Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Non-Partisan Choice

So we seem to be in a pickle. The pickle isn't so much that we have a ton of bad debts out there. The pickle isn't so much that banks aren't lending nor that people/businesses aren't spending enough money. The pickle isn't so much the skyrocketing unemployment. The pickle is, in my estimation, the future.

The democrats/liberals/whatever want to pour money into the ailing economy, buy bad debts, save the economy via the government. The republicans/conservatives (though they have been mostly silent about solutions - because they don't have one and don't have to have one.... others get to clean up the mess they made) want to save our economy by pouring money into and saving our corporations, which saves jobs, keeps businesses and people buying things... essentially keeps the status quo.

Both want to do this by borrowing money from our future in the hopes/expectation that things will improve and we will be able to catch up. That is called speculation and that's probably the biggest reason we are currently in this mess. If we can just weather this storm, then we can get back to living that American dream.

The American dream, however, that we have been enjoying/chasing is flawed and not what it originally was. The American dream is not that everyone can be a millionaire and live the life of luxury. The American dream is not that we can all be kings. The American dream is the pursuit of happiness; but somewhere along the way happiness became synonymous with wealth and all of a sudden everyone decided he could get rich and everyone decided he was the chosen one.

Ours has become a society of almost-elites and our laws/policies/social conventions have reflected as much. Everything is driven by its profit-making potential. This was especially true during the Bush administration. Many formerly public institutions were sold to private industry to be managed by people whose goal is to make a profit. But what do most astute business-people do when faced with a losing proposition? They cut their losses and find another venture that promises more hope. This is the story of our failing infrastructure, lackluster to non-existent "public" transportation systems throughout most of the country, and struggling school systems. I have heard it said that public transportation, for instance, is a money-losing system and is begrudged because of this. My question is why money is the only judge of success of a program. Is not just getting citizens from one place to another the point of public transportation? The same question can be asked about a multitude of other public service projects and programs.

Fundamentally, I believe we are approaching our problems in the wrong way and I don't think we will ultimately solve anything. Maybe we will pull out of this recession for a while. Maybe we will go back to all feeling like kings that are almost to that billionaire status. But then we will just cycle back to here again. What we need is a fundamental change in the way we think about our economy and our society.

Obama's goal of sending money to fix our infrastructure is good, but this should be normal practice... not a stimulus package. We should let these companies fail and then we can pick up the pieces. I am not convinced we need more regulation, but when the unregulated efforts of risk-takers fail, we shouldn't be bailing them out so they can just do it again. If GM goes under because they made lackluster cars that were not in demand, then maybe the next American car company will learn to be more agile and produce a better product.

We need to recognize that our daily lives and society are what will, in the end, persist, and we need to maintain and enrich these things. We need to preserve and build up a better infrastructure for our kids, not pass on to them an ailing one that needs fixing. We need to pursue joy in our lives, not just that next buck. We need to believe in our own humanity and in our own real desire to progress and not base it all on a stock ticker. We need to stop living for a "someday" and start living for this day. We need to remember, daily, what our true innate priorities are.

Let us put our humanity back where it should be. This is a choice.

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