Wednesday, January 16, 2008

America The Buggered

I was going to write a satirical post on the Mitchell Report on steroid use by professional baseball players, tying it to financial markets. However, I have changed my mind and really want to say what I want to say directly. "America is f*cked because it is neither ready nor able to face up to the very real and serious economic and social issues and challenges that face the nation and its people. These are fundamental issues of governance, public finance, inequality, personal consumption, national resource & energy usage, education, and foreign policy. That congressional lawmakers are even bothering to discuss HGH in baseball players, gay marriage, prayer in schools, abortion, personal faith or democracatizing the world are simply telltales that America, still doesn;t recognize the severity of the issues and challenges that face it, and will likely take a most severe and traumatic drubbing to realize what must be done. Former President Carter faced up to such similar challenges when he delivered what become known as The Malaise Speech, and I encourage you all top read it. He described in no uncertain terms what ailed the nation, and proscribed remedies that included further hard work, perseverance and most importantly, sacrifice. The American people responded by telling him to 'go suck an egg', and handed him the most resounding landslide defeat in history. So much for honesty and sacrifice. Yet, it was precisely what was needed then, as today. Politican's learned important lessons from that: Never talk about sacrifice and never raise taxes IF you want to get elected. Today, there is much talk from candidates running for President in 2008, and for all the iinsppiring "change": and "new era" banter by Obama, and all manner of stump speech by the other candidates, no one still dares to tackle them head-on. This is America's fundamental problem, both of leader,, and of citizens in denial and ignorance. I wish it weren't so."

Now, you can go back to watching your regularly scheduled program.....

14 comments:

RK said...

At the risk of becoming a serial poster of comment,let me make an observation. In 1991, the Gallup polling organization did a survey of U.S citizens, asking the question, How were people created? Of the 96% who had an opinion, 87% chose God. But the reason why I clipped out this survey, and keep it to this day, was because of that 87%, more than half said that people were created within the last 10,000 years. While not asked directly, the strong implication is that the earth, too, is of the same age.
The USA is a "faith based" nation. But there is a pont where faith becomes credulity. And nothing
for me typifies the credulity of our populace than
their answers in Nov 1991 to a simple question.

"Cassandra" said...

SO what we need is a Supreme Being Figure cut in the Time Bandits mold of the late Sir Ralph Richardson, who can exhort a vision of a more sober reality here upon earth that unlike the shameless evangelical version, would chide and shame "The Faithful" into action here and now. That is but half the problem (people's own behaviour change), for once The Supreme Being can convince The Faithful to vote people with policies that are sustainably in the general public's interest, the rest will take care of itself.

Me, myself, and I, care not whether the correct and sustainable policies and behaviours are divinely inspired or result from The FSM Flying Spaghetti Monster, but convergence upon something more reality-based is essential.

"Cassandra" said...

To whom it may concern - As I go back and re-read the post, and The Malaise Speech, yet again, it occurs to me that I still believe it, and under the circumstances, it would have been best if it had been pursued voluntarily. Last time around however, what made things better feel better was not voluntary action, but having a 6'8" tall cigar-chomping FRB chief kick the living daylights out of anyone and anything speculative and/or leveraged in a form of universal nationwide, Financial Water-boarding. People of course can choose to view the subsequent redemption as resulting from the emergence of The Gipper, but I'd suggest that is the version made soft-and-fuzzy by time. The real reason is that when you are pushed to edge of oblivion in a near-death experience, there is much to be thankful for upon return from the brink, which itself causes all manner of promises to deities. I presume Carter (and I) would hope that logic and foresight would be sufficient motivators for change, but alas, deep down, I realize that it actually takes literal desperation, whether market-based, or so-inflicted by a designated reaper, to BOTH change behaviour and eventually return to a tempered cautious optimism about the future that doesn't include further financial torture.

Timothy said...

A post that hit almost every point I have been trying to make to American friends who have asked me who to vote for in 2008. There are no good choices only less bad....and choosing the less bad might delay facing up to reality!

It is not only America, the west in general suffers from this problem to a lesser degree from almost the same level (UK) to mild (Germany, Scandos)

"Cassandra" said...

the abandonment of humour was inspired by the famous crossfire confrontation which if you haven't read or seen, you should make a point of doing so.

OldVet said...

We've been so lucky to have people who, from time to time, stopped playing and got serious - like Mr. Carter at that time. And Volcker who killed inflation. But we've run out of luck in 2008, and the meat axe of financial loss and political disarry are going to enforce discipline. Falling Dollar will put a stop to excess of consumption over production, and debt and falling prices will curb appetites for more junk stuffed into ever-bigger houses. It's like a gangster movie where all the parties are now in the warehouse with their guns out, ready to settle the scores and grudges of decades.

"Cassandra" said...

Old Vet,
The most passionate and voiciferous arguments that I've voiced since 2004 to the continual whiney protests of "Anne" over at Thoma's have been that unsustainable policy and behaviours will be confronted and clipped by the markets, sooner or later, and that it'll be a whole lot more orderly and managable to pre-empt such an occurance, for if let to fester, then the discounted cost of the eventual dislocations IMHO would be greater than the wealth generated in the intervening time. I'm certainly not a skilled enough economist to solve it or model it, but that is my gut feel. The implicit assumption of the "better to do it NOW" arguments is that it becomes more acute to "take action" as the returns diminish to each good dollar thrown after bad, or as the multiplier effect of a dollar borrowed from the future falls below some threshold. Again, I cannot tell precisely where this is, BUT when ALL the sources are borrowed from the future (deficit spend, consumer leverage, refi, against asset price rises, HELOC withdrawals, and growth is still tepid, that says to me that Sisyphus is tired, or that the undergrowth in the forest needs a good Schumpetarian fire. This is not an obsession with Schumpetar, just a recognition that in nature, certain things are... well...natural and shouldn't be fought against too vigourously - especially when even a boffin like me can see the eventuality.

The shoot-out that comes to mind is the one from the end of the film "Enemy of the State with Gene Hackman/Will SMith where Smith's character manages to get the two groups of Bad Guys to kill each other completely, totally, and utterly....

Dave said...

Speaking of Carter, America's finest news source, The Onion made the same point you're making here last week:

http://www.theonion.com/content/opinion/i_got_what_america_needs_right?utm_source=EMTF_Onion

"Cassandra" said...

dave, ahem thanks for that. I get angry when people slag off Carter. First sign 'o trouble and 'W' was afraid to land his effing plane. Carter - against all sound advice - went to the contol room at 3m island when it was HOT and most informed scientists reckoned the ractor core would soon be enroute to Beijing. THAT took balls. And he cracked Menachem Begin's head and danced upon it 'til he surrendered to a peace that still holds, and led to normalization with King Hussein, against all protestations from AIPAC. He cut the Shah loose (OK he might have regretted that one), and said to Somoza he deserves whatever he gets. He sent the choppers into Iran (a ballsy and gutsy rescue attempt), and rather than just talk about conservation, he cranked the white house thermostat down, and put on a cardigan. He was probably the first president in a 100 years to appoint a bi-partisan and rainbowed/gendered cabinet. And yet the Republican weenies hated him. Why? 'cause he didn't hunt? "cause he genuinely liked black people? Why? America diddn't deserve Carter (and still doesn't). Though The Onion's piece was too vulgar for my tastes, I do appreciate their point....

Anonymous said...

Our social and political leadership are proof positive of Darwin's Theory of Devolution.

kristiina said...

Well,

"May the lights in the land of plenty shine on the truth someday"

Truth can be a bitter pill. Many have decided never to touch it. Should i be angry about it? This i ask myself often. What if it is like with attraction - some just never hit it off with truth. Can they be blamed? Is there anything to be done about it? This shunned lover is going to get everyone - but only in the end. Is it worthwhile to rob the innocent their illusions? Take this illusion away, another 9 pop up, like the heads of Medusa. It seems (to me) one has to love truth to embrace it.

"Cassandra" said...

As it applies here, truth" in a sense pertains less to the philosophical concept, than to a narrower notion of comprehending the fact that we have constructed for ourselves, and live in a masssively-complex yet delicately-balanced system and that a minimum of respect to the general rules and boundaries governing the system is required, in aggregate, to preserve the balance and not suffer the fate of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge or other such disaster where a negative feedback loop kills and otherwise stable system.

The balance can withstand, say the archetypical representative percentage of a population that -as you suggest - just never clicked wiith "truth". However, America is somewhat unique amongst developed nations in having created and nurtured a feedback loop that sees the majority of people so detached and unrespectful of (I'll call them) the laws of delicate systemic balance that the system is spinning or vibratiing out of control, and this is worrying for there may be a tipping point that even reality-based sobriety cannot repair. Perhaps (you adn I) are too-far departed in concepts of truth to but I believe as applied to what I am discussing, one needn't "love" it, but merely respect it and the consequences of disregarding it. Argentina was but a few years ago. The "Okies" remain a plausible constituency, and turmoil and chaos are always close beneath the veneer civilized and orderly society.

I think it more likely that like obesity, and smoking, America's people, conditioned but the culture of zero-culpability, cannot help themselves and so do not confront "it". This is not meant to absolve them of responsibility, but this is why the figure of an honest-giant-of-a-man like Volcker (not as one who deterministically pits society into deep recession, but as one who, wise, apolitical, wiht truth+ reality firmly in grasp and without malevolent agendas is therefore able to cause the entire scoiety to do what is difficult and hard or well-nigh impossible of their own, our via group determination's accord) and so looms large and necessary IF America is to save itself.

Some peoples are inherently more stoic, maybe you Finns!, but certainly the Dutch and Norwegians, in regards to being able to reflect detachedly and rationally upon problems BEFORE the problem inflicts itself and reduces to shards, what once was whole and maybe even beautiful.

bonita applebum interlude said...

Cassie,

Thanks for the tour de force post. Just out of curiosity, are you a yank? (full disclosure: i is)

Bonita

Willie said...

Cassandra,

Republicans couldn't stand Carter because they like their imperialism straight, no chaser. Carter, and the Brzezinski style of controlling the world was not obvious enough.

As you point out, he did take on a few things. One you didn't point out was the attempt to clean up the CIA, which led to great anger in the "fun house" (the folks who implement things). These folks vowed "never again" and decided to privatize intelligence, which they did under Reagan and Bush. Now we won't ever have to worry about that possibility again.