Thursday, October 9, 2008

Paying Your Debts

When you spend more than you can afford, eventually you have to pay the piper. It is easy to blame the extraordinary greed of Wall Street executives with their multi-million dollar homes and golden parachutes, but all Americans who have credit card debts and all U.S. politicians are to blame. The whole nation has been living the good life by borrowing. Now it is time to pay. Since Americans don't like paying their way through life any more, we call that a "financial crisis."

If there is an honest politician in the land, that politician will tell apologize to the world for the trouble that American greed has put them in and will tell the American people that the way to resolve the financial crisis is through (pardon my French) "sacrifice." It is really quite simple - since Americans individually (credit card debts, "creative" mortgages, etc.) and the American government (wars of choice here and there to gain power and influence) have been living beyond their means--and grossly beyond their means over the last decade, all will now have to tighten their belts in order to start paying back that borrowed money. Let's be very clear about this - the Wall Street executive greed, the personal "max out my credit cards" greed, and the foreign policy greed of demanding that the world do things the neo-con way are morally equivalent examples of the same character fault.

If any aspiring leader had the courage to say this to Americans, then we could start talking about real solutions. Specifically, exactly how does a country calmly, with minimum disruption, and with maximum fairness, intentionally go about downsizing? And, now that the financial markets are in free-fall, do we still have time?

Could we devise a way of putting two foreclosed families in one house to ensure that everyone at least continues to have a roof over their heads, with some payments still flowing into the banks?

Could we change tactics in our incredibly spendthrift "American way of war" to cut costs?

Could some of the huge city-style military bases in Iraq with families and swimming pools be cut back?

Once we admit that we have been living beyond our means, then we can surely come up with creative measures to cut back to the level of power internationally and the level of wealth individually that our resources will truly support. The first step is to get it through our heads that life is going to be more modest than it has been...starting now.

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