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Several months back, my wife and I went to the Hobby Center here in Houston to see a musical; I don’t know, it was “Mamma Mia” or something like that. Before the performance, the announcer informed us all that special visitors were among us. The spotlights wheeled into the audience and George H.W. and Barbara Bush stood and were cheered heartily as everyone stood. Everyone except for my wife and I. We remained seated silently looking at each other. I thought hard about letting out the loudest boo and hiss. But I didn’t. I just didn’t have the guts to boo a man who, together with his son and countless other Republican leaders had over the decades perpetrated the biggest swindle ever on the American people, a swindle in which most Americans were persuaded to take action to destroy and let die, both through outright pillage and utter neglect, the numerous systems that sustained them.
On Tuesday night, on PBS, I watched back-to-back documentaries. The first was an absolutely amazing and riveting story about the birth, growth, and recent decay of America’s municipal water systems, called Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure. And the second was an absolutely amazing and riveting story on Frontline about the recent destruction of America’s retirement pension systems. Both episodes cataloged the capital starvation of two of our most critical, life-giving and life-sustaining systems. Add to water and retirement the decay of our health care system, the disarray of our energy system, the travesty of our education system, the rot of our political system, the dissolution of our regulatory systems, the destruction of our environmental systems, the pollution of our food system, the crookedness of our financial system, the compromising of our commercial systems, and you can see we’ve got some problems that are going to take some new capital and then some.
Several months ago, I lacked the courage to even boo one of the scions of this despicable state of affairs as his local star-struck sycophants cheered him. But a few days ago, at a press conference in Iraq, a brave Iraqi journalist removed his shoes, his only immediate weapon for fighting back against the man who had ordered the invasion of his country and the resulting destruction of Iraqi lives. The journalist furiously launched both shoes at the head of George W. Bush, invoking the defenseless orphans and widows who are among Bush’s prime victims. Bush, as usual, would later joke about the incident. Compared to his crimes, throwing some shoes at someone doesn’t even rank as a misdemeanor. And in this case, the shoes even missed their target.
And yet Muntazer al-Zaidi now sits in an Iraqi jail facing charges. Like Iraqis demonstrating on his behalf, I too declare my solidarity with him, and I demand that he be released unharmed and uncharged. In all truth, it wouldn’t be a crime if George W. Bush and Richard Cheney were both pelted with shoes at any public appearance for the rest of their lives, or at least until the smirks are wiped from their faces and their smug jokes and assertions cease.
We are going to fix our systems. We are going to invest our capital in worthwhile projects. We are going to rebuild our country. It isn’t going to be free. We should all expect to pay the true costs. If we have to replace all the old crumbling water pipes with new ones, don’t expect your water bill to be $8 dollars a month. So get your wallet out. And take your shoes off. The time for target practice is past.
I’m Leo Gold. This is The New Capital Show.