John McCain was reportedly shocked that the University of Arizona had received stimulus money to study the division of labor in ant colonies. With over ten thousand earmarks added to spending bills in Congress in the last year, I am not so shocked at all. Stimulus money is being used to pave bike paths, build swimming pools and a whole host of other “necessities”. Hey, I have nothing against ants (unless they are swimming in my new pool), but what is nice to have and what we can afford are two different things, at least they were before the new Congressional math came into vogue.
I find it most curious that as members of Congress conduct a full press against the banks and Wall Street for their financial shenanigans, even dictate their pay and pass laws to hold them in check Congress is putting the American economy at long term risk more than any Citigroup or AIG. Every conceivable rationale is used to justify more and more spending and eventually greater wealth distribution as if the accumulation of wealth is a bad thing. Beyond that, our debt is growing, our lenders are anxious and the accountability that seems so critical for bankers is lacking for Congress whose spending habits are indescribably irresponsible.
Let’s hope the American people do not let this go unnoticed, there are consequences and sooner or later scapegoating Wall Street will not longer hold sway as it now does. The danger of course is that we all like a free ride and as Congress spreads the goodies around without explaining how they will be paid for, the beneficiaries will come to enjoy their largess. After all, the rich are paying for it aren’t they? The same logic is used in the health care reform effort and many people still think that a public option will save money. You can have it all America, we can expand coverage, control costs and improve the quality of health care and nobody has to give up a thing, except a few people via higher taxes.
It doesn’t work that way in health care or in running the Country, sooner or later it all has to be paid for and yet we following the logic of the family who really needs a vacation, a 60″ TV and with such pressures facing them simply charges it. We’ll just pay it off (if you don’t lose your job, get a cut in pay, unless interest rates go up or you suddenly realize you don’t have enough money left for the true necessities like food).
Today the recession is used to justify spending and the recession is blamed on the banks and Wall Street and the financial burden can be absorbed by the rich. Sounds nice and simple doesn’t it? In order to make us feel good, in order to deny responsibility or face hard choices, there is always the handy scapegoat. This is especially true if you are an elected official who can walk away from years of decisions never knowing or caring about the consequences of your actions.
Lobster sales are down in restaurants because no one wants to be seen as wealthy. That’s a shame because wealthy is a good thing, as we strive to redistribute wealth in America we should be mindful of gifts the wealthy have provided; libraries, hospitals, museums, institutions for the arts, research centers and countless more socially beneficial giving, not to mention millions of jobs and new industries in the process of becoming wealthy.
Wealth is a good thing and so is the opportunity for anyone to accumulate wealth. Sadly that opportunity is declining because it appears today that we are more interested is holding back than encouraging achievement, we would rather see a nation of mediocrity than one of unbridled opportunity. There are people in this society who have not gotten out of life what they wished, some unfairly so but far more because they simply did not strive to achieve all they could, they made poor decisions or they concluded that they were happy with what they had. That will always be so, but dragging down the achievers to become a nation of average certainly should not be our goal.
The only thing I have against wealth is that I was never clever enough to achieve it. I’ll take six Powerball and two Mega Million tickets please.