Tuesday, February 13, 2018

How We Are Making America Great Again

Ever since our current administration came into office, I've had this peculiar little thought whispering in the back of my head:  Maybe this whole thing will work.

Meaning, somehow, in a way most of us don't expect, the pathologically selfish, morally bankrupt, and demonstrably incompetent regime currently in power will lead America to greatness.

On the face of it, there's not much evidence to point in that direction.  America's position as the leader of the free world has already been critically compromised.  Outside of our borders, we are viewed now with an admixture of pity, fear, and contempt.  Internally, we're in the process of whoring out our national resources and engaging in the sort of fundamental irresponsibility that defined our current POTUS in his profligate personal life and business dealings.

It will fail.  This isn't a particularly difficult prediction, because whenever this approach has been taken before in our national life, it has failed.  It failed when Reagan tried it, as a debt-fueled greed-is-good decade created a significant and painful recession.  It failed when Dubya tried it, as deregulated markets and an addiction to "sub-prime" debt nearly cratered the economy.

And it will fail again, perhaps sooner, because after eight years of nearly uninterrupted stimuli, the economy is already artificially overheated.  We'll see.  The timing on these things is irreducibly complex.

But the fundamentals of economies built on unenlightened self-interest and unsustainable debt are always the same.  They always fail.

Given the lessons of history, when the next crisis hits, it'll be a big one.  A great one, in fact, once we're done shredding the safety nets that prevent things from cascading out of control.

There, I think, lies the path to greatness that we have chosen.

And by "greatness," I mean the character that defined what is justifiably called the "Greatest Generation."

Because one of the primary things that made the Greatest Generation great was the Depression.  After the false and decadent exuberance of the Roaring Twenties, Americans experienced an intense and sustained period of collective suffering.  It was a powerful and formative time for my grandparents, whose prudence, industriousness, and care with their resources was hard won.  They'd been forced to make do.  They'd struggled, and improvised.

They'd also found...as you do in a time of genuine hardship...that a people are strongest when they share common purpose and vision.

Of course, any crisis of that magnitude could also mean the end of our republic.  I would prefer, honestly, that we would as a people have had the foresight to take another path.

But if we can figure out how to survive the future that now seems certain, we will be stronger as a nation.