Saturday, March 14, 2009

America: A Dual Nation?

Writing a blog like Another Opinion attracts the attention of a lot of people. Not surprisingly, I receive a lot of articles from different organizations and individuals. Some are basically doom and gloom types looking for any opportunity to tell us that we should all be bending over and kissing our collectives butts goodbye. Others are humorous (whether intentional or not is open to debate), and still others are simply compelling. The attached article by Rick Pedraza of Newsmax.com is somewhere between the first and last choices. Read it for yourself and see what you think at http://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/corsi_dual_country/2009/03/11/190793.html?s=sp&promo_code=7C05-1.

Nevertheless, the article got me to thinking (yeah, I know; that’s almost always dangerous). The name and thrust of the article is whether we are becoming a dual nation. I sat back and pondered Mr. Pedraza’s question. My first reaction was “how”? After all, this is America. We taken the worse the world could dish out and we’re still standing right? America has seen tough times before and we’ve always come out better and stronger. So, I thought, why should this be any different? But the more I thought about the question, the more I began to find flaws in my assumptions.

Let’s take a basic look at the economy. Americans having been living on borrowed time (and money) for decades. Our economic philosophy changed somewhere around the 1970’s from a production economy to a service economy. In order to maximize the bottom line (and reduce the clout of unions), employers began outsourcing jobs overseas.. We became a “McJobs” nation. Companies began raiding retirement funds, cutting benefits while focusing “creating” paper wealth.

Capitalism thrives on consumption. That’s why products are always being touted as “new and improved”, fashion changes every year, and products are manufactured with built in obsolescence. When we moved from producing hard wealth to paper wealth, financial instructions started encouraging people to buy on credit; that is; on money they didn’t have yet. But it was this unchecked buying that fed the beast. Our next purchase was only as good as our credit rating. The problem was that the beast was never full, and the more it consumed, the more it wanted. That’s why businesses demanded open markets in Russia, China, and Southeast Asia. It had nothing to do with global cooperation or improving the standard of living. It was all about feeding the beast. As an aside, the fear of Communism was never about its different sociological philosophy, but its rejection of capitalism. That was main reason it had to be defeated at all costs. Sorry if you thought it was more idealistic than that.

Linked to this was speculation on real estate (based on the assumption that real estate values never fall). Sure, the stock market occasionally drops, but it always trends up. As the fictional character Gordon Gecko from the movie “Wallstreet” famously said, “Greed is good”. Well, now we’re finding that our economy was really based on more than speculation and false sense of optimism. It was based on an illusion. Wealth has to be, at its heart, based on hard assets; not paper. The question now is whether Mr. Obama’s economic package works. If so, he could go down as the greatest president ever. If he fails, it will be disastrous for us and the world. There are no third options.

The American middle class, along with the small business person, has historically been the economic engine of this country. There’s not much of it left. The wealthy have always been fairly insulated thanks to their trust funds and foundations, and the poor have come to relay on government services, paid for mainly by the middle class. Obama’s plan thus far has been thus far to throw billions at the same banks and financial institutions who have mismanaged billions for decades. Most economists believe more of the money should have either been directed to the people or to the creation of “brick and mortar” jobs. Should government be in business of bailing out mismanaged companies, especially those where corporate executives are earning hefty six figures incomes while denying overtime, cutting benefits, and laying off people? At the same time, little has done to overhaul our credit driven economy itself. Indeed, many of these same banks chaff at the very thought.

Hopefully Obama will prove to be successful. At the very least, however, he will forfeit the future of our children and their children. The problem isn’t in actually being solved. It’s being pushed into the future, where the beast will again at some point rear its head and demand more sacrifice, but at what cost? Look at how much it’s costing us now, and we don’t know if that’s going to be enough. We have gone from a nation of independent entrepreneurs to economic serfs; from self sufficient citizens to forced consumers.

We have in fact become a dual nation. We are now a defacto country of haves and have nots, where the have nots are quickly becoming a majority. Of course, we haven’t even addressed issues such as illegal immigration, which is draining our very limited resources directed at social services, or the pending retirement of the baby boomers (the largest mass retirement in our nation’s history). The strain on Social Security and elder care could surpass the breaking point. What about our crumbing infrastructure—our bridges, sewers, highways? What about failing education system? Where are the resources for them? Of course, there are other issues such as global terrorism and the nut cases trying to get their hands on nukes, narco-states and violence, our broken borders, and lastly, a government unwilling or perhaps unable to act. We were promised “no more pork” and we’re getting nothing but pork from Congress. To think that our government wasn’t able to do something as simple as that in this economic crisis is sickening.

A lot of Americans have simply stopped watching or listening to the news. We can’t take it any more. We don’t care about Tom Cruise, Brittney Spears, or what some so-called “celebrity” said, wore, went, or ate. We don’t care who did what on “Survivor” or any other reality show. We have our own realities, and in many cases, they’re a lot more chilling than anything we’d see on television. Americans want the truth, and yes, I believe we can handle it. We’re beyond tired of political party’s bickering; shut up and fix it or get out of the way. Americans like fair play, but we’re tired greedy arrogant crooks sitting in front of Congress with their hand out; or on Wallstreet; or in Washington. The time may be coming, sooner rather than later, when Americans take another look at our Constitution and realize that we don’t have to sit back and it any more.


Taxpayer Revolt?

Here’s another interesting article I received. This came from Isaac MacMillians over at NetRight Nation. The name of the article is A Taxpayer Revolution. The article examines what may become an interesting trend in this country as people say “enough is enough” over increased rate hikes (see my article February 28, 2009). Our fellow citizens in the great state of New Hampshire have stepped up and did job that their elected “leaders” failed to do. What do you think folks—think it’s time we give it go? Read it here: http://netrightnation.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=482767:a-taxpayer-revolution&catid=1:nrn-blog&Itemid=7

Poll Results

The economy has been on everyone’s mind lately. It’s being talked about everywhere you go. My question to you was when you thought the economy would turn around. The possible answers I gave you were based on responses from several economists. 7% of you thought things were going to improve late this year. 15% of you thought things would be looking rosier by early 2010 while 1% said it would be late 2010. Now this is where things get interesting. 30% of you said it would be 2011 or later and a whooping 38% of you said “never”!

I am an optimist at heart, but I think like a realist. If the stimulus is going to work, it’s going to take time. It’s like taking medicine; it has to get into your system before you see any results. I don’t see any major improvements in early 2009, though by late 2009 we may see a leveling out. 2010 will see improvements and by late 2010 or early 2011, I think we’ll be on the road to recovery. There will be a lot of casualties along the way though. A lot of familiar name brands will be gone. Our choice of products will be greatly diminished, and the quality of what we are able to buy may be poorer. Many Americas no longer be having the standard of living they did before the depression…err…recession. Economically, may be only a second tier country. If Obama fails, we may find ourselves an economic third tier country torn by strikes and riots.
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