Monday, December 28, 2009

The End Of The Year As We Know It

In 525,600 minutes-how do you measure a year in the life?
Seasons of Love, Jonathan Larson, RENT

2009 was the year a lot happened and not a lot changed.

But the one big change, the inauguration of our new President Barack Obama, lifted up this standup comedian even though it meant getting rid of most of my Bush material.

I went to the Inauguration. I was a little far back in the crowd. I was in Virginia.

Change was certainly in the air at the Inaugural concert two days earlier when a bald eagle was gently brought on stage to flutter about for a few moments. If this was Bush's inaugural, Dick Cheney would have shot the bald eagle. And simultaneously taken it off the endangered species list. While I was in DC, I saw Cheney's limo whisk by one day. I knew it was Cheney because instead of a siren, a voice from the limo barked, "Get out of my way. I'm right and you're wrong."

I visited the new Capitol Visitors Center gift shop, where for the first time in eight years, you could find the Constitution. I also saw Rod Blagojevich(remember him?) scalping tickets on the corner.

When I listened to Obama's inspiring words, and heard him talk soberly about the economy, I realized something. I needed to learn what a mutual fund was. And default swaps. Although, almost a year later, even the guys who caused this mess still haven't figured out what default swaps are.

We do know that what the bankers and traders were doing wasn't "God's work" as the CEO of Goldman Sachs actually said with a straight face. If we asked God, I don't think he would want to take credit for the reckless and arrogant bets the financial "experts" made to satisfy their greed.

But bailing out the banks turned out to be the right thing to do. And the economic stimulus has created and helped save jobs. There's still a lot of work to do, and far too many Americans are out of work, but it could have been a lot worse.

The year comes to a close with the strong prospect of healthcare reform becoming a reality after months of debate. And to those who say the Democrats have tried to rush the process, just think about how long and how much all of us talked about health care this year.

I feel a little responsible for the long and drawn out process of debating healthcare reform. Early in the year, someone with a clipboard came up to me on the street and asked if "I had a minute for healthcare reform?" I said I was busy and kept walking. Maybe if I had taken a minute, we would have had a healthcare bill back in March. With all the yelling and screaming that went on after that, that might have been better for everyone's health.

The "death panels" aren't in either bill. In fact it was never in any bill. Those end of life provisions were the same ones that Sarah Palin and other Republicans had been in favor of before they were against them. By standing together in opposition to a bill without death panels and a public option, Senate Republicans showed that they were only thinking about the health of the Republican party, not the American people. And Democrat Ben Nelson also showed that he doesn't care about babies or women or anyone but Ben Nelson. Not only did he give women less choices in a healthcare bill designed to increase choice, but the unethical and perhaps unlawful special treatment he received for Nebraska in the bill, should make him change his title from Senator to King of Mutual of Omaha.

We all received some misleading health care emails this year. Some were pretty bogus. I got one that was written by the same Nigerian prince who claims you have 800 million dollars waiting for you in the bank.

There were unimportant things that happened in 2009 that got way too much attention. Many on the right were appalled when President Obama bowed to the Saudi King and the Emperor of Japan. What's wrong with showing some respect and courtesy? If Obama had curtsied, I would have been concerned.

But the year's most publicized story, Tiger Woods, had nothing to do with healthcare, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, terrorism, the economy, or anything else remotely important to any of us, except for a few people in Tiger's inner circle and family.

Not talking about Tiger Woods is one of the things I'm looking forward to in 2010.

I wish all of you a Happy, Healthy New Year. And most of all, let's remember this.

It’s time now to sing out, though the story never ends, let's celebrate, remember a year in the life of friends. Remember the love! Remember the love! Remember the love! Measure in love. Seasons of love! Seasons of love.
Seasons of Love, Jonathan Larson, RENT