Generation Yners don’t get the American Dream

Charlie Brown's Christmas tree and the American DreamIt’s over a week since Santa’s big scene, and even though you’ve kept the Christmas tree watered and fed, decrepitude seeps outward. Away in the manger, Baby Jesus no longer lays down in sweet hay but upon a bed of pine needles. The branches above shrivel and sag as the dying tree soaks up less water. Despite this, your Christmas tree’s silver garland and ceramic ornaments reflect a warm glow of red, green, yellow, orange, and blue, and the star or angel above shines or smiles down as the centerpiece of the holiday season.

How much longer will this magnificence last? It’s the same question we ask about American greatness and the American dream.  Continue reading

David Brooks keeps playing hard to get

brooksWhy I Turned Right is an essay collection that chronicles the ideological journeys of leading conservatives. It includes an entry from David Brooks, who described himself as a “Hamiltonian conservative” and twice cited John McCain as the type of politician who most aligned with Brooks’ own governing philosophy. This collection was published in February, 2007.

A year later, McCain became the Republican presidential candidate. As the self-proclaimed conservative voice at the liberal NY Times, Brooks had a tremendous opportunity to evangelize an entire segment of the population that typically did not embrace his view of government nor hear many of the arguments for that vision. However, instead of penning a column on the great leap forward in American politics that saw the Republican Party produce Brooks’ ideal candidate, he endorsed Barack Obama, a committed leftist, partly because he was impressed with the crease in the future president’s pants.

In other words, Brooks’ council might be more useful to the cover model selection team at Vogue or GQ than the kingmakers in the Republican Party. Also, chasing his political tastes is probably a fool’s errand.

It is in this context that a reader needs to engage Brooks’ latest column Continue reading

For NY Times, everything is evidence of the need for Big Government

A fake photo on Hurricane Sandy taking on Lady LibertThis morning, I read a very misinformed and misleading editorial from the New York Times titled ‘A Big Storm Requires Big Government,’ The column begins thus:

Most Americans have never heard of the National Response Coordination Center, but they’re lucky it exists on days of lethal winds and flood tides. The center is the war room of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where officials gather to decide where rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped, and how to assist hospitals that have to evacuate.

Before I read this column, I’m glad that I had spent hours watching coverage of Hurricane Sandy as it rushed ashore and shot straight over my home. I watched as the governors of NY, NJ, DE, and PA stood at podiums, as did many of their county and city officials, and presented an aura of command and leadership as they recited the logistical numbers regarding first responders, the locations of shelters (along with detailed contingency plans), and further warnings and advisories regarding anticipated weather conditions, road closures, and power disruptions. I saw these men on TV discussing mandatory evacuations and thought about all the hard lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina regarding the importance of readiness by local and state authorities. I saw each of these men do this without FEMA.

I also watched an interview with astronauts aboard the International Space Station (Commander Sunita Williams’ hair flailed around her like a peacock in all its gravity-free glory) and thought about the aging satellite fleet that will have gaps in its ability to monitor these storms starting in 2017 due to gross neglect.

Which leads to several themes:  Continue reading

Social science vs. Katie Roiphe’s selfishness

In the run-up to the financial collapse, people over-leveraged themselves to acquire more and more homes in order to cash in on ‘flipping’ them, never realizing that the housing bubble might pop and that they would be stuck with multiple properties they could not afford.  Other people overreached in the purchase of their primary homes by acquiring loans that in the long term would crush them.

When all this came to a head, the economy collapsed. We’re still untangling ourselves from the mess of debt and liability that resulted. A renewed societal stigma against highly-leveraged purchases and towards paying down debt and increasing personal savings seems to be an obvious and healthy corrective, right?

Or maybe not.

What if we instead celebrated different types of financial situations, from an open-mindedness about being underwater on your home mortgage to the warm messiness of a bankruptcy caused by buying a second home through an interest-only loan. That may sound ridiculous, but it mirrors Katie Roiphe’s logic to how society should view family structure. Roiphe’s latest NY Times piece makes the case that her family structure is good because it exists, and um…

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The confusing state of luxury

Cover of "Stephen King's The Stand"

In Stephen King’s The Stand, one of the characters ponders the uselessness of certain disciplines in the United States’s modern economy. Traversing a world ravaged by the superbug Captain Trips, where only a few survivors remain to produce life’s barest essentials of food and water and struggle to fend off extinction, an advanced degree in ancient American Indian studies becomes a frivolous luxury item. Economic reality is forcing self-indulgent nations of the European Union to confront their own unproductive lifestyles and make major changes in the complacent charade of unsustainable luxuries they call their economies. But instead of being ravaged by a virulent superbug, they’re ravaged by the glorification of the Seven Deadly Sins as high art worthy of the fullest exploitation. The European Union isn’t alone in this.

The United States still has very productive sectors of the economy, but mass lethargy is consuming more of the population as the worship of entitlement persists. The inability to discern luxury from necessity drives cults of personality emanating from the supreme navel gazing that has replaced serious thought in this country. Only over this foundation could the cultural phenomenon of people who are famous for being famous exist. This includes the current President of the United States.

Having propped up then taken advantage of this phenomenon to help put Obama in office, Maureen Down of the NY Times suddenly laments this current state of affairs. She begins her latest column with a litany of the cracks and fissures in the crumbling infrastructures of the Obama presidency, ranging from liberal disappointments to internal party mutiny. Getting to the crux of her concern:   Continue reading