Financial Amnesia: Who Will Tell the People?

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I’ve been thinking about Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed piece a lot this week. For those who haven’t read the piece, I encourage you to read it here. It is an extremely well written and thoughtful piece about the state of affairs in the U.S. — politicially as well as financially.

The choices our government has made directly parallel our the poor choices we’ve made as consumers. I don’t know one American who feels proud of the decisions our government has made in the last 8 years. I don’t know one person who voted for President Bush (or admits to it). And yet we have him leading our country. It’s an embarassment at best. I also don’t know many people who think it wise to defer their gratification to live below their means. So many people live at the edge of their means or well above it. We suffer from political and financial amnesia and it threatens us as individuals as well as Americans. How can we let our governments spend so little money on education and healthcare? How can we allow ourselves to become victims of our own greed and take on more than we can afford? Here’s a great quotation from the article:

We are not as powerful as we used to be because over the past three decades, the Asian values of our parents’ generation — work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means — have given way to subprime values: “You can have the American dream — a house — with no money down and no payments for two years.”

I also appreciated the sentiment expressed in the last paragraph of the piece:

Much nonsense has been written about how Hillary Clinton is “toughening up” Barack Obama so he’ll be tough enough to withstand Republican attacks. Sorry, we don’t need a president who is tough enough to withstand the lies of his opponents. We need a president who is tough enough to tell the truth to the American people. Any one of the candidates can answer the Red Phone at 3 a.m. in the White House bedroom. I’m voting for the one who can talk straight to the American people on national TV — at 8 p.m. — from the White House East Room.

Amen. I really want to be hopeful again.

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