Sunday, March 22, 2009

Born With a Plastic Spoon in My Mouth

It's been a reasonably pleasant day in Streeterville, albeit a little cool. The wind shifted to the East on the back side of a weather system and the wind off the lake dropped the air temperatures to somewhere near the water temperature. (Cooler by the lake.) It's currently 43 degrees under partly cloudy skies at the Mini. Needless to say, I went to the gym and ran indoors this afternoon, rather than go to the lakefront and run in the wind off the water. Another day.

In other news from the 14th floor, the water is beginning to take on that warm weather look, although the wind off the lake and the lake water/air temperature differential is producing a haze out on the lake. In sports news, after one full round of March Madness, President Obama got 19 picks correct and 13 wrong. The R.D. Prediction Machine got 24 correct and 8 wrong. On the other hand Barry Baby got elected President and I got elected to continue teaching history in the Chicago Public Schools. He doesn't have to be able to pick winners in the tournament or bowl worth a damn for that matter. He just has to be what was once known as the leader of the "Free World," now known as the "Heavily in Debt to the Chinese World."

Babs and I were talking just the other day and she brought up an interesting point about the state of our economy. What it was was basic truisms. They go as follows: #1 If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. #2 If you can't afford it, don't buy it. These are basic axioms that ring true for our entire country.

It seems that our entire country has been on a binge of spending and buying, and convincing itself that things that can't possibly be true, actually are. The really sad thing is that a great deal of the world has bought into the American vision of reality, and consequently when the American economy went down the tubes, so did Europe, Japan, and all the rest of the industrialized world. Forget the 3rd world. They always have been in dire straits. They still are.

The point is that a group of wealthy, powerful people have behaved like low-class con-men and convinced huge numbers of people, who should have known better, that something that seemed too good to be true was possible. We could all own nice houses, nice cars, that we could all have the good life, without the necessary hard work and sacrifices it takes to get those things. Those white collar con-men have absconded with the cash, in the same way that all con-men do, leaving the victims to pick up the pieces and suffer the consequences. It's time that we all realized that you can't get something for nothing and when it seems too good to be true it is.

This leads us to the second point, "If you can't afford it, don't buy it." There are now, and always have been people who profit from the foolishness of those who think they can somehow figure a way to have something they cannot realistically afford. They are banks. They are shysters. They are repo men. We are a society, and to a large degree, a whole industrialized world that has been living beyond our means. Now the bill has come due, and it's not just the poor foolish men and women who want what the folks on the hill have. It's all of us. It's whole societies that have been living on plastic and promises. The plastic has crumbled and the promises are echoing false now. It's the time for the repo man, but there are not repo men for whole countries, for the whole of the industrialized world. Who would buy a used country, a used concept that has seen its better days. It has all come to a screeching halt, and now the best and the brightest are trying to find a way out.

Some of us who lived a little more wisely than others, who realized the value of hard work, and who remembered those two little maxims are doing better than others. Some nations are doing a little better than others, but we will all be struggling for a while to fix the problem. It will not be repaired overnight. The solution will require hard work. The solution will require us all to tighten our belts a little. It will require us to do our best to convince a world in denial of the truth of those two little maxims. Now if we can only bring some of the most culpable to justice, to make them bear the responsibility for duping huge numbers of people and hiding their ill-gotten gain in off-shore accounts. It might not even make things better in our faltering economies, but it would sure as hell make some of us feel better to see them getting their come-uppance.

Just make it your mantra when it seems overwhelming and you start to wish too hard for things to come more easily than they really do. "If it seems too good to be true. It is. If you can't afford it, don't buy it." These are not revolutionary concepts. They're just the honest, down to earth realistic truths of sensible people who work hard for everything they have, because that's how most of us actually get anything. Most of us were born with plastic spoons in our mouths, not silver ones.

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