Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bye bye Miss American Pie

Indications are that a majority of Americans still oppose anything like a bailout for financial institutions. An unscientific CNN poll today has 59% answering "let risk-taking financial institutions fail." A Time Magazine article says much the same thing.

I think many people underestimate the risk of doing nothing. I think the smug, Reagan era idea that Government is essentially bad, can't fix anything and can only make things worse, plays a role and I think it's only human nature to distrust a plan drafted by the people who not only told us only days ago that it was foolish to think ( or to whine ) that we are experiencing recession; the people who have been preaching deregulation and advocating "anything goes" markets for decades, the people who refer only to dogma and ignore reality.

I have to admit that a part of me wishes it would all fall down and plunge us into depression simply to punish the slight majority who have been mocking reality and the people who recognize it, and mocking anything to do with government participation in anything but warfare. Of course I know that even bread lines and 30% unemployment wouldn't change such minds; they would simply blame it on Liberals with the same instinct that causes a land crab to run for the darkest place when you're trying to chase it out of your garage. Conservatives blamed the Great Depression on lazy shiftless workers. Not much has changed.

So seeing the intransigent stupidity and self-delusion of America, I have to believe we're in need of some kind of rescue; some kind of government intervention. Judging from events elsewhere however, I think the Post-bailout America would be only marginally different from the post "let them fail" America and either way, we're in for 5 years to a decade of high unemployment, inflation and increased marginalization of our position in the world. We're in for a long period of blaming, scapegoating and scurrilous propagandizing. Faced with a stalemate in Iraq, a rapidly declining position in Afghanistan and a Pakistan that cannot control its borders or prevent itself from being a haven for al Qaeda, it's hard to be optimistic no matter what is done, who wins the presidential election or which party controls the Congress.

I would like to believe that we will eventually see a leaner, more fiscally fit and saner America, but I don't believe in our ability to learn from mistakes, to recognize that we have made them or to see beyond the rhetoric and dogma and slogans when looking for solutions. Instead, I see more excuses for cute and perky incompetence, more praise of folly and more of our eternal hunger for fast food, fast solutions and the comfort of false certainty.

America - I wish to hell I could quit you.

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