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The end is near

The decade that's about to come to a merciful end was so bad that Queen Elizabeth might dub it "horribilis." No one has had anything good to say about it.

Time magazine let the bad times roll when it used its Nov. 24 cover to proclaim 2000-2010 "the decade from hell." My colleague Ruth Marcus said it should be called "the oughts" for all the things we ought to have done -- but didn't. Thomas Frank at the Wall Street Journal said the decade was "low" and "dishonest" due to all the economic follies, ranging from Enron to Abramoff. Paul Krugman called it "the Big Zero",
because it "was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true." And E.J. Dionne says today that it was a "reckless and squandered" decade.

I don't have too much nice to say about the low and dishonest big zero oughts, either. But when asked by NBC's Mara Schiavocampo to think of a name for the decade, I came up with "American Awakening." Sept. 11, 2001, Aug. 29, 2005 and Sept. 24, 2008 were three dates that awakened Americans to a new and unsettling reality.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 awakened Americans to the presence of a shadowy enemy unconfined by national borders that is determined to kill them and destroy their country through unconventional means. It also revealed a lumbering and unresponsive intelligence apparatus that failed to connect the dots that could have altered the events of that fateful day. Unfortunately, the attempted downing of Northwest flight 253 on Christmas Day is a troubling sign that the U.S. is awake but groggy when dealing with this constant threat.

Americans were awakened to the limitations of their government when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. They watched the people of New Orleans drown while the federal government took its sweet time to rescue them. I won't soon forget the images from the Superdome. Exhausted and haunted people pleading for help from a government that seemed indifferent to their suffering.

We awoke on Sept. 14, 2008 to discover that our economy was a virtual Ponzi scheme and sliding rapidly down a steep cliff. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America. And AIG was teetering on collapse. Bye-bye, voracious consumerism. Hello, lost jobs, homes and financial security.

The past decade has been humbling. So, now that we're awake, let's resolve to use the next 10 years to get it right.

By Jonathan Capehart  | December 31, 2009; 9:53 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Comments

The Coast Guard and other rescue organizations from as far away as California did great work rescuing people from Katrina's flooding. The rest of the federal government failed.

Along those lines, New Orleans' newspaper, the Times-Picayune, provided reliable news online despite its facilities being flooded. It deserves the highest praise for providing correctives to the wild rumors spread by other media and even the local police.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 31, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Capehart says "Americans were awakened to the limitations of their government when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. They watched the people of New Orleans drown while the federal government took its sweet time to rescue them."

This version of events is almost uniformly spewed by the left.
The facts are that local and state authorities failed lethally and miserably even with days of advance notice. They did virtually nothing.
It took two or three days to get federal help to those poor souls who should have been under mandatory evacuation orders.
Nagin and Blanco should have been charged with crimes for their utter negligence. If you live in a community that is below sea level and a cat. 5 hurricane is coming a responsible government would force you to move to safety.

Gov. Jeb Bush did a remarkable job during Florida's devastating 2004 hurricanes.

Posted by: spamsux1 | December 31, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

The decade actually wasn't that bad economy-wise for people who lived within their means.

For people who qualified for a huge mortgage on a 2-year ARM that you knew your payment would go up, you played a game and lost. Take your lumps and stop whining. Stop saying that you were tricked, that you didn't understand. It's all excuses.

9/11/2001 sucked. And we allowed the government to take us to war. Shame on us.

We've had two awful presidents (Bush & Obama). But that's on us. We voted these morons into office. It's time to man up about that.

The current economy will probably back to growth in 1-2 years, provided our government can stop "helping" the economy so much. With help like that, we might as give up.

But really, most of these problems are our fault, and it's time we learned to stop depending on politicians to solve them. They only make them worse. Time to become self-sufficient and not depend on the kindness of others to survive.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | December 31, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Just imagine what the right wing neocon tea baggers conservative GOP Repukelicans and their talking-head brethern would call the decade had McCain won the Presidency?

Be thankful, America, that common sense and reason came back into vogue. Be thankful, world, that neocns no longer have their finger on the red button nor their ideology erected near the Declaration of Independence.

Be thankful your "market is God" GOPers didn't succeed in letting you get your heands on your social security so you could play the market with your retirement. Just how many would have jumped off buildings had this ideology scenario been relaized by the right.

Be thankful God is a Democrat.

Posted by: ScottChallenger | December 31, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

fr ombudsman:

>...We've had two awful presidents (Bush & Obama). But that's on us. We voted these morons into office. It's time to man up about that....<

Correction. ONE moron, DUMBYA, and one good one, PRESIDENT Obama. dumbya goes down in history as ranking right down there with warren g. harding and richard nixon as being one of the worst in history.

Posted by: Alex511 | December 31, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I bought my last house near the start of this decade and due to doubling up on payments I have substantial equity . My retirement equity portfolio purchased largely with untaxed dollars remains my own , I still get dividends . The destructive partisanship started with the recount , and the rat party carping continues to this day , even after it was proven Bush won , even after the NYT and this fish wrapper finally conceded . Now the press is covering for a incompetent place holder .

Posted by: borntoraisehogs | December 31, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I dunno, it seems you can pick bad times from every decade. We pick out the past decade as its the last and most prominent in our minds.....I personally had a great year. My wife and I are seniors and are happy about our good health. I watched by son and daughter grow into law abiding productive citizens. I watched my two little grandkids growing taller and smarter each year. I have my home that I am fortunate enough to have the funds to provide heat in the winter and A/C in the summer and I never long for my meals. For those in the same boat as my wife and myself, we should celebrate the good things. I was born early in the depression and perhaps its a little easier to please me.

Posted by: james_m_reilly1 | December 31, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

How is the period 2000-2010 a "decade?" Does that formulation mean Jan 1 2000 through Jan 1 2010? If so, an actual decade would be described as 2000-2009; 2010 then becomes the initial year of the following decade.

Anyway, the "decade" wasn't that bad for my wife and I. I already did 20 years of military service including a couple of combat tours, and retired. I retired from a second career as well. Watching the financial meltdown approach, I cashed out of all my stocks a couple of years ago and remain in cash, still 20% up over the phony "sugar high" stock market of today. Thanks to the meltdown, I was able to refinance my mortgage to 4.5%, a rate I never thought was possible. My kids are all employed, and my grandkids are all in good health.

If there was a downside to this decade, aside from the many Americans who lost lives on 9/11 and subsequently in combat, it was the perfect storm of events that resulted in Obama's election. We'll only be able to gauge the damage he and his ilk will wreak on our economy in 2010 and later, next "decade." As far as the recession goes, and the unemployment, it is the result of the U.S. adjustment to globalization. It doesn't matter how many unions you have, or how many communities you organize: you can't own two cars, a 50 inch plasma, a McMansion, take one or two vacations per year, and count on a lucrative retirement package complete with dental/vision fully paid for if someone in Thailand or China or the Phillipines makes the same product that you do at much cheaper prices. Eventually, even markets as horribly distorted as ours by government regulation, find their equilibrium.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | December 31, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I like the "awakening" for a handle for this decade. We had, as a nation, developed massively bad habits. After 9/11, we took Bush at his word and went shopping -- with loans, credit cards, home equity loans -- seemingly leaving reality behind. Self interest took the helm, and as will happen when that happens, we hit the wall.

Having been humbled in a severe way, it seems most have become grounded in things other than $$$$$. We relearned how to help others worse off than ourselves. We relearned how little we can really get along with. We re-prioritized. We woke up.

I think we are heading into the "teens" in a better mental posture, with a President who is a decent role model of good values. The decade did spawn a surge in the far right, but it is not a large group. They will get stronger but will eventually be put in their place -- and it's not the White House. Extremism always seems to do itself in.

I am hopeful; I feel lucky to be in as good a place as I am; I am very fortunate to be an American!!

Posted by: sunshine4 | December 31, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

"we took Bush at his word and went shopping"

You cannot blame someone else for your choices.

If you ran up credit card debt, that's on you. If you bought a house that you couldn't afford the mortgage, that's on you.

I'm hoping Obama will soon begin telling people about the limits of what a government can do and how people have to start taking responsibilities for their choices.

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Posted by: huangzhixian190 | December 31, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Pundits and most journalists seem to often have some difficulty with facts. Those proclaiming a new decade begins tomorrow seem to be ignorant or ignore the fact this simply is not so, unless one believes the first decade of the CE or AD had only nine years.

Maybe with most people being ignorant in such ways, Sarah Palin may have a chance after all of being elected president.

The liberal pundits denigrating the first nine years of this decade, seem to be inadvertently belittling the election of Barack Obama and, if one includes next year as another year in this decade, nearly the first two years of his presidency.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | December 31, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

What the decade meant to me:

1) I realized my vote was worthless.

2) I now understand that the Republican and Democratic parties serve the same masters.

3) Corporations and government have more rights than I do.

4) "Civil Rights" under the Constitution are an illusion.

5) Congress is a sham. It was a "crisis" pre Christmas vote that brought us the Federal Reserve in the first place. Now it has given us the "bailout". The "health care crisis" is the next excuse to rape the taxpayers of this country.

6) None of this can be fixed unless Americans restore the Constitution and quit calling each other names and using political stereotypes, and buying into media illusions.

Blaming the "welfare state" "mortgage frauds" and "immigrants" and using terms like "neocon tea baggers", "socialists", "communists", "Republicans" and "Democrats" to stereotype and marginalize fellow citizens hurts us all.

Unless we wake up and realize that "service sector" jobs do not build an economy and we are becoming a nation of drones the dream of the Republic is dead.

Posted by: PaulaGem | January 1, 2010 5:27 AM | Report abuse

Good riddance to 2009 and the parasitic rule of Obama and the Democratic pestilence that has so tragically descended over our nation!

Obama and the rest of the Democratic infestation of the White House and Congress brought us more war, more terrorism, more unemployment, more bad government, more corruption, more financial failures, and many other tragic events in 2009.

Obama and the other blood-sucking Democratic parasites in Congress have failed and they are bringing the entire nation down with them.

It's time for fumigation and a fresh start.

Let's clean the House and the Senate of parasitic Democrats in the mid-term elections this year. Let's rid the nation of these vermin that has infested Washington in 2010 and 2012.

Posted by: Jerzy | January 1, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

While you're making resolutions, resolve never to vote for and resolve to speak out against immediately, any denizen of politics that says government shouldn't do anything - except make war, and that they don't believe in laws and regulations.

Anyone who runs on that platform and wins will hire every carpetbagger they can find into government jobs. These people will then make good on their promise to do nothing, especially the work they are hired to do, but they will take all the salary, plus legal contributions plus graft, knowing that more people like them have been hired into the jobs that normally would catch, fire and prosecute malfeasant, incompetent thieves...so they really believe they will never be caught or exposed. And they are probably right.

The effect will be that services that are absolutely needed, and legal protections that are critical will terminate overnight like a bad Attorney General clicking his fingers and terminating every possible honest district attorney he can find. Then you Mr, Mrs, or Ms American citizen if you are honest and hardworking, you will have absolutely no chance to have the life you could have because this whole crown hears a whistle you can't hear, or sees a wink and knows the invisible wavelength stealing light is ring ding ding, back on once again!

In this decade Capehart is describing while we were all hearing about computer capacity doubling every 18 months, and information doubling every 18 months, we didn't notice thieving doubling every 18 months so now we have the impossible task of figuring out what to do when in the last 18 months probably as much has been stolen - through the FED discount window and bailouts, and stock manipulation, and predatory foreclosures...as in the entire history of mankind. Prove this is wrong!!!!

What to do, what to do...

Posted by: gradya3 | January 4, 2010 12:31 AM | Report abuse

"use the next 10 years to get it right."

I hope so. Perhaps you will learn that local official had decided to empty the Super dome and that decision caused much of the confusion. That and the news reporters reporting what they imagined. Need to get that story right.

We won in Iraq and laid the foundation to succeed in Afghanistan.

We shook the economy out and are working for a sustainable future.


Technology is giving us the means for an age of abundance, and the key inventions are ready to use.

On a personal note, I managed to double my salary and then retire on schedule. I sold my house in 2004 and am now ready to buy a new home at a good price.

Seemed like a good ten years to me.

Posted by: gary4books | January 4, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

"We've had two awful presidents (Bush & Obama). But that's on us. We voted these morons into office. It's time to man up about that."

You ought to think that they were better than you might have expected and the mistake was thinking when they did not agree that they were wrong.

If they were right, you have to look the other direction to find a moron. Or someone with little patience to see a difficult operation through.

And that includes the economy and even health care.

Posted by: gary4books | January 4, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

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