Thursday, May 10, 2012

Putting our House in Order

Let's start out with the premise that "business as usual" is getting nowhere in addressing the current economy. The defaults that are looming on housing, student loans and credit cards remain a dark cloud in regards to increasing consumption to increase demand. The market does work but it will always reflect the overall economy. Corrections are being made, but will not inherently produce a turn around. Obama is not a right-winger. He simply doesn't grasp the basic engine of the economy.

Let's start with the fallacy of "we can have it all- guns and butter". You cannot spend the same funds twice and there is a bottom to the barrel, no matter how many dollars you print. If there is not a change in the fundamental social forces that drive the economy, there will be no change in either the wage gap or unemployment. The focus of this election has been on minor changes in the tax code. The tax code is no more or less than a minor lift to peoples' ability to improve their standard of living or invest in the development of small businesses. If we use the WW2 model to demonstrate the key role of the Federal government in driving the economy, then we are left looking at the wage-price controls that were also a part of that model. If we use the New Deal as the model we are looking at a scenario without the debt/GDP ratio we have today.

"Business as usual" is trying to address constituency political demands the same as yesterday. As an example, the reality is that the political dynamics of "environmentalism" is constituent-based, not ecologically-based. They are resource battles and illustrate the conflict between urban and rural users. Water use, as an example, is confronting the fact that state governmental entities are dominated by urban users, so the "environmentally-friendly" proposal of instream flow is nothing less than the action by municipalities to get allocations previously used for agriculture.

"Business as usual" has addressed educational failings from the top down. We have long recognized the failure of urban public education but it has long-term impacts on our civil life and our society at large. But the solutions continue to make things worse instead of better. Making the situation worse, is the loss of value for studying by students.

The cultural revolution in the US has successfully crushed the old Protestant ethic in academics. In its place is more partying, less studying. It should be said that focus on personal behavior as a component of the political agenda has had many unexpected consequences. Among those effects is the rash of plagarism and cheating. We are seeing teachers cheat, as well as Wall Street brokers. Social workers have been caught robbing as well as Enron execs.

Not everything is economic and how we address charcter development has begun to demonstrate impacts on the focus of young people on their studies.There is something important that we lost with the Protestant ethic- that is a sense of individual accountability and responsibility. If the economy is going to get better than we need to improve our own conduct and expectations of each other.

We function as a small bit in a huge society of Gigabits. But if a virus robs us of our own sense of ethics, we ignore what is happening around us to our own detriment. Regional water planning taught me that people can work together when we agree on a common mission- a collective statement of individual shared values. We don't need to resurrect the Protestant ethic to define what we share as a nation. We do need to acknowledge the impact of our words and actions on others. Our economy is not something that starts from the top in some agency or corporate office, it begins with how hard we work as individuals and how we use the skills that we each have for the betterment of this world.

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