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Happiness: The Real American Dream

A week in
the desert letting go of my obsession with all things L.A. has unfortunately done nothing to change
my dark view of our situation except to bring it into sharper focus…

We are in a
profound crisis economically and politically that is as nakedly visible to
everyone as the emperor who wore no clothes was to a small child.

We too are
in denial, particularly those with the power and wealth to provide the
desperately needed leadership to pull our city, state and nation together and
guide us through hard times that require major changes in the way we live and
work and deal with each other.

It is
business as usual as if nothing were wrong that won’t right itself in due time.
The growth economy based on the insane belief that anybody, that everybody,
could become a millionaire – or at least live like one on credit – isn’t coming
back.

What was normal
since the end of World War II has been and gone and isn’t coming back. American
imperialism and the military-industrial complex have entrapped us in endless
war that has consumed our resources and exhausted our strength.

The God of Materialism is dead… Hyper-consumerism is no longer sustainable or desirable
in an over-populated world suffocating in its exhaust fumes. Without a
manufacturing base, the middle class is shrinking and opportunities for the
young are diminishing even as their parents and grandparents seek to protect
what they have.

We are a
nation divided against itself, at war with ourselves, at a time that cries out for
unity. We are committing national suicide with every sector from Wall Street to
the unions grasping greedily for more and more for themselves when there isn’t
enough to go around, at least not in the way we have become accustomed to.

We are in
free fall spiraling downward out of control

Where have
all the leaders gone? Where is the business, civic, political leadership to
help us rise above our destructive selfish ways…?

We are
moving into a new era

You wouldn’t
know it from the mobs at the shops at the Palm
Springs outlet malls and the parking lots jammed more
than a mile away.

From all
appearances, American consumers — at least those with cash to burn or good
credit — were on a buying binge. The economic miracle that could fill the
empty treasuries of state and local governments was under way. 

Or was it?

Black
Friday sales were up just 0.3 percent and more people are expected to shop
online today on Cyber Monday, often without paying sales tax, to feed
their appetite for material goods Monday rather than will go to stores. How much of
the clothing, electronics and other sharply discounted merchandise will
actually be made in America?

The truth
is we don’t manufacture very many of the goods we consume, we import far more
than we export. The God of Materialism is dead. I’ve asked dozens of people
successful in various fields when they expect to economy to revive and they all
say the same thing: Normal
isn’t coming back, a new normal is forming and they don’t know what it will
look like.

Yet, our
local, state and federal government leaders keep going deeper in debt and
operating like good times are just around the corner and will bail them out,
save them politically, save us all economically.

Don’t
believe it. 

At best, we have achieved stability with the likelihood of another economic
downturn is much greater than the likelihood of a boom that will put people
back to work and lift all ships.

Unchastened
by their role in causing the worst recession since the depression, the bankers and
Wall Street look greedily at the prospects of profiting from soaring government
borrowing and the fire sale of public assets.

California and Los Angeles
are up for grabs and all our leaders can think of is their own
self-preservation.

They are
mortgaging the future by borrowing heavily to finance high-speed trains and
subways and, massive high-rise projects for the rich, hoping to cling to power
by feeding contractors, developers and the construction industry with the
public’s money.

It’s time
for Americans to come down to earth and wake up from the long narcissistic
dream.

It’s time
we face the truth that we have lost our way, forgotten this is a nation of
ordinary folks, not  those with royal
privileges, who respect honest working people and seek a balance of competing
interests, and believe that everyone has the same right to life, liberty and
the pursuit of their own happiness.

Happiness -
that is the point. It’s what America
is supposed to be about, not super-power and super-wealth, but a nation founded
on the belief that everyman has an equal opportunity to achieve a happy life
regardless of their background or station in life.

I’ve found
my happiness. I’m a lucky guy. But it breaks my heart to see what’s going on,
to see what should be the greatest city in the greatest state in the greatest
nation heading off a cliff that will cause, is causing, so much unhappiness for
so many.

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14 Responses to Happiness: The Real American Dream

  1. Anonymous says:

    The British government is being lampooned for asserting this very thing: that it’s the job of the government to promote HAPPINESS even more than jobs, economic prosperity, anything else. It’s being called liberal koo-koo stuff from their right. But here you are agreeing with them!
    Over there, across the pond, the discussion is whether people become happier when they have jobs and money, or just WHAT the factors are that make you happy. Less congestion, more happiness? Being able to work close to home? A big home or a convenient home? Clean air and water or a bigger stainless frig and lower housing/mortgage bills?
    You don’t define what you mean by “happiness” at all. To each his own, fine, but what kind of mandate is that for government?

  2. The City is broke, but our elected elites are unwilling to acknowledge that minor detail. They will continue to dilly dally until such time as the financial markets refuse to fund the City’s operations. And even then, they will blame others, not recognizing that they are the culprits.

  3. Michael says:

    Most people don’t understand economics at all and the few that do disagree. However on thing is certain the home mortgage/banking debacle removed trillions of dollars worth of equity and real buying power from the economy and dramatically reduced the money supply. Ergo no credit, and stagnation
    The injection of money into the economy through the stimulus programs is more than pump priming. It’s rebuilding the money supply and VERY IMPORTANTLY returning some of the money that was taxed away during the R.E. Boom back to the economy. What the Libertarian/Repub types DON’T like is that its not going to those that helped generate those taxes. But much of that was ill gotten, albeit legally, through the R.E. Boom.
    Obama is on the right track, its just that the the right wants the only track to money.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Without a manufacturing base, the middle class is shrinking and opportunities for the young are diminishing even as their parents and grandparents seek to protect what they have.”
    The young just have to seek out the education and training to get jobs in the service sector, which has been growing as manufacturing has been falling. The US economy has been changing for decades, following the same pattern as the UK’s economy. I don’t understand people who lament for the good old days of a manufacturing economy. Apparently they can’t fathom the benefits of a service based economy and they assume globalization is reversible.

  5. Anonymous says:

    There are hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans, known as the 99ers. These folks have not received any benefits after their 99th week. Based on UI Claims, the current rate is 9.5% Unemployment (on average), but this data excludes the 99ers. We can safely estimate UI at 15%.
    During the Bush Administration, after engaging the US in two WARS, President Bush signed into LAW two tax breaks applicable to the top 2% of Wage Earners.
    For the past 8 yrs.; our economy has fallen apart, corporations left America to take advantage of Chinese and India’s cheap labor market. The jobs lost have been significant; and they will not return.
    Many who lost jobs are 50 yrs. of age and may never return to the payrolls. Meanwhile, the Federal Funds the City of LA received have not be properly used; as many homeless persons remain homeless. PATH is full to the Gills, and the City & LAHD has no plan for permanent housing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    What is so sad is the legal residents here in LA are finding it very difficult to survive with benefits running out this week and no jobs in sight. But every time i stand in line at the market there are illegals with 3 checks of WIC (my tax dollars) buying good milk, cheese, juice. Health clinics in LA have been shut because over crowding of illegals and when a senior citizen went for serious case of the flu they had to wait over 9 hours to be seen but the illegals went 1st. This isn’t racist, its reality. Tony Cardenas put a motion forth just last week to spend $600,000 on another study. UNBELIEVABLE. They just don’t “get it” and never will. They are in lala land.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Happiness:
    H for health. Need I say more on that subject?
    A for attitude. As in having a good one, no matter what’s going on.
    P for pride. For self and for those you love.
    P for perspective. Glass half-empty or half-full?
    I for integrity. Something our policians lack, but we don’t. Do we?
    N for nature. Enjoy and treasure it daily. It’s restorative.
    E for education. Keep on growing. Don’t get complacent.
    S for self-approval. If you don’t approve of yourself, who will?
    S for “The Secret.” Don’t know it? Go and find out about it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What does the Bible have to say about all of this? What do our so called Democratic laws have say about all of this? What does HISTORY (i.e., AMERICAN HISTORY) have to say about all of this? With every action, there is a reaction. With every gov’t policy generated there are consequences…Implementing “Behavior Modification” is the key for the elites…What does Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” have to say?…or William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”…?…Could this be “90 percent error, 10 percent conspiracy”…?…We’ll if it is 90 percent error, then our gov’t officials should all be fired!!! And if it is 10 percent conspiracy, “we’ll” then revert back to our so called Democratic laws…at least what is left of them…Oh!…I’m sorry, I guess that was unpatriotic of me…bottom line, our world leaders do not know how to govern….they are too power oriented…got to go now…my “water” faucet has a leak, and my “gate” creaks….Nothing like a little elbow grease to take care of that stubborn…”ZARDOZ”…..

  9. Chris Rowe says:

    To:
    “The young just have to seek out the education and training to get jobs in the service sector, which has been growing as manufacturing has been falling. The US economy has been changing for decades, following the same pattern as the UK’s economy. I don’t understand people who lament for the good old days of a manufacturing economy. Apparently they can’t fathom the benefits of a service based economy and they assume globalization is reversible.”
    I know a whole group of people in their mid twenties that have gone out and gotten college educations. Each has a Bachelors degree in a different field. Not one of these young people is able to get a job, even though they have degrees in chemistry, engineering, physics, religious studies, or even previous jobs in the computer gaming industry.
    Everytime I make a call for some type of computer or electronic product, I get a customer service rep in Asia. I get Time Warner reps from Canada to Argentina and beyond.
    These jobs should be in the United States. If we can have Wikileaks, imagine what can happen to our identities with all of our information online, and secure data offshore.
    I have had identity theft twice in two years. Why?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Travel with Gulliver to SEE all the HYPOCRISY!

  11. Anonymous says:

    To: “Michael on November 29, 2010 1:48 PM” – Both parties Democrats and Republicans have collaborated to create the problem with the Real Estate bust – with banking deregulation pushed by Republican Phil Gramm and signed by Bill Clinton.
    The problem is that President Obama continued with the failed Republican policies of the Bush Administration with Corporate bailouts and not having a speedy exit from Afghanistan and Iraq.
    Also the independent CBO acknowledges that the stimulus money was not helping local economies.
    Tea Party, Conservatives, and Libertarians are even more threatening because they believe in no regulation which would allow something like the credit-default swaps that led to the the Q-4, 2008 economic collapse and the subsequent taxpayer bailouts of the rich (in direct contradiction to stated Conservative policies).
    What Conservatives need to realize is that the industry cannot “regulate itself” as was shown by the triple-A ratings of many financial institutions that held junk mortgage equity.
    And what Progressives need to understand is that endless government spending, sweetheart pension deals, and development subsidies will bankrupt the economy and put everyone out of work.

  12. Anonymous says:

    “I know a whole group of people in their mid twenties that have gone out and gotten college educations. Each has a Bachelors degree in a different field. Not one of these young people is able to get a job, even though they have degrees in chemistry, engineering, physics, religious studies, or even previous jobs in the computer gaming industry.”
    So are you saying it would have been better for these people to have skipped college and found work on a manufacturing floor instead? I’m not getting your point here.
    “Everytime I make a call for some type of computer or electronic product, I get a customer service rep in Asia. I get Time Warner reps from Canada to Argentina and beyond.
    These jobs should be in the United States.”
    For the sake of our convenience, they probably should be. But convenience alone doesn’t drive business decisions, especially in competitive markets.
    “If we can have Wikileaks, imagine what can happen to our identities with all of our information online, and secure data offshore. ”
    With cloud technology inevitable and on the horizon, the government and the businesses in related industries are going to have to figure out how to manage this.

  13. G. Shepherd says:

    Bruno, what’s your take on Ron’s recooping in Palm Springs and leaving you in some desolate doggie kare kennel?
    Did you reboot, too, and come up with some novel opining on the year’s events and what the new year will bring?
    Your Pal,
    G.

  14. Anonymous says:

    When Forbes lists Tina Brown and that Vogue woman as among the 100 most powerful women, we pretty much have an idea of the general malaise in our culture. To top it we had Carly Fiornina say that Boxer’s hairdo was so yesterday. If left to Republicans this woman could have been our Senator. Does not matter what her other policies were, the point here is that we have become a nation of cosmetic looks where old is 60 – 20 = 40, thanks to Botox. We’d better follow the fashions dicatated by Tina Brown and Vogue for fear of being shown as hillbillies. Must have the latest dress lines and purses or face the public humiliation of being rejected by a tatooed doorman at the latest club.
    Consumerism will never go away as long as dumb women & men follow the latest dicatated to them by people who make a living off them, just like the Pope who tells his dummies who may or may not wear condoms.

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