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A wakeup call for a New Year

It is a newspaper tradition at the New Year that someone makes predictions concerning the year ahead, concocts a review of the year soon to pass and waxes positive about wishes for the next 365 days.

You will find no predictions here.

In terms of a review, it is short: 2010 — recession, county on the up, town on the down, health service district expanding, school district strapped for cash, water and sanitation district in flux, with progress.

Our wishes for the coming year: locally, that we welcome tourists and that something happens to reverse the Ghost Town trend in the downtown area. There are too many empty buildings, too many projects left unfinished, too little work being done on basic infrastructure. Hopefully, a turnaround will take place with regard to the geothermal system and progress will be made on a new wastewater treatment plant. Too much attention has been given to frivolous notions, too little effort spent on basics that must be in place in order for meaningful rejuvenation to occur.

In more general terms, it is hoped many of us will wake up in 2011.

This last year provided more examples of citizens who, in great numbers, have been led down a bizarre track. We have gone through an economic situation that should have brought masses to the streets, condemning those who created the demise.

Most protest has been directed to red herrings through clever manipulation of “facts,” with substantial funds sent to “grassroots” movements.

Deregulation, banks too big to fail, the creation of arcane financial instruments, insane credit policies, fraud, investments in falsely accredited financial products, corrupt lending practices, corporate greed and the desertion of the American worker — these helped produce a financial meltdown of enormous proportions. Yet, little protest is heard about the individuals and entities responsible for the crash who now engage in the same practices as before, reaping larger rewards.

Large numbers of Americans are violently opposed to things such as inheritance taxes (when they will pass nothing on and small boosts in tax rates for the wealthy (though the reality of “trickle down” is that those above drink champagne and what trickles down is), and are convinced government does nothing for them (when as many as three of five families receive some sort of government assistance).

We hope in the year ahead that those of us whose heart rates surge when we are exposed to patriotic pageants and bombast realize the “freedoms” have been stolen, that the political system has been bought and sold, that wealth is the key to American politics.

How many of us are unemployed, or are working at jobs with less pay and benefits? How many relied on credit to survive? How many sold off items, lost their homes? How many, when we claim “Put your nose to the grindstone and you will succeed,” realize there are few grindstones left, that the grindstones have been abandoned or sent abroad without regret by those who reap the rewards? How many rail against taxes, but demand services when needed and entitlements we believe we have earned? How many are willing to slash education for the young, yet depend on the young to guarantee comfort in the Golden Years? How many have been lured into a superficial partisan arena, there to do meaningless battle on issues that, ultimately, serve only select interests?

How many of us are going to wake up in 2011?

Karl Isberg