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Chickens Roosting -- from Wisconsin Power Grab to Gas Prices

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We all recognize that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is using his state's financial straits as an excuse for a power grab -- opening up the state to his power-plant buddies and disenfranchising unions and their members.

What a good move -- in the sense that, in the long run, this strategy is bound to succeed. When push comes to shove, and financial survival is thrown into the mix, anything is possible.

And the same goes for the international scene, as we confront the irresolvable contradictions in our world policies.

Everything the states and the country failed to do when they were flush is coming back to haunt us.

Here is a sampler:

Energy dependence. As automobile fuel prices and airline fares rise -- and this is only the tip of the iceberg of the burden of higher fuel costs -- we can reflect on our failure to heed Jimmy Carter's warning that we need to be both frugal with our energy and independent of foreign sources of fuel. What's a third of a century of fiddling while the U.S. burns excess energy? Scary thing to think about: combining Islamic uprisings AND energy dependence, if and when Libya's energy supplies are curtailed, we must rely on the Saudi's to increase oil extraction in order to survive.

Balancing our check books. Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York, California, et al. --really, it's hard to find a populous state that's not on this list -- shifted costs to the future, particularly pension costs, without anticipating what that future might look like. There has never been a political payoff in the U.S. for preparing for a rainy day -- political Voluspa (the old Norse woman who predicted doom and gloom) like Carter were quickly chucked out.

Education. While America laments its educational deficiencies, funding for education is dropping precipitously. At the same time as the Obama administration presses on with investments in science education, teacher training, inner-city educational options, state after state (New Jersey, Texas, California, Rhode Island) is making dramatic cuts in funding local school districts. Sample headlines: "Termination notices have been sent to every teacher in the Providence public school system"; "Aid cuts have Texas schools scrambling -- in a frantic effort to raise cash, a rural school superintendent is planning to put advertisements on school buses and to let retailers have space on the school Web site"; and on and on.

Health care. We don't have a viable health care system in the U.S., and the Obama administration's tentative efforts at remedying that are now under onslaught. Just remember, as Paul Krugman says, "What would a serious approach to our fiscal problems involve? I can summarize it in seven words: health care, health care, health care, revenue. Notice that I said 'health care,' not 'entitlements.' People in Washington often talk as if there were a program called Socialsecuritymedicareandmedicaid, then focus on things like raising the retirement age." Remember Richard Nixon? He wanted to create a national health care system. And that was the first thing Bill Clinton wanted to do. Still haven't done it -- and it's becoming less likely all the time.

The Palestinian question and world Islam. The United States (again following Carter) never sufficiently pushed for a stable Middle-Eastern solution involving Israel -- and now we sit and worry and wonder what the fallout will be from the emergence of populist governments in Muslim countries. There is a lot of rancor around the Islamic world due to the Palestinian-Israeli standoff. When the United States votes alone in the world (as we did recently in vetoing the UN Security Counsel's resolution to condemn Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, whose 14 otherwise unanimous supporters included Britain and France), bad things follow. The war on terrorism, no matter how much we despise O'Reilly and Beck for saying so, looks a lot like a worldwide war against Islam.

All of these developments might make us take a different view of the sixties, seventies and eighties. Malcolm X isn't around to say it, but a lot of chickens are coming home to roost in the United States. And does all of this make us rethink our assessments of the Carter-Reagan years?