Cross-posted from Hoodathunk’s blog Story Time, Steps is a thoughtful follow-up to his recent post, What Made America Famous (which includes Harry Chapin’s great song of the same title).

It’s time to see what America is made of…will we accept the needed 12-step program to recovery?  Or as Lynyrd Skynyrd would say, “Gimme three steps toward the door?”

What life is all about…steps.  They come in all sizes, from baby to giant and they can go up or down.  Generally speaking, they are how things get done.  You don’t dump a bunch ingredients in a bowl and suddenly have cookies.  And you don’t make or break a country in one fell swoop.  Americans have something of a tradition for being impatient, even arrogant enough to think that steps don’t always apply to them but it isn’t true.  We are where we are today because we have been slowly led in a series of steps to the point where we have been desensitized to the actual steps of change.

Our education system has been tinkered with to the point where we are no longer producing individuals capable of cognitive thinking.  Our economic system has been stripped of needed regulation that once existed.  Environmental policies have been

removed to allow profits, undoing years of real progress in making our country a place heading towards a sustainable ecosystem while business could still function.  Our moral/ethical values have been undermined with a continuous barrage of incidents of increasingly bad behavior promoted as entertainment.  And our political system has just flat out gone into the toilet.  Bribery has morphed into a practice that actually defines how our Congress works.  And the cherry on the sundae is that racism and bigotry still exists to a greater degree than any thinking American believed.

We have a pretty ugly and bleak picture for where America is today.  We are no longer in even the top ten for standard of living and we only have ourselves to blame.  Along about 1980, America started to drink.  We imbibed the heady brew of exceptionalism.  We started on a course of consumerism that quickly turned into a binge.  In the 90’s we had a bit of a respite but it disappeared when we had a President who told us in response to the first major foreign terrorist attack on our country…go shopping.  He and his compatriots handed over the keys to the liquor store while they stood back and raked in the profits.

And in the summer of 08, it finally began to crash and it came down hard on many fronts.  The more rational Americans began to see that the course we were on was destructive.  Consumer spending was dying as decent paying jobs disappeared overseas.  It wasn’t that we didn’t want to continue but like a drunk we had reached the end of our resources.  We were right on the edge of skid row and a bottle of cheap muscatel.  Now we were stuck with listening to the very people who conned us into our self-indulgent binge telling us we should just go right on doing it.  They have been getting ever more strident in their calls,  don’t think, just drink.  It’s what you want, what you need.

So America is caught between two choices.  Either we do the equivalent of the AA 12 Step program and recognize we have problems and blind consumerism isn’t the answer or we follow the 3 step process from Lynyrd Skynyrd and head for the door.  We have to realize you can’t base a consumer society on a service economy.  We have to reclaim things like production and manufacturing right here in America.  We have to make things again.  Right now we have a major portion of our economy involved in jobs that produce nothing really tangible.  Wall Street and the investment industry juggle money.  The health insurance bunch juggle money.  The entertainment industry manages to provide a small amount of real product but it is a pitiful number compared to the amount of money it consumes.

We are on the first steps of recovery but it is going to be wicked rough.  The only way we will make it is by bringing back into focus what works.  A functional, fairly employed, thriving middle class, enough regulation and control to reign in the worst of the greed and a society that knows it is a society.  We, the People.  Because the 3 step option towards the door really isn’t viable.  We have no place to go.

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8 thoughts on “Steps

  1. Excellent! Very well said. We really do need to start producing things in this country again. And we need to find a way to discourage rampant greed in the economic system. Sure, the goal is to make as much money as you can, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it all. There comes a point where a person could have more money than he knows what to do with, or even needs. Let’s find a way to put that money to better use.

  2. Anyone unable to manage personal finances on less then $5,000,000(pretax) per year does not deserve to be a banker. Therefore, there should be a marginal tax rate of 100% at that level. At $10,000,000 the marginal tax rate should be 200% and rise by 100% for each $5,000,000. Stock options and offset payments could be taxed at half that rate as long as profits are a condition for the continued validity of those options. The taxes on those options would be treated as income in the year offered and losses in subsequent years would not be refundable.

  3. Good analogy above. And, like an alcoholic, we won’t get better until we realize we’re sick. We’re not there yet.

    We’re still blaming everyone else for our problems. Let’s profile Muslims, let’s oppose health care reform because we don’t want someone else getting health care off our tax dollars, let’s threaten secession and civil war to oppose any government program that benefits the neediest of our society.

    But the plug has been pulled. More and more have lost their jobs. They can’t borrow against their house to make ends meet in the short run, individual retirement plans evaporated overnight. As the number of families who need a social safety net to survive increases, so too does the vocal opposition to those very programs.

    Starve the Beast! Cut government spending! California will be the first state to collapse, judging by the Governator’s budget. Unable to borrow, unable to raise taxes, the State will have to continue to cut programs. Local governments and schools are going to take another big hit through some legislative legerdemaine. (the sales tax on gas will switch to an excise tax. Sales taxes are distributed to local governments and schools, exise taxes aren’t.)

    So, like any unrepentant addict, the U.S. must hit rock-bottom. Those that recognize the problems are being shouted down. Those whose wealth insulates them from the problems, continue to profit, thus benefit from our inevitible slide. Real estate is cheap after a civil war, and their wealth is off-shore.

    When an addict hits rock-bottom he either seeks help, or dies.

    When the U.S. social-economic system hits rock bottom, there won’t be any social safety net in place to help. That beast will have been starved.

    South Africa turned away from that precipice because the ruling class realized it had to, or it would be destroyed in the ensuing class warfare.

    The French Aristocracy didn’t and paid with their lives in the French Revolution.

    The next decade or so will be interesting to watch.

  4. Well stated point of view. The economic mess and the health care disaster did not happen overnight. Our health care system began to decline when the HMO’s were introduced. Prior to then, a person would visit the doctor and the doctor would spend whatever amount of time needed to evaluate the patient. At the end of the visit, the patient paid a reasonable fee for the service. Some doctors even had special rates for the poor and unemployed. There was no insurance muddling in the doctors affairs. With the birth of the HMO’s, doctors got paid each month to NOT treat patients. Now, doctors spend 7 to 9 minutes with each patient and the patient usually leaves with a script for either some type of testing or prescription drug and after multiple requests, the doctor finally gets paid 6 months later for the visit.

    As one can see, this decline happened over several decades. It will take some years to really fix this and all the other problems that were created over several decades and yet people have their knickers in a knot because President Obama didn’t fix all these problems within his first year in office. Perhaps Obama should start looking for a magic wand and pretend to be Harry Potter and make all our ills go away.

  5. Perhaps Obama should start looking for a magic wand …

    He’s got one, the Veto Pen. He has, to my knowledge, yet to invoke it.

  6. Since people are so very upset with the Democrats in Washington, I have an idea that will set them straight. Let’s put the Republicans back in charge. They did such a terrific job of walking lock-step. Ah, remember the days of Terry Schiavo and Bush cutting shrub. If only…

  7. “Let’s put the Republicans back in charge.”

    That would certainly be a short-cut to revolution. Their rape of America would increase exponentially. And they won’t hesitate to post Xe in every city to maintain order.

    Of course, when the Republicans do regain power, especially if they have a super majority in the Senate, we’d best disappear off the net and all other forms of electronic tracking. Progressives that don’t go underground soon enough will find themselves under ground. About 6′ worth.

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