America Is Burning

By Patrick DorinsonPolitical Commentator

America is on fire and it is out of control. It is a fire of populist anger that left unchecked will likely rage throughout this year and into the election year of 2010.

Unlike the wildfires we have every year here in California and throughout the West, it is not consuming acres of forest and people's homes -- unless you count the huge drop in home values. It is consuming America's trust and confidence in the very institutions that we count on to guide this nation.

Politicians of both parties are trying feverishly to contain this fire. It is burning in many locations and just like a wildfire it is threatening to grow into one big conflagration that will destroy all before it.

The people are angry about bonuses and bailouts being paid for with their money. So am I. But I am equally as angry at the numbskulls in Congress who act as mere bystanders or worse, as this fiscal house of cards collapses all around them. Barney Frank wants to make public the list of those who got bonuses from AIG, no doubt so that the media can camp out in front of their homes and harass these folks for days taking their eye off who is really responsible -- Congress.

Just the other day Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Dodd said, "The public confidence in our ability is being adversely affected -- not just mildly, but seriously." What a great grasp of the obvious Senator. Now you can go home.

Their plan for fighting the blazes amounts to lighting backfires which are meant to consume the fuel in the fire's path and slow it down so it eventually burns itself out for lack of nourishment. The fuel in this case is voter anger. But any experienced wildfire firefighter will tell you that lighting backfires is very tricky and rarely done because if the wind or other conditions change quickly, instead of controlling the fire you could make it worse.

Our fearless leaders desperately want to change the subject and in a rare bipartisan frenzy are tripping over themselves to get in front and lead the mob. AIG and any other company that received TARP funds are be hauled from the court of public opinion, dragged to the media public square and executed in the tax guillotine. That's their idea of a backfire.

And it's not just AIG bonuses or the smorgasbord of bailouts being served at the Treasury Department cafeteria. Years of profligate spending at all levels of government and pie-in the-sky political promises to get elected, have finally come home to roost.

In every state, every city, every county and every village, hamlet and town politicians are scrambling to fill empty coffers by raising taxes on anything and everything.

* Illinois plans a 50% increase in both personal and corporate taxes

* Hoboken New Jersey wants to raise property taxes 47%.

* Massachusetts is planning an increase of 19 cents a gallon gas tax

And here in California we are being asked to go to the polls on May 19 and agree to tax and borrow ourselves into oblivion because the politicians have failed miserably to do their jobs. Sound familiar?

Keystone Kops fiscal planning in Washington, state and local governments plans to tax anything they can, loss of assets earned over a lifetime and a home that is probably worth less today than it was when it was bought are all contributing to this anger and mob mentality.

But if either political party or President Obama think they can light the backfire and incite the mob and then somehow direct its anger into a political advantage they are even more out of touch with the American people than I thought.

And if all these fires now raging across America ever combine together into one huge populist inferno, there won't be an incumbent politician standing--just ashes.

Bloggers note: Here are a few old movie clips on today's themes. The first is the great speech by Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark in "All The King's Men". If we ever got one of these -- look out America!

The second is from John Ford's classic "Young Mr. Lincoln" starring Henry Fonda. If President Obama really wanted to emulate Lincoln he might try this movie version approach to dealing with the mob.