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From Shared Sacrifice to Hedonism

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Posted on Jun 3, 2010

By David Sirota

After Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt delivered a national address making eight references to the “sacrifice” that would be needed in the impending war and three mentions of the “self-denial” we would have to endure.

“Every single person in the United States is going to be affected,” Roosevelt said. “[Business] profits are going to be cut down to a reasonably low level by taxation. ... [Americans] will have to forgo higher wages. ... All of us are used to spending money for things that we want, things, however, which are not absolutely essential. We will all have to forgo that kind of spending.”

For its honesty and purpose, the speech remains the shining example of leadership. For its bravery in telling painful truths the country needed to hear and for Americans’ subsequent rise to the challenge, the address today stands as a sad commemoration of a tragically lost ethos.

That is the only conclusion to draw when comparing Roosevelt’s clarion call to those following the last decade’s Pearl Harbor-like calamities. Rather than being encouraged to sacrifice or accept self-denial in the face of emergency, we are now instructed to simply embrace our inner hedonist.

That’s no exaggeration. After the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush told us not to prepare for austerity measures in the name of the common good. Instead, he exhorted citizens to “do your business around the country, fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots—go down to Disney World in Florida, take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed.” Then he gave us tax cuts and wars whose costs were rung up on the national credit card and passed on to future generations.

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The same aversion to sacrifice now defines the response to the ecological Pearl Harbor on America’s Gulf Coast. In his first press conference since the oil spill, President Barack Obama only briefly noted that the drilling at the center of the disaster highlights “the urgent need for this nation to develop clean, renewable sources of energy” and get off petroleum. But he avoided suggesting that this need requires any collective effort, abstinence or forfeiture.

“Americans can help,” he said, “by continuing to visit the communities and beaches of the Gulf Coast.”

Put in bumper-sticker terms, FDR’s “Profits Are Going to Be Cut” and “Forgo Higher Wages” have become Bush’s “Go Shopping” and Obama’s “Go Sunbathing”—and the question is why?

One obvious answer is presidential shortsightedness.

Bush characteristically refused to believe sacrifice is ever necessary, even during war. Obama, meanwhile, surely knows the Gulf disaster warrants sacrifice, but he cravenly refuses to discuss that fact for fear of being lampooned as a sweater-clad Jimmy Carter.

But, then, let’s be honest—when it comes to difficult lifestyle changes that Pearl Harbor-sized crises demand, many of us are as willfully ignorant and plagued by denial as Dubya. And truth be told, had Obama asked us to do something—anything!—more than have fun in the sun, many Americans wouldn’t have praised him as a new FDR; many indeed would have berated him as Carter incarnate.

Thus, as easy as it is to blame two flawed presidents for eschewing FDR-style leadership, we haven’t seen that leadership, in part, because we don’t seem to want it. And we don’t want it because we’ve stopped valuing the concept of shared sacrifice.

That’s the true change since the original Pearl Harbor attack—and it’s a crying shame because while trips to Disney World or the beach are certainly fun, history suggests that genuine sacrifice will be the only way to solve our most pressing problems.

David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books “Hostile Takeover” and “The Uprising.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at OpenLeft.com. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com or follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.

© 2010 Creators.com


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By Inherit The Wind, June 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie:

You use a lot of adjectives but no facts. The downward slide continued. It took YEARS to come back.

I don’t think you know what a “blip” is.

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By Anarcissie, June 7, 2010 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

ITW—the dip you point out is trivial.  It was a blip.  Before and after it are some serious downturns where the market went down and stayed down, at least until more funny money came in from the Federal Reserve.  In any case the stock market is not the economy.  The economy did not “tank” in any way, and neither did the stock or any other market. It was actually kind of interesting to watch the efficiency with which this disaster was folded into the ongoing economy and political circus, but it was a little bit too close to home for me to enjoy it.

I see that 9/11 is becoming increasingly legendary.  Next we’ll be telling our grandchildren about how we had to live on grass and oak bark and huddle in the broken ruins of our cities in the Winter Of ‘01.

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By bonito, June 7, 2010 at 7:17 am Link to this comment

How does one ask the Rich and Greedy to sacrifice,
encourage them to buy a smaller Yacht, or a ten
million dollar mansion instead of one that runs fifty
Million or more, or just maybe you could persuade
them to fly first class instead of jetting around in
a private aircraft.  As far as I can recall, the
working people have forgone meaningful pay raises for
the last thirty years, while the top so called
earners ( I do not know just how many really earn a
dime ) use the largest imaginable sponge to soak up
near ninety percent of the wealth of this nation. 

It is mostly the poor that go off to sacrifice their
life maybe because that is all the employment they
can find in this awful recession, or, just maybe they
happen to fall for the idiotic flag waving and
retoric that comes out of Washington from our elected
officials, designed to encourage them to go off to
war and ignore all that they may have learned about
not killing, so that they can justify in their own
minds the slaughter of thousands if not millions of
humans just because We The People,  do not like the
form of Government they have elected, or, just to
enforce The USA’s failed Foreign Policy.

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By Inherit The Wind, June 7, 2010 at 3:58 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie, June 7 at 12:20 am #

ITW—I work in the financial industry.  I don’t rely on my memory; I look at charts and other records.  When I look at charts of things like the DJIA, other stock indices, the commodities markets, industrial output, etc. etc. etc., I do not see an economy tanking in any way.  The dot-com bust was far worse, and the after-effects of that are partly what one observes in 2002 and 2003, along with the uncertainty about Bush’s already mentioned idiocy in Iraq.  I repeat: 9/11 was strategically insignificant.

But don’t believe me.  Look up the numbers.  They are all over the Net.
*************************************************

Your resort to your “authority” fails.  And here is a KEY number from “all over the Net.”

From Wikipedia (as a convenient source):

“The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the American Stock Exchange (AMEX), and NASDAQ did not open on September 11 and remained closed until September 17. When the stock markets reopened, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) stock market index fell 684 points, or 7.1%, to 8921, a record-setting one-day point decline.

By the end of the week, the DJIA had fallen 1,369.7 points (14.3%), its then-largest one-week point drop in history, though later surpassed in 2008 during the global financial crisis. U.S. stocks lost $1.4 trillion in value for the week.”

Yup, Anarcissie, you are correct:  9/11 was insignificant. The market didn’t tank—it just took its largest one-week drop it ever had until 2008!  (that’s called sarcasm).

I shudder to ask what part of the “financial” industry you are in…

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By Anarcissie, June 6, 2010 at 8:20 pm Link to this comment

ITW—I work in the financial industry.  I don’t rely on my memory; I look at charts and other records.  When I look at charts of things like the DJIA, other stock indices, the commodities markets, industrial output, etc. etc. etc., I do not see an economy tanking in any way.  The dot-com bust was far worse, and the after-effects of that are partly what one observes in 2002 and 2003, along with the uncertainty about Bush’s already mentioned idiocy in Iraq.  I repeat: 9/11 was strategically insignificant.

But don’t believe me.  Look up the numbers.  They are all over the Net.

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By G.Anderson, June 6, 2010 at 3:26 pm Link to this comment

Don’t get me wrong, I am for a strong military. We don’t need to learn the hard way, what it means to have a weak one..

But when Mr. Sirota talks about sacrifise, he is clueless…

The American public has already been sacrifised.. It’s been sacrifised to Wall Street, by the plutocrats who run this country.

Those corporations that send jobs overseas, and the technology to create those jobs, are disloyal to this country.

I’ll say it again, because no one else in politics as guts enough to say it…their too busy nursing at the corporate teat…

Those corporations that send jobs overseas are disloyal to this country, the country that gave them the opportunity to purse the success they enjoy.

They are disloyal, and they have betrayed this nation.

Because they have gutted this country economically, and jeopardized us militarily through our economy.

They have opened the borders to legions of illegals from god knows where, further weakening us…So they could turn them into wage slaves…

They have sold the military shoddy goods, exposed our service men to undue risks by defective material, and on and on….

They sold this country out for a few pieces of gold, and sacrifised our future to their hedonism, and greed.

And if we want to keep our freedoms, then we can’t tolerate their predation on the people any longer.

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By christian96, June 6, 2010 at 3:05 pm Link to this comment

Our leaders in Washington have justifiable reasons
to be concerned about other 9/11’s hitting our
country.  They know about the covert operations
that have taken place over the years in other
nations to favor the American corporate beasts.
The ex-cia whistleblowers have leaked that information. Beside setting up governments to favor
the beasts the weapons industry has hit the jackpot.
Big bucks.  President Eisenhower was a visionary.
He warned us in 1953 about the military/industrial
complex.  We didn’t heed his warning.  Now we are
at the mercy of those who worship money and use
the military in their worshp services.  Our biggest
problem is that enlightened people around the globe
also know what has been happening and the Muslims
are willing to give up their lives to attack the
military/indurstrial complex.  Look at 9/11.  They
attacked the Twin Towers(big business) and the
Pentagon(military).  What can we average Joe the
Plummer’s do about it?  Nothing.  Someone in another
post suggested we leave the country.  I’m giving it
serious consideration.

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By Druthers, June 6, 2010 at 11:21 am Link to this comment

G.Anderson, June 6 at 2:49 pm #

Well said.  We were an economic empire before baring our teeth to become a military empire that is devoring us from within with our intervention in 70 countries around the world.
Two invasions and occupations for private interests in the name of so-called “American Interests” are bankrupting us more each day.
The real fear is that the dollar cease to be the reserve currency.  I wonder if the banks were not unleashed on the smaller countries of Europe, Greece, Portugal, Spain and it may not stop there, to prevent such an event.
But China will probably have the last word.

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By Druthers, June 6, 2010 at 11:04 am Link to this comment

“We are a nation at war, for profit. A mercenary nation, at war with itself and with every other nation on earth, because ultimately we view them only as competitors. Our bottom line is the only thing that matters anymore, to the plutocracy that is in charge.”

Well said, we were an economic empire before baring our teeth to become a military empire serving private interests under the banner of “American Interests.”

The real fear now is that the dollar be dethroned as the reserve currency.  I wonder if the banks were unleashed on the smaller countries of Europe, Greece, Spain, Portugal, etc. to avoid just such an event.
But China will probably have the last word.

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By G.Anderson, June 6, 2010 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

GDP Ranking by country: USA 14100, Japan 4911, China 4327, Germany 3649, France 2857, UK 2666, Italy 2303, Russia 1677…

There is quite a differenc between our GDP, and China’s even though the percent of GDP spent on the military budget appears close, this is misleading.

This country spends a huge amount of it’s wealth each year, on weapons systems, on War, on Defense..

Is this soley to satisfy the paranoia of the right, or is it for some other reason?

A nation of paupers cannot support such a huge military budget.

A nation, in which a Harvard Educated economist, cannot understand her credit card bill without a team of legal advisors, is a nation, whose people are in servitude, not in chains of iron, but in chains of legal devices, misinformation, and intentional exploitation, by a plutocracy that grows fatter each day. One whose lies and manipulations, strain believability to the limit.

We are a nation at war, for profit. A mercenary nation, at war with itself and with every other nation on earth, because ultimately we view them only as competitors. Our bottom line is the only thing that matters anymore, to the plutocracy that is in charge.

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By G.Anderson, June 6, 2010 at 10:27 am Link to this comment

From Wolfram Alpha Military expenditure rankings in Billions of dollars per year
1 | United States | 503.4
2 | China | 114.7
3 | France | 55.3
4 | United Kingdom | 53.4
5 | Germany | 41.8
6 | Japan | 35.5
7 | Italy | 31.7
8 | Saudi Arabia | 31.0
9 | Russia | 29.8
10 | Brazil | 27.8

As percent of GDP, China is slightly Higher at 4.3% to our 4.06 %, Russia Comes in at 3.9% with Germany at 1.5%

GDP rankings are USA 14100, Japan 4911,

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By Inherit The Wind, June 6, 2010 at 10:09 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie:

Check your history.  In the days after 9/11 the Dow fell from the 11000-12000 level to the 9000’s.  Foreign investors sold off as fast as they dared, driving the market down.

You simply are not remembering what you don’t want to remember.

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By Anarcissie, June 6, 2010 at 8:12 am Link to this comment

Inherit The Wind, June 6 at 8:33 am:
’... But it WOULD be a key to what the radical islamists want: To neutralize America by neutralizing our economy.

And it damned near worked.  The Dow tanked unbelievably and took many years to recover. ...’

What are you talking about?  The attacks of 9/11 did not do anything to the U.S. economy.  They were strategically insignificant.  The stock market, which is not the economy, did not “tank” in the slightest.  Neither did the commodities markets.  Neither did New York City real estate.  Two years later, the stock market was down because of uncertainties about Bush’s idiotic invasion of Iraq, all of about 10%.  It quickly bounced back, inflated by the same funny money that has been inflating it since 1980.  The main destructive effect of 9/11 was to provide malign windbags like Giuliani and Bush with a new opportunity to peddle their poisonous wares.  But they were selling them to a population which had already made fetishes out of fear and security.  Our economic problems have nothing to do with 9/11.

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By Inherit The Wind, June 6, 2010 at 4:33 am Link to this comment

rfidler, June 5 at 11:10 am #

If Sirota is good at anything, he’s good at building straw men: The Gulf oil spill is NOT Pearl Harbor! The cost to the government, ie, the taxpaying minority of the public, due to the spill will be near zero. The cost of Pearl Harbor would soon reach 50% of GDP for over three years. Exactly what “sacrifice” would be required of the public to mitigate and pay for the current disaster?

Bush was absolutely wrong with his advice to “go shopping”. But Obama can’t be faulted for encouraging people to support the Gulf economies which are so gravely threatened by the goo. We don’t punish BP by boycotting the beaches and the fish markets.
***********************************************

RF:

You were SO close….only to miss the key point.

Despite the conspiracy theorists who think Mossad/CIA was behind 9/11, the REAL purpose of the attack was to paralyze and cripple the key to the American economy:  Wall Street and sink the American stock market.  This is, of course, something neither the wildest fanatical Likud uber-Zionist nor the craziest Neo-Con would EVER want.

But it WOULD be a key to what the radical islamists want: To neutralize America by neutralizing our economy.

And it damned near worked.  The Dow tanked unbelievably and took many years to recover.  Bush’s plea to “go shopping” was not quite as stupid as it sounds—it was a plea to NOT hide money under the bed, accelerating the very collapse desired by the attackers.  More importantly, and forgotten, was the plea for stock-holders to NOT panic and sell out ASAP.  And American stock-holders for the most part did so. 

Meanwhile, European, Asian, and, of course, Middle Eastern stock-holders couldn’t WAIT to dump their American stocks, driving the market down. 

Modern warfare isn’t just guns and planes anymore.  There’s economic attacks and now, the Army has established a Cyber-war/defense command.

Sirota reminds me of the college kid, enamoured of radical writers, who hollers at the world to change.  Sometimes they are wonderful—like Freedom Riders.  Sometimes they are dangerous—like Palin followers and Nazi book-burners.

But mainly they are all reductionists, wearing blinders and pushing ideas and ignoring contradictory evidence.

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By christian96, June 6, 2010 at 4:08 am Link to this comment

RFidler—-What do you mean “innumeracy with
forclosure rates?”  My ideas for the required math
course are based on the theory that someone with
knowledge about the dynamics of variables associated
with a choice will make a more rational choice than
someone with less knowledge of those variables.
There are instances when that does not appear to be
the case.  For example, most people should be
knowledgeable concerning when a certain food choice
is good or bad but continue to make the bad choice.
However, comparing food choices with credit card
choices may be like comparing apples with oranges.

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By rico, suave, June 6, 2010 at 3:53 am Link to this comment

christian96:
Your description of the situation is perfectly accurate in my view. But still, it’s all about choices. You can choose to be happy for the Jones’ BMW and be content with your Chevy, etc

And reference your comment about teaching the basics: The Economist cited a recent study which strongly correlated innumeracy with forclosure rates.

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By Luke Powell, June 5, 2010 at 11:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Most people committed to Judaism, Christianity, or Islam take a dim view of
human sacrifice. Whether you cut a man’s heart out on a stone altar with a flint
knife or put him in the path of a car-bomb, I do not see a real difference. For
generations, ever since the Enlightenment, we have been living under two
systems of logic and morality. People have been taught by the state that they
could be loyal citizens of these industrial democracies and still be loyal to their
spiritual heritage, and this is nonsense. Ever since the earliest days of Israel it
has always boiled down to: choose this day whom you will serve. On the one
side was the desert with its puritanical, austere, ancient values and laws. On the
other side were the Philistine city states, wallowing in materialism and trade-
based wealth, and the violence, slavery, sexual predation, and prostitution that
go with increasingly urban civilization. Urban civilization always reaches the
same end. Religions just try to make the progress to destruction take a long,
pleasant time. America has made a race of it.

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By christian96, June 5, 2010 at 10:44 pm Link to this comment

RFidler—-People are capable of saying “no” to
credit cards but many forces work against them
saying “no.”  For example, there is the “keep up
with the Jones” force.  I like to refer to the
“beat the Jones” force.  Even though I can’t afford
it I will use my credit card to purchase something
“better” than what the Jones have.  This has it’s
roots in the competitive structure of the games we
are exposed to throughout our life.  Another significant influence on the “beat the Jones” force
develops from sibling rivalries in the family.  If
my older brother buys a certain product I’ll use
my credit card to buy something better than my
brother to influence mom, dad, and other family
members.  Most people who use credit cards are not
familiar with the interest structure involved with
their purchases.  Having spent most of my professional life in education if I had the influence
I would require all junior and senior high students
to take a math course with pragmatic goals, i.e,
understanding how to calculate interest on credit
cards and loans, how to develop individual and
family budgets, etc.

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By JDmysticDJ, June 5, 2010 at 9:09 pm Link to this comment

I’m more on than you are moron.

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By JDmysticDJ, June 5, 2010 at 8:48 pm Link to this comment

What we need is more of the same. More sacrifice to the rich, more laissez faire, more war, more greed, more deregulation, more corruption, more hedonism, more individualism, and more.

The only thing we need less of, is responsibility for more.

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By rico, suave, June 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment

christian96:
See moonraven’s post below for an example of someone for whom “personal responsibility” is a completely foreign concept. S/he blames credit cards for our debt/spending binge, as if we are incapable of saying “no” on our own, and are mere helpless naifs in a world of jackals and for whom the paternalism of the government is our only protection.

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By Old Man Turtle, June 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This looks like just another one of those arguments that can take place only in some “magic kingdom,” where “nothing is real.”  A working assumption among the contestants seems to be that the meanings of its basic terms are settled, so there’s no need to bother even defining, much less understanding them.  There’s a lot of that going-around these days, though.

What exactly, for example, is a “self,” that it might be “sacrificed,” or not?  What or who would be doing this sacrificing?  Do the laws of conservation of matter and energy not apply to a “self,” so that it can actually cease to exist?

Just because glibness is so rampant doesn’t make it a virtue.  Might discussions here be more mutually beneficial if participants were less concerned with just “sharing” their opinions and more so with applying some disciplined rigor to their formation?

For instance, given the beliefs and conceits driving “modern” behavior over these many millennia, could things really be expected to’ve come-to anything other than what they are today?  If that’s turning out to be not such a “happy place” for so many, will proceeding along the same old lines be likely to reach some better situation?  If both “self-sacrifice” and “hedonism” are nothing but rhetorical straw-men, what becomes of the entire exercise here?

If life itself is a game, is there really any such thing as a “game”?  We are, after all, stuck with the terms we use.  More care in their selection might open-up fields of personal and societal exploration and organic growth now closed to us as much by epidemic self-medicated laziness as by the desperate manipulations of self-destructing “special interests.”

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By Truthspill, June 5, 2010 at 3:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

David Sirota,

Blah Blah Blah Blah.

This essay has already been written ad nauseum.

The focus should be on those who refuse to sacrifice a small percentage of their wealth for the good of the nation, and those politicians who have been bought by the wealth of those who refuse to sacrifice.

The little people of this country have sacrificed plenty.  They have sacrificed their loved ones in wars that have profited a very small percentage of super wealthy individuals, whose selfishness is the only thing that exceeds their wealth.

We, little people, have sacrificed our system of government, as the super wealthy have systematically bought every aspect of governance, down to the EPA, even under the bought and sold Obama Administration.

We the little people, have sacrificed our liberties, rather those liberties have been sacrificed for us, via the Patriot Act, illegal wiretapping, revisiting Miranda.  And just who does such sacrifice serve?  The Military Industrial and Security Industrial Complex, whose masters of power and money refuse to sacrifice one more penny to support infrastructure in this country by paying taxes.

We’ve sacrificed our health, or it has been sacrificed for us, by the greedy Insurance Companies, and Pharmeceutical companies that refuse to sacrifice an ounce of their beloved profits for the little people.

As per the cost of the wars, we have sacrificed not willingly, plenty.  Public parks are closing across the nation, teachers being fired and schools closing, retirement funds being raided, budgets retaining subsidies and tax breaks for the super wealthy but eliminating programs for the poor.
I could go on and on. 

But please David, can’t you find another form of creative writing that hasn’t been done before?

We’ve already sacrificed PLENTY.

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By rico, suave, June 5, 2010 at 1:35 pm Link to this comment

christian96:
Sadly, true.

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By christian96, June 5, 2010 at 1:01 pm Link to this comment

RFidler—-One thing wrong with your post.  “Too many
people today CAN’T handle the responsibity” should
have read “Too many people today WON’T handle the
responsibility.”

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By rico, suave, June 5, 2010 at 11:42 am Link to this comment

Tetro:
I assumed that when the “republican, libertarian vein of freedom” went away, you had in mind some system to replace it.

Since you don’t sound like an anarchist, I assumed you would prefer handing your freedom and liberty over to some wise leader who would order your life for you. You are right- with freedom and liberty comes responsibility. Too many people today can’t handle the responsibility, and so are willing to give up their freedom.

Not me. And I hope, not you.

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By christian96, June 5, 2010 at 11:38 am Link to this comment

Sorry I’ve been away for a few hours.  I bought 3
large pizzas, a case of beer, a carton of cigarettes, 6 porn flicks, and $20 dollars worthy of
lottery tickets.  I’m going to lock myself in my
cave, open the windows and yell at my neighbors,
“You can’t have any of mine.  Go get your own. Leave
me alone.”  Now, that’s the American way!

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By moonraven, June 5, 2010 at 11:30 am Link to this comment

Between FDR’s time and Retard Bush’s time came the concept of credit cards to keep everybody in debt so that they won’t protest against anything the US government does.

Spend spend spend!

Lose your house, your job—and by all means insist that the US is the greatest country on earth.

U.S.A. OUT of North America!

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By rico, suave, June 5, 2010 at 11:24 am Link to this comment

Druthers:
“This monsterous military budget…”

Which is, by the way, about the smallest, as a percentage of GDP, in almost 70 years. You need to find another bugbear.

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By Anarcissie, June 5, 2010 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

christian96, June 5 at 11:55 am:
“People would be a lot better off if they were more hedonistic and less self-sacrificial.”

‘Anarcissie—-How in God’s Holy name can you make
such a statement? Our “hedonistic” society is one
of the significant reasons the American empire is
in serious decline.’

I think a serious decline of the American empire, or anyone else’s, would be an excellent thing.

Hedonism, to me, means enjoying things like sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Anti-hedonism means things like working hard to pile up money or to get power over other people or to sacrifice your present happiness for the opportunity to slaughter people in the near future.  Most of the anti-hedonistic items, for most people, are completely delusional—they will never have much money or power and the stuff they get will be junk—but the delusions help perpetuate the state and its crimes.  Now, it would be nice if people were kind, affectionate communists, but if they’re going to be pigs I prefer hedonistic pigs and idealistic pigs—the kind of pigs who make an ideal out of piggery.

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By Druthers, June 5, 2010 at 10:58 am Link to this comment

Sorry for the typing errors..budget - straps

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By Druthers, June 5, 2010 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

G.Anderson

You are so right ” a country of paupers cannot support the largest military budget in the world.”
This monsterous military budge, with the outsourcing of jobs and the theft of wealth by banksters is the cause of our pauperisation and it turns people against each other as they compete for disappearing jobs.
Those who pretend they pull themselves up by their boot scraps have boots.

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By Tetro, June 5, 2010 at 10:05 am Link to this comment

rfidler, your reply is ironic because you equate individual freedom with a relation to the president, or some leader… which there is no insinuation of in my post. Responsibility is a component of independence, you are not “free” if you neglect to claim the consequences of your actions—and being part of this destructive force that is American society, we should all see responsibility as an imperative.

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By rico, suave, June 5, 2010 at 9:41 am Link to this comment

Tetro:
“This republican, libertarian vein of freedom to do as I please will go down like the Hindenburg.”

I’m afraid you’re right. What we need is less individual freedom. We should turn all our major decisions about our personal lives over to, oh, I don’t know, Barak Obama maybe. Better yet, we need an autocratic leader like Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales to tell us what is best for us, who knows how best to allocate scarce resources and distribute wealth more equally.

Enough of wealth creation already! Let’s all be poor and dependent on the state for everything. “Kumbaya” will be the new national anthem.

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By Tetro, June 5, 2010 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

It is an important attitude to see others as your countrymen when facing a shared threat, such as overpopulation, out-of-control business, globalization, global warming, GM food contamination, nuclear proliferation, pollution, and so on. But every one of these issues, in these absurd times, are debatable. Must we wait until the brink for egos to be smashed? For people to say “I might be wrong?”, or “In this scenario, what does it matter who is right?” How can things be turned around while the me and I revolution still unabashedly grows. One family watches everything they throw away, careful to recycle and compost—another throws everything in the trash… this is like a microcosm of the stalemate in America, where inevitably no one wins. This republican, libertarian vein of freedom to do as I please will go down like the Hindenburg.

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By SusanSunflower, June 5, 2010 at 8:47 am Link to this comment

It’s funny but I’ve read little to nothing about the American underground economy in the last couple of years—there have been a couple of important, even scholarly book published reflecting reseach, irrc, before the market tumble, near or post double-digit unemployment, etc. 

Personally, I think there is too much mistrust, envy, sense of entitlement (including to break “the rules), for voluntary sacrifice to make a dent in most areas… but then you have the scofflaws, who cheat on their taxes, buy bootleg cigarettes, and deliberately hire and pay under-the-table workers on the cheap, etc. Thank god, marijuana is being decriminalized, however, black market pharmaceuticals and more serious drugs are also plentiful.

The underground or blackmarket was reportedly growing rapidly throughout the last two decades—in the United States and globally. It’s not it’s-all-good fair-trade counter-establishment alternative many of us envisioned.

It seems as if for every “sucker,” there’s a schemer and a scam artist born every minute

Let’s all dance the “everybody’s doing it” rag!

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By Paul_GA, June 5, 2010 at 8:39 am Link to this comment

Well written, G. Anderson! I can’t praise it enough!

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By G.Anderson, June 5, 2010 at 8:34 am Link to this comment

I quote Druthers…

“For thirty years now the middle class in America has been “sacrificing.”  The tax cuts were for the rich, wages stagnant, the transfer of wealth was only to those few at the top who lack of nothing and who never sacrifice anything. To ask the American people to sacrifice for Goldman , for insurance companies, for oil companies and Wall St. is not sacrificing, it is blood sucking. “

So, true…but those in power still think we have more resources that they can take, now that their incompetance and greed has no where to go…

We need fundamental change in our government, not symbolic, or cosmetic gestures. And we need it quick.

For after the last job has gone to India, China, Singapore, or Mexico, we will learn the hard way that a country of paupers cannot support the largest military budget in the world.

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By christian96, June 5, 2010 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

“People would be a lot better off if they were more hedonistic and less self-sacrificial.”

Anarcissie—-How in God’s Holy name can you make
such a statement? Our “hedonistic” society is one
of the significant reasons the American empire is
in serious decline.

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By Paul_GA, June 5, 2010 at 7:20 am Link to this comment

With all due respect, the world is different now, Mr. Sirota, and so is this country. Anyone who still dreams of WWII-style “sacrifice” and of a revered “father-president” in the FDR style is living in a cloud-cuckoo-land. Best wake up, Sir, and sniff the coffee of reality—and then drink a lot of it, too. What we once were, we are not now, nor can we be ever again, I’m sorry to say.

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By rico, suave, June 5, 2010 at 7:19 am Link to this comment

And another thing!

I love the progressive use of the term “shared sacrifice”. It sounds so noble and communitarian.

What it means of course is that progressives want have-nots to get their “share” of wealth through the “sacrifice” of the haves.

Explain to me what “sacrifice”, other than personal freedom and liberty, is being made by anyone who depends on the public dole for their existence. I can easily explain the “sacrifice” the government requires of me to “share” with such people.

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By rico, suave, June 5, 2010 at 7:10 am Link to this comment

If Sirota is good at anything, he’s good at building straw men: The Gulf oil spill is NOT Pearl Harbor! The cost to the government, ie, the taxpaying minority of the public, due to the spill will be near zero. The cost of Pearl Harbor would soon reach 50% of GDP for over three years. Exactly what “sacrifice” would be required of the public to mitigate and pay for the current disaster?

Bush was absolutely wrong with his advice to “go shopping”. But Obama can’t be faulted for encouraging people to support the Gulf economies which are so gravely threatened by the goo. We don’t punish BP by boycotting the beaches and the fish markets.

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By Anarcissie, June 5, 2010 at 7:05 am Link to this comment

I think there’s a lot of mythification going on here, especially in the beatification of FDR.  FDR did plenty of dithering.  In any case, World War 2 was brought on by three well-organized industrial countries, and a certain amount of investment (“sacrifice”) was going to be necessary to subdue them.  Acts like the conquest of France and the destruction of half of the U.S. Pacific fleet were strategic.  By contrast, 9/11 was a terrorist action with no national states behind it, and while it was costly to the immediate victims, it had no strategic significance.  There was no reason to sacrifice anything in response.  In fact, 9/11 proved to be a great opportunity for warmongering, expansion of police power, and sententious posturing—all dear to the heart of any politician and to the general public as well.

As for the Gulf oil disaster, like Katrina, like Haiti, it will be accepted and forgotten.  If there is oil on the beaches of Florida the rich will go off to Hawaii or New Zealand.  The poor will not protest because they would do the same if they could.  For this fantasy, they sacrifice their actual lives.  I don’t know how to change this; I wish people would stop sacrificing.  People would be a lot better off if they were more hedonistic and less self-sacrificial.

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By edith, June 5, 2010 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

Perhaps affluence tricks people into thinking that nothing can touch them.  Sacrifices or balance are never necessary, not even in the face of a terrorist attack and actions taken in the wake of that, nor when it comes to the environmental impact of our consumption of petroleum, which will eventually come back and bite all of us on the butt. 

I can’t help but think that this mentality has been cultivated by business because the business class, the upper class are those who have most benefitted from our blind consumption and our lack of solidarity with others.  Where do we get the idea that we should never pay taxes? Why do we think continuous growth is a good thing or even sustainable?  Why are we happy when the stock market goes up and we think it’s a good sign for everybody even though the reality is most of us don’t own stocks?  There has been the illusion of prosperity because we can buy lots of stuff made in China at lower prices then ever, but in reality middle-class earnings have remained static since the 1970s. We haven’t ever really been asked to look at the hidden costs of our consumer habits.  Yeah, Walmart and Target are great, you can buy cheap stuff but look where it’s made and ask yourself what happens when we don’t make things anymore. 

The generations that have come along since the “Greatest Generation” perhaps would not accept any leader who gave them a reality check. I remember when Jimmy Carter suggested to people that they might want to adjust their thermostats a few degrees and put on a cardigan, they laughed at him!  In retrospect, it was probably a really good idea and we’d probably be better off today if we had listened to him. 

It’s a shame Bush didn’t say to the people after the terrorist attacks in the last decade that they should buy US T-bills.  It would be a long fight and we’d have to all chip in for our country, or to do the patriotic thing and help end our dependence on petroleum.  And Obama’s reaction to the BP oil gusher at the bottom of the sea killing an ecosystem and the way of life of the people who live in the gulf and depend on the sea, has been shockingly bland.  I couldn’t believe it when I heard him defend BP saying that they have good intentions to clean up that mess because it’s bad for their bottom line!  For crying out loud!  There are some things worth more than money! 

But there we have it.  Our government and our leaders are captured by money.  Everyone is happy when the stock market goes up, even if they don’t have stocks, because they actually believe that the corporations’ interests and our own are the same. Our leaders dare not say, hey folks, let’s pull ourselves together, and work towards something, because we can pin an American flag on our lapel and crow to the four winds that we’re the greatest instead. 

We have bad leadership, yeah, no kidding, and I would say it’s the fault of the politicians, the business interests pulling the levers behind the politicians and the blind acceptance of the American people of what they are fed by the media.

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By christian96, June 4, 2010 at 10:46 pm Link to this comment

Where are our modern day Roosevelt’s?  I can’t hear
any on national media!  Mr. Sirota is kind to use
the term “shortsightedness” whereas more appropriate
terms like “ignorant and/or deceptive” would be more
appropriate. The corporate misuse of the media has
slowly led to our “hedonistic” culture in America.
The sad part is the vast majority of Americans don’t
even realize how they have been manipulated into a
state of hedonism.  We need courses in our public
schools to educate students HOW they are being
manipulated by the media.  For example, do you think
young men realize when watching a sporting event
HOW the beer companies make them feel as though they
will be desired by the opposite sex if they drink
their beer?  Of course not!  The beer commericals
attempt to make young men feel tough, strong, and
courageous if they drink their beer whereas the real
consequences of drinking their beer will put them
in an alter state of consciousness which may break
up their marriage or lead them to a car accident
where they kill innocent people. Where are our modern
day Roosevelt’s?

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By TheHandyman, June 4, 2010 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment

Numerous people here have mentioned the sacrifices the middle class has made over the last 40 or so years. They are absolutely wrong. They did not sacrifice! Sacrifice means having given up something willingly for the good of all. What really happened is that they were robbed. Those tax breaks for the rich were paid for by the loss of educational funds for schools. Those tax breaks for the corporations and business’ resulted in the shifting of higher taxes to the middle class and larger deficits by the Government. Their jobs were shifted overseas for the sake of the rich. But Americans brought it on themselves by electing the representatives of the rich to high office where they continued to rape, pillage, and plunder in the name of the Corporatocracy and the Owner Class.

But as is said over and over, the People get the government it deserves. What is never said in rebuttal is that there is also a large number of People who get a Government it does not deserve!

Anyone who is surprised about Obama’s response is proof they didn’t want to see God’s feet of clay. Ralph Nader attacked Obama on every issue with the facts and Obama’s history. Obama surrounded himself with Clintonista’s who was a 1960’s Reagan Republican in everything but name. I had some hope that Obama would not be quite as bad is Bush, but in many respects I find it hard to distinguish what he has done that is different than his predecessor. I am not dazzled by the words, as so many are. I can see where his true allegiances are and they are not with the People. What he really has accomplished is lacking in substance and scope! I’m sure many people thought Obama was a Abraham Lincoln or a Martin Luther King. They thought he was the best thing since sliced bagels. Instead he turn out to be a Gerald Ford and a Don King!

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By Hulk2008, June 4, 2010 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment

The middle class has been sacrificing for nearly a century now.  The assault upon it by the top one-percenters continues as they wage their wars, fly off on their foreign adventures, annually gut the economy, and prop themselves up with toady politicians and a brain-washed “conservative” electorate. 

While the one-percenters buy more and more mansions to NOT live in and yachts that they will never sail, they invent newer more arcane artifices to bilk the other 99% - with the full assistance of politicians.  They search in vain for some shred of evidence that they are actually worth something more permanent than their fleeting honor. 

Our times, as in medieval feudal times, provide us, the serfs, with basic needs and a Barnum-and-Bailey image of life while we serve at the pleasure of the corporate masters.

I chuckle out loud when I read “conservative” comments with the knowledge that their authors serve like the rest of us - except that they do it even more willingly - lackeys of corporate greed and excess.

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By Mike, June 4, 2010 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

But there’s a difference in situations.  The politicians know they can’t ask for sacrifice for perpetual war.  The only way to not suffer politically is to have the vast majority of the population forget there’s anything going on.

In FDR’s time, sacrifice could be requested because conflict would be relatively short-term (and their word was kept, as evidenced by the rapid demobilization of the military after WWII).

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By SusanSunflower, June 4, 2010 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

yes, it would be much easier to convince Americans that sacrifice was worthwhile, even patriotic, if there were not so many RECENT object-lessons—the banks, wall street, auto companies, even BP—where which the reality that “some people are more equal than others” had not been rubbed in the “little guy’s face.”

This is the resentment of the tea parties and the anti-immigrant crowd who really really really believe that THEY have been short changed while at the same time other have been enabled.

There was a time when Obama might have had the clout to emulate JFK—but I think his legions of supporters are no match for media saturation of his detractors—We are a fractured nation. Walter Chronkite has left the building. Every one watches the “news” that reinforces their prejudices and nothing else.

During the 1977 oil crisis, we could only buy gasoline every-other-day and the number of non-carpool lanes on the freeway were cut… and even then gas stations still ran out of gasoline, leaving all sorts of folk up the creek without a paddle unless they could get some kind of a ride somehow.
The Grim Necessity was dealt with.

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By phasor, June 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment

Shared sacrifice.

What a quaint concept.

It has been a Republican political strategy to isolate groups (gays, atheists, “welfare moms”, liberals, etc.) and actively encourage others to rid our society of these groups and their influence. This has been going strong for 30 years.

The notion that we are in this together is foreign to American politics.

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By bogi666, June 4, 2010 at 10:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Since FDR Americans have been forged into narcissistic, consumerist, gluttons of mindlessness, the inability to discern thoughts, especially the thoughts of others, from facts construing their thought into facts. Many individuals are sacrificing voluntarily or not, but IT IS THE CORPORATE WELFARE KINGS THAT NEED TO SACRIFICE. It’s time to realized that the WELFARE KINGS will not sacrifice because they will bribe governments not to include them on the sacrificial alter. Now, when Bush and Cheney used to say the words “Our way of life” and/or “our way of life is not negotiable” they were talking to the CORPORATE WELFARE KINGS AND THE WEALTHY, not to the general public who mindlessnessly construed these thoughts into meaning or including them as being of the “our” when they aren’t.

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By gerard, June 4, 2010 at 9:55 am Link to this comment

Excuse me!  The Democrats were longing for “FDR-style leadership” in Obama.  That’s why we voted for him.  FDR, though from the elite class, did not sell out everything in the store to corporate power. He (and Eleanor) kept the common people in mind and had a real intention to put them first in his recovery programs.  Also, at the time we were fighting a war in which we were attacked in such an obvious way that we could blame our past offensives in Asia on the Japanese, and that war helped build up the economy—just as wars do today.
  The problems we face are much deeper and more substantial that mere problems of attitude. “We have stopped valuing shared leadership” is totally wrong. Today’s government, national and state, has shut itself off to from its constituency, the ordinary people, and listens only to business interests. 
  Our state and national governments don’t want “shared leadership” and go to great cost to avoid it.  Only money can get access and control, and corporate leaders pay millions for it every day while Joe Couch Potato eats popcorn and watches TV.
Washington gets all it seems to need from pollsters
asking “samplings” which breakfast cereal they prefer or whether they choose to spend more tax money on war, or on war.
  Mr. Sirota is probably not as naive as he sounds.

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By SusanSunflower, June 4, 2010 at 9:35 am Link to this comment

There are a lot of people “sacrificing” involuntarily—the unemployed, the underemployed, extended families come “home” to roost, defaulted mortgages, and other payments, health care deferred, dreams deferred or simply abandoned.

In America this is considered the result of “poor money management,” poor educational or career
“choices” or simply “bad luck.”

And yet, with taxes still lower, we have loud demonstrations about exorbitant taxes and the deficit, while many of the same people support 2 or more wars and claim to be “pro business” and see no contradiction.

We’re all relieved when the price of gasoline goes down and point fingers when it precipitously rises—and the cost-benefit claims of mass transit, like the facts of global warming, continue to be disputed.

Will there ever be buyers to relieve aging baby boomers of their now underpopulated McMansions? How do we assist Americans who wish to repopulate our cities?

Too many Americans, starting from inflated “expectations” believe that just abandoning those dreams has been sacrifice enough, even if they have lost nothing. Too many are already angry. I think it’s going to get a much uglier until necessity again becomes the mother of invention.

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By REDHORSE, June 4, 2010 at 9:22 am Link to this comment

What is poor?? What is sacrifice? What is it to be profligate and live a life void of meaning? Do you participate in and enjoy life in an actual community? Do you have friends you can stop by and see any time or, do you have relationships with people you must call and make an appointment visit. Who loves you?

    As an East Texas child in a farming community of less than 100 people many of us were what is considered poor. There were eight grades in my first classroom and many of us were barefoot.Despite that we were a community. We understood the land and nobody went hungry. Everyone worked and took joy in work, children included. Not everyone attended, but church was the spiritual and community center. It’s where you went to Sunday School and where you went to Vote. There were always kids that needed clothes and always a group of women sewing quilts and mending hand-me-downs to ensure they were dressed and warm. In the late afternoons old men and young men from three different wars gathered at the general store, played moon and 42, and told stories about themselves and the people they’d known, some stretching into the nineteenth century. There was no liquor store or drug dealers nor, was there any police. Now it’s all under asphalt.

    Mine was a farming community in Texas but we were connected to Louisiana. You could buy baby alligators out of a bowl for a buck at the five and dime and kids were always chewing on sugar cane someone had brought back. (Of course “shine” from Tennessee was available too.) I wish I could saddle up and ride those roads again.

    My point? Meaning, community,family bonds and friendships, faith and humanity are being destroyed in Louisiana. Fishing communities and families who have existed on the Gulf since America was conceived are being decimated. BP doesn’t have and there isn’t enough $$$$$$ in the world to replace what is being lost. And, as in the aftermath of Katrina, expect Washington thugs and insiders to move South to make the most of the disaster and suck up taxpayer relief dollars for their own ends.

    There is no light in them. They are visionless, hollow and evil, Their best offer is apocalypse. Is their any light left in us?

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By hark, June 4, 2010 at 9:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Seems to me the vast majority of Americans have been sacrificing for years, so the rich can become ever richer.  We have turned our own government into a joke so the rich can prosper.  We have sacrificed our great middle class so the rich don’t have to pay taxes, and can pay themselves ten times more than they made a generation ago.

I’d say we have sacrificed enough.

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By mrfreeze, June 4, 2010 at 8:43 am Link to this comment

Yesterday on the Diane Rehm show, Juliet Schor was discussing her new book, Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth, during which there was a fire storm of criticism pouring in from the audience about how impossible it would be for them to actually change their lifestyles or buy a little less, or drive fewer miles or alter their thinking about the great “American Way.” Some even accused her of promoting “camouflaged Communism.” It was stunning to listen to the babies cry about how terrible it would be for them to…..let me use the word….change….........

On Wed. Diane had the authors of the interesting book, “The Power of Half,” which describes a family that gave up being the “good Americans” (they openly admit to being uber-yuppies) by downsizing their incredibly rich life and now realize there are things more important than keeping up with the Joneses. It was fascinating stuff.

My point is this: Whenever anyone proposes that Americans change the way they consume or live or work, or adopt more sustainable systems, or whatever, the answer is always “our lifestyle is not negotiable..period.” Ultimately, all of the whiners who don’t want to change now are in for a big revelation: Change will be hoisted upon us and we will be forced to change.

In recent years I have come to understand us (Americans) as a vanishing breed in the world. Certainly, we will cling to the notion that our consumptive society will continue-on forever and that we will remain the pre-eminent power in the world, but this belief is flawed. We can put-off making the simple changes that Schor suggested (which are more about frugality/sustainability/self-reliance and creativity rather than communism) but this will only lead to our inevitable demise.

We are living Sartre’s “self deception” on steroids in this country. Too bad. It doesn’t have to be this way.

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By Druthers, June 4, 2010 at 7:13 am Link to this comment

For thirty years now the middle class in America has been “sacrificing.”  The tax cuts were for the rich, wages stagnant, the transfer of wealth was only to those few at the top who lack of nothing and who never sacrifice anything.
To ask the American people to sacrifice for Goldman , for insurance companies, for oil companies and Wall St. is not sacrificing, it is blood sucking.
It is not sacrifice that is needed - it is justice - but that is a thing of the past.

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By Gordy, June 4, 2010 at 6:41 am Link to this comment

“Thus, as easy as it is to blame two flawed
presidents for eschewing FDR-style leadership, we
haven’t seen that leadership, in part, because we
don’t seem to want it. And we don’t want it because
we’ve stopped valuing the concept of shared
sacrifice.”

I agree with this sentiment; it is important -
without being pessimistic about the public - to
acknowledge shared responsibility instead of blaming
an elite class only. 

I agree with kerryrose though: those of modest means
will be forced to pay for the mistakes and sins of
the elite classes.  They should not accept the
attempts of politicians to reduce public anger at
this.  I think that Chris Hedges was right to support
the Greek protesters.

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By balkas, June 4, 2010 at 6:31 am Link to this comment

It seems to me that franklin roseworld had avoided to say: hey, we’ve been expanding our territory for two hundred yrs, but we need much more territory.

Bush followed roosevelt,jefferson, eisenhower, kennedy, clinton, bush 1.
All that changed since polk and before was the words.

So expansioneering with murder in mind had to be presented as fun and games or trifling matters or as a benevolent act even for people targetted for death let alone americans whose wealth might even increase because of the latest ventures.

Once angelina, clooney become prezs, words once again will undergo a moderation, but not the telos.

Imo, most people are too much word-  instead of fact-oriented. We can ‘predict’; i.e., expect that people wld not cry out for salient facts for a long time yet.

A caveat ab trusting words and not seeing deeds: people are not like that; they become that way because the gretest criminals minds hide salient facts; giving people solely or largely words or false flag reality!

This offers us a great hope. We can teach people to trust what they see and think of words as mere symbols; like a tag on a pair of pants.
I do not think too many people wld not try on the pants and simply disregard the label. tnx

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By Big B, June 4, 2010 at 5:35 am Link to this comment

Crow, It’s funny that PNAC almost predicted 9/11 (funny, and well, deeply troubling)

After many visits to other nations my wife and I came to this same conclusion a few years back, that the major difference between americans and people of other nations is that americans do not have the same sense of community responsibility, that shared sense of sacrifice by all for the betterment of society. We americans think of ourselves first.

This is the ultimate legacy of reaganomics. We are children of that war on community, and we continue to march down that road of bones towards our now predictable demise.

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By alyceobvious, June 4, 2010 at 5:31 am Link to this comment

great article. we have become a nation of spoiled brats with parents who only encourage our gluttonous behavior.

for those interested in learning about or contributing to grassroots efforts toward a more sustainable society, we’ve got an idea-sharing community at facebook called “use half now”: http://www.facebook.com/pages/USE-HALF-NOW-CAMPAIGN/316473176497?ref=mf

and an article on how and why we can’t wait for leadership to guide us on this:
makers: DIY agents of social change
http://www.truthout.org/makers-diy-agents-social-change59919

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By Handle, June 4, 2010 at 5:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We’ve been sacrificing for years, David—our wages, pensions, vacations, holidays. So far sacrifice has gotten us, well, more sacrifice—no safety, security or prosperity. No wonder you liberals are such easy targets for the reactionary right.

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By thecrow, June 4, 2010 at 4:58 am Link to this comment

“The process of transformation is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.”

- PNAC, RAD 2000

http://michaelfury.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/new-yorks-bravest/

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By kerryrose, June 4, 2010 at 2:18 am Link to this comment

If you get to make the choice of sacrifice, then you are lucky. 

Many of us have sacrifice forced upon us.

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