Monday, September 20, 2010

Too Big for Capitalism?

Last year, we all learned the phrase "too big to fail."*

Within the past few months, we're also learning about "Angry Americans" and "Angry Voters."

It seems we've become a country consumed with anger against politicians, political parties, the rich, the poor...

Yes, just as there are poor people angry at rich people, there are rich Americans angry at poor people.

Of course, richies don't call it that. They say poor people are just too lazy and want too many government entitlement programs. That's the easy way for them to disguise their anger and any culpability they may have in creating our growing class divide; the vitriol they're hurling at taxation sounds more virtuous if they're seen blasting government programs which deny personal responsibility.

In a nutshell, doesn't that pretty much explain the explosive rise in the Tea Party and middle America's fondness for any non-establishment politician? We've dug a deep socialist hole, the prevailing theory goes, and it's only getting deeper now that we've got a black Democrat in the White House.

And don't deny that President Obama's race doesn't have anything to do with it. During President Clinton's 8-year administration, plenty of conservatives squawked at his leadership style and policies, but we didn't have the dire urgency and outright hatred displayed by some of the more aggressive advocates for sociopolitical change. Granted, the economy hadn't ground to a halt during Clinton's tenure like it has Obama's, and we weren't in two simultaneous wars started by a Republican president.

But I digress. The basic point is that government spending and indebtedness has finally reached the tipping point, where a lot of Americans - even without the racial factor - have simply had enough. Poor people look to the elites with anger, asking if this is the best their Ivy League brains can do. Rich people, as I've already noted, look down at the poor angrily, believing if everyone was rich, we wouldn't be having these problems. The rest of us are looking around, wondering how long we can sustain these financial dramas before our viability as a world power gets compromised... Beyond repair, that is: many people argue that we've already breached the economic pale with our atrocious borrowing from China, and I agree.

Obviously, even though some experts had the audacity - or astonishing naivete? - to declare today that the "Great Recession" actually ended over a year ago, our country is in a world of hurt created mostly by our own doing. Before going any further, I have to salve my incredulity by pointing out only a bunch of employed, well-paid think-tankers could look around themselves in this economy and ask what everybody's so worried about.
  • Indeed, as the world's lone super power for nearly twenty years, who else do we have to blame but ourselves? Haven't we whittled away a golden opportunity to perpetuate an economic vitality which should be more impregnable than we're realizing it is?
  • What happened to all of the tax savings we were supposed to realize after the Soviet Union's demise and the corresponding end of the Cold War? How can we preach fiscal solvency to Third World despots when we're in hock to the Chinese for the next several generations?
  • Why didn't corporations and investors learn anything from the dot-com implosion (except how to squander more quick cash during their next contrivance, the sub-prime mortgage fiasco)?
  • How did we let China capture so much of the worldwide marketplace for everything from sovereign debts to software to plastic trinkets?
  • How come we can't properly staff our hospitals and rural medical offices with doctors and nurses, if not because wheeling and dealing on Wall Street with funny money is more lucrative in the short term than slaving over a medical degree for delayed gratification and long hours?
  • How can people live with the knowledge that, at least here in Texas, high school football coaches easily earn six figures, while rank-and-file educators earn half as much? Has entertainment really co-opted intelligence in America?
  • How many Tea Party activists are actually living off of some measure of Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid? If these entitlement programs are actually sacred cows for some conservatives, how do we determine what the government should and shouldn't provide for people less fortunate than ourselves?
  • If you think that programs like Social Security and Medicare are flagrant money pits that only give money to people that didn't work hard enough to earn enough wealth to retire on, then how do you fix that cycle at the end of these people's work life? Besides, hasn't encouraging people not to hoard for retirement actually benefited the economy? In order to hoard all of the money people are using in their declining years, wouldn't people have had to forego many of the things that have helped drive our economy - like cars, dinners out, move-up homes, new clothes, new appliances, etc.? Isn't Social Security just "part of the cost of doing business" in our society?
  • Even if we could ween our government off of non-essential spending, can we agree on what government services we're willing to do without? Even people who just want a strong defense can't agree on what wars we should be fighting. What about the argument that pork is the only way politicians can get projects done at home? How does that myopic mindset get changed?
  • Have all of us just gotten too greedy for our own good?
  • Has our society gotten too big where failure is becoming an option to be managed instead of avoided outright?
  • Has our democracy become too complicated for capitalism?
I'm just askin'.
_____

* Just in case you'd noticed; I've gone back to using conventional punctuation rules for ending my quotations. (I had been sticking the sentence endings outside of the quotemarks; quotemarks denote the actual phrase, when sometimes punctuation wasn't included.)

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