Opinion » Ted Rall

The New Pessimism

Will Americans act to prevent economic collapse?

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PHILADELPHIA--I am touring to promote my new book, The Anti-American Manifesto, which lays out America's biggest problems and what we can do to fix them.

Before I started, I knew that Americans were angry. With high unemployment and a government that gave $1.4 trillion to banks instead of people, how could they not be?

Americans have lost faith in the government's willingness or ability to address their needs and concerns. But pessimism and their rage is deeper and broader than I thought.

At the beginning of each book signing event I ask attendees to answer two questions. First: What is the worst problem that you face? Something the government could solve or at least mitigate? The top response is health care. Other answers include making college affordable and improving mass transit. Second: What is the biggest problem the world faces today? Whether it personally affects you, what should be job No. 1 for government? Most people say global warming or ecocide in general. Many complain about poverty and income inequality.

"Now think about your two top issues," I ask them. "Do you think there's any chance--not a high chance, not even a 50 percent chance, but any significant chance whatsoever--that this system, our American capitalist system and the two-party political structure that supports it, will impact either one of those two issues?"

I reset for clarity. "Do you think you will see any improvement, on even one of those two problems, in your lifetime?" I ask for a show of hands. Depending on the city, between 10 and 30 percent raise their hands. Bear in mind, these are Ted Rall readers.

According to the latest Gallup poll, 54 percent of Americans expect the economy to be the same or worse by this time next year.

If you're one of that 54 percent (or 70 to 90 percent of Ted Rall fans) who see the government as unwilling and/or unable to alleviate their suffering, what should you do?

In my book I argue it's time to stop putting up with a regime so incompetent that it can't protect us from 19 clowns with boxcutters, who are allowed to fly around the nation's airspace because our military prioritizes killing Muslims over defending the United States. I say that it's insane for the citizens of the richest nation in history to watch their living standards shrink while lawless corporations feed off the public trough. Why should we accept a $1.4 trillion handout to wealthy bankers, while the unemployed are told to pack up their children and get out of their homes?

If you don't think the government will do anything, why not get rid of it? There is one answer: it could be reformed. Could it?

President Barack Obama is living proof that it can't. Because, like him or not, this system is never going to give us a better president.

Unfortunately, as we've seen since he took office almost two years ago, he's not good enough. There's only one difference between President George W. Bush's policies and Obama's: opposition. Under Bush, there was a semblance of a left.

So now Americans are faced with a choice. They can accept nothing will ever get better, watch the rich get richer while they get poorer, sit on their butts as the planet heats up and the coral reefs die off. Or they can act.