Saturday, September 4, 2010

Freedom Falling


Labor Day weekend -- the last stretch of free days before the fall comes down with its head-long plunge into the long hours of work, the busy weekends of soccer, the preparatory chores for the cold season. We are lucky and grateful for labor rights and union rights. So many countries lack those basic rights and freedoms, such as the right to form unions, which form the backbone of our middle class way of life.

Today I woke late, catching up on sleep after the first week back at school and the typical insomnia that accompanies all the excitement and energy of dealing with classrooms of eager and edgy adolescents. The sky is bright blue with the cool of autumn in the wet grass left behind in the wake of the tropical storm that just blew up the coast. A lamb escaped through a downed fence, and Drew Major, our local Fish and Wildlife officer, parked in our driveway to try to get him back. Susan interrupted me as I was about to sit down with my coffee in front of the computer to go help him. Here goes, I thought, reflecting on the madness impinging on my free time. Afterwards, she had me hitch up the trailer and drive with her around the loop to the Russells, who live on the land first homesteaded by the original Connor family, up on the edge of the Mink Hills protected area. They were having a yard sale, and the two kids sitting in the grass brought out the tables and whatnot that Susan had bought. As she wrote the check, I talked with Mr. Russell about the Troy Bilt Rototiller that his wife Margaret's father first used back in the 1930s.

I'm lucky to have a job, given the economic situation facing many around the country. By all accounts it looks like we are facing years of structural weakness in the job market. Robert Reich has an informative piece in the NY Times explaining the predicament facing the American middle class. As opposed to the 1930s with FDR, I don't think the country is ready for a massive retooling, the kind it would take to turn us around. And the sort of ideas Reich proposes in his piece, tax breaks and incentives to increase middle class purchasing power, are not going to do the trick either. Instead I think we are turning inward, especially if the Republicans win back control of Congress, and we will have a locally driven resurgence based on small business, family business and local innovation despite, not because of the government and its relative powerlessness in this globalized and technology-driven economy. I used to think Obama could pull off an FDR style project of renovation, but it looks increasingly likely we are facing a rerun of the Clinton era of governmental gridlock. Thank you Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, who, to steal a line from a fellow blogger, is so stupid she couldn't pour piss out of a boot if there were directions on the heel.
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