Just How Gullible Are We?

February 8, 2008

This has been an excellent week. I have received four or five emails from London and Africa announcing that I have been selected to receive, from each of them, sums in excess of ten million pounds. The quite remarkable fact seems to be that one fellow’s plane crash, another’s unexpected demise—apparently run over by a herd of elephants— a third’s cruel wife, have all resulted in me being just the right person on the planet to receive millions of dollars which was left in their estates. Not only that: Several lotteries have paid off this week as well, and, just like the poor African ministers who want to share their millions with me, the lottery companies are happy to send money as well. It seems all I have to do is let any one of these secret correspondents know a few details about my bank account and social security number and my life worries will be over.

It’s been a good week in other ways, too. The president gave his state of the union address and did not announce any new wars or plans to turn social security over to the private economy. This was wise, I think, since the stock market is not looking like any place I want my social security; I think I’d rather have my regular government check than depend on Morgan Stanley or one of those private wizards. So we dodged a bullet there, too.

We probably don’t need to worry about the economy all that much, really, since John McCain thinks we might be able to stay in Iraq for at least 100 years, and that means that Haliburton and Kellogg Brown & Root and all those companies are guaranteed to be able to go on blowing up and re-building bridges for at least two or three generations. Corporations are chartered “in perpetuity” so the military industrial complex is safe as long as we can keep a few good wars going.

Listening to the Republicans debate the other night at the Reagan Library, all their candidates are willing to fight on like Churchill: on the beaches, on the landing fields, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iran. Republicans are simply not going to surrender. If one of these candidates wins, we should be able to keep Haliburton and the whole publicly-funded, but mystically somehow-still-private, sector afloat for a very long time. And if we can just get a few more unworthy people out of those wasteful art programs, or off self-perpetuating welfare, or off our bankrupt social security, we can guarantee all the far-more-worthy corporations some kind of permanent income stream, indefinitely. Which is not self-perpetuating because of the mystery and magnificence of private enterprise. Mitt Romney says that he has been doing this kind of risky business all his life and we should be reassured that he will be good to keep it going. On balance therefore it appears that if McCain can keep the wars going and Romney can keep the military industrial complex even just barely alive, we should be set.

Of course, somebody in London thinks I will believe anything, and apparently some candidates think so too. The lottery messages just keep coming and the Republicans keep promising that the surge will bring democracy to Iraq and the president says that the economy is strong and that if we just buy more shoes and socks, all will be well. Buy more gas and global warming will turn out to be a myth and the polar ice caps will freeze back up and the polar bears will swim again with happy abandon.

It is true, of course, somebody must be responding to those emails offering millions of dollars for nothing. And somebody must believe that Iraq is not a failed state or that Afghanistan is not a failed state and that if we just stand up to Iran we can make that country bow down to Thomas Jefferson. But I’m not giving those shysters in London my bank account number and I’m not giving my vote to any one who wants to pretend that Iraq is a success or who will entrust my social security to the private sector and I’m not voting for perpetual war, no matter how Churchillian the salesman. Endless war may have been good politics for presidents Reagan, Bush I and Bush II, but it was not ever good for the Nicaraguan people, or the Iraqi people, or the American conscience. We are naive, yes, but not that naive.