H. Brandt Ayers: Can Red China beat U.S.?
1 month ago | 1044 views | 0 0 comments |  | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
News that some candidates blame China for our economic mess merged in my thoughts with an elegiac Bill Moyers speech to an upstanding, above-board citizens’ group, Common Cause. Together they pose elemental questions:

First, why should the so-called Communist nation of China do a better job of eliminating poverty than the capitalist U.S?

A related question is this: Do rich conservatives see an actual value or an advantage to themselves and the nation that flows from increasing poverty in America?

Then, if you wish, take a glance into a White House of yore to meet happy aides doing good work for our country at a confident moment … just before Vietnam cast its pall over the land.

But first listen to the Democratic and Republican candidates who’re blaming China for our economic woes. It’s true the Asian giant could boost world trade by allowing its currency to fluctuate, but it is growing faster, smarter, and it is investing more in infrastructure, education and future industries than we are.

This year it passed Japan to become the second largest economy in the world, after us. Backstage of the Chinese magic show are very smart people in a tightly controlled system that allows them to act quickly to solve problems and to invest where it will do the most good.

So why blame China for our system, straitjacketed by the two parties’ refusal to agree on national goals?

Josephine and I have observed China’s fantastic development first hand. We could see Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, begun in the late 1970s, on our first trip to Beijing in 1982 when every other item on the airport baggage belt was a new Japanese TV set.

On a visit to the former mission station of my grandfather, Dr. T.W. Ayers, in the rural northern province of Shantung, the county chairman made a point of telling us he was an engineer, not a party choice, and boasted of doubling incomes and outlays for education.

At night we could see peasants working in their fields, not for a Communist collective, motivated instead by a desire to put away Yuan to buy a motorbike.

On a return visit to Shanghai in 2005, the mile after mile of rice patties we passed in ’82 had become crisscrossing strands of multi-lane superhighways, supplemented by a magnetic levitation train that reaches speeds of more than 300 mph en route to the new international air terminal.

A solo visit in the ’90s to Shenzhen was symbolic. In the late 1970s it was a sleepy, subtropical fishing village north of Hong Kong, which Deng touched with his magic wand. It is now the financial center of Southeastern China, among whose skyscrapers is the world’s ninth tallest building.

Rapid development meant rapid reduction of poverty. The 64 percent of ordinary Chinese living in poverty, defined as $1.25 a day, by 2004 had been reduced to 16 percent. Millions had been lifted from privation.

All of this occurred in a period when American poverty rates fell, then rose beginning in 2000; bridges and highways began crumbling or stalled with traffic due to a non-existent rapid-rail system such as Japan has and China will have.

Since the days when LBJ’s “Great Society” became a promise fed into the maw of war in Vietnam, the two parties have engaged in a great civil war between public good and private interest — as if the two are mutually exclusive.

I join those who recoil at the stupefying, obscene incomes of the greedy on Wall Street who — but for timely government intervention — would have pitched the country into the abyss of total economic shutdown.

Moyers reminds us of the wealth transfer from the middle class to the super rich in the words of the good billionaire Warren Buffett, who said with disapproval, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Back in the 1970s just before Deng launched his miraculous development, Richard Nixon’s treasury secretary, William Simon, saw what it would take to retain wealth for the wealthy and power for the powerful.

Moyers quotes the Wall Street whiz, Simon, laying out the strategy. “Funds generated by business” would have to “rush by multimillions” into right-wing causes to uproot the institutions and “heretical” morality of the New Deal.

Multimillions are rushing secretly into the midterm election from billionaires such as the Koch brothers to support the naive tea party movement, multimillions camouflaged by such altruistic names as “Americans for Prosperity.”

It goes without saying that the primary purpose of those millions is not binding up the nation’s wounds, unlocking the better angels of our nature or joining arms in a great bipartisan march to build a better America.

Through stories told by my good friend the late Douglass Cater, I got to know the selfless realism of the early Johnson White House where Moyers choose as mentor a Republican, John Gardner, founder of Common Cause.

When Gardner joined the cabinet in 1965, Moyers recalled that he told the cabinet and staff, “What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities, disguised as insoluble problems.”

What will it take to unite America with the spirit of a John Gardner? Maybe another presidential election or two. One thing is certain; this midterm election will resolve nothing. The class war will continue to handcuff America.

Meanwhile, a clear-eyed, clear-headed, unified China marches on.

H. Brandt Ayers is chairman of Consolidated Publishing and publisher of The Anniston Star.
comments (0)
no comments yet