For years I've been wondering why the entire freakin' economy had to run on consumerism - it just seemed a damn weak foundation for the Greatest Democracy on Earth (pre-Bush the Small, I would have agreed with that moniker).
The message I kept hearing was "Buy more, or we all die."
Two days ago I saw yet another panicky headline along these lines: if consumer confidence tanks, it will be a death blow to the anorexic economy (paraphrasing. Catchy headline, eh?)
How about, INSTEAD, we keep critical manufacturing stateside, save the educational system, boost family savings, and make productivity and technology gains chug the economy along and, incidentally, the rest of the world's economies. Yes, it's a full-scale reform, but otherwise we may become China's whipping boy for a long time.
Here is a great article about why the economy has tanked. Not all due to Bush's feats (or little feat) but at least it gives some credibility to the idea that the "machine" has eaten it's own guts.
Here is another article, from last year, about when the crash began, and why.
So what is really happening? Actually, it’s simple. The difference today is that China and other large investors from abroad, including Middle Eastern oil magnates, are telling the U.S. that if interest rates come down, thereby devaluing their already-sliding dollar portfolios further, they will no longer support with their investments the bloated U.S. trade and fiscal deficits. Of course we got ourselves into this quandary by shipping our manufacturing to China and other cheap-labor markets over the last generation.
If there were any justice in the world, every credit card company would be allowed to eat their losses (instead of riding consumers even after bankruptcy), and so would every one that took big risks in the mortgage industry. After all, they all made big money because they took big risks. It's Captialism 101 - let the free hand (of the market) work. If they had made low profits, the risks would have been low, and they wouldn't be crying about going under.
Let them eat cake.
The ethical consideration, for me, is that these big corporations made profits at unreasonable levels for years on the back of consumers. Yes, ignorant consumers, but then we don't let evil creeps sell drugs to children, do we?
Easy credit was an oxymoron when I was growing up. Once upon a time people had to earn their credit, and lenders had good reason to be cautious. If someone didn't pay, the lender lost out. No federal bailouts for really big mistakes.
Don't get me wrong - the problem isn't profits, it's exorbitant profits. Watch how the big oil companies start to twitch when we all notice how crazy it is for Exxon to post record profits while high fuel prices are adding to our collective economic woes.
My dream? One day people will start to notice pharmeuceutical profits.