Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Recession - Coming to Our Senses

Much has been written about the whipsawed American public, veering sharply in election cycles between left and right with no apparent logic except an angry need to punish those in power. But this might be an illusion, and clarity could come with the shift in perspective afforded by time. One possible link is the salutary effect that hardship brings. You could say that both Obama's election victory and the right-wing landslide of the recent midterms are both an expression of the desire of the Amerian people for a return to sanity, a revolt against the excesses and extravagances of the Gilded Age of the last twenty years that has produced such frightening economic and social results.
When the bubbles burst in the technology and housing markets, and there was nothing left to prop up the illusion of American exceptionalism, there was only one thing to do - go back to the basics. You could see this around here when people started giving guilty looks at the gasoline stations as they filled up their Suburbans, burnt up not only by the amount of money they were paying for gas, but also by the air of social opprobrium which had reached a critical mass. You can see it today by the trend towards smaller houses, with last year being the first in ten years that average sizes shrank. You can see it in the hankering for fiscal responsibility on the part of government, a desire to move away from the pork barrel spending that characterized our democracy. As long as the grease was there, everyone was happy, but now, with the piper in sight, we need to see what else binds us together besides government largesse and cheap Walmart goods. It's true that by standing against the stimulus package and government spending, Republicans risk exacerbating the economy, but in some holistic, old-fashioned medicine kind of way, maybe that's what we need, a long period of hardship to harden us again and set us back on the right path.
And we could stand to lose some weight, as could the rest of the world hurrying to catch up to us in creature comforts and easy-living lifestyles, apparently.  The economic costs of obesity related ailments in the United States alone are now the equivalent of a recessionary dip every year, $150 billion. Will the recession start to turn this around? Doubtful, unless we make it a policy to make healthy food affordable. As it is, junk in, pounds on, and everyone is happy. The good stuff, nutrient dense and chemical free, is only available in the kind of trendy markets that most people can't shop at for reasons of pocketbook and transportation access. Just another symptom of the lunacy brought about in the age of runaway growth.
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