its stride, President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural address admonished Americans that the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He went on to say that fear was “nameless, unreasoning, and unjustified terror.”

In other words, the folks were being irrational, so just lend your support to Washington and the government will fix it. President Obama echoes that call for blind allegiance, but he adds the only thing we have to fear are the Republicans.

There is no doubt Americans are genuinely afraid and it’s the conventional fear of the unknown. Everything we ever believed about our country has been damaged and destabilized. What happened to the Constitution? When will government power stop growing? Who gave infinite authority?

In every aspect of society and politics, uncertainty reigns supreme. A rudderless nation is adrift in a sea of relativism buffeted by waves of expedience. Working Americans are bailing to exhaustion, but sinking despair persists.

While the administration claims we are on the right course and ostensibly brilliant economist, Paul Krugman, assures us debt matters not and we can spend ourselves into prosperity. The unknown is firmly established and fear well founded.

American foreign policy lacks convictions about anything. We are combating terrorists, but we are no longer fighting a war on terror. We are leaving Iraq except for 50,000 troops. We support the Afghan government, but we are probably leaving.

The federal government is spending billions of dollars to grow the economy, but a few months after every quarter the GDP growth numbers are revised down. Billions were spent, but we didn’t have the money. We borrowed it. No, we printed it. Or, maybe we have mortgaged the future to China.  No one really knows how much we spent, where it came from, or where it went.

We bailed out the banks and financial institutions, but the banks are still not lending
money.  They are sitting
on trillions of cash while
nursing their toxic assets. 
One minute we hear, the
banks are paying back the
stimulus and the next
unaccounted billions went
to foreign banks.  Again,
the only thing we know is
that we do not know
when business credit will
be available.

We are told the nation
continues to lose jobs,
but somehow unemployment
is improving. The government says 9.6% and others declare unemployment is really about 17%. Who do we believe? The government insists it’s helping working Americans, but instead of jobs we see record numbers on food stamps. Is that the kind of help government intends - to make more Americans dependent?

Everyone hopes for economic revival, but business has hunkered down and either continues to cut back or to postpone any expansions. This is understandable considering the administration has waged all out war on free enterprise for almost two years. None of us know what our tax liabilities are next year. It is anyone’s guess what government health care will cost?

Despite the epic health care vote, is everyone going to get health care? Apparently not, a few dozen large companies have obtained waivers. Is that the nation we want? Those with the most lawyers and lobbyists get the best deal?
FDR and President Obama are wrong. The comic strip character, Pogo, was much closer to the truth with “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The uncertainty pervading American life is very real and almost wholly a product of the government.

Americans yearn for leadership firm in their convictions.  We need direction and stability; the government can only help by eliminating the unknown. Make the Bush tax cuts permanent, repeal all the nonsensical legislation of this grossly misguided Congress, and either win our wars or bring our troops home!

The last two years have wrought nothing but uncertainty that perpetuates the current economic malaise. Our government has become so complex, convoluted, and corrupt; no one could hope to sort it out. 

The best action is to hit the reset button. And that is exactly what is brewing for Election Day.

(Riehm is a retired U.S. Navy commander and a commercial real estate executive in Mobile.)
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