The future

Dear Mr. Berko:

I'm a 54-year-old retired social worker who is on disability. I took exception to your presentation in Orlando, Fla., last December. If you had remained longer, I would have challenged your comments about America and where it's headed. I believe that this is the greatest country in the world and that Americans are the greatest people in the world, and together Americans can accomplish miracles. I can't believe how stupid you are about our economy. We have the greatest industries in the world and the greatest economic system in the world. Recessions are only a pause for our economy to catch its breath and then grow and prosper under new leadership. Recessions are like a cold, and we get over them. I was disappointed you weren't more positive and needed to put my two cents in.

MB, Orlando, Fla.

Dear MB:

Your soda straw view of the world is a wee bit puddled. It's nice to believe "that this is the greatest country in the world and that Americans are the greatest people in the world." But this is the naive arrogance of an idiot who never has read a history book and the pompous prejudice of a fool whose flag-waving can be purchased for a monthly check, a joint and a six-pack.

Assume for a moment you are right. What nations would choose to be friends with a country that wears nationalism and conceit like epaulets on its shoulders? They'd have to be dumber than rice crispy. Do you feel superior to the Florentians, the Sydneysiders, the Finns, the Osloites, the Hamburgers, the Portenos and the Cairenes? Cheese and crackers got all muddy; excessive jingoism is what encourages other nations to despise us. And of Macbeth's "vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself," Shakespeare quotes Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goeth before destruction, and a high mind before the fall." We're neither the best nation in the world nor the best people in the world; rather, we are among the best.

I think the butter has slipped off your pancake and don't share your simplistic, bushy-tailed view of the country's socio-economic landscape. You're mistaking the edge of a rut for the horizon and wearing blinders to protect you from reality. The economy is recovering from the recession of several years ago, but it won't recover enough to say that "it's better today than it was before the recession." We used to have rolling recessions followed by patches of prosperity that would last seven to 10 years. But during the past three decades, the duration of those patches of prosperity has shortened; the Great Recession was preceded by barely three years of prosperity. And each time there's a recovery, the grinding wheels of the business cycle get worn down a little more, so every succeeding recovery needs a little more fiscal and monetary stimulus to cure it.

Consider the unique tricks and treats the Federal Reserve is using to fix today's economy. And what stimuli are available to the Fed if we deign to have another recession? How far below zero can interest rates decline? How many more dollars can be dumped on the economy to expand entitlement programs, create new jobs and promote business development in 2015 or 2016? Well, Moon Beam, some observers (Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's) believe we are in a declining economic flight path. Others suggest our country is too big to be governed cohesively, too politically fragmented to reach consensus, too socially divided to be trusted and too economically segmented to be unified. Many believe that the national debt can't decline, that tax policy will remain regressive, that government will become larger, that public education will continue to deteriorate, that 7 percent unemployment will be the new normal, that entitlement participation will move steadily higher and that 13,207 "registered" lobbyists with 53,000 employees will continue to own Congress.

Your 1950s-style chauvinism is charming and wistful but out of place in today's milieu. Sadly, 25 years hence, when folks look back on today, they will remember these times as happy, peaceful, commodious and worry-free days.

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Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at mjberko@yahoo.com. Visit Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

© 2013 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Published: Mon, Jan 14, 2013

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