Sunday, March 25, 2012

Governor Gloom Still Alive

When I was in college at the University of Denver in the 1980s, Richard Lamm, governor of the state of Colorado, was making national news. “People who die without having life artificially extended are similar to ''leaves falling off a tree and forming humus for the other plants to grow up”, is an example of one of his frank statements, earning him the nickname, Governor Gloom. I was assuming that he had died, but when I googled him I found he is still very much alive. According to Wikipedia Richard Lamm is currently a professor at my alma mater. He is a novelist and occasionally writes controversial articles. Why haven't I heard about him for so long?

The simple answer is that he no longer holds such a high profile office. But the more interesting answer can be found in the meditation on how times have changed. While Gov. Lamm was unique in his time, doom and gloom has since become the coin of the realm, the standard rhetorical currency of our time. Right or left of the political spectrum, we hear it constantly.

Republican candidate Rick Santorum invokes old-time indignation often. Lucifer is incarnate, his minions eating away the morals in literal ways. Stalinist legislations from the White House force abortion drugs, bought by employers under the onerous, monolithic Obama-care. An evil pall lies over the land, legacy of J.F.K., whose vile speeches are enough to cause Santorum to actually retch.

Less on the explicitly moralistic side, and more on the fiscal side of Gloom and Doom, was last year's great “chicken” game over the rise of the Federal Debt Ceiling. When Republicans took control of the House in the midterm elections they felt empowered to deny Obama's tax increase proposal alongside spending cuts. It looked like the U.S. was about to default on its debt, but at the last minute they agreed on some spending cuts and a debt rise. It was a white-nuckler.

Forever there is a gnawing fear about the astronomically, incomprehensibly high national debt, and what it portends for the future of Social Security and Medicare: an uneasy sense of doom somewhere out ahead. The same uneasiness can be felt in the EU, when similar “chicken games” play out, such as the recent agreement over Greek debt and bond holders' final haircut.

Doom and Gloom is equally important, perhaps even more important, on the left of the political spectrum. Climate Change policy is full of Doom and Gloom. The planets' population spirals forever upward, while resources dry up. Cities and countries crumble and flood, from New Orleans to Haiti, to Fukashima. Tsunamis, rising sea levels, and increasingly volatile weather patterns cause disasters or “reverse miracles” that could have been described in the wrathful prose of the Old Testament.

Back to Governor Gloom, here's an interesting predictive quote: "The U.S. economy will be debt-ridden, with structural unemployment nearing 20 percent. The U.S. will have the lowest percentage of capital investment and lowest growth in productivity and savings of any major industrialized country. The middle class will be wiped out by these inter-related economic predicaments. …”

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