Monday, November 12, 2007

November 12, 2007

News reports this Veterans' Day week remind us that this year has been the costliest so far in our two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. But these wars don't touch us the way, say, Vietnam or Korea did. I think the reason is that we don't have a draft. The armed services are all-volunteer.

Back during those earlier wars, you or your kids might get drafted and sent to fight, and we know that can't happen now. People think Iraq was a dumb idea or they don't, but there's not a lot of passion either way. And that may be part of a larger phenomenon--what New York Times columnist David Brooks recently called "the happiness gap."

All sorts of polls and surveys show that Americans are pretty satisfied with their own lives, but really mad at their government. 76% of Americans told a Pew Research Center survey they were satisfied with their family income; 65%, satisfied overall with their lives. But only 25% told Pew they were satisfied with the country. All the polls give President Bush really low marks. And all the polls give Congress really low marks. It's race between the two.

It's easy to see why. The president seems stuck in his war in Iraq, certainly in no hurry to end it, and thinking about maybe starting another one with Iran. That would be three for one president - a record. And Congress? What has it done about Iraq? The answer is, essentially, nothing. Has it passed any of the thirteen appropriations bills this year? No.

That's mostly because Congress keeps trying to figure out ways to stuff earmarks into bills the President won't veto. You know, "If we put all the new post offices and statues of us in the defense bill, he'll have to sign that, won't he?" That kind of thing.

All this would seem to call for presidential candidates demanding big, radical changes. Barack Obama and John Edwards do call for change, but there's little of the fire that marked, say, Robert Kennedy or Jesse Jackson's campaigns in years past. But again, maybe that's because the voters aren't as angry now as they were back then. Their own lives, they say, are going along pretty well.

It's a funny year.

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