\ You Never Had It So Good. Not. - Roger Simon

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November 20th, 2017

Insight

You Never Had It So Good. Not.

Roger Simon

By Roger Simon

Published Oct. 15, 2014

I hardly know where to begin.

Ebola continues to spread around the world; the Islamic State pushes closer to Baghdad; the Secret Service can't prevent a guy with a knife from running into the White House; sea levels are rising; fighting continues in Ukraine; extreme partisanship eats away at our democracy; thousands of American businesses have been subject to cyberattacks; 1 in 9 American bridges are rated structurally deficient; we are undergoing the most dramatic die-off of species since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago; and I think I'm getting a cold.

Our get-up-and-go appears to have gotten up and gone, the protestations of our leaders notwithstanding.

In preparation for World War II, the British government came up with the slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On" to urge its citizens to show resolve in the face of a global crisis.

Our government has come up with a somewhat more pugnacious slogan for our times: We are "indispensable," and everybody ought to thank their lucky stars for us.

In his State of the Union address on Jan. 24, 2012, President Barack Obama said: "Yes, the world is changing; no, we can't control every event. But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs, and as long as I am president, I intend to keep it that way."

In a presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida, on Oct. 22, 2012, he said, "America remains the one indispensable nation, and the world needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office."

And on Aug. 26, 2014, to the American Legion in North Carolina, Obama reaffirmed, "The United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world."

The concept was not exactly original. In a speech explaining his intervention in Bosnia, President Bill Clinton said in 1996: "The fact is America remains the indispensable nation. There are times when America — and only America — can make a difference between war and peace, between freedom and repression, between hope and fear."

And one potential president is squarely in that camp. On Feb. 1, 2013, as she stepped down as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton told the Council on Foreign Relations: "We are the indispensable nation. We are the force for progress, prosperity and peace."

My only problem with all this is that I have no idea what these people are talking about.

We are indispensable to peace, hope, progress and prosperity? So how come we aren't seeing more of it?

OK, OK, there are still a bunch of countries out there that we don't actually control, even though we have spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives fighting their wars for them.

But how about America itself?


At home, citizens are offered a different theme: You never had it so good.

"It is indisputable that our economy is stronger today than when I took office," President Obama said in a speech at Northwestern University on Oct. 2. "By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office.

"At the same time, it's also true that not enough Americans feel the benefits of the economy in their own lives. This progress has been hard, but it's been steady and been real."

But if it's been "steady" and "real," how come not enough Americans "feel the benefits"?

I do not dispute the blizzard of statistics that the White House has to back up the president's claims. But Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also has some statistics on his website:

"The average middle class American family made less in 2012 than it did ... in 1989.

"One family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, is worth more than the bottom 40 percent of Americans.

"The richest 400 Americans are worth more than the poorest 150 million Americans combined and those in the bottom 60 percent only hold 1.7 percent of the nation's wealth."

And when CNN's Candy Crowley asked Sanders on Sunday about the Islamic State and the U.S. response, he said: "We are here today because of the disastrous blunder of the Bush-Cheney era, which got us into this war in Iraq in the first place, which then developed the can of worms that we're trying to deal with right now. ... We have been at war for 12 years. We have spent trillions of dollars. ... What I do not want and I fear very much is the United States getting sucked into a quagmire and being involved in perpetual warfare year after year after year."

So are you feeling as if happy days are here again? No? That's hard to believe, considering we are so indispensable abroad and prosperous at home.

But I am trying to stay positive. And I call to mind an old adage:

The pessimist says, "Things are so terrible they can't get any worse."

The optimist says, "Oh, yes, they can."

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