"Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself. It is not someone’s fault if they succeeded, it is someone’s fault if they failed," stated Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate.
Actually Herman, I do blame them. For good measure, let’s throw in the failed shot at globalization in which corporations outsourced hundreds of thousands of jobs and thousands of factories. I get the whole money will flow to the lower wage areas as our labor costs are too high meme, but this became a wholesale gutting of our industrial base as our senior executives went for the Wall Street gold that comes with higher share prices and stock options.
There was a time when I thoroughly agreed with him, when there were huge gaping holes in the welfare programs that permitted generations to go without having to find a job. My wife and I worked long and hard and it didn’t seem right that we’d come home at 8 PM to eat briefly, watch a half hour of television before going to bed and starting the whole process again; the generational Welfare poster models could get by without having to do that. Time and a bit of perspective has changed that view. Of course, there was also a time when an executive who screwed up massively got the black boot instead of the golden parachute.
I do blame Wall Street and in their public way, the business networks. The ongoing talk of quarterly profits and almost gossipy conversation about share prices over the decades has shortened our time frame to a point at which there’s never any serious thought about long-term strategies extending beyond the next three years. The share price is languishing and we need to show the market that we’re serious. Let’s cut costs by closing three facilities. Bang, and there’s another 550 people out of work. (For the record, I worked for a firm that did close facilities to make to a point to the Street and people living deep in flyover country lost their jobs as a result).
I also blame the big banks. Our national debt has gone on to ludicrous levels, almost 100% of GDP and dangerously near if not past the point of tipping the country into insolvency, partially to help support the financial system. This is a system that has drunkenly acted to goose their profitability by providing loans to anybody that could fog a mirror and then slipped into Patient Zero mode with Wall Street by passing the ebola-laced loans to investors across the world. As Captain Renault famously stated in Casablanca, "I am shocked, shockedthat gambling is going on in here." These same financial establishments reached Too-Big-Too-Fail status and the executives realized that they could figuratively boink any bad asset in the world and we’d have to keep dosing ’em with expensive antibiotics since we really had no choice.
Are these guys the only cause for the situation in which we find ourselves? Honestly, no. But they are poster children for the literal collapse of ethical and moral behavior in our society as they pursued financial gain to any end, completely devoid of any concern about the damage that would be ultimately wreaked upon other individuals and society as a whole. Frankly, even I bear some responsibility for this mess as I also bought into both the globalization and materialism philosophies that helped bring us into this place.
Do I blame someone for being poor? In the previous version of America, some poor person could rise to higher economic levels because of their smarts, actions and sheer luck. But when folks are laid off because their employer outsources or simply goes bankrupt, this simply isn’t their fault. In most cases, they played the game by the rules as they understood them and became collateral damage. People can be poor because of bad decisions in a good economy, but with this mess that we’ve got, many of the "poor" are folks who are collateral damage in a much larger drama being played out around them.
Is it someone’s fault when they succeed? No, I’d like to believe that people succeed through dint of their own effort and sweat*. But I now believe that the asterisk to this statement lies in their career choice and locale; a guy who opens a barber shop and grows it into a chain of shops around a three county area did it via much effort and sweat. Some 29 year-old with a salary in the hundreds of thousands or millions and who is connected to the financial establishment? That’s where I furrow my brow and wonder.
I understand that Herman Cain is a self-made man and I applaud him for that. My question today would be, could he accomplish the same thing in today’s bizarre economic environment and economy?