After all, the economy is in shambles and Americans are fed up with the latest congressional efforts to reduce the deficit. Unemployment is nearing epidemic proportions, gasoline prices are outrageous, spending is out of control, and for the first time, our national credit rating has been downgraded. Worse still, if foreign money was pulled out of our economy, we would have a massive, coast to coast collapse.
Political pundits commonly warn candidates, especially Republican candidates, that voters today are not as concerned with social and moral issues as much as they are concerned with the economy. In that respect, Carville's sage advice to Clinton is nothing new. After all, Hebert Hoover’s 1928 campaign slogan was, "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." Has anything really changed since 1928 in terms of what Americans care about the most?
Surely, it still is "the economy, stupid." Or is it? Could it be that there's more to the story? Could it be that we make a serious and fundamental mistake when we separate economic issues from moral issues? Could it be that we are often treating the symptoms rather than the cause? There was bipartisan disgust as the nation watched the president and both political parties wrangling over a solution to the current financial crisis, and in the end, all we got was a very small, largely ineffective band aid. As one political cartoonist depicted it, the congressional “solution” was like slowing down the speed with which the Titanic was sinking.
Across party lines, there was a feeling that we were not really getting to the root of the problem, but few, if any were suggesting that it is impossible to separate economics from morality. Eventually, our moral choices will have a definite and direct impact on the money (or lack thereof) in our pockets.
A successful businessman recently suggested to me that some of the roots of our economic problems include:
1) Instant gratification. It was Jim Morrison of the Doors who once proclaimed, "We want the world and we want it now!" That was 1967. Today, we really want it now (as in “instant”; think "messaging" and "downloading" and more). If I want it, I will find a way to get it, and I will get it now. Yes, it's true that I’m out of work, but I will get that iPad, I will be at the movie theatre this weekend, and I will find a way to buy the latest, trendy threads. Thank God for credit cards!
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.
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