Back in New Jersey, home of Jersey Boys, the Jersey Shore, NJ Housewives, and of course, the Sopranos. Not to mention the place I used to give cheer-leading rah rahs in the soot above the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel.
It is stinking hot, only about 33 C yesterday, but very humid. We dragged wet carpets from my mother’s basement, her only aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Obama came to NJ yesterday to utter smooth comforting words. On the news , the still swollen Passaic River rushed past behind him, heedless of his emollient speech.
Texas, meanwhile, is having its worst fire season ever. No point in mentioning the water shortages in the south west or south east.
The Sunday political chat involves a lot of head-scratching and finger pointing. Yeah, we baby boomers are to blame for being spenders. How convenient to target that group rather than the political class. The deficit and job creation are the current topics, along with the long line up of Republican candidates for President. No one mentions the growing gap between the rich and the poor, or the uneven way the recession has hit those least able to handle it.
Except for Richard Reich. In a Sunday New York Times article he describes the wild party that dominated US policy circles since the 1970s. Instead of cocaine, there were hedge funds. No strippers, just stripping away of investment in education, infrastructure, public health and transportation.
Lots of jobs were created – in the free for all that the financial services industries became. Hot times in the Bonfire of the Vanities.
Now the top 5% of the richest account for 37% of US consumption, according to Reich. He said in print what my mother and I had told each other, although the television panel couldn’t hear us shouting: the US’s problems will not be solved until the drain of wealth to towards the richest is reversed.
No sign of the penny dropping on climate change either, even as the number of natural disasters adds to the deficit problem. Obama has scrapped plans to tighten up on smog control, which should be part of a broad approach to cleaning up the air, water, and energy sources. Maybe he is just shrewd: workers with respiratory disease don’t need jobs, and the medical sector can count their care as adding to GDP.
The level of mainstream rhetoric, Reich and a few others notwithstanding, is appalling. In other corners of the media, a few sages note that dealing with problems from a 20th century approach just won’t work. Growth in consumption won’t save the US economy, neither will more relaxation of rules on dirty industry. Squeezing entitlements won’t fix the budget deficit, unless the military is squeezed much more.
As always when I visit here, I find myself succumbing to the prevailing zeitgeist, even while trying to engage anyone who will chat. No one seems to notice that the sky is a vague non-colour: not grey, nor white and certainly not blue. In the evenings it takes on a metallic glow, long after dusk. The head-banging is tiring in the heat, think I’ll turn up the aircon.