Paying the Piper   Leave a comment

I live in New York, a state which is in pretty bad shape economically.  We just elected a new governor, Andrew Cuomo.  His main opponent was Carl Paladino, who ran on the Republican Ticket and was backed by the Tea Party. 

New York State has been plagued with scandals involving our last couple of governors:  Spitzer and the sex scandal, Paterson and the ethics scandal, plus the debate over Paterson’s confidante, Johnson.  The Upstate region has been in a recession  for years;  in fact, Upstate New York is considered to be perhaps the only area in the nation that did not experience the economic booms that took place through the 80’s and 90’s, and into the 21st Century.  The area from  Lake Ontario to Lake Champlain has been in a state of perpetual recession; so,  life pretty much went on, and is going on, as usual up here in what some (including myself)call the “tundra”. Some of it had to do with New York City not paying back money to the Upstate region when the city ran into financial problems in the 1970’s, (Upstate NY is the large equivalent of the one person in the family no one else in that family wants to talk about).  Some is because of the massive pull outs and shutdowns of factories in the 1970’s (Upstate is part of the “Rust Belt”).  Some, because of a “brain drain”.  Regardless, there have been massive and controversial cutbacks involving schools, public parks, universities, and so forth.  But, I digress.

Anyway, Cuomo just announced that he would be instituting more cutbacks in education (among other things).  The online New York Times article announcing this news had a place, of course, for comments.  Among them were the usual complaints (“I didn’t vote for him!  You did! Now,  you see what he’s doing?”), concerns (“It’s no wonder people leave New York, their children can’t get a decent educations!”) and the usual assortment of spam, snide remarks, and nastiness.  Of course, as usual, the nasties outweighed the positive comments 10:1.

My immediate response was the same one I have had every time Obama is harshly criticized (“criticized” is an understatement for the personal attacks he receives) for trying to do something, albeit a controversial something, an inconvenient something, in an attempt to clean up the mess he was left.  The mess WE were left, because WE THE PEOPLE helped make the mess.  The guy down the street on a middle-income budget who built a McMansion;  the woman on a low single income budget  who used her entire paycheck to buy a Louis Vuitton purse (she could always charge her groceries);  the teenager next door who owns five pairs of UGGs;  the family  who used their credit card to buy a new, large screen television; the expensive sports programs in the high schools; the private karate, piano, dance, tennis and what have you lessons that people expect will give their child or children a “head’s up”, who can barely afford to make their house payments.  And so forth.  No, it is not just Bush’s mess, not just Clinton’s mess, not just Obama’s mess, not just the mess of Congress, or of Wall Street, but OUR mess.  We, as a nation, need to get over the blame game and start taking due responsibility for the mess we are in, which WE , THE PEOPLE helped create.   It was Wall Street greed: there is no doubt about that.  It was politics.  Of course it was, and is: of that, there is no question.  But, during the entire time, We, the People, were spending like there was no tomorrow.  Not everyone, of course, the poor are always with us.  As are those with common sense (albeit in the minority, it seems).   But, the huge real estate bubble, the gains of retailers,  all the perks of living within a Capitalist system, were fueled by the buy, buy, buy today and pay over a period of years mentality.  The “don’t bother with saving; tomorrow will take care of itself” attitude; the “bubble will last forever” ideology.   The “living beyond our means to keep up with the proverbial Jones’, and impress our friends and families with how much money was raked  in, our $600.00 purses, our eating out five days a week” lifestyle of the baby boomer generation, the “me” generation, the X, Y, V or whatever generations.   It is OUR FAULT, TOO.

We, the people, need to suck it up and get with the program.  Yes, there is responsibility and blame to be placed at the feet of the powers that be.  But, to my knowledge, no one was forcing anyone to spend beyond their means. No one was forced to spend on things really not needed.  There were no commandments issues against self-responsibility.  People were living as if tomorrow would be taken care of by someone else.  So, when our bubble popped, all they could do was cry piteously.  This is what many people are doing now.  It reminds me of the lesson in the Three Little Pigs story:  the only pig whose house survived was the one who used common sense.  The other two, who played and danced and built houses of sticks and straw, paid the price.

Now, I’m not talking about those who really and truly were hard working, money-saving, reasonable Americans who lost their homes due to massive medical bills (my views on health care would run beyond this rant, and will be the topic of a separate blog), or ruthless banks or outsourcing employers, et cetera.   I’m talking about those who, on incomes below what would put them in the category “wealthy” decided that they would live like the wealthy.   The people who, on a regular basis,” shopped ‘till they dropped”, spending on everything from designer purses to big screen televisions, to top of the line vacations as if it would never end.  The last twenty years before this latest  recession made the “Roaring 20’s” look like child’s play. 

Suck it up America!  Get real!  How do you think we, as a nation, will pull out of this?  Magic?  No tax hikes? No cutbacks?  No inconveniences?  One doesn’t  have to like the way things are, or the way things are going to be.  But, take some responsibility for being stupid, gullible, greedy, arrogant, short-sighted, vain, or what have you, in making it so.  Stop complaining about the “bad guys” at the top and realize that this mess is YOUR responsibility, too.  OUR responsibility. Take charge of yourself, change yourself, and control your own habits.   Believe me:   that will be easier than changing a nation.  And change starts small.  Yes, the “bad guys” should have to pay.  But, don’t hold your breath on that one for the short term.   Because history is full of examples that show it is the people who end up paying.  In this case, some of the people helped make the mess.  Because of stupidity.  Because of gullibility.  Because of greed. And, unfortunately, the innocent have to pay right along with them.  Only when the components of society, the individuals, change, will government change.   But, the piper will always demand payment.

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