Decade In Review – Part IV (Conclusion)

by Ben Hoffman

My wife and I went out to see the movie The Road yesterday afternoon, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic land where all civilization and almost all life is destroyed. Despite the fun premise, it was probably meant to be a warning that we need to do something to protect our country and planet from destruction.

This is the decade where global warming became a hot topic, due in part to Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth. Right-wingers deny global warming because, well, that’s what they’re told to do. But we saw extreme weather in the past ten years that resulted in the deaths of 100s of thousands of people. The unusually warm temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico fueled Hurricane Katrina and it escalated into a category five hurricane before making landfall, killing almost 2,000 people.

What was really scary was the political shift in our country and the polarization that resulted from the 9/11 attack with the us vs. them mentality. We saw our constitution trampled on, beginning with the 2000 election where the Supreme Court decided who would be our president. It exposed the problems with our election system, yet here we are over nine years later and very little has been done to fix the problems.

We saw President Bush use the 9/11 terrorist attack as a giant power grab. He decided that he alone could deem someone an enemy combatant. He used the NSA to illegally spy on Americans. We still don’t know the extent to which that was done or to what extent it was used for political purposes. We also saw our government torture prisoners in an attempt to help build the case to go to war with Iraq. We saw corporations writing regulations as we moved dangerously close to corporatism in our country. And we saw our country turn to socialism for the wealthy but capitalism for the rest of us.

The repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 would lead to the housing bubble a few years later and reckless derivatives trading which turned banks into high-stakes gamblers. Hundreds of billions of our tax dollars would later be used to bail them out because they were deemed “too big to fail.” Low mortgage rates, from the fed lowering interest rates to fuel our economy, would also help fuel the housing bubble. Bush pushed for his “ownership society” and there were practically no background checks to get approved for mortgages. These things also helped inflate the bubble. As we’ve seen, all bubbles eventually burst.

The commodities market deregulation in 2000 would lead to the run up of the price of oil and food, which would push us into our current deep recession. Bush’s massive tax cuts, along with increased spending for the two wars would double our national debt and triple the deficit. And we also saw the flood of our manufacturing jobs to China as a result, in part, to admitting China into the WTO in 2001.

Our democracy is based on valid elections, yet because of the money involved in campaigning, our elections are fraught with abuse and lousy choices. In 2004, the candidates were parodied in the South Park cartoon as a choice between a shit sandwich and a giant douche. Kerry was the douche. As bad as he was, though, John Kerry, a legitimate war hero was made out to look like a coward by the media, and Bush, who never saw any action and went AWOL, was made out to be a hero.

Our country was moving dangerously close to fascism with the giant power grab by the Bush administration, the infusion of corporatism, the aggressive foreign policies, the waging of wars, the alienation of everyone else in the world, and the appointment of incompetent people to government agencies such as Michael Brown to FEMA to render them useless. Our country was saved in the 2006 Congressional election where enough people finally saw the light and voted Republicans out of power.

In the 2008 election, John McCain showed himself to be a dishonorable, lying, SOB who would do anything to get elected. He chose an unknown nobody from Alaska to be his running mate, just because he thought it would win him a few votes. McCain then adapted the motto: “America First,” which, of course, was just another gimmick. One morning, McCain made the statement that the fundamentals of our economy were strong and that afternoon warned that our economy was in trouble. John McCain’s chief financial advisor was Phil Gramm: the same person who authored the Gramm Leach Bliley Act of 1999 that repealed the Glass Steagall Act and contributed to the collapse of our economy.

On a lighter note, in sports, the Denver Broncos saw John Elway retire in 1999 after winning the Super Bowl for the second year in a row. The Broncos were a bore after that until drafting Jay Cutler a few years ago. While he didn’t have many wins, he had potential, and he made the game fun to watch again. But alas, he was traded to the Chicago Bears. Anyone who watched the game last night saw what Cutler has: the potential to become a hall-of-famer.

We saw the Rockies somehow make it to the World Series in 2007, but get creamed by the Red Sox in the series. The Rockies then traded away some of their best players and returned to mediocrity.

I took up tennis this year so I’ll mention Roger Federer, who is considered by many to be the best who’s ever played the game. He’s held the number one position for 237 consecutive weeks and won 15 Grand Slam singles titles. Too bad tennis isn’t televised more. I’m too cheap to subscribe to the Tennis Channel.

There were some really good movies during the past decade such as Last King of Scotland, Pan’s Labyrinth, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Memento, Mulholland Drive, There Will Be Blood, The Pianist, The Departed, Gran Torino, Eastern Promises… O Brother, Where Art Thou got a lot of people into bluegrass music, which was kind of annoying.

In technology we got YouTube, Wikipedia, flat panel monitors, HDTV, social networking sites, blogs, wireless networks, the near extinction of landlines phones, and GPS devices, to name a few. We also saw the price of computers come way down and the popularity of laptops go up. There was satellite radio, tasers, the short lived mini-disk, and Blue-Ray disk winning out over HD-DVD. Technology is still driving our economy to a great extent.

And so, in less than three days, we will enter the next decade: the tens? This decade was the aughts, as some called it. Come 2013, we can call it the teens. It won’t be until 2020 (the 20s) that we’ll have a term that won’t be so awkward.

We enter the tens with over 12 trillion dollars in debt, thanks mainly to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Our country is still severely polarized, as we’ve seen with the tea-baggers protesting what they believe to be a move towards socialism/communism/fascism in our country. They blame Obama for the debt and deficits. They think that “health insurance reform” is the same thing as socialized health care. They claim Obama has raised our taxes when in fact, he’s cut them for most people. And of course, they believe Obama will take away their guns.

And so it goes.

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