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I know a lot of people in this country who are struggling. Good, hardworking people who believe in the system despite the fact that their wages haven’t kept pace with the price of gas or the rising cost of living.

People who would still like to have faith in this nation’s institutions even though the institutions seldom seem to serve them anymore. From its controversial inception, the Bush administration has banked on a kind of juiced-up, wartime version of trickle-down economics. It wanted to start a ruckus in Iraq even before 9/11, but it wasn’t about Saddam Hussein: It was about our poor, neglected military-industrial complex and the lean years it had been forced to endure since the Cold War ended.

It was about getting faithful American war profiteers back in the chips – and nothing namby-pamby either. Operation Desert Storm had been little more than 4th of July pyrotechnics, and our intervention in Bosnia was simply an appetizer with no main course. The military-industrial oinkers needed a giant trough that they could sink their muzzles into for years. And Bush & Co. figured all those greedy, sopping snouts would splash plenty of slop over the side for the rest of us.
Unfortunately, things didn’t play out that way. After we commenced Operation “War-Is-Good-for-the-Economy (Especially-if-it-Gets-Us-Primo-Access-to-Major-Oil-Reserves),” the Bush administration implemented a catalog of obscene tax breaks for every make and model of corporate swine, and instead of spreading the wealth, they kept it for themselves, using it to grossly overpay their CEOs or stashing it in offshore accounts.

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Operation War-Is-Good-etc. dragged on, not only not boosting our economy but dragging it further and further into the red. It was blatantly and hyper-partisanly mismanaged, and there is no cheap oil for the conquering “heroes.”
So here we are, trillions deeper in debt, growling at the pump, grumpy about our prospects, and groaning at the thought of spending untold billions more on War-Is-Good.

What’s funny about all this is that while we’re scrimping to make ends meet stateside, Bush’s war council is doling out hard cash to the Islamic version of the Hatfields and McCoys in Iraq to get them to play nice so our ridiculous surge won’t look bad. The sheer irony and hypocrisy of this process is odious, but perhaps the Republicans are simply trying another tack: Paying off the enemy seems to work. Perhaps they should employ this approach on other fronts.

Think of it. We could send drug-pushers a weekly stipend so they’d stay at home and make our War on Drugs look successful. We could pay the Bloods and Crips to disband and move to the suburbs. The Republicans might want to pay homosexuals to pretend to be straight. We could send money to poor Mexicans so they don’t have to come here to make a decent wage. We could pay scientists to deny the theory of evolution and climatologists to disavow claims that humans are contributing to global warming.

Folks who have a cozy relationship with money like to say it makes the world go round. What they really mean is it allows them to run the world by eliminating the competition or buying off those who aren’t inclined to play by their rules. For years and years, we’ve been bought off. We’ve lived like kings compared to folks just 50 years ago, and so we’ve been content to let the haves and the have-mores hold sway.

The bad news is that our comforts and amenities are being diminished. The good news is, our complicity is no longer bought and paid for. We’re pissed and we’re taking note of what’s really being done to us and allegedly for us (like Guantanamo and torture).

We’re voting for “change” candidates and thumbing our nose at sedimentary political stalwarts. We’re ready to kick holes in Bush’s military-industrial feasting trough. We’re considering socialized medicine. We’re paying a little more attention, and there’s some edge to us.

We are no longer the chief beneficiaries of this nation’s greatest systems and institutions and, finally, we’re mad about it.

It’s a start.

E. R. Bills is a Fort Worth freelance writer.

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