Two days before Thanksgiving, the top headline here in Kansas City is budget cuts. Kansas Governor Parkinson is telling kids to expect larger classes; patients, more overworked staff; poor neighborhoods, even less assistance. Meanwhile, evidence of the president's stimulus spending is all around us: Whatever direction you head out of Kansas City, suburban roads are being repaved -- roads that usually didn't need repaving at all.
American communities are resilient -- whether urban, suburban or rural. But for several decades they've been under attack by the tag team of Big Business and Bad Government. The Wal-Marts of the business world have gutted Main Street. Government tax breaks for Big Business and red tape that only it can afford to cut has accelerated the process. Meanwhile, Bad Government administration has made life a bureaucratic nightmare for many lower-middle class and poor people. Not corruption, but mere incompetence has allowed schools and public services to atrophy beyond dysfunction even in areas where spending has skyrocketed. In areas where budgets have been cut, it's just that much worse.
Through all of this, America has suppressed a sense of crisis thanks only to the anesthesia of debt and cheap imports. Now the debt is due, and the resulting collapse of the dollar spells the end of cheap imports. As middle aged white men replace black teenagers at the cash registers of my local grocery store, anger is rising both among the fallen middle class and the tortured poor.
No one among the Democrat or Republican parties has stood up to offer any serious structural answer to the collapse. A lot of us are still speechless, trying to catch our breath after Obama's appointment of status-quo figures such as Larry Summers and Rahm Emanuel. No one significant has yet spoken out about that disappointment. The silence of the Van Joneses and the Al Gores is deafening.
Both the poor and the middle class are turning to multi-level marketing schemes and "prosperity" religious movements for temporary escape and eventual devastation for all but a lucky few. An angry fringe of the middle class is turning to a "tea bagger" libertarian movement that promises utopia if only the government can be destroyed.
Into this vacuum steps Glenn Beck. Not the Glenn Beck you see on TV, or in the posts of angry progressives, but the Glenn Beck you'll see next year at seven regional educational and organizational conventions. Glenn Beck -- openly critical of both the Republican Party corruption and libertarian naivete -- is working on a "100 Year Plan" to fix our economy and society. He says the conventions will focus on teaching history and economics, and training activists to organize communities, register voters and run for office. Watch Beck testing out these plans on an audience in Florida, captured by a Media Matters tracker here:
Here's my prediction: millions of people are going to go wild for Beck's new approach to politics. In fact, it's not a new approach at all; It's what our ancestors fought for when they established democracy in the first place: It's a leader proposing comprehensive solutions to our problems (solutions TBA from Beck's panel of experts) and then organizing a movement to build support for them through our democratic process.
But barring a historical miracle, Beck's solutions are going to be misguided, short-sighted, business-oriented, disappointing to the middle class and mean-spirited toward poor people and immigrants. That's just where he is coming from.
So where is the left's response? The left is dead. So where is the movement that could take its place by proposing comprehensive solutions that work for all Americas, and all of the world? No such movement is anywhere on the horizon. Anyone interested in starting one?
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