Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Will a Superficial Recovery Seal Our Fate?

Approximately a decade ago, my body was invaded by pathogenic microorganisms that continued to multiply to the point where they almost killed me. Partly my fault and partly the doctor's, I ended up treating only the symptoms with pain killers and topical medicine. As the symptoms worsened, the doctor gradually increased the dosage of the meds that masked the warning signs that something was very wrong, until the infection got so bad that it broke through the prescribed drugs spiking my temp to 106 degrees. The doctor proceeded to slice me open with very little anesthesia- yep, I woke up - and removed the source of the infection and contaminated tissue which had turned gangrenous. It was touch and go for weeks but I pulled through.

I'm sure, if anyone reads this blog, right about now, they're thinking, "that's great, what's your point"?

Well, just as treating only my symptoms resulted in me almost losing my life, just treating the current financial crisis may result in America losing its "life" as "numero uno". In order to avoid this potential catastrophe, it's imperative that people understand that the financial crisis is only a symptom of something much deeper: an outdated, rotting to the core, economic infrastructure, and a culture that promotes narcissism, complacency, greed and a disdain for the poor and suffering.

It is easy to cut interest rates, print money, and go shopping. It's a little harder to create "shovel ready" projects and dig ditches just to fill them up again. It's almost an insurmountable task to create a new economic framework that will respond effectively and coherently to contemporary conditions and restore economic health for the long run.

Nevertheless, in order to continue as the "beacon on the hill", as our globe continues to shrink, and as technology advances in exponential increments, further leveling the playing field, we must incorporate a social conscience into a new economic model, including other purposes for businesses besides maximizing profit for shareholders. Of course profit will still factor into the equation, however it should not be the ONLY factor.

But, what happens if our economy reacts to the stimulus (mostly tax cuts and spending) President Obama hopes will take place in February, and the market temporarily recovers? Will removing the financial crisis (symptoms), tempt us to take the easy way out and get back on the same track that got us into this mess? Or will we surmount the insurmountable and put the American economy on a healthier more sustainable path?

Hopefully, we will not need to experience a crisis like the Great Depression to create the impetus for change...that this financial crisis will be enough to ditch the old tracks and create brand new ones.

“Laissez-faire, Supply-and-demand, - one begins to be weary of all that. Leave all to egoism, to ravenous greed of money, of pleasure, of applause: it is the Gospel of Despair!” –Thomas Carlyle
“It always seemed strange to me that the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.” –John Steinbeck
Cost estimate for Senate version of H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

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