ron blog 7/11/12 - signSigns Of The Times.
The most unusual aspect of our current culture is a pervasive sense of denial, widespread delusion and an absolute refusal to acknowledge that which is before our very eyes.
I don’t want to get political here . . . I really don’t . . . which is fairly easy since the attitudes and beliefs of many Americans are as much a sociological as a political phenomenon. I’m a little bit amazed (though not as amazed or surprised as I wish I was) at how many people are fully accepting that the polarization of our society and the absolute free-fall of our economy is a fait accompli, a given, a done deal. I was sitting in the DMV the other day, and after suppressing the urge to hang myself that is inherent to everyone who’s ever spent quality time sitting in a DMV, I began to eavesdrop. Every conversation I heard, every single one, went something like this.
“I just lost my job of seven years.”
“I got laid off after 15 years . . . so much for the pension.”
“I’ve been looking for work for over a year . . . nobody even bothers to call back.”
“I ain’t got no idea how I’m going to cover next month’s bills.”
These are not infrequent statements, no matter the part of the country in which you reside. What struck me as odd was that, listening to the private talk and glancing furtively at the speakers, they all seemed to have a certain acquiescence. They knew the facts – they were and are experiencing them first hand – but they seemed relegated to the scenario that things are bad and things aren’t going to get any better. I got the impression, listening a bit more, that most planned on applying for food stamps, for disability, for any kind of government assistance they could uncover.
I can’t say I blame them for that, especially if they have families to feed. You do what you’ve got to do.
On the other hand, I didn’t feel any vibes of outrage from these folks, no sense of wounded pride, no concept that we are traveling down a road that leads only to more dependency and more poverty. My impression was that bad times, unemployment over 15% (the real number from the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- not the nicey-nice 8.2% that is constantly trumpeted by the media and the politicians) and zero hope for the future is simply the new normal.
These folks have given up . . . and I think they are legion.
Look, it would be real nice to live in a world where everything was puppies and rainbows and we had hot and cold running t-bones and taters. It would nice to crank open the faucet and have it squirt out lemonade and vodka twists. It would also be nice if dogs lived to age 90, if bacon was a fruit, if I could play “Layla” on the six-string and that every front yard came complete with a rainbow, pot of gold and very considerate leprechaun.
Fact . . . we are becoming, or maybe have become, a welfare nation. Fact, that welfare nation is financially unsustainable. Doesn’t anybody ever wonder who will pay for all of this, or are people intellectually immune to the idea that the US is already 15 trillion in debt (that will double or triple thanks to the Affordable Care Act recently approved by the Supreme Court)? There is no way to pay for this stuff; attempts to implement will result in a complete and total financial implosion. Not immediately . . . I'd say we could bury ourselves in misery and more debt for maybe a generation . . . but trust me that the final outcome will indeed be final.
Right now we are like the guy who pays off his credit card by maxing out another credit card, and another, and another, and another, to the power of 100,000. Simply put, that is how our government – the agencies and bureaucracies sending out all those checks – are funded.
“Tax the rich . . . tax the 1%,” people say. Well guess what . . . If you confiscated every asset and every penny held by that 1% it wouldn’t even cover a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a tiny percent of the costs we’re incurring, costs that will skyrocket about six months down the road and go up from there. It might make people feel good to soak the rich – class warfare is “in” right now – but it doesn’t help us avoid ending up far worse than Greece.
This is known as the economic equivalent of cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Socialist, quasi-socialist, liberal or progressive economic policies (call them what you will . . . the name doesn't matter) have always failed for a very simple reason. Such systems are generally formed by idealists who think the world would be a better place if we all cared about one another, loved thy neighbor, worked hard, and shared the results.
They’re probably right about that; without doubt they’re right. I don’t disagree in the least. Over the years I’ve come to have some very good friends who have this (or similar) philosophy. I respect their right to believe as they wish, and they respect mine to believe otherwise. I don’t try and convert them; they don’t try and convert me (this is how we remain friends). However, I don’t believe that their way of thinking (or mine for that matter) should be imposed by law on an entire nation composed of allegedly sovereign states (either 50 or 57, depending on who you ask).
Here’s my problem with a socialist or progressive theology. The problem is that such ideals ignore human nature. The problem is that such ideals ignore human history. The problem is that such a world – the one where everybody holds hands and works together and sings an endless loop comprised of Kumbaya, Bless the Beasts and the Children, and the 1970s Coca Cola theme song has yet to be discovered.
The Hubble is still out there; that globe may pop up someday. But let me tell ya . . . it ain’t planet Earth.
The end result for every society that has tried this route is that most people end up taking far more than they contribute. Quality of life drops like a rock, making the hard times of now smell like a rose garden in comparison. Those who did nothing continue with their established pattern. Those who did a little see that folks who do nothing are reaping the exact same benefits they are. Those who contribute a lot, the true believers, finally get irked and quit trying so hard as well.
This is usually where government – which is already managing the set-up with a pretty heavy hand – has no choice but to kindly offer negative incentives. These incentives start with fines and penalties, which only work for so long. Black markets thrive, a new criminal class is created. Crimes against persons and property increase. Individuality and the ability to exercise personal choice and free will become ever more rare and ever more constrained.
Then, there comes a breaking point. When people will not voluntarily work for “the common good” they must be forced. You now go to work for the benefit of all (“all” being defined as the continued functioning of the government itself and the privileged elitists who occupy the seats of power, not the single mom with 2 kids or the family of five) under penalty of imprisonment. In some cases, you’re hi-hoing to the happy ol’ salt mine with the barrel of a gun at your back. Good lord . . . we’ve seen that scenario in countries the world over. There’s absolutely no reason to believe that the same thing couldn’t or won’t happen here. Some countries, if financially healthy to begin with, can pull it off for two or three generations before they go splat. Others, those already in massive debt (like us) have a far shorter longevity.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The damned thing is full of potholes and frost heaves because, as time goes by in flat-broke Utopia, no one can afford to fix them. Contrary to popular belief the private sector is not a bottomless pit where money grows on trees, moss, rocks, and slow-moving TV-sitcom actors. When you suck it dry that’s all she wrote. No magical intervention by Harry Potter; no flock of golden geese. When the positive incentive to better one’s lot in life is removed – incentive to better the lot of the individual and his immediate circle, not the lot of faceless strangers or the culture at large – people quit caring or trying.
Sorry . . . this is hard for quite a few people to hear, but the truth of the matter is that self-interest rules the world. People will sometimes give to others when they have extra to give. Our present set-up is geared toward making sure nobody has extra. That’s when our not so benevolent leaders start tossing out the table scraps, grinning at our self-imposed dependency and telling us what time to go beddie-bye.
I sat in the DMV and listened. The tone I heard was that of surrender, sadness and apathy. I heard that people no longer believe things will ever improve for themselves or their kids. They are resigned to the thought that a better life, a life of success and security, is as imaginary as jumbo shrimp, true love and Puff the Magic Dragon.
Considering the road we're on right now, the road we’ve been on for the past 3-plus years, a road which I strongly believe is being maintained with the ultimate in arrogance, condescension, manipulation and the antithesis of good intentions . . .
Well . . . I can’t blame them for that thought either.
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