Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
June 15, 2012
Mr. President: News reports have announced your intention not to attend the Rio+20
Earth Summit, sending Hillary Clinton instead. Other notable absentees who have
similarly downgraded the meeting are David Cameron and Angela Merkel, a position
consonant with their right leaning policies -- hard right in Cameron's case. Francois
Hollande will be there; in fact, about 130 world leaders are expected to attend -- a
score more than at the original gathering in 1992.
It is worth noting that a World Happiness Report commissioned by the April 2nd UN
Conference on Happiness under a UN General Assembly mandate, and published by
the Columbia University Earth Institute, describes the Anthropocene ('anthropo' for
human and 'cene' for new), the latest geological epoch where man has become the
principal shaper of change in the Earth's physical systems -- climate, the carbon,
water, and nitrogen cycles, and biodiversity. The effects in the Horn of Africa and
Central Asia are already apparent. The United States as the world's economic,
military and technological superpower is in good measure responsible for these
changes, yet its leader declines to attend.
Talking about happiness in the United States, the report notes no gains in the past
half century despite the tremendous strides in economic and technological progress.
The economic gains benefiting only the few have led to greater social and economic
inequality. Thus the Gini Index, a measure of income inequality, where 0 represents
perfect equality and 100 the opposite, shows the U.S. in 2008 to be at 45, the worst
among developed nations. It is even trumped by countries like South Korea (31.4),
India (36.8), Pakistan (30.6), Mali (40.1), Venezuela (41) and many others. Of
course, the Scandinavian countries like Norway (25) and Sweden (23) are way ahead,
as is Germany (27), and our neighbor Canada (32.1) does not do too badly.
With all the talk of 'hope' and 'change', how has this administration fared? At the top
of the list must rest the audacity, not of hope, but of extending the Bush era tax cuts
(so much for change), a program so skewed to benefit the rich, it would be a surprise
if it did not raise the Gini Index at least another couple of points. Then there is the
continued economic stagnation and persistent unemployment burdening principally
the middle class and the poor, a consequence of Geithner's principal focus on the
best interests of banks, and an undue reliance on them as economic drivers.
Again, despite the economy's gains in the past half century, the happiness report
notes, "... uncertainties and anxieties are high, social and economic inequalities have
widened considerably, social trust is in decline, and confidence in government is at an
all time low." Life satisfaction (happiness) shows no improvement. The" report adds,
"The realities of poverty, anxiety, environmental degradation, and unhappiness in the
midst of great plenty ... require our immediate attention ... ."
Is it time to reconsider priorities for the next term (if there is one) to focus on the best
interests of the majority and society as a whole, rather than the selective demands of
elite pressure groups? To speak of 'change' when there is none, and 'hope' that is
scant, smacks of a hypocrisy even less palatable than Romney's outdated economic
mantras that have failed the majority over thirty years.