A Spiritual FDR

Jan
20
2012
by
Lynne McTaggart
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I am watching the extraordinary spectacle of the American presidential nomination with nothing less than astonishment. Here we are in 2012, beset with crises on every front – banking crises, terrorist crises, sovereign-debt crises, climate-change crises, energy crises, food crises, ecological crises – during very year the Mayans warned would mark cataclysmic change, and the best we can come up with as candidates for US President is a rogue’s gallery of business-as-usual opportunists, corporate flunkies and scaredy cats.

I am watching the extraordinary spectacle of the American presidential nomination with nothing less than astonishment. Here we are in 2012, beset with crises on every front – banking crises, terrorist crises, sovereign-debt crises, climate-change crises, energy crises, food crises, ecological crises – during very year the Mayans warned would mark cataclysmic change, and the best we can come up with as candidates for US President is a rogue’s gallery of business-as-usual opportunists, corporate flunkies and scaredy cats.

 

Men of the people

On the Republican side, we have multi-millionaire Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, trying to look like a man of the people, the half of all Americans who say they are now struggling on basic salaries to make ends meet, and promising to address the populist fury over America’s vast wealth inequality, but only in ‘quiet rooms.’

 

Romney has reason to keep things pretty quiet; he himself pays virtually no taxes because all of his holdings are off-shore. When asked about the fact that he only pays 15 per cent tax, he retorted that he ‘doesn’t make much’ in wages, only a ‘couple of extra bucks’ (as in $374,000 extra for his speaking engagements).

 

Then we have his chief opponent former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, champion of the Religious Right, who stands for ‘family values’ and who you may remember, was the chief prosecutor and witchhunter of former President Bill Clinton, demanding his impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky affair. It now turns out that around that time, Newt had his own mistress, first during his first marriage (a mistress who subsequently became Mrs. Gingrich No 2). When he tired of No 2, Gingrich asked her if she wouldn’t mind sharing him so he could have an open marriage and see other women, including his long-standing mistress (who became Mrs. Gingrich No 3).

 

All of this was disclosed by Marianne, ex-wife No. 2, who claimed that her ex-husband lacked the ‘moral character’ to be president.

 

Newt’s also been slammed for his nearly $2 million in ‘consulting fees’ from Freddy Mac, one of the mortgage giants responsible for the wealth of toxic mortgages in the US, as well as the fortune he’s amassed by getting paid to ‘consult’ with lobbyists and help them play the political game.

 

Burden of expectation

Things are not much better on the Democratic side. When Obama was elected, the weight of expectation around him so impossibly high that he was given a Nobel Peace Prize before he’d actually done anything besides winning an election.

 

After his inauguration, he was universally expected to create a new New Deal a la Franklin Roosevelt, a bullish program of investment in green technologies and government works programs that would create jobs, fix America’s broken infrastructure, and set the country up for a greener future.

 

He would end the wars abroad and put a halt to the war-mongering of his predecessor, reaching out to the Muslim world. He would achieve universal health care, a goal that has eluded most Presidents since Harry Truman, and he would finally heal the divisions both between the parties and between Americans.

 

Whenever I think of Obama, I think of a variation of the line delivered by Sean Connery, who plays the seasoned Chicago cop, in The Untouchables: You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.

 

Making nice

The problem with Obama is what I suspected when he was first running. He’s too inexperienced in the ways of the Washington swamp (he was, after all, only there as a junior congressman for two years before he ran for President), and he hides this inexperience by trying to make nice with the Republicans.

 

Instead of a bold new vision on the economy or re-instating the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which separated casino from retail banking, Obama appoints as his chief financial advisors, two Wall Street cronies, both schooled by Goldman Sachs, who allow the financial sector to carry on essentially unfettered, and then cuts down his stimulus package in order to win Republican approval – which of course never arrives.  Even his signature bill on healthcare reform got vastly compromised with porkbarrel additions by the time it was signed into law.

 

Although he has done some good through his first term (weakened Al Queda, health care reform, brought the boys home from Iraq, lowered unemployment, etc.,) the biggest problem is his public image. Obama will do anything to avoid a fight; when the Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling, even though public opinion was with him, he caved. And at every turn, he continues to buckle out of some misguided idea that if he compromises or waffles on his position, peace will be restored. He vastly underestimates the giant resources at the disposal of his adversaries, such as Fox News, the mouthpiece of corporate America, almost daily pumping out a litany of his failures and allowing him to be painted as a Muslim commie foreigner.

 

Obama’s biggest mistake, for which he is losing liberal support, is not ignoring his adversaries and taking his fight to the public, who voted him in because they believed that he had some bold vision up his sleeve.

 

He has refused stand up for a new vision, as FDR did, who once said of his detractors, ‘I welcome their hatred.’

 

Saber-rattling

In the UK where I live, things aren’t much better. The coalition government of Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government announced yesterday the possibility that they would strip Sir Fred ‘the Shred’ Goodwin, former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, of his knighthood, which he had received in 2004 for ‘services to banking.’

 

Under Sir Fred’s stewardship, RBS sustained the largest corporate loss in history, requiring a £45 billion government bailout. Even though taxpayers owned 84 per cent of RBS and have lost £26 billion on the much deflated current value of RBS stock, Sir Fred, you may recall, unapologetically paid himself a £700,000 pension (about $1.05 million) on leaving, and in late 2010, at least 100 RBS executives awarded themselves bonuses totalling £1 billion, despite the bank sustaining a loss of £1.1 billion that same year.

 

As symbolic as this removal of Fred’s ‘Sir’ may be, and for all the coalition government’s talk of fairness, moral capitalism and committees to assess executive pay packets, it remains largely saber-rattling. RBS is about to award its chief exec £4 million for last year and its top executives equally swollen paychecks when the public’s stocks are now worth half what we paid for them.

 

Recently, it was disclosed that giant Vodaphone’s tax debt of £6 billion has been entirely written off.

 

The spirit of leadership

Where are the leaders out there who refuse to be bought and paid for by lobbyists, but who are also bold enough to stand for fairness, morality and a new kind of societal structure? Who is brave enough to weather the corporate bully?

 

What’s required now is nothing less than a spiritual FDR, with an entirely new paradigm of ‘I win only when we all win’, unafraid to challenge and replace all the structures we have in place, even the very assumpti
ons and thought processes on which our society is based.

 

Only then will we begin to fix what is now broken. Until we do, each of us must be the spiritual activist we don’t yet have in the White House.

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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