I don’t know if you’ve heard about A New Way Forward Protest about the bank bailouts. I’m flirting with the idea of attending the protest in Houston . I feel passionately that the bank restructuring was handled incompetently and that lawmakers really don’t have a sense of what voters really want for it.
It’s kind of strange that all the progressives are solidifying opposition against the bailouts, while at the same time the right-wing populists are doing the exact same thing. In fact, the 3 tenets of the protest movement seem to be things both sides agree on, even though they are 100% contrary to what the Administration and Congress seems to be voting for.
I remain interested in economics, but I frequently get confused at policy issues. Well, confused is not the right word. Undecided. Sometimes I feel as though I don’t appreciate the complexities of our economy; at other times I feel that the so-called financial experts don’t have my national interests at stake. At the same time, I hear profound disagreements by ordinary people about whether we should spend our way out of the recession. Republicans seem to have a tin ear about what the people are calling for: more public investment and safety net assistance, less funding for foreign wars.
The other issues are global warming and health care. Both are urgent, especially (to me at least) global warming. Each political area contains its share of experts and anti-experts (what I will call people paid by corporate interests to represent contrarian views). At some point, democracies depend on trust. I don’t know everything the Obama Administration is doing; on the other hand, I have enough trust in their leadership and rhetoric to give implicit support to decisions they make—even if one or two of them strike me as weird or counterintuitive.
Then there are the blowhards. These are speakers with barely a grasp on the issues, but have a prominent platform in the media universe and a plain style of speaking. Sometimes the crazier these people act, the more attention they end up garnering.
Then there are the politicians, who basically are ignorant about most issues, but have to parrot the arguments given to them by lobbyists and policy wonks. I’m not criticizing politicians per se; I’m just saying that by definition they have to find their information and opinions second hand. It is rare for certain politicians to have advanced knowledge about anything and also rare for them to learn too much about individual laws being passed. Besides, even if members of Congress had more time to become informed about individual bills, many important laws are wrapped up in gigantic omnibus bills, making it hard to vote for an alternative; politicians have to hold their noses when they vote for these things. Politicians by nature are herd animals and have to decide whether to follow their peers or stage a theatric resistance in the hopes that the strengthen the support of their most ideological supporters.
At least Obama was elected. At least the Administration is speaking with more honesty and transparency and appreciation for the complexities of policies. Obama may end up voting for the wrong policy, but at least I feel confident he won’t be employing as much double-speak as the Bush Administration did.
At the moment, I find economics both fascinating and boring. Perhaps I would be happy if the nightly news had less stories about banking and more stories about Melville or F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve noticed that when news shows feature authors, they are covertly trying to promote the sale of more books. Everyone has a book to sell nowadays…except perhaps for me.
Sometimes I feel that the cure for the banking crisis is for ordinary Americans just to ignore news reports and read a few good books, clean house, go bike riding, visit family members, lose weight or see a local musician perform. Our first duty as citizens is not to get sucked into national politics. It is an endless time filler, a perennial cause of discomfort and frustration; you might as well be crying about Jupiter’s orbit around the sun. Interesting from a theoretical perspective and a pleasant distraction on occasion, but something of no consequence to individuals. Maybe citizens should declare a moratorium for talk about the political economy and focus on goals which are personally attainable: losing weight, bringing down the credit card balance, keeping the apartment clean, trying a new recipe, spending more time with the kids.
As much as I hope the April 11 protest goes well, I think most people would be better off spending a day doing nothing. Our souls are more important than economic problems. Our banks are failing, our debt is increasing, our jobs are disappearing. But so what! The birds are still flying, the grass is still green, the blueberries still taste great. The great books are still out there, the girls are still pretty, the children are still hilarious and the bedroom pillow still feels soft and comfortable. The problem with metaphysical angst is that it consumes too much of our attention; we are too busy with daily routines to dedicate our time to it.
Now I think I will just go to sleep.