January 18, 2020

No, It Really Isn’t a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Yes, the Dow Industrials are through the roof, and the full employment we were enjoying at the end of the Obama administration is now, well, even fuller.  But the neighborhood has grown very cranky. Racism and Anti-Semitism and xenophobia are in full renaissance. We’ve just impeached the President of the United States.  We’ve begun the process of trying him in the United States Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors, for which, if found guilty, he would be removed from office—removed from office ten months before an election in which the people will/would determine whether they want him to stay or go. Yes, people are cranky.

The very heart of our democracy, the Congress of the United States, convenes in Washington to engage in tactical warfare—party against party, Republican against Democrat and American against American. No one wins in this war of wills. Little of value to the American People gets considered, let alone enacted. The Capitol is the battleground and We the People are the battlefield casualties.

Derisive, ugly, and ignorant name-calling has become rampant across the political spectrum. And who is the name-caller-in-chief? Yes, it’s a rhetorical question, but it is a very serious question. Political discourse has deteriorated to the lowest level in memory, indeed, perhaps in history. Political opponents are described derisively, as disloyal, dishonest and dangerous. Our senior-most distinguished military leaders, who have faced the enemy on the field of battle, are held up to outrageous ridicule by their Commander-in-Chief who never served a day in military uniform, except in high school.

Most Americans, we believe, are embarrassed that we have abandoned our allies, the Kurds, even after they provided the boots on the ground in our war against ISIS, and lost over 10,000 men and women on the battlefield. That wasn’t a military decision, at least not one made by the men and women in uniform who are responsible for defending our nation. That was a nonsensical decision made between tweets and after a telephone call from Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who wanted to cleanse the area near the Turkish border of our allies, the hated Kurds.

Tranquility is obliterated over and over again by the sound of gunfire in our communities, in our schools and our churches and synagogues. Gun violence has the nation tied in knots. Mentally ill Americans, and Americans of sound mind, but cold heart, gun down fellow Americans with increasing regularity.  We watch in real-time on television as yet another mass shooting takes place in some American community. We wring our hands and shake our heads and lament that we can do nothing. That the right to bear arms shall not be infringed, which when enshrined in our constitution really meant the right to bear muskets, now enshrines the right for, well, just about everyone to bear, pretty much, whatever they choose, AK 47’s, 30 cartridge magazines, long guns, short guns, a few guns, an arsenal of guns—it doesn’t matter. So, every few weeks Americans are gunned down somewhere in America. Shamefully, the best we can do is talk about divining who, in this nation of 330 million souls, is mentally disturbed enough to gun down other Americans.

The calculated invective directed against the press day by day, almost hour by hour, is as ugly to the ear as pornography is (or should be) to the eye. The founders, those present at the creation, the first of our great generations, did not enshrine freedom of the press in the most important first amendment to our constitution so that the nation’s editors would be free to praise them—but so that they would be free to criticize them. The press was mean and cantankerous from the beginning. This from Thomas Paine, writing about none other than President George Washington. “the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.”  In response, President Washington said nothing. There is no question that he was hurt by the attacks in the press, of which there were many. Some historians believe the press attacks against him were responsible for his decision to retire to Mount Vernon after his second term in office. But he also knew a free and unencumbered and unrestrained press was critical to the democracy he played such a great role in creating. He knew America’s free press was always the grand recourse of the people and never the enemy of the people.

America, by far the wealthiest nation in the world, can’t manage to live within its means, so we are borrowing from everyone who will lend us money, including our designated economic enemy-number-one, China, to whom we are indebted more than any other foreign power. And why are we in such financial straits? Because we’ve seriously reduced revenue (through tax legislation that was supposed to generate revenue) while vastly increasing spending. We’re now spending over a trillion dollars a year more than we take in, and we’ll be doing that for as far into the future as we can see. Not a pretty (let alone, beautiful) sight. And there will be a day of reckoning. There always is, and that’s something we seem to forget with regularity. That’s why the people, as well as the nation, are head-over-heels in debt.

So, no. It’s not a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Sorry, Mister Rogers.

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15 responses to “No, It Really Isn’t a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

  1. Perry says:

    Without question everything written in today’s essay is fact.
    Sadly our nation is divided and each side believes they are in the

    Possibly this started with Newt Gingrich who held sway or perhaps more so during the solid entrenchment of the Democratic machine under Obama, whatever the reason we are indeed “A House Divided”. Today we work for the government rather than the intended of government working for us.
    Accountability is necessary more than party loyalties.

  2. Steve marcus says:

    An excellent summary of the mess we’re in. Our beautiful neighborhood has, in fact, been trashed, rather than improved.

  3. Leonard Sherman says:

    What happened in America that our elected leaders especially those on the extreme left have lost and abandoned the love and patronism for our country and as well the people that do not and have not served and do nothing but offer criticism and are It should be mandatory that every elected person in the congress of the United States be required to take the same oath and pledge that I took when I raised my right arm on January 6th1942 and enlisted in the army.

  4. Robin Stonehill says:

    Probably one of your best and far reaching essays

  5. Jerry Mathews says:

    One of the best and most cogent summaries of the political environment and issues confronting our nation I have read.

  6. Norman Wine says:

    A sobering expression of the plight of this great nation

  7. Robert J. Fraiman says:

    I agree with Robin Stonehill, one of your best essays, Hal.
    In the context of free speech i too have made up my mind
    concerning the Senate impeachment trial. Like Senator Lindsey Graham, who took an oath to listen to all the arguments, pro and con, before casting his vote, supposedly said, he has already made up his mind. So too have i! Mike Bloomberg has “put his money where his mouth is”. The name of the game is to get rid of President Donald Trump. Mike has committed $1 billion to that end, further, if he is not the nominee he will use that $1 billion
    to support the Democrat who is chosen. Most of your readers
    not know Mike’s background on Wall Street, it was not
    always wine and roses. Unlike our President, he earned every
    dollar of his vast fortune!

  8. Steve Hardy says:

    Everything you say is true, yet we Americans and the rest of the world are better off today than at any time in our history in terms of wealth, health, poverty, the environment and any other metric you can measure of human flourishing https://www.humanprogress.org/ .

  9. Steve Hardy says:

    On the subject of our national debt, I used to believe Milton Friedman’s advice always to vote to reduce taxes to “starve the beast.” Now I think that this is one of the very few things Milton was wrong about. I now believe a better idea would be to send an itemized bill to every taxpayer for his or her portion of any dollar amount of spending (over some debt limit) passed by the government. This would happen maybe once or twice before the government was forced to limit its spending.

  10. Michael gong says:

    You never fail to put into elegant prose what I am currently thinking and feeling. It’s gotten to a point where l can’t watch the news or read the newspaper. Thank goodness I have our wonderful family to enjoy being with. As much as possible, l try to keep my head in that neighborhood without burying it in the sand.

  11. Mike says:

    3462 vs 3329

    When the objective is to destroy your opponent versus act in the best interests of the country, you have a prescription for the current state of affairs.

    Factually, one of your comments is inaccurate. In FY 2019 the government took in 3,462 Trillion Dollars. In FY 2018, the number was 3,329 Trillion Dollars. The issue isn’t the passage of the Tax Act. The issue has been and will continue to be the growth of entitlement programs. And very few, if any politician will vote to reign in entitlements.

    And when you see the left promoting the “green new deal” it underscores how detached from reality they have become. For example, while they focus on climate change, we have 60000 people living on the streets in Los Angeles with the untreated sewage flushing in to the ocean each day.

  12. James Fisher says:

    Your wide-reaching essay essay throws plenty of darts – hitting the President and others on the right – but completely missing the obvious targets on the left who in fact created most of the abominable situations you lament.

    The free press? It is criminal how one-sided the media has become and how it fails to do its job of informing the public of ALL THOSE who violate the public trust – on both sides of the political spectrum.

  13. Robert borns says:

    An on target hal blog with wonderful backup research facts——-but——in a country with a relatively open society this is a result. In Cuba, China, Russia,North Korea, etc you don’t have our disparity of thought and action. Since our country’s beginning there has been behavior similar to what’s going on now except in short time periods. Things are actually pretty darn good now. Not perfect. In my lifetime in the past jews,blacks,women and many groups were socially and legally hobbled to extents unimaginable now. We could fill a warehouse with examples of our nagative past. And we could fill many warehouses with examples of of the glorious positive changes and actions in our nation. This is the price we payed for our freedom then and what we pay now and will always pay going forward. As my mom and dad who came from Europe said- god bless America.

  14. Bobbi Holland says:

    Hurray—good for you, Hal. A wonderful essay, very well thought our and courageous. Next question: what can we do next to change the tone and restore decency. I don’t see hope on either side. What we need are more voices like yours calling out the truth for everyone to see.

  15. Roberta Conner says:

    Apparently, not everyone believes that the sky is falling. The Rasmussen Report was one of the few pollsters that correctly forecast the 2016 presidential election. According to the most recent Rasmussen Survey, Forty-five percent (45%) of likely U.S. voters think the country is heading in the right direction. This finding is up five points from just a week ago, and is the highest since February 2017. By comparison, this number ran in the mid- to upper 20s for much of 2016, President Obama’s last full year in office.

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