Monday, October 13, 2008

No Country for Babies

It was during the Carter years that I first experienced how the economy can make you feel like
you're living in a horror movie.

A Time magazine story from March of 1980 reported: "Inflation and interest rates, both topping 18%, are so far beyond anything that Americans have experienced in peacetime —and so far beyond anything that U.S. financial markets are set up to handle —as to inspire a contagion of fear."

March of 1980 was the same month I learned I was pregnant with my one and only. My husband and I both had good jobs, he as an engineer, me as a tech artist. Yet it seemed as if we were continually log-rolling financially. I was worried if we could afford this baby and at the same time I heard the clock ticking. My intuition had recently given me the green light and now I was constantly throwing up with the worst morning sickness ever.

Nothing like bringing a life into the world to make you start paying attention to the people who make decisions for you. I listened closely when Carter addressed the inflation mess. He said it could be traced largely to "our failure in Government, as individuals and as a society to live within our means."

I remember this line to this day. Like many other people back then I resented the implication that we personally had been living high on the hog during his regime. That wasn't my world. It seemed to me all we did was work and go to school. On the weekends we occasionally went to a club and had a beer while listening to live jazz. Mostly we hung out with friends. No one I knew was living beyond their means. We didn't travel, didn't drive flash cars, didn't own a home, didn't buy expensive toys.

Here we are almost 30 years later and same baloney, different package. It depresses me no end to see that our children will have to go through another financial mess that could have been avoided. As Carter himself said back in 1980:
"Nothing will work until the Federal Government has demonstrated that it can discipline its own spending and its own borrowing."

Yeah, tell it to the judge.

Every day I read many of the blogs that discuss our current economic and financial woes. The take-away message I get from these is that our country has been playing the "fake it to make it" game during most of my adult life. I find myself wondering if this latest "crisis" isn't just the same old crisis that never went away. I feel paranoid enough to wonder if this latest "meltdown" isn't designed to drive us Babyboomers sick with worry and stress and then peace out into an early grave. Don't have to pay Social Security to dead people.

How is that any less crazy to believe than that over thirty years our best and
brightest leaders have handed us nothing but a giant, steaming cow patty financial-wise?
That they created strange housing loans designed to fail and handed them out like candy the last couple of years? That they took hard-earned capital and spun that out like cotton candy into trillions of dollars of "derivatives" so large no one even knows how large they are?

Here's what I think is the biggest problem facing us: the basic social platform upon which one raises a family has become rotten to the core. Which is why I think Demographics are going to bite us in the long run. The primary reason governments encourage immigration, legal, or otherwise, is to keep the population numbers up. The credit crunch everyone is screeching about in DC isn't going to matter if the young keep believing this is no country for babies.

It's no accident that McCain picked a fertile Mrytle for his running mate. She may be ditsy but she popped out a bunch of cute rugrats. Large families are great if you can afford them. I suspect that on the Far Right there is a belief that Americans should have large families out of patriotic duty. Never mind that they can't afford them. The Waltons turned out okay, didn't they? Six kids sharing a room is homey when seen through a Kindcaid-painted blur of nostalgia.

The truth is more and more Americans are having one child or no child or putting off having a child until they have to rent-a-womb. All the talk about money in the abstract distracts us from the fact that our numbers are melting away like ice cream dropped on the sidewalk in July.

Are we going to keep letting the quality of our lives be manipulated by bankers and politicians and advertisers who are only interested in the immediate gain? I'm so tired of living under one crisis regime after another. Tired of wondering what stupid crap The Man is calling dinner tonight. Tired of financial log-rolling where no matter how fast you spin your feet you are always one step away from falling in the river. Tired of feeling that we are not building any kind of future at all. Before dancing off with the Grim Reaper someday I'd like to see a hope of a future for the kids. Is that too much to ask?

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