The politicians running for office are too chicken to say it, so I will: the financial crisis is your fault. Maybe not you, my specific reader, or even the average reader, but maybe so. Certainly a sizable chunk of the public.
My reasoning for this is perhaps best illustrated by this recent cartoon from the Washington Post:
I’ve seen this joke played out for real in many, many households here in Las Vegas. In my essay of last April, “The Five Worst Problems In America Today And The One Thing We Can Do About Them,” (which is the third most popular post on this site), I identified “individual fiscal irresponsibility” as #4, noting our poor saving habits especially as a sign of danger.
The media keep blaming politicians and bankers for this mess, but that’s like blaming drug dealers for the addicts in our cities. The thing is, if nobody got involved in drugs in the first place, the dealers would be out of business. Ditto for subprime loans. The real culprits here are the millions of Americans who refuse to live within their means.
Pop quiz: what do the following things all have in common? Bluetooth, TiVo, HD flat screen TV, iPhone, sports car, Blackberry, OnStar GPS, DVD players in vehicles, satellite TV, X Box, Wii, Netflix subscription, and just about any high end or name brand device or service? Answer: I don’t own any of them. On Sunday I was asked for about the billionth time how I raise a family on a teacher’s salary. That list was the first half of my answer.
The other half was my wife, who clips coupons, shops sales, and keeps a budget so rigorously that military discipline looks like a frat party by comparison. Her organized thrift inspires me to be frugal myself. I only buy a book if I’m going to make notes in it, or if it will take more than a month to read. Otherwise…well, I wish library cards had frequent flier miles.
What little I might usefully add to the national conversation about the economy of “Main Street” now would be to recommend to everyone a recent address by L. Tom Perry, who encouraged us all to follow Thoreau’s admonition to simplify our lives as a means to security and satisfaction.
But, no, once the entitlement genie is out of the bottle, I doubt it will go back in, at least on a large enough scale to make a difference. So what to do?
Last Spring I included the modern version of “The Ant and the Grasshopper” in a post. In the wake of this year’s economic problems, Michelle Malkin rewrote that updated fable to replace the tragic ending with a rousing, aggressive one. Today, she went one better by outright daring responsible people to default on their own mortgages.
Doesn’t this remind you of Atlas Shrugged? Ayn Rand’s capitalist manifesto told of society’s innovators and entrepreneurs, tired of being overtaxed to support the people who would then despise them for their hard-won success, going on strike, mysteriously disappearing and leaving the “looters” to stew in their own juices.
Is that what’s called for here? Is the way to finally change our bloated, corrupt welfare state for all of us to gang up and overwhelm it by refusing to cooperate with the pillaging of private assets for the maintenance of the unproductive? (On a related note, did you hear about the plumber who confronted Obama about taxing small business owners, and Obama’s pathetically socialist response?)
I admit, such an idea is tempting. From the ashes of a ruined, collapsed economy we would be forced to rebuild on the steady foundations this country used to run on. After all, it worked in Atlas Shrugged.
But I also hope that, personally, I might be more like poor Dagny Taggart in that novel. Taggart refused to get on board with the strike plan for a long time, not because she wanted to facilitate the ongoing lopsided burden on the economy, but because she felt such a deep drive to work and succeed, to overcome any challenge, that she couldn’t bear the thought of “throwing the game,” as it were, to make a point. And so she continued to labor, under the scorn of the elites who lived off of her forcibly-seized largesse, until the situation was so comically hopeless that even she realized that sabotage was the only path to improvement.
But maybe that’s where we are now.