Monday, November 14, 2011

Wall Street's got nothin' on me...

It has... coins for organs?
Does anybody else out there have a guilty pleasure blog? You know, that one piece of perpetually updated internet writing that shouldn't be enjoyable, but it claws at your brain without your permission? Huffington Post's blog section is like that for me. I enjoy the news they offer, yes, but I've always held the belief that commentary and opinion on a news site should be avoided in general. But on HuffPo... well, maybe I can fudge a little bit on my conviction.

I read an article today by Leo W. Gerard entitled "Crash Tax: Wall Street Reparations." Mr. Gerard is the president of United Steelworkers, a sizable entity in the manufacturing sector. In his article, Mr. Gerard argues for a tax on financial transactions by businesses so as to mitigate the lack of fair tax structure when it comes to taxing large financial institutions. His point, of course, being that Wall Street is guilty for the financial instability that we find ourselves in currently. As the neo-communitarian hippie in the room, normally I'd agree with this sort of sentiment (FIGHT THE NAZI-FASCIST-TOTAL-LAMEWADS!). But for some reason, this particular article caused me to approach the financial bubble crisis in a different light.

I don't blame Wall Street. I don't blame Congress. I don't blame President Obama. I blame me. And I blame my friends. And I blame the majority of the American citizenry.

70% of the American economic structure is consumer-based. That means that the majority of all the money that flows into the monetary system is spent in the consumption of... well, for the most part, it's crap. Think about any effective advertising campaign. "Buy our product" doesn't sell goods. "Buy our product so that your family/sex life is pristine, you look cooler than your neighbor, and it goes fast" seems to be a more readily acceptable marketing gimmick.

The "American Dream," simply stated, is a house, a nice car, and a better collection of doohickery than one's own neighbor. Honor seems to be a main goal, or at least some degree of social recognition. With wage decreases being a constant in America since the 60s, Americans have had to find a new way to maintain their status. If wages can no longer support the consumptive behaviors necessary to maintain the "American Dream," then we turn to borrowing money. The banks are our friends! However, when it all doesn't go according to plan and we rack up massive amounts of debt, then the loaner becomes the evilest of evil.

Oh, sure there was predatory lending throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. And there was a lack of regulation within the financial sector as it rapidly sold the lives and well-being of millions of citizens in the forms of CDOs and unstable assets. And yes, the CEOs of these companies took home huge bonuses whilst they torched the totality of the American economy. But I don't blame them. Who wouldn't grow greedy with that sort of access to easy money? No, I blame the emotionally-driven consumptive mindset of the American citizenry.

Why do you want money? Is it to buy a new car? Or a new coat? I'm not judging, don't get me wrong. I'm just as guilty! But at the same time, I pray that we all become aware of our own mindset when purchasing things. Be aware of the fact that consuming just to look good or be better than others is rampant in our society as a whole. We are driven by emotions and the want to be worth something in others' eyes. Pandering to that is good advertising. I urge you to examine your purchasing patterns and be aware of the consequences of a country of over 300 million people buying products to feel better about themselves.

Part 2 to come,

1 comment:

  1. "a better collection of doohickery" could quite possibly be the greatest phrase I've read in weeks...

    I often wonder what would happen if collectively, we could stop 'wanting' and just be.