Trusting The Foxes Guarding The Henhouse

cartoon_marek_fox_henhouse

A good number of the nation’s nervous eyes were glued to their televisions last night as President Obama made an address to the nation and Congress, outlining his ideas and plans for facing down the worst economic crisis of our generation.

Now the depth and the severity of that crisis is still subject to some debate;  I won’t disagree with the idea that’s it’s the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime — but that only encompasses 1970 to today.  I have family members still with us who lived during the Great Depression.  Spend an afternoon listening to them telling their stories of not having enough food to eat on a day-to-day basis, or sleeping five to six people to a room and you’ll probably think like I do, that the word “crisis” may be a tad bit overstated these days.

But as I said, you’ll get no argument from me that the current situation today is a mess.  But why are we where we are — and how do we get out of there?

I won’t go into a great deal of depth here about the particulars of Obama’s plan — there’s plenty enough opinion about the likelihood of success of it from all sides of the debate available for your viewing around the net.  Obama talked about a nation that had put its own interests — “short-term gains over long-term prosperity”, using his own words — over the interests of the better good of the nation.  Obama told the country that the “day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.”

But who are we trusting to take charge?  Sadly, the same people who helped to get us into this mess in the first place.  It’s certainly true that we, as citizens, bear part of the responsibility for where we stand now;  as Obama stated, we have spent money and run up amounts of debt that have never been seen before in our nation’s history.  Once upon a time, people bought what they could afford, and whatever that happened to be, they were grateful to have it.  Now, we’ve found ourselves in a society that has grown up with the “bigger and better” mantra fully ingrained.  While our parents considered themselves lucky if they were able to afford a new car or a new television for the living room, we as a nation haven’t been satisfied unless we owned all of the latest gadgets, drove the biggest and fanciest cars, and wore the trendiest clothes.  We’ve become a nation that feels entitled to the luxuries and finer living that our parents and grandparents never had and coupled that with a need for immediate gratification.  Such feelings have led many of us to bad consumer habits, and for that, we’re accountable for our roles in the current mess (and make no mistake about it, all of us have been guilty at one time or another of thinking in that fashion).

But enough about our role — what about the passive role that our government has played in leading us to this “day of reckoning”?   While Obama hinted at such culpability, a full indictment of the failings of our government wasn’t found in his speech last night — nor should it have been expected to be, not with his immediate audience being many of the same people who’ve looked the other way as our problems have built over the years.  Make no mistake about this as well — our government has failed us, completely and entirely, and their responsibility for this mess cannot be brushed away. The Democratic and Republican Parties both deserve to be sharing the guilt arm-in-arm, having failed time and time again to address the issues in the mortgage industry, the banking industry, and Wall Street — none of which are newly created, and all of which were looming on the horizon for quite some time.  They both share the blame for a bloated, inefficient government that has been focused more on winning elections and perpetuating their own status in the circles of power in Washington, rather than driving our country to solutions that, while not always popular, are and were necessary.  Again, we can shoulder additional blame for not holding our officials to a higher standard before, as it’s been our complaceny that had led to the words “elected official” becoming synonymous with “criminal”.

The Capitol building loses some of its charm when you see it from the inside.

The Capitol building loses some of its charm when you see it from the inside.

I’m giving our President the leeway he deserves here — after all, he’s barely been in office enough time to figure out what all the rooms in the White House are for, never mind right the ship of a nation listing dangerously off to the side.  But I give no such consideration to the rest of our elected officials.  We’re counting on the same people who’ve shown no inclination to make the tough decisions, to ignore the special interests, and to ignore their own self-interests to be the ones who do the exact opposite now.   Anyone want to bet on the chances of that succeeding?

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