Sunday, March 8, 2009
After spending a couple weeks back in my home country, the USA, I leave again perplexed and yet probably more understanding of my observation that Americans in general are angry and defensive about their country’s economic conditions and loss of face in the world politically.
Of course, one can guess a few reasons in these times why many Americans might be a bit angry. Many have lost 20 years or more worth of savings in their investment accounts, pension funds are drying up with many bankrupt companies and the federal government continues to raid any available funds (including social security) to float its economic ship which continues to sink under impossible debt loads and diminishing production compared to many other areas of the global grid. Our country is becoming a metaphor for the angry and failing child who is hurting and confused as he struggles with failure at school or in sports, but doesn’t want anyone to touch or go near him.
During my trip I watched very little TV or news and instead talked personally and long with many friends, family and business associates about their views, experiences and projections about the future. Most average people on main street America are skeptical of their government and institutions as the powers that be continually raid the public coffers for bailouts and Band-Aids. Meanwhile, many Americans feel they have a better chance being heard by God at church than by their government that continues to reshuffle the deck of economic outlook every other week. Most feel quite helpless about their circumstances while others are trying to wait and time “the bottom” to know when it is safe to invest and “live” again.
Some people (and maybe even some of you reading this) get a little peeved or outright angry at some of my viewpoints about why we are here and what we should do about it. It appears to some that since I don’t live full time in the USA anymore, why should I have an opinion or why should I care. It’s as if somehow to some people you are no longer an “American” if you aren’t residing within the borders. Of course, as usual I argue that in some ways when you leave the USA you more truly understand the differences of culture and attitudes throughout the globe and you also get a bit more objectivity about how our country looks from the outside looking in. It really is quite a different picture than those who live all their lives in their own backyards. It’s nice living in your backyard…if you have a nice one…and if that is what you want to do. As for me, I have always been curious about “otherness” and interested in cultural histories and experiencing firsthand the rapid development of “Globalism”. But even after almost 10 combined years of living outside the USA in various Latin American countries, I am still the “Gringo”…the foreigner…the “Expat”. I value freedom and productivity more now than I did when I lived in the US of A. And yes, I think I DO have some new insights into the pros and cons of America and the “Western Culture” that I didn’t have before leaving “home”.
Back on point, I think I do understand the anger of Americans. I was there a number of years ago when the tech market “correction” almost wiped me out, there were no “bailouts” for investors then, and I had to rebuild and reposition MYSELF very quickly and effectively. The only difference between then and now is that this economic collapse is on a much bigger scale.
Here are a few other “Angry” items I hear or observe Americans being upset about:
• The government is busy bailing out “big business” from our tax dollars. It basically amounts to robbing “Bucko” in order to cover the losses of Wall Street “wise guys” and the corporate elite.
• What is the government doing for the middle class and small business…which generates over 80% of the jobs in America?
• They are REALLY angry about all the free bailout money given with HUNDREDS of pork barrel and special interest items included…along with the big bonuses corporate leaders got from the first go round of bailout funds.
• It took FOREVER for the government to come up with a plan for ordering mortgage renegotiation and brokering deals so hundreds of thousands could stay in their homes. We waited for a whole new administration before Congress really dealt with that issue.
• The administration is making cuts on College and other educational funds while adding to the budgets of homeland security and the Pentagon.
• And the FEW Americans who know this are angry that the Feds have raided once again the Social Security reserves for Billions to cover their budget deficits.
What would be a better plan for bailing out America? A successful and astute acquaintance this past week said that if all these Trillions from the government had gone to each registered taxpayer, we would each have over $80,000 to do our own stimulating of the economy with. Our individual bank accounts would be flush with cash and the “broke” banks would once again have money to grant loans. Many small businesses could be opened with $80,000 and provide multiple job opportunities for the unemployed from the ground up…not the top down. Sure, many would fail, but many others would grow to be the next “big cap” stocks on Wall Street. American pride and productivity would reign again as the most profitable, rich country in the face of world history rediscovered its productive roots.
America’s core problem is we AND our government have lost faith in these values of entrepreneurship and individual ingenuity…and we have deferred to big government and big global corporations to ensure our futures. We have grown lazy counting on our “entitlements” for just being an “American”…and we are slowly coming out of our slumber of false hopes and facing a mountain of doom and despair.
I truly hope that America’s anger can be turned to some positive developments. I hope angry Americans take back the power of democracy and demand taxation only with representation. I hope some wealthy Americans do get their money in productive new businesses or buyouts, even offshore, before the government can tax it into a small mound of futility dollars. And yes, I do think we will see angry Americans taking to the street before this is all over…creating a lot of chaos and panic in the halls of big government. I can only hope that the anger will have direction and be able to focus on positive solutions instead of just destruction and anarchy.