"We have to make sure this recovery leaves nobody behind"
In his pitch for yet another extension of "emergency" unemployment benefits, President Obama dug into his typical bag of rhetoric, and in the process underscored why this has been a failed presidency. You see, if this had been a legitimate "recovery" then it would be a tide lifting all boats. On the contrary, it's been a recovery of the fittest. I'm not talking about rich people weathering the storm, but people who are better prepared for life. This cuts across education, work ethic, and savings to simply adopt an attitude best espoused by the Boy Scout oath or promise:
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country,
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
Tough times can be debilitating, but fighting through it is the very foundation of success. The longer a person is on unemployment benefits the more their skills erode, the less likely they are to really hit the bricks and the more they become indentured to that check in the mail. Interestingly, there have been calls for people on certain government benefits to be tested for illegal drugs, but a better requirement might be testing for mental acuity; including self-improvement and physical strength. I would add spiritual strength as well, but in a nation of powerful atheists, that would be a non-starter.
But make no mistake; spirituality & faith have played an integral role in the building of the American success story. This point has been observed and acknowledged throughout history; and was immortalized in Max Weber's "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism."
Instead, policy and rhetoric continue to portray the typical American as flat-footed, invalided, and incapable of self-determination, because of this system which has them bogged down. The economic train is leaving the station because we have a charming president, but evil forces of capitalism have erected barriers for some while rolling out the red carpet for others. This is simply the exact opposite of what America is, and how it became the greatest country, with the most amazing economy the planet has ever known. It's an idea and message that seeks a self-fulfilling reality. The more depressed the public, the more he depresses the economy.
Here's the logic:
America has an unfair economic system; there's no mobility as the rich are hoarding all the resources and opportunities. The only way for economic justice is a government fix that adjusts outcomes, regardless of effort. In the process, it's being suggested that there is no way you can "pull yourself up from your bootstraps," and that such a notion is a myth. Many of those success stories, large and small, had some component of favoritism involved in the system, which by definition smiles on the fortunate, but discriminates against others.
Is the cavalry coming to the rescue? This battle isn't new, but is actually an extension of a battle that has been fought for years. The drowning American public in need of a savior make the perfect setting for the thrust from the left, which bills itself as the cavalry coming to save the day.
It's been 50 years since the Great Society promised to defeat poverty, and a lot longer since the New Deal made an assortment of promises, akin to a chicken in every pot. The ultimate fair bargain that would remove angst and challenge from life made for a great sales pitch during the Great Depression. So great in fact, that few stopped to consider that no panic had ever lasted so long. All the great stuff didn't move the needle, so more great stuff was offered. But the most intriguing idea was one where wishes should be granted by government, and wants should be removed from the human experience.
My program, of which I can only touch on these points, is based upon this simple moral principle: the welfare and the soundness of a Nation depend first upon what the great mass of the people wish and need; and second, whether or not they are getting it. -FDR
This brings us to the present battle in America for hearts and minds (and votes); the government and new interpretation of hierarchy of needs:
If you don't have a job, you still get paid.
If you don't have proper job skills (for any reason), you can command higher pay:
If you earn less than the median income, you have a menu of goodies to make up the difference and then some.
The State of the Union address is right around the corner and it promises to throw down the gauntlet. The theme will be "by any means necessary" to "do the right thing," and that is to make wishes come true.
In this case, it means to continue to turn not only the system of America on its head, but to turn on its head long accepted tenets, of what it takes for a good life. Using Maslow Hierarchy of Needs (sidebar), the government says it has: (Biological and Safety covered; and that includes sex, considering the millions spent on over-priced penis pumps - and, I guess Social Needs are still in the hands of the individual, although it feels like it's just a matter of time before Google controls that, but that's a different story.) It's Esteem and Self-Actualization that are being jettisoned completely from the pyramid.
There is no need for achievement, mastery, independence, prestige and self -respect. Moreover, the magic of realizing potential, and the joy of self-fulfillment that comes with seeking personal growth and experiences would be traded in a Faustian arrangement. It would make sure your poverty is always comfortable and benchmarked to the success of people that ignore the snake oil, in favor of a greater and more enriching life experience.
Everyone has bootstraps and in America, anyone can grab them and change their life. It's not easy, but this is why esteem forms like bedrock and self-actualization feels so good.
Like the scouts, the government is supposed to help others at all times. But, what constitutes help and what constitutes a crutch? The current government policy eventually leaves people truly unable to help themselves. Yes, this isn't a typical recovery because of faulty fiscal policy and rhetoric that does anything but inspire.