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What are American's willing to sacrifice for?
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5477

PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:06 pm    Post subject: What are American's willing to sacrifice for? Reply with quote

Part of the dialogue between the extremes in America is over what is often called American exceptionalism on the right, an attitude that often looks at progressive or reformist attitudes as unfair criticism. But I think there is a much deeper malaise, or perhaps fear, that characterizes the gap between the respective world views.

Part of American's fears involves the rise of China, which has quickly become the world's second largest economy with a totalitarian government that interferes mightily in the market. Hardly Ayn Rand or Adam Smith. Yet a closer look at Chinese wealth and American wealth puts that into perspective. China's GDP in 2008 was $3000 per capita. While that is expected to rise by an order of magnitude by 2050, that still lags far beyond US wealth. And I would not expect the meteoric rise of China to continue without difficulties; they face formidable cultural and political problems. Straight line projecting of growth, whether in US housing prices or Chinese manufacturing, is probably not a good bet.

So I would ask the question what are American's willing to invest their wealth in, and why? I ask this because I think that manufacturing was very important to the development of wealth in this country, and because I don't think that we can be the long term consumers in the world's economy without eroding our wealth.

In order to stimulate growth, which has lifted about 2 billion people out of poverty, China invested in physical infrastructure and education. Since their political system allows no debate, they just did it. In the economic history of the United States, investment in railroads, an interstate highway system, and defense and space spending that spawned a computer and aviation industry have had huge benefits. With federal investment, we built a system of 47,000 miles of highways that represents only 1% of the road network but carries 24% of the traffic, and nearly half the truck traffic. Construction of that system, and deregulation of the trucking industry, gave rise to the current consumer society that easily and cheaply transports goods to the smallest town in America. The vision for that investment came from Eisenhower, and dates back to 1956. I know that some would say that private industry would have done it more efficiently, but they didn't. The "Report Card for America's Infrastructure" has identified $1.6 trillion in existing infrastructure needs, but our economic strategy involves rebates for stimulating (we hope) consumption, not investing in the future. Once we all have a big screen TV, what are we willing to invest in. Apparently not roads or railroads, as those like mrgybe sneer at the stimulus impacts.

This story of the rise of American due to infrastructure spending is repeated in the construction of the railroads, and the airline industry, which developed from military jets and investment by the FAA in airports. The semiconductor industry has been quite efficient and innovative on its own, thank you, but stemmed from investment in basic research as part of the Kennedy initiative to get us to the moon. That was in the 1960's. We had a big boost in spending for clean water that started in 1972, but what investments have been made since? California's and Obama's efforts to invest in cleaner and more sustainable energy sources have been targets for the oil and coal companies and their largely Republican supporters.

Are we willing to sacrifice to make investments in education, like the Chinese, to stimulate continued innovation? Jerry Brown tells us that we are going to have to cut school funding again, with California already nearly last in funding for education. The narrative on education is that it has failed--and in many ways it has. But privitization, backed by many on the right with a voucher system, often seems like an effort to control the content of education (see Texas' new standards) or pretend that poverty is not an issue.

Are we willing to sacrifice to begin controlling health care costs? One of the lines of reasoning that I heard from Obama was that rising health care costs were an increasing threat to the willingness of American's to begin businesses because of their continuing rise in costs that is much higher than the rate of inflation. Should we bring the substantial purchasing power of the Federal government, already about half the insurance costs, to bear on controlling costs? Are we willing to make any sacrifices to cover those many millions who weren't covered? How quickly this line of reasoning disappeared from the debate, and given the meta-messages, I can only conclude that American's are not willing to sacrifice much to either make health care eventually cheaper for their children, or cover the costs of the poor and the underemployed.

And last, I must ask during the Christmas season, are we willing to sacrifice to help the poor? I posted elsewhere how little of American's charitable donations go to the poor. Contributions for relief in New Orleans, and Haiti, and Pakistan, have been a tiny fraction of what is necessary. The right seems strangely proud of this, with a story arc that tells us that all people who are poor are poor because they are lazy and stupid.

So Merry Christmas, and thanks to those who gave to the poor this year. You did a much better thing than buy a new tv. For those who repeat the story line that the poor deserve to be poor, I hope that Santa Claus brings you a heart.
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isobars



Joined: 12 Dec 1999
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the halls of Congress (> TWENTY THOUSAND EARMARKS in yet another bill they're expected to pass without reading), in the state of California, and in the welfare mindset prevalent in this forum, the answer is, apparently, "Nothing".
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boggsman1



Joined: 24 Jun 2002
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am willing to sacrifice. But Im not willing if it means funding the pension of a guy who retired at 50 to windsurf and load thousands of pages of bile onto the internet...I'd call that value-negative. I was willing to pay more taxes, i know this shitstorm needs to be fixed ASAP. Another year or two of debt financed growth could be the tipping point, and take a peak at the 10 year since the QE2 set sail.... Surprised
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coyotewindsurf



Joined: 03 Apr 2006
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Location: SF Bay

PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Mac for your thoughtful post.

My greatest hope is that we invest in our children’s future by securing their right to quality public education and support every individual’s right to affordable healthcare.

It seems the Christmas season brings out the best in many and the worst in some.

I’m afraid Santa has something else in mind for the selfish among us.


Shocked

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mo
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks mo. As always, cartoon is right on. I left on the earlier post perhaps the most serious problem, the lack of leadership. If we look at invading Iraq, both the willingness to sacrifice and real leadership were AWOL.

If a case could have been made, and it could, that Sadam was a tyrant and we needed to remake Iraq to make America more secure, then leadership would have been making that case to the American public, tell them what they had to sacrifice for it, and convincing them. The worst thing about that adventure is not the cost, and not the fact that Bush and Cheney lied to do it, but the passing on of all the sacrifice to our volunteer military. They are the ones that suffer for the mistakes and delusions of the leadership. They are the ones who come home damaged in large or small ways. Bush essentially sold the Americans a bill of goods and hid the price. The human sacrifice is paid by our military, the economic sacrifice by our children.

I don't give the Democrats or Obama much higher grades. While Obama called for a day of work in the community when he began, that call for common purpose has disappeared. There is an appalling lack of leadership in telling the American public that they can't have it all on an installment plan. Money borrowed has to be repaid. What we get instead of courage is earmarks to make the budget-busting tax cut more palatable.

It needs to come back to us, in vision and articulation. What are we willing to sacrifice to keep American a land we can be proud of? Remember the words of Ben Franklin at the close of the Constitutional convention when this new form of government came into being, in response to a question about what the nature of the new government might be. f government the Constitution was bringing into existence. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
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feuser



Joined: 29 Oct 2002
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

isobars wrote:
In the halls of Congress (> TWENTY THOUSAND EARMARKS in yet another bill they're expected to pass without reading), in the state of California, and in the welfare mindset prevalent in this forum, the answer is, apparently, "Nothing".


"...welfare mindset prevalent in this forum...."

Everyone inside the glass house: no throwing bricks!

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feuser



Joined: 29 Oct 2002
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:14 pm    Post subject: Re: What are American's willing to sacrifice for? Reply with quote

Thanks for the good post, Mac.

I know this lady... almost 90 years old now.

She grew up in the caucasus, lived through WW2 in Russia; raised three children while earning a med degree. She worked long hours for a long career, held jobs in two hospitals and managed to raise her kids alone.

Although there is a long list of people she helped, possibly avoid serious debilitating illness, she now lives in the US on a very modest monthly check and she never complains, except about her aching body.

She paid into a system that doesn't exist anymore. It was bankrupted by wars - cold and not so cold.

This woman gave everything she had. Does it matter who repays her? So, she receives from us what she has earned elsewhere.

This is the price of our dignity.

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florian - ny22

http://www.windsurfing.kasail.com/
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coyotewindsurf



Joined: 03 Apr 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:49 pm    Post subject: Re: What are American's willing to sacrifice for? Reply with quote

feuser wrote:
This is the price of our dignity.


Powerful and evocative words, Florian.
Thank you!

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mo
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Carles



Joined: 08 Dec 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

politics for me is really a hard thing to understand , this thing greatly effects our business and other related things .
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5477

PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good story Florian, and it makes the point. It reminds me of the realtor who sold us our first house. She had fled Russian as a child after the first Russian revolution--across the river in a small boat in the winter. She was in her late 70's, and loaned us the money to make a downpayment on a $30,000 house. Her words? "Of course I'll loan you the money." Sure she made the sale, and she made some interest on the loan, but she knew about sacrifice and helping others.
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