Where Is Our Leader?

Great civilizations, no doubt, can rise or fall depending on the presence or absence of an effective leader at a critical juncture.  Few would doubt that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the perfect leader to face a relentless depression and a terrifying world war.  His leadership still rings down through the ages with the echo of his forever familiar words, “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and “A date which will live in infamy.”  But what if there had been no FDR to face the double barrel perils of a depression and a world war?  What might have been the darker fate of mankind then?  What might it be today?

Of course we have many politicians who pledge to fight for seniors.  And defending the middle class is the stock and trade of the “successful” politician – that is, those who get re-elected.   And one must not forget the tough stance on keeping our military strong.  All these positions are good to go for any politician who intends to survive elections, for woe to those who take a stance that in any way undermines the interests of seniors, the middle class, or the military.  We all know this to be true.

But where is the politician who is willing to tell the public that, at over 21 trillion dollars and escalating, we have way too much government debt, that the government borrows 40 cents for every dollar it spends, and so it is time to finally pay down the bill.  It is time to actually raise taxes, not just on the super rich so that it will not impact the average Joe and his vote, but across the board – raising your taxes and mine?  That leader is nowhere to be found.

And where is the politician who is willing to tell the public that our war on drugs has been a miserable failure, that, as a result, the prison system has become bloated and is unsustainable, and so it is time to end this second Prohibition, which has failed just as miserably as the first?  It is time to legalize and regulate many of these drugs; time to develop humane health programs for the myriad addicts; and time to reduce the prison population by early release for trivial victimless crimes along with jobs training to minimize recidivism.  That leader is nowhere to be found.

And where is the leader who will be honest with the public and confide that we are on a suicidal descent into a dangerously warming planet, and so it is time to get serious about the reduction of carbon emissions despite the economic consequences, that is, time for a carbon tax, if not serious restraints on the use of all fossil fuels, which will no doubt mean job losses and reduced GDP?  That leader is nowhere to be found.

And where is the leader who, instead of demanding even more military spending to enhance our “readiness,” is willing to be honest with the public and confide that world events are not totally under our control despite the imposing size of our military, and that, more often than not, what really works better than the blunt hammer is the deft diplomatic negotiation where there is true give and take on both sides — not just theirs?  And, sadly, this deft diplomacy has been sorely lacking.  That leader is nowhere to be found.

And where is the leader who will level with the American people and tell them that the entitlement programs have to be reformed to make them financially viable by pushing out the eligibility age to at least 70, increasing the Social Security tax significantly, and introducing means testing to reduce or eliminate these benefits for the well to do who can get by without them?  That leader is nowhere to be found.

And where is the leader who will tell the public that the national government in conjunction with state governments must undertake an expensive infrastructure program to repair or replace roads, bridges, and waterworks because these assets have been seriously neglected, and this monumental effort will necessitate even more tax increases?  That leader is nowhere to be found.

And where is the leader who will take on the apparent economic inequity between races and particularly focus on the lack of opportunity for pockets of poverty in the inner city as well as routine police mistreatment of minorities, particularly Afro-Americans?  That leader is nowhere to be found.

And where is the leader who will shine a light on the adverse effects of decisions like Citizens United, and inform the public that the national government is now the instrument — bought and paid for — of the highly financed lobbyist?  That there is now an urgent need to put caps on campaign contributions, to roll back the definition of corporations as people, and to even consider term limits for congressmen in order to restore some semblance of democracy to our elected officials instead of what we have today – a plutocracy and a government controlled by special interests.  That leader is nowhere to be found.

And where is the leader who will finally unravel and resolve the immigration mess by 1) identifying current illegal aliens who do not have a felony conviction, 2) offering them a reasonable pathway to citizenship after a suitable grace period, and 3) then be in a position to identify and deport new illegal aliens so that this problem does not continue in it chronic form and does not re-occur once it has been resolved.  That leader is nowhere to be found.

And where is the leader who will tackle the demise of the middle class and the swelling of the ranks of the poor, with the wealthest receiving an ever increasing proportion of the national wealth.  Never before has the republic seen such a skewing of the class structure.  Forty-three million citizens are now on Food Stamps; 1 in 5 American children do not get enough food to eat, and forty-five million live below the poverty line or 12.7%  of the population.  The richest 1% now own 38% of the total wealth of the country; the richest 20% own 87%; but the lower 50% own a meager 1.1%.  Where is the leader who will reverse all of these trends, reduce the number on Food Stamps, reduce the number of Americans living below the poverty line, broaden the ranks of the middle class, and require the richest Americans to provide the economic resources necessary to boost the livelihood of the impoverished and declining segments of our population?  That leader is nowhere to be found.

Government debt, a failed war on drugs, a prison system bursting at the seams, global warming, over reliance on the military and an absence of any real diplomacy, unsustainable entitlement programs, a ravaged national infrastructure, economic inequality between races and the blight of the inner city, lobbyist and corporate control of government, a broken immigration system, and a deteriorating class structure with entrenched poverty – these problems will not be solved without strong leadership.   But what if they are not addressed?  What if there is no FDR to save us this time?

LBJ

A Speech Like No Other

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