Mary Pitt: Personal Responsibilty
by Mary Pitt
President George W. Bush is very big on "personal responsibility". He preaches it incessantly. He wants to end Social Security as we know it so that we can assume "personal responsibility" for our own retirement through our savings. He has placed restrictions on Medicaid so that welfare recipients will all have to make "co-payments" in order to gain access to medical care on the theory that this will persuade them that they are not really sick enough to require medical assistance. The highly-touted Medicare Part D will make our elders assume "personal responsibility" through requiring them to sign up as customers of the insurance companies which, again, will impose "deductibles and co-payments" so that former Medicaid patients will develop "personal responsibility" and think twice before ordering refills of their prescriptions rather than wasting their money at the grocery store.
However, the vaunted concept of "personal responsibility", like Harry Truman's "buck", stops somewhere short of the Oval Office. Where does the responsibilty lie for the failure of the Afghanistan invasion? Who is to blame for the fact that Bin Laden is still free in the mountains bordering Pakistan or holed up in a luxury hotel in the United Arab Emirates. Who knows? Who bears responsibility for the fact that the warlords still rule in Afghanistan and a woman can still be stoned to death for being so irresponsible as to allow herself to be raped? Who committed the atrocities at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib? Who is running the show and who is responsible when things go wrong?
Who should be held accountable for the lies that we were told about the Weapons of Mass Destruction that Saddam Hussein supposedly had poised to strike the United States with a mushroom cloud in forty-five minutes? Who interpreted Congressional approval to do "whatever is necessary to counteract the terrorist threat" into a declaration of war and a blanket permission to negate the power of Congress and to revoke the Constitution, declaring it "a goddam piece of paper"? Who determined that, in time of war, it is a prerogative of the President as Commander-in Chief to over-ride Congressional actions or to cancel the civil rights of American citizens? And who appointed those who are willing to re-interpret the Constitution in such an atrocious manner?
Who is responsible for the mess that was made of the Katrina disaster and the thousands of people who are still homeless and homesick, scattered all over the country and still unable to find family members and friends from whom they were separated in the belated and mis-managed evacuation? Where does the buck stop when the trailers for temporary housing are left in the mud of Arkansas because nobody has cut the check to pay for them? Who has kept the payment for this unending war "off budget" so that the American people are not told how much of the children's future is being mortgage to pay for it? Who refuses to allow the number of innocent Iraqis that have been destroyed by carpet-bombing and shelling of villages to be known by the press or the public? Who has poor Scott McClellen standing before the press conferences, spinning like a top and sweating like field hand, defending the indefensible? And, by the way, whose idea was it to allow the United Arab Emirates to own the operating contract for our East Coast ports? Our President said he didn't even know about it until he "read it in the papers". Yeah, right!
Certainly not President George W. Bush! He is a CEO president. He "delegates responsibility" by appointing people to carry out plans and to determine objectives and "holds them responsible" for the results. We have seen many examples of this, most recently when he embraced FEMA head, Michael Brown, with "You've done a heckuva job, Brownie!" You can all add to the list, starting with the image of the President hanging a medal about the neck of George Tenet just after Mr. Tenet had decided that he had "had a belly-full" of the lies and the truth-twisting and decided to "retire".
No, the burden of "personal responsibilty" is not for the likes of the Bush family and their friends. Only you and I, the taxpayers, the poor, the halt, the blind, and the elderly are expected to exercise this admirable feat. So, pick up that yoke, put it on your shoulders, and carry the load! Your President can feel for you, but he can't quite reach you. It is, after all, your personal responsibility.