Friday, March 13, 2009
Chasing rainbows, falling in mud
They say we bought mountains of useless cheap crap from China. That their leadership took the dollars we paid them with and lent them back to us and created the Bubble economy that has now collapsed. They say China saw an opportunity to take advantage in the marketplace and they took it. But why did the "smart" people in charge over here let this happen? Ultimately it led to failure for the average person in both countries. Chinese people have been losing jobs in vast numbers, too.
Could it be that "the little people" in both countries were exploited?
If people in the US hadn't had credit cards and E-Z loans they would have realized sooner that their wages hadn't grown in decades. They might have been more willing to join unions and demand better pay. They wouldn't have been able to put doctor bills on their credit cards when their families got sick, or paid credit for toys at Christmas. They might have been more willing to demand more affordable healthcare and been more discerning about what they bought at Walmart and Sears and Target.
When most people borrowed against their homes they did it because the banks encouraged it. The lenders sent out little notices all the time saying "did you know you can get a home loan and use the money to buy a car, fix up your house, pay for your kid's summer camp and deduct the interest?" It all made such perfect sense to the average person.
The most basic, primal drive an adult can have is to protect one's family. And in country after country that drive has been exploited by a few cunning and sophisticated people in power. Whether you were a Polish laborer working in the UK, a Chinese peasant working in factories 50 weeks a year away from your family, a Mexican crossing the burning Arizona desert for the hope of finding a job, or an American worker living in constant fear that one catastrophic illness could put his family on the street, you were driven to do just about anything for your family.
I'm not saying Americans weren't greedy. But I do think we have to keep in mind that the Babyboomers were the first generation in history to be brainwashed on a constant, daily basis to think greed was good. Number of commercials my great-grandmother saw in her lifetime? Zero.
Number I've seen? I shudder to think.
We thought we had the highest standard of living in the world? I don't think "fake it until you make it" is a standard of living. More like a prescription for disaster.
There's something about all this that feels like a gross violation of that basic right to pursue happiness, doesn't it?