The following day EAGLE took CUCKOO to Thinking Rock. It seemed a good place to talk, and he was damned if he was going to let a bunch of killers restrict his movements. Nonetheless, he traveled with a full escort, and followed such a bizarre course that CUCKOO got quite dizzy.
They zigged and zagged, and climbed and dived, and twisted and turned using what EAGLE called “standard evasion techniques.”
Jumping tree-frogs. It was a gut wrenching experience.
CUCKOO felt much better when on the ground. He was vastly impressed by Thinking Rock. It made him downright nostalgic for an earlier time. “This place was built by the ancients,” he said thoughtfully. “It’s not a natural formation. Instead they took this base rock – they were perched on it – put up slabs to left and right, and – unusually in this case - one behind; and then put a roofing slab in place. And it has stood here for thousands of years protecting this wonderful valley. It has a very special quality. I’m honored to have been brought here, EAGLE.”
“It’s my honor,” said EAGLE. He was feeling a bit stiff and sore today; and strangely melancholy. It been a tough fight, short but intense; brutally violent. There were consequences.
“How did they lift these slabs? They must weigh tons?”
“They used ramps and rollers, we think,” said CUCKOO discretely. “We don’t really know.”
EAGLE was fascinated. “It’s amazing what you can do if you use your mind,” he remarked.
“It’s impressive what havoc you can create if you don’t bother to,” said CUCKOO. “Look at the state of this country right now; and weep. And it’s all self-inflicted.”
EAGLE felt the weight of the world on his shoulders for a moment, and sighed. He wasn’t sure he was ready for all this. But he was EAGLE; and duty called.
“Ready to get back to work?” said CUCKOO sympathetically.
EAGLE nodded. CUCKOO’s tone helped. He felt a little better.
“In a way I’m describing a sort of war,” said CUCKOO. “A civil war, in this case, because we’re talking Americans against Americans: The Rich and Corporate Interests against the rest. And the Rich are winning.
“We tend to think in terms of war in terms of physical violence, but economic violence is just as significant; sometimes more so. Stress and penury take longer to kill, but they are just as lethal as combat.
“Either way, we are talking about a contest of wills between two opposing forces; with rewards for the winners, and pain and death for the losers. And we’re also talking about the clash of the two forces which have been battling since the beginning of time: Good versus Evil. Right versus Wrong. Greed versus Decency. In the end, everything is reduced to such forces.
“In this case – EAGLE-LAND - what started off as a reasonable economic struggle soon became corrupted – and greed began to dominate; and greed is nothing less than a manifestation of evil. That doesn’t mean that the individuals concerned were, or are, totally good or totally bad – we’re all something of a mixture – but more that the original free market rationale became corrupted; and evil gained, and still retains, the upper hand. Warlock is nothing if not an opportunist.”
Eagle was puzzled. “Who is Warlock?” he said.
“Think of him as my opposite number,” said Cuckoo, annoyed with himself for mentioning the name so soon. “He’s the focal point of what we’re up against.”
“Is he a vulture?” said EAGLE.
CUCKOO laughed grimly. “Some have called him a great deal worse,” he said. “In fact, he can appear in many guises. But enough of Warlock, for the moment. Let’s get back to eagleomics. It’s vital you understand the history of all this, or else none of it will make sense.
“Preparation in the Seventies; Execution in the Eighties; Consolidation in the Nineties; Excess in the Tens,” said EAGLE. “We were talking about the power grab made by the Right Mugs; and how they used President Reagan.”
“Actually, the man wasn’t all bad,” said CUCKOO, “but bad things were done in his name. He was really best at helping to bring down the Soviet Union. On the other hand, he was clueless about eagleomics.”
“Wasn’t Supply Side Economics one of his things,” said EAGLE. “What was that all about?”
“Supply Side Economics was based on the idea that if you cut taxes, the government will end up taking in more money because everyone will be motivated to work harder and invest more; so the economy will grow faster,” said CUCKOO. “It’s an idea that is still in vogue.”
“Does it work?” said EAGLE.
“No,” said CUCKOO firmly. “It was such a disaster under Reagan that the very man who pioneered it for him, David Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, actually wrote a book condemning it. And where it has been tried elsewhere, the results have been similar. Nonetheless, it was highly successful as an excuse to cut taxes on the rich; and to give corporations a lot of tax breaks. In truth, it was a highly effective straw man. It was the first of a series of moves which made the Rich and Corporate Interests significantly richer; and forced the U.S. Government to sink deeper into debt. It started the rot and led to the mess we’re in today.”
EAGLE had been doing some reading. “But didn’t the economy grow under Reagan?” he asked.
“It did,” said CUCKOO, “but not nearly enough to replace the missing taxes. And it grew because you guys had a mammoth arms buildup,” said CUCKOO, “and because of debt; not because you invested in the kind of things that improve the quality of life.
“That’s one of the key differences between here, and CUCKOO-LAND, which you’ve seen for yourself. You guys use borrowed money to invest in weapons, and wars, and you let your infrastructure crumble. Europe, though far from perfect, saves more, and invests it in more efficient energy use, improving its cities, further developing its rail system, decent medical care for all; and so on.
“Eagleomics is heavily about choices and for decades EAGLE-LAND has made the wrong choices. You only have to look around to see that. Most American cities are a disgrace; and you can say much the same about infrastructure, the state of the environment, the educational system, the quality of housing, and health care. Not only do you under-invest, but you invest in the wrong things. And have been so doing for decades.”
EAGLE reflected again on his trip to Europe. It was true. Those CUCKOO-LAND people seemed to have the touch somehow. EAGLE-LAND had Detroit. Something was very wrong.
“Back to the debt issue,” said CUCKOO. “Under Reagan public debt rose from $712 billion in 1980 to $2,052 billion in 1988. He pretty much tripled the National Debt. If that reminds you of President George W. Bush, you are absolutely right. Bush also cut taxes for the rich, spent lavishly on armaments and wars, increased the National Debt to around $10 trillion, and left the economy in the worst mess it has been in since the Great Depression. In fact, it may yet prove to have been worse again. It’s not over yet. Unemployment is only part of it. The direction of American wages and salaries for most of the working population – other than the elites - is not healthy; and that includes Small Business.”
“There’s been a pattern to Right Mug government since Reagan’s time with the most consistent themes being that the Rich get richer, and earnings for the rest of the population stagnate or decline. The Right Mugs are widely touted as pro-business, but actually, they’re really only pro Big Business. Small Business is widely praised, but treated badly. Small businesses are started in droves, in this country, and they fail in droves. The odds are stacked against them in a host of ways. Their cost of capital – if they can get it - is too high, taxes are excessive, health costs are criminal, imports undercut them, and BIG Business slaughters them. And the banks and lawyers pick up the pieces at a profit.”
“It’s quite odd, really. You think all those Small Business entrepreneurs would scream, but somehow they can’t seem to get their act together. The Chamber of Commerce pretends to represent them; but it doesn’t. That organization is funded by the Big Boys. Primarily, this country is about bigness where business is concerned. Big Money, Big Politics, Big Law, and Big Business are all in bed together; and it’s a tragedy.”
“I still can’t get used to the idea that Americans don’t know about this,” said EAGLE.
“It’s called the Big Lie,” said CUCKOO. “Propaganda works. Americans are not encouraged to be introspective about the American Way of Life. It’s a given that it’s the best in the world; and it looks that way on TV. To question it is damn near high treason. We’re talking about a brainwashed nation combined with a lousy education system compounded by ideology, confused by religion, and the fact that learning eagleomics takes time and work. Add in my previous observation that American humans are peculiarly reluctant to listen. Thus, they don’t hear; and if you don’t hear, you cannot learn.”
He smiled gently and bowed his head slightly. “Fortunately, American eagles seem more willing.”
EAGLE, though fascinated, was feeling tired. He thought it highly probable that combat was less exhausting than wrestling with CUCKOO’S relentless intellect. And he didn’t like hearing America criticized even though he knew what CUCKOO was saying was correct. Evidently, he too had been brainwashed sufficiently for his cognitive faculties to be impaired. And he’d been brought up without TV! Propaganda was a foul thing. It stole your mind. Yet it was everywhere in EAGLE-LAND.
“Let’s go fishing and take it easy,” said CUCKOO, resting a wing gently and briefly on EAGLE’S massive, but bruised, shoulders..
And so they did. For a time.