31 March 2009

Who You Calling Materialistic, White Man?

Time magazine has an interesting article that examines the current recession from a cultural perspective and proclaims the end of the age of excess. I guess I'll have to put my dream of having an H3 in the Orange County suburbs on hold. But the article makes huge generalizations about society and neglects some of the modern-day Cassandras that saw this one coming:

We saw what was happening for years, for decades, but we ignored it or shrugged it off, preferring to imagine that we weren't really headed over the falls. The U.S. auto industry has been in deep trouble for more than a quarter-century. The median household income has been steadily declining this century ... but, but, but our houses and our 401(k)s were ballooning in value, right? Even smart, proudly rational people engaged in magical thinking, acting as if the new power of the Internet and its New Economy would miraculously make everything copacetic again. We all clapped our hands and believed in fairies.
That's not completely accurate. What about the punk rock scene of the 80s and 90s, which was basically a rejection of the spend-cash-to-be-happy mantra? And nary a mention of counter-cultural forces questioning society like the movie Slacker and the Seattle music scene in the early 90s? I'm also a bit confused by the author's slamming of the "new power of the Internet". Certainly, those folks may have been partially responsible for the smaller recession at the beginning of the decade, but it has nothing to do with our current malaise. If the free market wasn't allowed to function in technological development, we'd still be reading Picard Vs. Kirk Usenet posts on alt.nerd.poindexter.trek instead of the awesome time-waster that the internet is today.

So the author is really setting up the reader for an argument in support of centralized power and planning plus a hint of "Obama is Awesome!" which comes on page 3:
But it's also a perfectly apt and gratifying turn of events: candidate Obama positioned himself as a smart, steady character who happened to be black, and the economic emergency that helped ensure his election has pushed the fact of his race and its heavy symbolic freight into the shadows of public consciousness. Once the crises have passed, however, I think we'll rediscover the ramifications, small and large, of the enlightened national turn we made last Nov. 4 and start enjoying the dawn of a new era of racial reconciliation.
If there's any entity that's been living beyond its means the past 30 years, it's not your obnoxious yuppie neighbor who went into mourning with the closing of the Sharper Image store, but rather the federal government which has racked up a debt not seen since WWII. That has to do with politicians making ridiculous promises of entitlements and tax credits to get easy votes. Obama has completely ignored our economic reckoning and continues to print more funny money and go on wild spending sprees, so I disagree (FWIW) with the Time article that the Age of Excess is over. But, nevertheless, a very interesting article characterizing the Sub-Prime generation.


Lisa said...

Love this: "instead of the awesome time-waster that the internet is today." To your observation, there have always been counter-cultures which reject the excesses of the status quo (substituting their own), and you mentioned a couple.

However, anyone with eyes to see and two brain cells to process AND the ability to suppress his own inherent greed and wishfulness could see the train wreck-to-be that was this economy.

You are correct that the government has lied this past 30 years with its magnanimous tax cuts and entitlements (to the wealthy, as well as the poor). You don't get to fight two wars + chop taxes. That doesn't work!

Yes, the government has been disingenuous, but the populace have been fools, too. They are the ones charged with electing their representative, no? Of course, the Pelosi Congress has not delivered the will of the people. Vote all of the bums out!

Thank you for referring us to this article. [God talk about patronizing: "Obama positioned himself as a smart, steady character who happened to be black...", b/c, y'know, most darkies are just sleepin' on someone's side room sofa, like Cousin Pookie or Ray Ray... oops, who said that? Not me.]

DaveC said...

From the start of his political career, Obama was sandbagging -not Fargo style, but hiding his intentions and voting records.

I think that the big issue here is that Obama has always got elected based on "activists". He as a IL State Senator, and as a US Senator, was charged with the challenge of approaching problems considering both big cities, suburbs, and rural areas. But the Chicago Democratic regime, the Illinois combine, and his Presidentaial fundraisers are now, and have always been, his main concern. I don't think that Obama is really prepared for decisions that affect ALL of the people in the country, even though he thinks he is mandated to do big changes. He didn't even feel the need to consider people in the Chicago suburbs.

I think that there is an escalation of the "class warfare" scenario going on, but it is not rich vs poor, because there are rich and poor in the hinterlands. Instead, it is a conflict between big cities versus suburban and rural areas. The crazy thing is that the "Green Movement" is mainly discouraging people from living closer to nature, because the proposed cap-and-trade taxes will hurt people in the country, who drive trucks and need to use tractors and combines. Instead, the tax incentives will go mainly to cities, where over 20% will be lost to the "corruption tax".

The upcoming census will "find" that urban areas have many times more people than in past years, and redistribute Congressional representation accordingly.

LogicallyLocked said...

Yes, the government has been disingenuous, but the populace have been fools, too. They are the ones charged with electing their representative, no?

Yes, we have. But do you realize how many people out there don't know what kind of power the congress and senate have? My dad still thinks that president has absolute power and the final say on everything. And he's not a stupid man, he's built an impressive career out of the Navy.

It's our own faults for not being educated enough about the decisions that we're making; and who we're electing. We don't get much of a say in the president, the Electoral Collage helps with that; but we sure as hell can tell them who our congressmen and senators should be. Now if we could only get the public at large to wake up and figure out how to get it all back...

Lisa said...

Logically Locked,

You did say, "Navy"? (Sorry -- just a tease, LT. N.)

You are correct -- so many people do not understand how power devolves in government. They may not even realize their own power as "The People". Checks and balances are there because our Founders understood the pull of corruption.

I'm afraid the "unitary executive" fallacy propagated under George Bush's regime has done immeasurable damage to the already feeble understanding of the public. A formerly blase attitude has shifted into one of helplessness for many.

I wonder how one impresses upon people to take up their own power, and not delegate it out of indifference, or laziness or ignorance. . .