Practical Dad

This Father’s Fear

All fathers have and must contend with fear and it varies from one to another.  Will my child be assaulted or kidnapped?  Will her current crop of friends lead to trouble down the road?  How am I going to afford college and still have some money set aside for my own old age?  What do I owe my children versus myself?

I've considered all of these questions at one time or another, but the fear that truly haunts me doesn't pertain to my children's present, but actually their future.  Anybody with half a lick of sense knows that things with America simply aren't right at the moment.  Yet I know enough of national and family history to know that bad times come but then are replaced with better times.  I know that my maternal great-great-great grandfather survived the entire Civil War - and Gettysburg - without a scratch.  I know that two great uncles survived the trenches of the First World War and their mother died of sepsis from a hand cut in the kitchen.  My own parents were both children of the Great Depression and both my uncle and father served in - and were actively shot at - in two separate wars.

Bad times come.  Bad times go.  There was usually a sense during those days and years of fear that there would again be something of value and hope if things could be seen through to their conclusion.  Peace, prosperity, real hope and not the faux kind peddled by various politicians - of both parties.

But I fear that my children face a future in which bad times come, and then stay.  That if decisions aren't made and appropriate policies followed, that they will have no opportunity to live with the possibility of betterment and advancement for themselves and their children.  And the data of the past two or more decades shows that the income disparities between folks have become so marked that there is the real risk of a permanent underclass and a gutted middle-class at the mercy of an oligarchy that rules for itself. 

This was brought forcefully home in an article entitled Who Rules America?  The article is lengthy, detailed and the numbers and charts leave little room for doubt.  While there has been much written about income disparity, the synopsis presented shows that the wealth in the past two decades has shifted markedly to the wealthy so that the top 1% of the wage-earners possess a vastly disproportionate amount of the wealth.  I'm not a conspiracy theorist that believes that a secret cabal planned all of this in 1977, but I do believe that there are some exceptionally astute people who realized the implications of certain policies and then hi-jacked these to their own ends.  Changes in lobbying standards?  Let's exploit them.  Changes in financial regulations?  Let's exploit them.  The failure of the government to actively monitor and pursue those who broke or manipulated the law led to a period of laissez-faire on steroids in which anything has occurred and will continue to do so.

And the super-wealthy, who aren't stupid and are able to employ even smarter consultants, understand this and will advance themselves at the expense of the common wealth.

So what do I do apart from rail at the television and listen to Glenn Beck?

  • Spend more time examining the internet and exploring alternative information sources.  Lurk and watch and determine what is legitimate versus on-the-fringe and then pass this information along to your neighbors.
  • Ask whether a proposed policy or solution benefits all or really only a few?  For instance, who truly benefits from an extension of the Bush tax cuts?  Is their extension going to set the stage for a stable economic future?
  • Actually call or write your Congressman, as simplistic as that sounds.  They do pay attention to numbers and respond to the varying windspeeds because that's what politicians do, unfortunately.
  • Make sure that you talk to your kids about the world around them and fill them in, even if in small doses.  If that means that you have to physically have to turn off the various electronic devices, then do so and talk.  Some of my best moments are in the car or at the dinner table when there's no screen to distract them.
  • Spend time discussing money with your kids and help them learn good habits.  There are some things that we do poorly here and some other things that we do extraordinarily well. 
  • Re-examine your own personal and family views on consumerism/materialism.  Do you really need to purchase something that was in all probability made in China?  Do you really need to have the newest car?  Can you get by happily with less?  Don't buy the lie that spending money will help America if most of that money goes to high-end items that are simply made by foreign workers.
  • Ride kids on their grades and make that a fight if necessary.  With three kids, I understand that not everybody wants to study; but that is a fight in which I will routinely engage just because it has to happen.
  • Stop accepting things at face value just because Limbaugh, Beck and Franken say that it's so.  Understand that these outlets thrive on debate and conflict and will continue to encourage it because it's profitable.
  • In short, question and examine and then press.  Press the politicians and the economists.  Press the children and above all else, press yourselves.

There is unfortunately no easy way out of what's upon us.  There will be painful sacrifices and considerable angst and economic pain before things are finally settled and I suspect that there will be civil turmoil.  Long-held economic/financial strategies will be overturned.  But I take heart in recognizing that my forefathers have been in the same position and so far, nobody's shooting at me.

For the record, I think that Glenn Beck is a truly funny guy and I even agree with him sometimes.  But I'm not planning my future based upon his musings and rallies and I no longer listen on a regular basis.  There's too much else to do.

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