Will the Financial Crisis Usher in Change?

| 10/6/2008 11:01:49 AM

Money ManAfter the reality of our dismal economic situation hit with full force, the New Republic turned to “some of the most thoughtful people” they know for insight on how the troubled economy will change the country. The short essays bring a big picture perspective to the financial crisis, which is particularly useful to those of us struggling to understand what numbers like $700 billion mean for the future.

Our current situation is being widely compared to the Great Depression, but Alan Wolfe, a professor of political science at Boston College and New Republic contributing editor, says it’s not likely to have the same effect on our political culture:

Too much about the United States has changed over the past few decades for history to come anywhere close to repeating itself. The most important of those changes is that the anger that greeted the Great Depression is of very different quality than the anger apparent now. Seemingly like the 1930s, Americans are denouncing Wall Street. But their hostility is too diffuse and incoherent to help them channel it constructively. The past eight years have seen the enactment of public policies that time after time rewarded lobbyists, increased the wealth and power of the already best off, and redistributed income away from ordinary Americans. Yet by and large Americans accepted all this without protest. Now, all of a sudden, they are speaking like Populists of old, attacking greed and calling for regulation. Their protest, alas, is more symbolic than concrete. As such, we are unlikely to witness blame assigned where it belongs; nor are we apt to see the passage of serious reforms dealing with long-term structural changes in the economy or any diminution of lobbyist influence. A scary economic moment will transform itself back to politics as usual in the blink of an eye.

But Andrew Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, believes the downturn holds important lessons about politics as usual, particularly during the Bush years:

When it comes to statecraft, the chief lessons of the Bush era are these: Arrogance and hubris have revealed the very real limits of American global leadership; recklessness and ineptitude have revealed the limits of American military power; a foolish and self-indulgent unwillingness to live within our means has now made clear the limits--and the fragility--of American prosperity. We may choose to ignore these lessons--neoconservatives will insist upon it--but the consequences of doing so will be severe.

A season of reckoning is upon us. To say that is not to imply that the United States is now condemned to an irreversible downward spiral. It's not. It is, however, time for us to clean up our act and to put our own house in order. When it comes to foreign policy, that means restoring a balance between our commitments and the means that we have at hand to meet those commitments.

10/19/2010 9:58:08 AM

The most important of those changes is that the anger that greeted than the anger apparent. ******** Kevin http://www.savingssite.net

Ralph Marshall
10/10/2008 11:58:10 AM

We must do two things: We must bring industry back to America; fire up factories and CREATE something; green jobs, electric cars... whatever. We are still the most innovative people on earth. And when we create this new production, we can sell it to the world, reversing our trade imbalance. We must also re-assess our relation to our money managers. We can no longer allow them to work only for themselves. We must establish a culture of service to America in this sector. Better minds than my own must come up with this solution but I do have one suggestion: We must take the money out of lobbying. A lobbyist will be given a place to stay, a standard per-Diem and $1 a year. Who the hell would want to be a lobbyist then? Only the passionate. People who lobby for money will drop like flies and those who are passionate for a cause will take their place. If a company cannot find a lobbyist who is passionate for them; oh well, see ya. Take the tobacco industry for example... right now they pay lobbyists millions to liaison with congress. Without this money as incentive, they may not find anyone to do this job. As such, their poisoning of our children will diminish.

Ralph Marshall
10/10/2008 11:54:18 AM

There is an odd disconnect concerning our means of creating wealth with the rest of American Philosophy. President Kennedy said: "ask not what you country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." We give the keys to our military arsenal to our Generals and insist that they serve America. This works perfectly. We see no General amassing forces or wealth. Our soldiers are passionate about self sacrifice and service to their countrymen. We give the keys to our children to our teachers and watch them closely because our children are precious to us and represent the future of America. This also works well. No teacher is building a cult of children. The career of teaching draws the best hearts and intentioned people and they are passionate about giving Americas' children the tools to make a better world. But when we give the keys to the wealth of America to our money managers and our CEO's; we say "eh, whatever..." There is no culture of self-sacrifice or service to others in our wealth creation. This draws people who are passionate about nothing besides becoming rich. The military is a special club of guardian angels so to speak. They protect America. Our teachers are a special club of passionate individuals intent on awakening wisdom, compassion and innovation in our children. They protect our future. Our wealth creators are a special club as well. However, their only goal is to siphon wealth from America into their personal club. They do not protect us in any fashion. They, in fact, damage us. They act as parasites in the body. They act as viral invaders, creating fevers and chills, booms and busts. The foundation of a nation is its ability to create wealth. The foundation of national security is a healthy economy. We must do two things: We must bring industry back to America; fire up factories and CREATE something; green jobs, electric cars... whatever. We are still the most innovative people on earth. And when we

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