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The Starbuck's Seven discuss what's wrong with America
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        Dick was in a hurry this time. He had his agenda and wanted to get things started. Helaine, the latent hippie was there early, she sipped on her cappuccino. Aimee, the pretty, polite, liberal Asian had already sipped through half of her caffe latte. I arrived and was at the counter ordering my small cup of decaf.
        Dick, the anxious, wiry conservative go-getter asked, “Anyone know where Mary, Steve and Helen are? Just then the three of them walked in the front door of Starbuck’s and greeted the others.
        Mary, forty years old, with a great sense of political history, moved to the counter and ordered a caramel macchiato. Steve, the handsome black athletic man ordered a large expresso. Helen, in her mid-fifties, trim, stylish and a conservative at heart ordered a caffe mocha.
        Each carried their drink to the outside patio, where Dick and Helaine had placed two square tables together to accommodate the seven members of the group.
        When the seven had settled into their seats, Dick, the acknowledged leader of the group, stood and said, “Thanks folks. We have something important to discuss today. If nobody minds could the title of this meeting be “What the hell’s wrong with America?” Dick continued, “I don’t know if any of you feel the way I do, but there’s seems to be so much negativism in the air – or is it just me?”
        Mary, anxious to speak, raised her right hand as if asking permission to speak, “Dick, I agree that there’s something wrong in America. People just aren’t the way they used to be. They’re rude and always in a hurry. Their minds are always someplace else. I get the feeling that people have given up on the great American dream. You know, getting a good job, buying a house, living comfortably. Nothing seems to be working well anymore. Like, for example, one of our heroes, Lance Armstrong is now called a cheating liar. Baseball players are being caught using drugs to help them play better. Americans have the feeling that our banks, our Goldman Sachs, Wall Street and the big oil companies are really running the country, so what’s the use of even voting when the winners will be decided by who spends the most money.”
        Steve leaned back in his chair and said, “I agree. I know what Mary is talking about. This country went into a big recession a few years ago and nobody from Wall Street or the banks has been prosecuted for ripping off millions of Americans. Not one elected person has been charged with a crime. And to make matters worse, it appears to be starting all over again. The middle class of Americans is disappearing, poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. The worse thing that’s happening is that Americans are losing faith that things can get better.”
        “You’re right, Steve.” Helen paused to take a sip of her caffe mocha. “But, it’s not just American banks, and big businesses. It’s Barclays in the U.K. and Middle East banks with ties to terrorists that are under suspicion of dirty deeds, including laundering drug money. When we read about the millions that are being given to super PAC’s to get their candidates elected, Americans are throwing up their hands in frustration. Whoever spends the most money will be elected our next president.”
        Helaine, tall and graceful, a liberal, voted for Barack Obama, but has serious doubts about the progress of the country during the past four years. “The Republican guru, Carl Rove has amassed a ‘war chest’ approaching a billion dollars for the 2012 election. John McCain’s total budget for his presidential campaign in 2008 was less than $400 million. Doesn’t this tell Americans that it’s all about money? With lobbyists in Washington, D.C. spending more millions to sway Senators and Representatives and get their votes, it’s obvious that big business is the most powerful entity in America. Yes, America’s middle class is disappearing and with it goes the dreams of millions of Americans.”
        Dick pointed his finger at me, asking me to speak, “Ron, what do you have to say?”
        “So much of America’s troubles are based on Americans out of work and American’s pay checks not keeping up with inflation. We have to realize that American income has declined more since 2009 than during the longest recession since the Great Depression. Household income is 7.2 percent below the December 2007 level. Almost every group is worse off than it was three years ago. These are not just cold statistics, they are a mirror of what’s happening to American’s lives and their families. And our troubles aren’t just in America. Americans have this quiet fear about what’s happening in the Middle East. Iran wants Israel destroyed and Israel is thinking about bombing the hell out of Iran. It’s a big worry for Americans. The last thing we need now is war. And yet, the possibility of war and terrorism is with us every day. And it doesn’t help American’s sense of well-being when our daily news is filled with story after story of some deranged man with horrific armament shooting scores of our citizens in mass slaughter. Americans need some reassurance that times will get better. Americans need hope. Whoever leads this country needs to take action and show Americans that things will, indeed, change. That the big corporations, that Wall Street, that big oil, that the lobbyists won’t be running the country. That’s a big order, but that’s what needs to happen.”
        Dick, stood up, which is usually the sign that the Starbuck’s Seven meeting has reached its conclusion. He said, “Well, it’s clear that we agree that things have to change. The problems facing all of us are enormous and the only way that we’re going to survive this mess is if we start working together. That means Republicans and Democrats have to compromise. It means that Americans are going to have to pay a little bit more. It means that business and Wall Street will have to cooperate, that honesty will prevail, that money doesn’t always win.”
        Helen, stood and pushed her chair back under the table. She turned to Steve and quietly said, “We’re asking for a miracle.”
        Steve offered a bit of a smile and answered, “We can only hope.”