Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Unwinding, Entry 3

     The book takes a number of interesting turns, talking about everyone from a Biden fundraiser to the great short story writer Raymond Carver. The book is affectingly written, but I'm not sure I know exactly all he's getting at. I get that he's a liberal chronicling the demise of the Great Society, but I feel like I'm missing something. Jonathan Alter, who has been pushing his book on the 2012 election, 'The Center Holds', says that the last election was the most important in a long time because it reaffirmed our commitment to the Great Society. It seems to me that the last several elections have been about this -- even the Clinton years had welfare reform. But the U.S. did not go the way of Europe after WW 2. The predominance of socialist parties from 1945 until Thatcher didn't happen here. I'm not necessarily saying it *could* happen here, either. The U.S. occupies a specific place in the world, like it or no. I sometimes think we were saddled with a Hobbesian war of all against all while Europe was able to move toward postmodernism(a luxury we really didn't get to have, except for awhile in certain universities.). By the way, I should say there is a lot to like about postmodernism, though I think its time has come and gone.
       One thing the U.S. can do is move further along the road of a mixed economy.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Unwinding, Entry 2

    Well, I read up through the section on Oprah. The author sets the reader up to dislike Oprah by telling a very sad story about a Steel town in Ohio where all the jobs left. I had no sooner thought 'this sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song' when he turned around and quoted one! The book is purportedly about the dismantling of the safety net and so on. He hasn't gotten around to doing much of that yet. But he seems to be circling around the stories so there will likely be more of this later.
     I found myself wondering how much of a safety net has there actually been, and for how long, in the U.S.? It's true that especially after LBJ there was more of a safety net -- for a while. But for, say, most of the 19th Century there wasn't much, and many of FDR's and Truman's efforts(right after WW 2, Truman sent a New Dealesque paper to Congress) were blocked by republicans and conservative democrats. And, while there are a lot of things to like about Eisenhower, he did seem to be more of a fiscal conservative than the democrats(while being nowhere near as loopy as the Ayn Rand wackos popping up all over the place these days). Does this mean that the safety net is more of an anomaly in American history? I hope not.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Unwinding

     So I'm going to start reading Packer's The Unwinding. It looks like a series of portraits of people both famous and not famous. It's about the decline of collective behavior in America. Interesting that I read in a biography of Truman that his first letter to congress was a continuation of the New Deal, and added a proposal for universal health care, after WW 2. This was, evidently, a bit of a surprise to many in congress, and was vehemently opposed by republicans and conservative democrats in congress. Sound familiar?

    So, next time I will start with some reactions to 'The Unwinding'.
 Oh, and just to upset a bunch of people, I agree with Bill Maher's recent assessment of Reagan. Everybody, including democrats, seem to be lining up to say how great he was, but he WASN'T. Thanks, Bill -- even though sometimes I  think you've lost your keen edge because you've smoked so much dope[I'm kidding, I'm kidding!], you got that one right.