Jan 12, 2009
Apparently our president-in-waiting has been using the phrase “dire straits” to describe the country’s state of affairs. After consulting the Oxford American Dictionary, I find that a strait is a narrow passage of water, or a situation characterized by a degree of trouble or difficulty while dire describes something that is extremely serious or urgent, presaging danger.
Unfortunately for us, dire straits seems an accurate description of the situation we find ourselves in. Unfortunately for Barack Obama, he is in charge of guiding us through these straits without dashing an entire country against the rocks.
A quick survey of the hazards ahead:
· Increasing unemployment – most recent figures put total unemployment at 7.2%, but most telling is that the pace of job loss quickened at the end of 2008.
· Financial market woes – despite being bolstered by half of the $700 billion bailout, banks are still holding their cards (and their money) close.
Foreclosure/Mortgage mess – millions of Americans have lost their homes, millions more are in jeopardy of the same. Worst of all, renegotiating mortgages for those that could pay is near impossible because their loans have been divided up and repackaged into a tangled mess of securities.
· Detroit in a downward spiral – after years of banking on gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks for profitability and basically ignoring the car market, the Big Three are on the brink of collapse. Thanks to all you taxpayers out there, they’ll be around at least for a little while longer. Even Toyota posted a loss last quarter, and they don’t have to pay UAW wages or pensions.
· Middle East flareup – Israel and Hamas are at it (again) in the Gaza Strip. Hamas launches rockets into Israel, Israelis comes back with a full on military operation. And, as usual, the Palestinian people are caught in the middle.
· Russia thinks it’s 1960 – flush with oil money, Vladimir Putin is donning his throwback jersey and nationalizing major industry, throwing political weight around, bullying former Soviet Bloc countries, reversing democratic gains, murdering dissidents in London, and infiltrating British intelligence agencies.
· The world is holding our IOU – even China is starting to rethink the US as an investment. Lucky for us, they’re so far in at this point they can’t stop now.
· Hegemon no more – our cultural, political and economic dominance of the world is coming to a close.
· Last but not least, we are mired in two ongoing wars, neither of which is likely to end with a “Mission Accomplished” banner anytime soon.
Many of us that voted for Barack Obama did so because of what he promised us: universal healthcare, environmental stewardship, immigration reform, bringing our troops home, and an end to “politics as usual” in Washington. These are all noble, just and necessary causes. But they are, more than likely, causes that will have to wait until we make it through these dire straits. Obama’s team seems to think that we can do both, as evidenced by his proposed stimulus package. Investments in infrastructure are always needed. Who can’t name a road that needs paving? Investments in green energy and buildings can create jobs, save us money and benefit the environment. Computerizing our health records can save both money and lives. But it’s not all roses and sunshine. Another tax break? Don’t get me wrong, if you’re handing me another check for a few hundred bucks I’m going to cash it, but I’m pretty sure we tried that last year.
Many also voted for Barack Obama because he promised us something different from the last eight years. His promise is a new face for America, a new way of doing things. It is abundantly clear that the old way wasn’t working, so let’s hope that he is the man to navigate the treacherous waters ahead and on to a better US.
Questions? Comments? Butta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org