- America’s deadliest sin (Can you guess?)
- Corruption’s six degrees of separation
- U.S. Capitol and WallStreetBets
- Give me something to believe in
- “When you debase money, you debase the culture”
- The reasonable aspirations of everyday Americans.
“What Happened to America?” we questioned last Thursday. At the same time, The 5’s managing editor Dave Gonigam asked readers to keep responses “as concise as possible.”
And a contributor really took Dave’s advice to heart. His one-word riposte? GREED.
“America has made an ART FORM of lies and deception,” agrees another, “geared to further the agendas of those who thirst for power, control and riches.”
Which perfectly dovetails with Dave’s post-Thanksgiving 2022 issue about the prevailing American “culture of corruption” that invigorated the likes of Elizabeth Holmes… who walked so FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried could run.
Cover Cons: 2014 and 2021
Along those same lines, starting in 1996, Fortune magazine named Houston-based Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years. (Theranos fraudster Elizabeth Holmes’ father, coincidentally, was a vice president at Enron.) And so it goes…
“Maybe it really does come down to malice,” a reader presumes. “Back in 1913, when the (non) Federal (non) Reserve was formed, there were malicious minds at work, seeking to control the population.
“The curse of currency with ‘flexible value’ has been one of the most subtle attacks on the sovereignty of the individual,” he continues. “It has enabled the government to spend endless funds on wars and meaningless programs while making the plebes feel ‘rich.’ All the while everyone is one keystroke away from bankruptcy.”
Fair points. The day after the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, in fact, we drew a direct throughline from hostile protesters to economic instability created by a Federal Reserve that’s had the back of banksters and Wall Street… while shanking 90% of Americans between the shoulder blades.
Consider: Among those arrested in connection with Jan. 6, according to The Washington Post, 18% had experienced bankruptcy — two times the national average — 20% had faced foreclosure on a home and 25% had been sued by a creditor.
Then, later in 2021, Wall Street had the impertinence to wonder why newbie millennial traders took their own form of revenge, buying shares of GameStop and other hard-pressed companies to stick it to the likes of once-successful hedge fund Melvin Capital.
The word you’re searching for is “schadenfreude”…
“I was in my early teens during the ’08 crisis,” said one post on Reddit’s WallStreetBets. “I vividly remember the enormous repercussions that the reckless actions by those on Wall Street had in my personal life, and the lives of those close to me.”
Children are more observant than we give them credit for…
“There is zero reason to believe anyone from any American institution,” observes another reader, who points out “a major lack of integrity.
“Our current political ‘leaders’ are a hybrid of drunken spenders and antisocial toddlers. They spend our money on war and worthless endeavors while pointing the finger at the other party.”
And from one institution to others:
- “I entered the teaching profession in 1973,” writes one reader. “The quality of education was already on a steep downward slope. The ‘flower children’ invaded the profession and brought with them their socialist ideas. More time passed and they were promoted to key positions where such ideas could be forced on textbook publishers. By sheer numbers in teachers’ unions, they outvoted anyone who voiced opposition”
- “Leftists took over the media and have co-opted it,” says a first-time contributor, “using it as a full-time gaslighting and propaganda machine that a population with almost no critical thinking skills is now trapped in like quicksand”
- “I believe nearly all of the problems in America can be traced back to the decline of the nuclear family, with both spouses working and no one staying home to run the household and raise the kids,” a reader adds. “And why, mainly, did this happen? The debasement of the U.S. dollar by the Fed and the elites in D.C. That concise enough for you?”
And since we like to look for a financial angle, a reader shares a similar view…
“When you debase money, you debase the culture,” he says.
“Money is the foundation of decision-making since money provides options. When one can’t trust money’s future value, culture becomes ‘consume now’ instead of save and invest… This lack of impulse control leaks into other facets of life.”
Speaking of “fast food” culture, a reader writes: “If you can put America’s decline on a timeline, I’m willing to blame the emergence of social media platforms.
“It’s one thing to have an opinion. It’s quite another to put it on the internet and have it retweeted and otherwise reinforced.
“It has resulted in tribalism on a massive scale and has allowed politics to become as divisive as religion used to be. It’s just awful.”
“Whatever in common we once shared has been lost in the cacophony surrounding our differences,” says another contributor. “We have become a two-nation state, red and blue.
“And it’s not as simple as the issues involved in the American Civil War. As soon as one side declares themselves in favor, the other side claims ‘to the death’ opposition — even to their own injury.”
To wit, we repeat: MIHOP (made it happen on purpose)? “EVERYTHING has been politicized,” a reader concurs…
- “Accountability evaporated for elected officials
- Compromise is portrayed as weakness
- Extremist views have been legitimized
- Media became a pandering pulpit.”
“Can we come back from this to form a unified country?” wonders another reader. “I used to think we might, but now I’m no longer certain.
“Maybe we’re just not that into each other any longer.”
But we happen to believe that most everyday Americans share some reasonable ambitions…
“I want to make a good living,” a contributor aspires. “I want to be able to retire and treat my grandkids once in a while.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he says, “I believe in hard work. But I see so many companies paying barely above minimum wage while people live paycheck to paycheck. Many hoard their surplus and give their CEOs special perks. How about they pay their employees better and forget the perks?”
Apropos, a reader writes: “We’ve adopted an amoral version of capitalism. There is no doing the right thing. It’s about making money all the time. Generally, we’ve lost our moral compass, our spirit of sacrifice for others and individual toughness.”
Another enjoins: “We lost our self-reliance and virtue. This has made too much of the populace weak… and reliant on the government to take care of them.”
“I like to watch black-and-white movies,” a reader reminisces, “where a person can stand up for a moral principle or for his or her neighbor because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’ll mean they get to make more money in the end.”
Finally, this sad refrain (layered with multiple meanings): “When is enough… enough?”
We’re constrained by our five minutes today to proffer any quick fixes — in fact, those don’t exist.
Nevertheless, Dave’s masterful issue “No Family, No Faith, No Freedom” teases out some conclusions.
I’ll close with what he said:
What to do?… We daresay it might start with something as simple as forging new social bonds that weren’t there before — getting offline and getting out in ‘meatspace.’ Saying hello to a neighbor you don’t know yet… engaging at a farmer’s market or community festival… finding a group of folks who enjoy the same pastimes you do. Or… heading to a house of worship, if the spirit so moves you.
Can the titanic “ship with no captain” be righted? Not easily. Not quickly. But, as individuals, I have to believe each of us might steer away from shipwreck toward peaceful waters.
If we didn’t say it before, thanks for your opinions. And take care.
The 5 Min. Forecast