The fox, it is said, knows many things. It adjusts to circumstances, keeps trying new tricks until one works. This is important both in hunting and in escaping when being hunted.
The hedgehog, on the other hand, knows only one thing. It pursues its strategy no matter what the circumstances. If it doesn't work, it redoubles its efforts. Perseverance is a virtue.
But the pride that lies beneath stubborn refusal to adjust to reality is a deadly sin. One definition of insanity is continuing to do the same things in the same way and expecting a different outcome.
George W. Bush is a hedgehog. He knows one song and sings it no matter what the circumstances. We are now in the fifth year of what economists call a "recovery." For the first time ever, however, wages are lower after five years than they were when the recovery began. Profits are up, productivity is up — but wages aren't keeping up with costs. Americans are working harder, and more efficiently, but getting less in return.
And not only are wages going south, but so are benefits. More people go without any health insurance. Fully one fourth of workers between 25 and 55 have no health insurance at work. Companies are bailing out on pension promises. At best, they provide workers with a way to save — but with wages not keeping up with the cost of gas, health care, college, energy — Americans have a hard time saving. In fact, as a whole, for the first time since the Great Depression, Americans are tapping their savings, not adding to them.
Bush's answer to this is to ignore the reality, celebrate the economy and call for staying the course. Trade accords are shipping good jobs abroad and driving down wages at home. Bush calls for more trade accords, without any sense of a national strategy to make trade work for working families. Tax cuts are adding to inequality without generating good jobs.
Bush was for top-end tax cuts when the budget when in surplus. He's for them when the budget is in deficit. He was for them when we were at peace; he's the first president to cut taxes on the wealthy while the country is at war. The costs of the war will be sent to the sons and daughters of the working people who fight the war.
Similarly, Bush promised, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to act resolutely to lift the stain of concentrated poverty from our cities. But he proposed not one new initiative to meet that promise. When he returned to New Orleans recently, he praised the volunteer spirit of Americans. Praised their grit and their faith. He pledged to stay as long as it takes to rebuild the Gulf Coast, but offered not one new initiative to make that happen. At this rate, the residents of the Gulf will need faith and grit, because the rebuilding process may last longer than many of the survivors.
And now on Iraq, with an election beckoning, the president has gone back on the offensive. Once more he vows to stay the course. To not leave until Iraq is a democracy. But we've been there four years already. We went in to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Saddam is gone and there were no such weapons. The president says stay the course.
We're providing al-Qaeda with a recruiting boon across the world. Stay the course. Violence is getting worse in Iraq as the civil war spreads, not better. Stay the course. Thirty thousand casualties and $300 billion are not enough. We'll invest in rebuilding Baghdad even as New Orleans still waits for the first federal assistance for home rebuilding.
Bush doesn't plan on changing. His aides dismiss the military generals, diplomats, intelligence analysts and national security mandarins who decry the wrong-headed policy in Iraq as part of the "reality-based" world. They don't understand, the White House says, that the United States is so powerful it can ignore reality; in fact, the president can act and create a new reality.
And having acted, the president vows not to change. He'll stick with tax breaks for the wealthy and expect different results. He will stick with no urban plan and promise different results. He will stay the course in Iraq and expect different results. He is like a king, too proud to change, too powerful to listen.
This is why our founders chose to create a democracy. Unchecked, a ruler can let pride and ego and narrow vision get in the way of the nation's common good. In a monarchy, nothing can be done but to beg the king to change.
In a democracy, the people can demand a change, no matter what the king says. That is what elections are for. And surely this election cannot come too soon.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.