Greed and stupidity have lead to our political and economic downfall
By Chris Ingram
I am sitting in my hotel room on a cold day in Skopje, Macedonia awaiting another week of business meetings with political and government leaders from this relatively impoverished nation. Macedonia is from the region that is home to Alexander the Great, conqueror of most of the world then known to the Greeks. To put it into a modern perspective, Alexander the Great and his empire was akin to a present-day superpower like America.
While we remain the world’s lone superpower, our country is in peril.
In just the last few days, news reports from America have included the following headlines: “Billions Vanish in Epic Hedge Fund Fraud,” “Illinois Governor Arrested in Corruption Scandal,” “Feds Shut Two Banks in Georgia, Texas,” “Bank of America to Lay Off Tens of Thousands,” “Automakers Request Billions to Stay Afloat,” “Homelessness Rising as Economy Tanks.”
As American’s, fault for our current state of economic and political affairs is stupidity which is only exceeded as a degree of fault by our greed and insatiable appetite for more.
If you are sensitive to self-analysis and prone to deny blame for your own actions, stop reading as you will be offended. If you’re open-minded and willing to accept responsibility (an inherently atypical human condition), congratulations. Read on.
What in the hell has happened to us?
Stating the obvious, our economy is in shambles. But why? What happened? What has lead to the greatest ecomomy on earth plummeting so fast, and the world’s lone superpower dropping in respect around the globe quicker than the stock market has fallen?
The individual reasons for all of this bad news are complicated. And while some of them are interwoven, others are independent of cause but certainly connected in effect.
China and other world powers including India and Russia are growing in influence on the world stage. Investors and their supporting governments from the Middle East are growing in influence as well. U.S. debt held by governments and foreign investors (many of whom have countervailing interests to our own) has grown exponentially as our country dives further into recession. One day they will demand repayment of the notes they hold. Unless we start seriously cutting government budgets (and that means programs and services, from handouts to bailouts), and raising taxes to pay off our debt, we will saddle our children and countless generations after them with the burden of paying for our excesses.
Failing a change in spending and taxation (an immoral slap in the faces of our children), our only other alternative will be to declare bankruptcy. In doing so what the holders of our debt notes will find is we cannot repay them. Because our government has perpetrated what amounts to nothing more than a Ponzi scheme on holders of those notes – much like our government’s promise of Social Security for future generations is also such a scheme.
Who cares? Or why does this matter? Our status as a superpower cannot exist solely on the size of our military. Our status as a superpower exists based on our ability to pay for things we want and need. If we default on foreign debt, our ability to acquire things we want and need will be limited to what we can pay for up front. Our ability to borrow is a fundamental strategic consideration, as all borrowing is not bad. Currently our ability to borrow is based on the “good faith” of the U.S. government. That faith will be lost forever the first time we can’t pay a debt note. And we can’t just print more money. The money has to have value. The Saudi’s and the Chinese will want those dollars to have value so they can buy some new yachts or missiles — if our currency has little or no value, the “good faith” of our government to repay its debt will be meaningless.
There are two very basic explanations for our current crises.
They consist of an economic crisis and a political crisis. They are both patently connected to a moral crisis we don’t even recognize.
The economic crisis is the result of greed, pure and simple. Americans always want more. More money to buy more things made in China that make us feel good. While I don’t disdain the desire to live better, do better, make money, and provide for our families, compared to the rest of the world, we want more at much greater levels. There is nothing wrong with that, so long as you can pay for it. Herein lays the problem: we can’t. Yet we continue to borrow from the Chinese so we can turn around and buy more from their polluting factories where workers make just a dollar a day. The unspoken philosophy seems to be, “Go ahead, send manufacturing jobs to China – then the pollution from the factory won’t be in my backyard, and the low paid worker isn’t a problem so long as I don’t have to think about her, and so long as I can get a brand new big screen for under six hundred bucks, who cares?”
The financial crisis is a result of greed which we satisfied by ill-conceived borrowing. Today our politicians are suggesting we solve the problem by borrowing more. I don’t have a PhD in Economics, but somehow this just doesn’t make any sense. Borrowing is not the solution. It is the problem. It is caused by greed. And the problem will be perpetuated until we are willing to make sacrifices.
The cause of our political crisis is two-fold.
First and foremost, we Americans are stupid. We’re stupid because we continue to elect representatives (at all levels of government), who don’t have our national interest at heart. Sure members of Congress stand up now and then and make a patriotic speech, but how many of them make decisions and vote according to our national interest as opposed to the interests of the special interests that will help them in their next re-election campaign? None of them.
As I have said in previous columns and will continue to repeat, Einstein’s definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. So why do we expect the “new” Congress (or president for that matter) to have the solutions to the economic crisis when these are the very people who got us into this mess in the first place? For the answer to this question, see previous paragraph, sentence number one.
And if you don’t believe America is on the slide, and that our downturn is not eminent if we don’t change things soon, consider these very simplified summaries of world powers from days gone by:
Great Britain used to rule the world as a great economic and military power. So did the Romans. And the Greeks. And the Mongols. Germany was also once a world military and economic power in its own right. And so was France. The examples are endless. What leads to the downfall of all such powers? The common factor is: the state overextends itself; needs more money to sustain itself than it can realistically raise from its citizens; or owes more money than it could possibly ever repay to its creditors.
For a moment, we as Americans need to realize it can happen to us too, and we should demand our government do something about it. Surely all of those aforementioned countries and civilizations believed in their own infallibility and ability to sustain their economies. History proved them wrong. Will it America?
The fix to this problem is simple: Americans must demand from our politicians that they start to give us not what we want, but what we need – collectively, as a country, not as individuals. In short, the painful reality is, we need to own up to our greed and recognize we must all make sacrifices to turn our country around.
Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of http://www.IrreverentView.com. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, Front Page Florida, and National Review online. E-mail him at: Chris@411Communications.net.