American excess

My opinion (2010-04-28):

America(ns) are suffering from an abundance of excesses:
Too many or too much of:
lawyers, doctors, financiers, health care, consumption
(of goods that aren’t really needed and food that most certainly isn’t),
higher education
(how many college graduates does a sustainable economy really require?),
and so on ....

The path to national salvation is simply to be satisfied with less,
less food, less clothing, less house, less medical care, and so on,
and to produce more of what we need, rather than importing it.
(Tom Friedman ranks right up there with the music man
among those who have led Americans astray.)
There really is no alternative, no other way out.

Saying the end is nigh sounds awfully, well, corny,
but really,
how much longer can the U.S. keep on piling up more debt,
and producing far less, especially of hard goods, than it consumes?
The examples of those European countries
that are having their credit rating slashed
should be a view of what awaits the U.S.

The only edge the U.S. has is
that the dollar is and has been the world’s reserve currency,
but there is no law of nature that says that must continue forever.
When the rest of the world, in particular,
those nations (the petro-states and the low-cost production centers)
with whom we run such an unfavorable balance of trade
decide they want to set up their own exchange system,
i.e., when they get tired of taking depreciable dollars
for the hard goods they sell us,
there is absolutely nothing to stop them from doing just that.


Given up your New Year's resolutions? It's the American way.
By George F. Will
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2011-01-06


No skin in the game
by Cal Thomas
calthomas.com, 2012-12-04
[Also available at the Washington Examiner

An Internet search is inconclusive as to where the phrase
“no skin in the game” originated.
Some ascribe it to the late columnist William Safire;
others to investor Warren Buffett.
Politicians often use the phrase to justify policies to their liking.
It can also be applied to the latest in a long list of their outrageous behaviors, as well as to those of President Obama.

Like an increasing number of politicians,
the president has never served in the military,
nor has he ever run a business.
He has never headed a company that needed to make a profit
(and thus employ people who create things people wish to purchase).
He has likely never had to produce a balance sheet.
His entire career — and that of too many other politicians —
appears to have been about
redistributing other people’s money and
organizing “communities” to receive government benefits.

Very few elected officials see themselves as stewards;
even fewer practice stewardship.
It’s an old word, stewardship,
but it is a word that carries weight and authority.
One entry on dictionary.com defines it as
“The responsible overseeing and protection
of something considered worth caring for and preserving.”

We the people grant power to political leaders.
Along with that power goes — or ought to go —
a presumption that the men and women we elect
are stewards, or caretakers of America;
that they will behave as responsible overseers
of what has been entrusted to them.
We expect them to see our country
as worthy of protection and preservation,
for us and for future generations.

Can this president and Congress credibly say their irresponsible spending
and the “fiscal cliff” they are driving us toward
meet this definition?

Have you ever been entrusted with someone else’s property?
A car, a family heirloom?
Unless you are terribly irresponsible,
you probably took care of it, making sure it was not damaged
and that you returned it to its owner
in the same, or better, condition than when you received it.

Politicians operate differently.
They take what is not theirs and irresponsibly tax, spend or over-regulate it.
Too many are not invested in America.
They have no skin in the game.
And so they treat America’s economy as unworthy of their care
and do not feel it their responsibility to protect it.

Democracy as practiced in our constitutional Republic is fragile.
It is not the natural state of humanity.
Look around the world and see how many nations come close to America
in economic strength, endowed rights and standards of morality.
What we have is not inherited, as from a will.
It must be fought for, sometimes in war,
but always against our lower nature,
which too often succumbs to the temptation
to give people what they want, rather than what they need;
to trade goodies for votes, preserving not the country, but political careers.

A self-indulgent nation cannot long exist,
at least not as the nation delivered to us by our forefathers.
Our ancestors learned to do without in order to retain things of real value.
I was taught that excessive debt was a great evil
because it contributed to a loss of freedom.
If that is true for individuals, it is truer still for our country.

America is slowly descending into a kind of economic slavery.
We are increasingly in servitude to others who are financing our debt.
We are shackling our posterity with a debt load we are unlikely to pay off.

Things might be different
if the president and Congress saw themselves as stewards.
Instead, they behave as they do
because they have little or no skin in the game.

[Thomas’s perspective is not exactly mine,
but I certainly agree with the idea that
the notion of entitlement has corrupted America’s value system,
notably when it is used to justify the elderly being supported for
an ever-longer period after their working life,
longer than they supported their predecessors.
It is amazing that the elderly can be aware of this without noticing the unfairness of it.]

Labels: , ,