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Tom Finneran: USA Blowing the Bronze

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


No, I really don’t think that our nation’s Olympic athletes will fall that short at the London Olympics. In fact, I expect that they’ll do quite well and I’m beaming with hope and expectation for our Olympians.

Rather the bronze that I refer to is the bronze of an eighth anniversary as well as the bronze of sad disappointment. Yes, the Olympics begin this Friday, July 27th. So let’s roll back the calendar for our special eight year anniversary and find out what happened on that magic day of July 27th, 2004…

Moving Speech

Lo and behold, if that isn’t the young, handsome, and articulate Barack Obama, addressing the delegates to the Democratic National Convention here in Boston, while also addressing a large part of the wired world. That’s right—on July 27, 2004 Barack Obama sprang upon the national stage with a stirring speech which spoke to our better angels. You might remember the moment. Perhaps you turned to your wife or partner, perhaps to your older children, commenting that this was indeed a special moment in American history and happily noting that you had not switched the channel to another dreadful summer re-run. And if not the moment, then certainly you remember some of the more memorable phrases of that memorable speech…

“I stand here today knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I have a debt to all those who came before me, and that in no other country on earth, is my story even possible”.

Or, “This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up to the legacy of our forebearers and the promise of future generations”.

Or, “The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats… we are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America”.

Or, “there is not a black America and a white America, a Latino America or an Asian America, there is a United States of America”.

Better angels indeed were being summoned. But eight long years later, those angels are shedding divine tears.

Both Parties to Blame

Perhaps these are the laments of an old and old-fashioned white guy, a city kid, and a Democrat, but, as an American citizen, I must ask what happened along the way? Eight long years have passed since that speech was delivered here in Boston. And in traditional American fashion, I’m happy to point out that both parties, Democrat and Republican, have a lot of explaining to do.

The fiscal legacy of George Bush is absolutely disastrous. The fiscal legacy of Barack Obama is, almost impossibly, even worse. One must ask whether this is the reality of “compassionate conservatism”? One must ask how such debts and deficits measure up “against a hard reality” or to “the legacy of our forebearers” or “the promise of future generations”.

Mortgaging the Future

I’m a grandfather now, very happily six times over. These little ones are a joy, a blessing, an utter delight in a world which oft times seems quite insane. Yet I consider their future and I cringe at what they stand to inherit. No previous generation of political leaders seems to have so breezily mortgaged the futures of so many. What is it about us, the alleged adults in the room, which prevents us from seeing the damage we are doing to our children and our grandchildren? How selfish can we be? Neither Democrats nor Republicans, liberals or conservatives can honorably or responsibly hide behind phrases such as “fair share”, “more progressive taxation”, or “compassionate conservatism”. Our deficits and our debts are a deceit of our own children. How quintessentially un-American that is. And how sad to think that eight opportune years, four under George Bush and four under Barack Obama have been squandered. When I think of it, it goes far beyond blowing the bronze. We may have blown the future.

Why does it seem next to impossible for the United States to develop a serious energy policy? Why are the budgetary sentiments of ordinary and reasonably intelligent Americans--for balanced budgets, intelligent borrowing, and growth-oriented taxation policies--deemed ludicrous by so many political advisors? Does anyone truly believe that we have sound, let alone superb educational policies and results? Or that our nation’s infrastructure is anything but a growing embarrassment? And lest my frustrations be deemed surreptitious torpedoes aimed at the Republican Party, let me ask why the Democratically-controlled United States Senate has failed to even propose a budget for the past three years?

In my lifetime, serious countries have always had to view the United States as a serious nation. That is no longer true. At this point, I’d settle for a bronze. What a shame.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio. He joins GoLocalWorester as a weekly MINDSETTER™.


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