Economic Crisis: Americans Unwilling to Face Reality

It’s not as though no one saw it coming. Here’s the economist Michael Hudson, writing in the May 2006 issue of Harper’s Magazine: “The reality is that, although home ownership may be a wise choice for many people, this particular real-estate bubble has been carefully engineered to lure home buyers into circumstances detrimental to their own best interests. . . . The bubble will burst, and when it does, the people who thought they would be living the easy life of a landlord will soon find that what they really signed up for was the hard servitude of debt serfdom.”

Other commentators, including this paper’s editorial writers and Warren Buffett, said similar things about the derivatives market. It was prescient stuff for anybody who cared to listen, but hardly anybody did. Americans, perhaps even more than other people, have difficulty embracing the concept of “reality.”

In part, this is religious. America remains the land of infinite redemption where any crook can suddenly go straight. In part, it stems from our turbo-charged ethos of capitalism. America has always been the land of get-rich-quick and damn the consequences. We are a nation of fantasists, and things have to get really bad before a politician has the right to trade in hard truth.

So far, I don’t think they’ve gotten bad enough. Even with all the frenzied commentary about the credit crisis now choking the media (while the financial geniuses assembled at the corner of Wall and K Streets scramble to save their hides), I’m struck more by what’s not being said than what is.

Every day I add to a list of critical omissions from the debate. Where, for example, is the voice of organized labor? … Where are the alternative candidates for president like Ralph Nader and Bob Barr? … Why is the heavy financial support for Barack Obama and John McCain from Wall Street off limits for discussion?

by John R. MacArthur, Providence JournalAmericans Unwilling to Race Reality

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