Bob Franken

Obama and the Real Problem Solvers

He was talking about his last ditch attempt to resurrect health care reform, but the more expansive issue President Obama raised is the more valid one: Does the government have the “…ability to solve any problem”.

Put it another way: Has the personal ambition of too many individuals holding power and influenced consumed their ability to act for the common good? Does their shameless demagoguery that so poisons the atmosphere reason is smothered.

And while we’re at it, have the never ending disclosures of financial and sex scandals worn down our system to the point it’s too sick to get anything done. Speaking of sick, are we all too sick and tired of all this to rally around any constructive effort to change?

How sad these questions are. But how valid they are too. Let’s take the money and the fooling around: Every day, we hear that one of our esteemed office holders is caught in the wrong pocket or the wrong pants. It’s usually petty and pathetic, but it’s cumulative. How sad it is we’ve come to accept it as inevitable which reinforces a pervasive disbelief in our system.

What’s to believe in? Our lives have been badly damaged by those who caused a near crash with their greedy financial schemes. Most avoid prosecution simply by using small parts of their ill gotten gain to pay off those who make the laws.

So we are a disgusted nation, one where scared citizens can easily be whipped up by wild distortion. Agents for the obscenely profitable insurance companies find they can thwart any efforts at curbing their excesses by labeling Health Care Reform “Socialism”. Modern day reactionaries can level accusations of terrorist sympathy against Justice Department officials who before they came into government, were only doing their time-honored job as lawyers representing detainees against the excesses of the previous administration.

In the 1950’s it was McCarthyism that gripped the country in fear. Now we can substitute “Cheneyism” or “Beckism”, or “Rushism”. By whatever name it is Extremism and Opportunism.

We need dispose of all that toxic waste. At the top of the heap, those who have been given the public trust will have to continuously earn that trust. Or re-earn it since it has been tossed into the garbage.

For starters that means they must be scrupulously honest and conduct themselves personally in ways that are at least not an embarrassment.

Following that, they need to appeal to our best instincts, instead of our worst. All of us need to support those who do that, and shun those inside and on the periphery who deploy malicious sound bites as weapons of mass destruction. In the process, they obliterate any chance of the cooperation that is the lifeblood of the democracy we claim to be.

We should demand the very best from the custodians we temporarily elect, reward them for accomplishment with re-election, and throw them out when they get too caught up in partisanship and ideology to solve our problems.

Most of all, we must recognize and reject the attempt by the various hustlers whose confidence games sap our confidence and take us to the point where the President of the United States is challenging his government’s, OUR government’s “ability to solve problems”. The first problem to solve is to be much more selective about choosing our problem solvers.

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