Times ARE tough right now, that's a given according to this piece. But we won't give up (we don't intend to!) if you won't. -- Ed.
Why are so many Americans so depressed about things these days? It is perhaps not just the economy.
I think the answer is clear: all the accustomed
referents, the sources of security, of knowledge and reassurance appear
to be vanishing. Materially, we still enjoy a sumptuous lifestyle in
comparison with past generations—and the world outside our borders.
America remains the most sane and successful society on the planet.
But there is a strange foreboding, a
deer-in-the-headlights look to us that we may be clueless Greeks in the
age of Demosthenes, played-out Romans around AD 450, or give-up French
in late 1939—with a sense it cannot go on. Why? Let us count the ways.
1) About Broke.
The collective debt is simply staggering, $1.7 trillion in borrowing
this year alone. $3.5 trillion is our annual budget, and by 2012 what
we all owe will be well over $15-17 trillion. (No fears: the President
promises to triple the Bush deficit, but by the end of his “first” term
“halve” the deficit, as if tripling and then halving it is not
Today while President Obama railed against AIG
bonuses (imagine damning the bonuses you signed into law to the execs
from whom you took over $100,000 in campaign donations!)—the
congressional budget office “found” another trillion or so dollars in
anticipated deficits that Team Obama lost.
So after Obama, the next President will campaign
on “I promise a $1 trillion annual surplus for eight years to pay off
the last eight, so we can then start over paying off the old $11
The rub is not just that we are inflating—no,
ruining—our currency. And the problem is still more than the fact that
we are destroying the lives of the next generation, whose collective
budgets will be consumed largely with health care for us baby-boomers,
and interest payments on our debts. (If I get to be 87, can we keep
asking 500 or so Chinese to put off false teeth to lend me their money
for a hip replacement?)
I think instead the worst element is a sort of
ill-feeling about ourselves, an unhappiness as we look in the mirror
and see what we are doing to our dignity in this, the hour of our
We are starting to fathom that when times got
iffy, we lacked the resilience of the proverbial Joads and the grit of
that tough Depression-era generation, and certainly we seem different
sorts from those who built and flew B-17s amid the Luftwaffe.
Instead, this generation has gone quite stark
raving mad the last seven months, hysterical, and decided we would
simply borrow, charge it, print money, blame, accuse—almost anything
other than roll up our sleeves, take a cut in our standard of living,
pay off what we owe, admit that we lived too high on the hog, and find a certain nobility in shared sacrifice.
So again, here we are reduced to begging the
Chinese to subsidize our life-styles, while 500 million of their own
poor make their American counterparts of the lower classes here seem
like well-heeled grandees.