In her recent trek into Iowa to explore her possibilities for a presidential run in 2012, and response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union message, Rep. Michele Bachmann reaffirmed two of her most consistent positions. The first was: “that our nation is under a threat as never before.” And the second: “we must take back our country.” On both scores, I agree. The only problem is, we have a 180-degree difference on what this means — and how to do it.
I, too, want to “take my country back.” And I, too, firmly believe our country is under a threat as never before. Let us count the ways (at least some of them):
- We are under severe threat — from corporatist interests, who now have unfettered power to fund and influence our elections. With the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, those corporate interests (both foreign and domestic) have the power to put obscene amounts of money into our electoral process — now and for elections to come.
- Speaking of the Supreme Court, I want to “take back to our country” from a Supreme Court that is tainted by right-wing influences, when certain justices cozy up to hard-right donors and the most conservative of our politicians (Bachmann included).
- Our country is under threat from a severe and growing maldistribution of wealth. The most affluent among us are getting richer by the minute;the middle class is shrinking and real income diminishing; and the poorest among us are growing at too great a rate. As recently as 1980, the ratio of the highest-paid executives to the lowest-paid employees in a company was 42 to 1. Today it is an astounding 364 to 1. I want my country back!
- I feel a strong threat to America from the multitude of right-wing talk-show hosts who spew out venom, misinformation, and worse, day after day, to sully my beloved country and those who lead us. Bachmann is absolutely correct: “we are under a threat as never before.”
- With the above, in mind, I want a country that offers a healthy suspicion of our government — but does not demonize it and damage it, to the detriment of us all.
- I want to go back to earlier times when immigrants were welcomed, as were virtually all our forefathers, rather than treated with hostility and suspicion; and Sunday sermons were presented on Twin Cities radio in Swedish, and no one made a fuss.
- I want a more healthy America, one in which all our citizens have the right to decent health care — not at the whim of a for-profit insurance company whose goal is not making us healthier, but getting a larger bottom line so its stock will increase. That is the country I want back.
- I want an America with rational, sensible gun laws that protect the Second Amendment, but stop making us among the most violent nations in the world. Recently there was an article that noted the gun laws in Tombstone, Ariz., today are far more lenient than when Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday protected the town. I want that America back.
- I want us to re-examine our military role so we are not the “world’s policeman.” Lessons we never seem to learn as we send our brave young soldiers into specious ventures, with suspect goals, and vague endings. Here again, Bachmann is correct: We are under threat as never before, because we are wasting incredibly valuable blood and treasure we cannot afford.
- I want a country with modern roads, safe bridges, clean water, up-to-date waste disposal — and an infrastructure befitting a great nation. Bachmann is again correct that we are under threat from morphing into less than a first-rate power. We differ on the reasons — and the solutions.
- At the local level, I regret seeing us cut police officers at a time when crime is high. I am frightened by the need to reduce our firefighters when lives are at stake. And, I am saddened at the need to try to run our nation’s education “on the cheap” while other nations pass us by.
Well, enough. There’s more, but you get the idea. So now, while Bachmann and I agree on the declining state and direction of our country, here’s how we differ.
Bachmann thinks we can solve our issues with less money and less government. But, improving our infrastructure, health care and vital education without rational funding is just plain “smoke and mirrors.”
Letting folks run around the streets with an unlimited number of weapons while we reduce our police force is not going to control crime. Deciding our elections by the amount of money contributed is not pushing our democracy forward. And accepting a few extraordinarily wealthy people at the very top of the economic ladder, while number of poor among us is growing, is not a formula for robust capitalism. Yes, indeed, I do want to take our country back. Michele Bachmann wants to take it backwards!
Myles Spicer of Minnetonka has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.