The Naughties

What to make of this decade as it draws to a close.


Thomas Schaller
September 18, 2009 1:48AM (UTC)

The end of the decade draws near, and that has Pulitzer-winning journalist Tim Eagan searching for perspective on what has transgressed. He writes:

For average Americans, the last 10 years were a lost decade. At the end of President George W. Bush’s eight years in office, American households had less money and less economic security, and fewer of them were covered by health care than 10 years earlier, the Census Bureau reported in its annual survey.

The poverty rate in 2008 rose to 13.2 percent, the highest in 11 years, while median household income fell to $50,303. Ten years earlier, adjusted for inflation, it was $51,295. . .

Now consider the people who showed up in a state of generalized rage in Washington over the weekend. They have no leaders, save a self-described rodeo clown — Glenn Beck of Fox News — and some well-funded Astroturf outfits from the permanent lobbying class inside the Beltway. They are loosely organized under a Tea Party movement, but these people are closer to British Tories than 18th century patriots with a love of equality.

Where was the Tea Party movement when the tax burden was shifted from the high end to the middle? Where were the patriots when Wall Street, backed in Congress by Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, rewrote securities laws so that the wonder boys of Lehman and A.I.G. could reduce home mortgages to poker chips at a trillion-dollar table?

One more detail caught my eye in these new economic reports on the lost decade. People in their prime earning years — age 45 to 54 — took the biggest hit in the last years of the Bush Administration, their median income falling by $5,000. And the region that suffered most — the South.

Five years too late and highly misinformed. I write this post as I keep Glenn Beck's show on in the background. This is a person who seriously misunderstands the Founders, the Constitution and the nature of government.

And they have the wrong target. . .

Where were the angry “stiffs” when the banking industry rolled the last Congress — majority Democrat, by the way — into rewriting bankruptcy law, making it easier to keep people in permanent credit card hock?...

Older southern whites — that’s who got hit hardest by the freewheeling decade now fading. They should be angry. But they’re five years too late.

This is too easy: The Naughties. The decade Egan refers to as the aughts ought instead be referred to as the "Naughts," or better still, the "Naughties." We made far too little progress as a nation, individually and collectively.

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Here's to the next decade's arrival.


Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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