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Societal Myopia

Why is it that we’re always focusing on the wrong things?  There is a clear human tendency to only see that which is directly in front of us, as opposed to envisioning the bigger HD picture.  We love easy answers.  I’ll take “Copernicus Was a Moron” for $500, Alex.

This myopia is universally pervasive.  In algebra we were often told to find “X.”  Perhaps it’s time to leverage those skills to find “why” (or in shorthand, “Y”).  Let’s look at a couple of sample problems:

1) We accept religious dogma blindly – Find Y (the 72 virgins qualifies as one of the answers)

2) You caught a cold – Find Y (I’ve always felt that, when you catch a cold, it is more important to identify who gave it to you than it is to concentrate on getting better)

3) The Romans thought-up crucifixion – Find Y (wasn’t it one particular individual who raised his/her hand in the back of the room and articulated this idea?  Who exactly was that?)

It’s all about cause and effect.  But, the cause is usually a couple of generations removed from the effect, and therefore obfuscated by the most recent and/or easily visible precipitating factor(s).  Example: It was an earthquake that caused an electrical outage and subsequent nuclear meltdown in Japan.  Really?  How about the cerebrally-challenged original plan to build a nuclear plant on a major tectonic fault?   You get the idea.  So let’s apply this more insightful analytical approach a little closer to home.

Times have been getting tough for Americans. The price of oil/gas is way up again, consumer staples are painfully more expensive and we have 9% unemployment (arguably closer to 17% in most major cities, especially if you consider the number of underemployed and those who gave up looking for jobs).  Most recently, the insolvent local and national government authorities have been instituting enormous global spending cuts.  Prisoners are being released, government workers and teachers are getting laid-off, Social Security and Medicare are being eviscerated, taxes and healthcare costs are inexorably rising and employee benefits are being thrown in the food processor.  And the debt!  Doesn’t anyone out there understand the meaning of the word trillion?

O.K., so why is all of this happening?  Clearly because the economy is bad.  But, why (Y) is that?  Because of poor Presidential leadership?  Because of OPEC?  Because of global political unrest or a Japanese tsunami?

Hello McFly!  Maybe it’s . . . I don’t know . . . Wall Street. Remember those guys? The banks, the hedge funds (still unregulated), the broker dealers, the mutual funds, the day traders.  You know . . . the “unfairly criticized and demonized” folks still making a killing while the rest of us are bleeding in the streets.  My deepest apologies to my very many close friends who toil daily in the volatile finance field, but have we all become infected with amnesia?  Is 2008 that far away that we can no longer recognize the original cause of the problems that have only just recently erupted?  It was never about the stock market declining.  It was and is about the destruction of the American economy – and that happened 2 years ago.  Your money, your benefits, your jobs have been stolen by the very people who bankrupted you for their own benefit. And what has their punishment been for putting us all on the unemployment line?  Record bonuses.  The average Goldman Sachs employee made $430,000 in 2010.

It’s usually not healthy to engage the process of assigning blame.  But in this case, the exercise might yield three positive results:

1) Removing the obscene leverage, guaranteed by the taxpayer, that caused this problem in the first place (the gasoline for the fire)

2) Hyper-taxing the throngs of people who gamble with our money and who have reaped inconceivable fortunes while taking no risk (except possibly losing their job), thereby supporting the society that made it all possible in direct proportion to the level of their lottery win

3) Requiring that 80% of the zero-interest government loans to the banks be lent to businesses and individuals

Just a thought.  We could continue to be intoxicated by the flowery prose and intellectual spin of those in control of our plutocracy, or we could finally make the effort to elevate ourselves above the trees and start repairing the fire-ravaged forest.  I would argue that the emerging crumbs of sporadic new (and arguably less substantive) job creation and decrease in the VIX are largely inconsequential to the big picture.  Can someone please get us a pair of those progressive glasses!


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