Colombia and America

Alvaro Uribe's re-election bid hangs by a thread and seems likely to be sunk by the Constitutional Court. Come August 7th, Colombia will have a new President and that brings me unending joy. Colombia's highest court will uphold the rule of law by tossing the Presidential referendum on technical grounds - campaign finance laws were broken and Uribe's supporters (it is important to note that Uribe was not directly involved in the re-election bid) violated, perhaps unintentionally but violated nonetheless, a number of other election laws. While I would have preferred the Court to uphold the constitutionality of term limits instead of sidestepping the issue, I expect the Court to firmly declare that elections in Colombia cannot be bought by the highest bidders.

It's not often that one gets to see two political systems debate such core issues, and somewhat overlapping ones at that (there is also a healthcare debate ongoing), so intensely, closely and simultaneously. Colombia is often termed a "failing" state. I've never bought into that view even as I am fully aware of the serious socio-economic disparities we face and of the grave security threat that such inequality breeds. Though I concede the fragility of the Colombian state, it has been remarkable to witness the growing resolve of Colombians of all walks of life coming together to break the dark cycles of the past half century. And while Colombian democracy has its own pervasive imperfections, it is increasingly vibrant and mature. To turn back Uribe is no small feat.

The US too faces serious socio-economic problems, of a different sort and scope no doubt, but it is the political intractability that should give us the most concern. I've taken the President to task this past fortnight for not being assertive enough in his leadership nor partisan enough in his politics but I think if we could replace Barack Obama say with an FDR or an LBJ, we would still face a political stalemate. The problem, ultimately, isn't the President. I may not agree with him on every single issue or his approach at times but I know he means well and I believe him sincere in his efforts to reach a governing consensus on pressing national issues.

Achieving a governing consensus may be a hopeless task. The bitter reality is the United States is in danger of becoming a failing state because one party has become so radicalized in its ideology and in its approach to the game of politics that almost any issue becomes so intensely partisan that any compromise is effectively impossible to reach. As long as the GOP views governance as a zero-sum game, the national interest will suffer. Theirs is a scorched America politics. In their unyielding zeal, they are willing to see the nation falter and the American people suffer for what matters to the GOP leadership is serving the interests of an increasingly narrow economic elite.

This was excerpted from a work by Charles Lemos of MyDD called 'Salvaged or Savaged?'. He was writing on the topic of healthcare reform and in particular the summit yesterday (thus the title). What I liked most about his article was the fact that you can gather from it the parallel in our country of turning back the Bush republicans - and the magnitude of that 2008 accomplishment. He has lined up two core systems and compared them well.

The first runner up last year to the Nobel Peace Prize, was a Colombian Senator Pied Cordoba. Her work in freeing hostage - I think 19 of them - a negotiation which took place between dangerous factions and for which lives were on the line - ultimately found its way to a successful resolution.

But we as Americans are not often faced with the concept that our own country is in danger of becoming a failed state. We tend to forget that there is a massive machine called China getting larger and larger in the global geopolitical spectrum - we have a quaint view of ourselves from the 1950's - smiling dad smoking a pipe, reading the paper. Mom with her baste-o-matic oven , now with a deep fryer.

And America at the center of the world - a beacon of Democracy. Draining the swamp of Bush Republicanism may in fact require throwing out the entire republican party. Something can become so corrupt it should be excised. Taking a page from Charles - and the holy bible - ye shall know them by their works :

As of 2007, the top 1 percent of US households owned 34.6 percent of all privately held wealth, and the next 19 percent (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5 percent, which means that just 20 percent of the people hold 85 percent, leaving only 15 percent of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1 percent of households hold an even greater share: 42.7 percent. Go back to 1979 and you'll find that the top one percent owned just 20.5 percent percent of all privately held wealth. In other words, the share held by the top one percent has expanded by 68.8 percent thanks to the policies of Ronald Reagan. That transfer of wealth, a near 15 percent share of the nation's wealth, was by design not by chance. It was accomplished by shifting the tax burden from the top 1 percent to the middle classes.

The parallel between Colombia and America - for me - hits home when we realize the outcome of systems are at stake. Healthcare is a horribly broken system. As was certain elements of Colombian government. The effort to change them, upgrade them - is what we are seeing now in both systems - side by side. Proving that no matter how rich you think you are you'd better take out the trash (thanks bitch). His last words are great:

The double hit from this world view is that we neither have universal healthcare coverage and pay far too much for the coverage that we do have. It's not big government for big government's sake that we are after but effective government of sufficient capability and dexterity to tackle thirty plus years of accumulated avoidance of socio-economic issues that can no longer be ignored such as our failing healthcare system.

Pretty cool, huh?


Anonymous said…
Definitely cool. It will be interesting to see what goes down next week.