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With his recent series of executive actions on U.S. policies ranging from climate to energy, immigration and, most recently, Cuba, Barack Obama is working to fulfill his long-held dream of being a “transformative” president. By decisively circumventing Congress with bold decrees, the president has won the plaudits of his core media supporters, with predictable “amens” from Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post and from the New York Times’ Paul Krugman, who described him as a more “transformative” president than either Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan.
The recent passage by Congress of new legislation favourable to loosening controls on risky Wall Street trading is just the most recent example of the consolidation of plutocratic power in Washington.
In the past, this season was marked by a greater interest in divinity, the family hearth and the joy of children. Increasingly our society has been turning away from such simple human pleasures, replacing them with those of technology.
Despite the annual holiday pageantry, in the West religion is on the decline, along with our society’s emphasis on human relationships. Atheism seems to be getting stronger, estimated at around 13 percent worldwide but much higher in such countries as Japan, Germany and China. “The world is going secular,” claims author Nigel Barber. “Nothing short of an ice age can stop it.”
Once giants walked this earth, and some of them were Democrats. In sharp contrast to the thin gruel that passes for leadership today, the old party of the people, with all its flaws, shaped much of the modern world, and usually for the better. Think of Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman, John Kennedy, or California’s Pat Brown, politicians who believed in American greatness, economic growth, and upward mobility.
In this predictably difficult year for the Democrats, the party of the people is turning, of all people, to its plutocrats. However much the party stigmatizes right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers, a growing proportion of America’s ultra-rich have become devoted Democrats, giving them an edge in fund-raising. Indeed, an analysis of billionaire contributors this year by Politifact found that 13 supported liberals while only nine backed Republicans.
You are a political party, and you want to secure the electoral majority. But what happens, as is occurring to the Democrats, when the damned electorate that just won’t live the way—in dense cities and apartments—that you have deemed is best for them?
“If the 19th [century] was the century of the individual (liberalism means individualism), you may consider that this is the ‘collective’ century, and, therefore, the century of the state.”
Benito Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism” (1932), translated by Barbara Moroncini.
Where goes the 21st century? Until recently, it could be said that, with the defeat of fascism, in 1945, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union about a half century later, that we had seen the demise of what the Italian dictator Mussolini envisioned as “a century of authority.” But, now, liberalism’s global triumphal march, as was so brazenly predicted in some corners just two decades ago, seems to have slowed, and may even be going into reverse.
Mayor de Blasio has his work cut out for him if he really wants to end New York’s “tale of two cities.” Gotham has become the American capital of a national and even international trend toward greater income inequality and declining social mobility.
There are things the new mayor can do to help, but the early signs aren’t promising that he will be able to reverse 30 years of the hollowing out of the city’s once vibrant middle class.
The recent near breakup of the United Kingdom — something inconceivable just a decade ago — reflects a deep, pervasive problem of identity throughout the EU. The once vaunted European sense of common destiny is decomposing. Other separatist movements are on the march, most notably in Catalonia, Flanders and northern Italy.
Throughout the continent, public support for a united Europe fell sharply last year. Opposition to greater integration has emerged, with anti-EU parties gaining support in countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, Greece, Germany and France.
Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and along the U.S.-Mexico border may seem to suggest that race has returned as the signature issue in American politics. We can see this already in the pages of mainstream media, with increased calls for reparations for African-Americans, and expanded amnesties for the undocumented.
If California is to change course and again become a place of opportunity, the impetus is likely to come not from the perennially shrinking Republican Party but from working-class and middle-class Democrats.
Forty years ago, Mexico was a one-party dictatorship under the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, hobbled by slow growth, soaring inequality, endemic corruption and dead politics. California, in contrast, was considered a model American state, with a highly regarded Legislature, relatively clean politics, a competitive political process and a soaring economy.
America, seen either from here or from abroad, doesn’t look so good these days. The country that maintained world peace for decades now “leads by behind,” or not at all. You don’t have to have nostalgia for George W. Bush’s foreign policy to wish for someone in the White House who at least belongs in the same room with the likes of Vladimir Putin. Some wags now suggest that President Barack Obama has exceeded Jimmy Carter in foreign policy incompetence – Carter certainly was more effective in the Middle East.
America’s Opportunity City: Lots of New Jobs and a Low Cost of Living Make Houston a Middle-class Magnet
David Wolff and David Hightower are driving down the partially completed Grand Parkway around Houston. The vast road, when completed, will add a third freeway loop around this booming, 600-square-mile Texas metropolis. Urban aesthetes on the ocean coasts tend to have a low opinion of the flat Texas landscape—and of Houston, in particular, which they see as a little slice of Hades: a hot, humid, and featureless expanse of flood-prone grassland, punctuated only by drab office towers and suburban tract houses.
Ever since the publication this spring of Thomas Piketty’s book “Capital in the 21st Century,” conservatives and much of the business press, such as the Financial Times, have been on a jihad to discredit the author and his findings about increased income inequality in Western societies. Some have even equated growing attacks on inequality with anti-Semitism, with at least one Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Tom Perkins, comparing anti-inequality campaigners to Nazis.