February 19, 2009

Chicago Tea Party

It makes a lot of Americans insane that Wall Street execs are paying themselves gazillions in bonuses, even as they demolish their own firms and the financial system.  They blame Wall Street for the financial crisis.

Then there are others who have a different explanation.

Rick Santelli, former bond trader and now CNBC reporter.  The highlight is 0:59-1:20.

(Link to video here)

It's worth hearing for yourself, but here's the punchline: "ask anyone here if they want to pay for the mortgage of their neighbor with the extra bath, who can't afford the house."

Let's leave aside whether he is right or wrong.  I sympathize with his perspective, though it's evident he thinks America is stronger than I think it is, he thinks it could recover without any government aid, he thinks people will just buckle down and ride it out like they did the last Depression.  I disagree,  I think they get guns.

Let's leave that aside.  What you need to observe is that his sentiment, shared by millions and millions of people, has the same fervor and anger as the "put the Wall Street bastards in jail" camp.  You just don't hear about it very much.

Note also that he isn't angry at the government only, he's angry at other Americans. While there are millions of people who think their government and capitalism have failed them, he's speaking for the millions who think those people are the problem.

These are personal attacks about American against American, this is a new level of divisiveness.

Santelli knows enough about the stimulus package to criticize it on its merits, but what infuriates him is its symbolic meaning, a la Atlas Shrugged, that he's responsible to pay for his fellow Americans simply because he has the money. 

On the other side, today you have South Carolina Representative James Clyburn saying that opposition to the stimulus package is a "slap in the face of African-Americans."  What he doesn't realize is that saying it that way doesn't make people support the stimulus, it makes people resent African-Americans.

Maybe the best thing Obama could do is move as far to the left as possible.  He will never be centrist enough, and certainly not rightward enough, to satisfy the Right.  And he'll meanwhile infuriate the Obamaniacs who won't be able to recall if they were voting for Hope or Change.

Who knows. 

But a prudent person will be less concerned with picking a side, and more concerned that sides are being picked.

Class warfare is back in earnest.

He calls for a Chicago Tea Party (he and the CBOE are in Chicago.)  Before you jump with him or on him, a history lesson:  the Boston Tea Party wasn't a protest about the British raising taxes on tea; they were protesting the reduction of the tax on tea, which meant the East India Company tea was even cheaper than the smuggled tea provided by wealthy colonists. 

The British were using a low tax to seduce the colonists.  Would colonists accept British rule-- the right to set taxes-- if it got them cheaper tea?  Samuel Adams hadn't read the Grand Inquisitor but he heard about it. They dumped the tea before anyone had a chance to say the words that destroy civilizations: please take away our freedom, it's a small price to pay.


I go priced out of my child... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 4:30 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I go priced out of my childhood neighborhood, then out of my childhood city, then out of the region, then the state.

I have spent the last ten years of my life putting a normal-sized American family in crackerboxes and apartments, living with roommates, not going on vacation, cooking and buying secondhand and making do and doing all the rest of the normal things that normal people used to understand you had to do if you couldn't afford to do different.

So yeah I am not superhappy that people who borrowed too much money to fund lives they couldn't afford are not going to be reaping what they sowed. But you're wrong if you think this is class warfare. This isn't about class. "People who lived within their means" isn't a class. This is about the demolition of class, the demolition of distinctions between people. If you aren't allowed to make those distinctions - to *discriminate* - if you are required by law and custom to act as though everyone is not just equal in the eyes of the law, but equally likely to pay his debts - then when payment comes due, you have no other option but enslaving the people who played by the rules so that China doesn't pull the plug.

And for heaven's sake, what do you think black people who lived within their means feel about what that idiot Clyburn said? That kind of thing doesn't make anyone resent *black people,* it makes them resent *stupid people* and racial pandering.

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The Boston Tea Party was no... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 10:31 AM | Posted by nohope: | Reply

The Boston Tea Party was not a protest.

When you want to protest, do you do it in the dead of night in disguise?

It was a handful of hired men from John Hancock's company, destroying a shipment of his competitor's product.

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Alone, show me how this is ... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 12:21 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Alone, show me how this is supposed to play out, and I'll be willing to buy into your notion that we are preventing future violence with 'government aid', rather than causing it.

My government just took out a trillion dollar loan against my kids' future earnings. Please explain the economic mechanism being counted on here that will prevent a depression rather than cause one. I'm sure the plan has risk. I'm sure it's imperfect. I just need it explained to me. We spent ten years borrowing our way into this mess. Show me how we'll borrow our way out of it.

I'm willing to be persuaded that all this is necessary, but no one has tried to do so.

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Class warfare has been wage... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 12:30 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Class warfare has been waged for quite some time now. Look at what percentage owns what percentage. Look at who made staggering gains in the last 10-20 years and who actually lost ground. Look at childhood poverty levels. Look at the discrepancy between upper management and worker- has that difference decreased or increased? Is it anywhere near what it is in Europe or Japan? Of course not. Do you hear a clamor by politicians for CEO's to adjust their compensation to be in line with Japanese and European CEO's like they did with workers wages? Of course not.

The subject is obviously a powder keg, given the concerted lack of coverage and unwillingness of our elected officials to discuss, let alone confront.

You can argue philosophy, you can argue direction, but you can't argue the numbers. They're a devastating indictment of the so-called "trickle-down," "free market" philosophy. The many have suffered. The few have prospered.

Speaking of numbers, here are the numbers, compiled by the US government, for the last 7 years: http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS15591+29-Jan-2008+PRN20080129

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Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, M... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 1:24 PM | Posted by George Andersen: | Reply

Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Maxine Waters, William Clinton, and later Barack Obama, all demanded the banks lend to people who could never repay their loans. Bush went along with it. Some Republicans, including McCain, tried to stop it. The banks, forced into it, went along with it and figured out a way to foist the risk of these bad loans onto others. That scheme spiraled out of control. I am sickened that the people who brought this on are now profiting from it politically. And I am sickened that the government is taking money from me while I struggle to keep my head above water, having purchased in 2005 with 20% down, to bail out people who never should have bought in the first place. I am pissed at both the socialists in power and the entitlement monkeys that support them. I will go to Chicago in July if this thing gets takes off.

The root problem is still that clever manipulators like Frank, Dodd, and Obama will always buy votes with my money. They are being rewarded rather than stopped. We need a grassroots groundswell to stop them, whether it is well reasoned or not (demonstrations never are well reasoned at the detail level - the point is to dramatize the bigger message, as the left well knows).

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It's not class warfare, in ... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 1:50 PM | Posted by Celebrim: | Reply

It's not class warfare, in as much as this issue will split socio-economic classes as well - almost in two or at least evenly with within 5% or so. You can see that simply by looking at the margin Obama won by at a particular economic level. To look at it as class warfare is to view it through a very narrow and distorting lens.

This anger at one group of Americans at another group of Americans really became prominent back in the '60's in something you may have heard of called the 'counter-culture'. It crosses economic class lines. The wounds have never healed, and they have just festered. If you go down to the university here and talk to well to do educate people, they'll take one side very passionately. If you go downtown, go up in one of the big office buildings and talk to educated professional people, they will take the other side with equal passion.

This isn't class warfare, and the fact that you think it is class warfare says something about the particular biases you've been educated to have. This cultural warfare. This is a war of ideas, not war of the powerful against the weak, or the weak against the powerful. This is the weak and the powerful divided down the middle fighting over the definition of society as whole, each believing that the society they define is the more just and equatable and compassionate one.

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Here! Here!! with anon 4:30... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 4:01 PM | Posted by Christopher: | Reply

Here! Here!! with anon 4:30 and the others who say this isn't class warfare. This isn't the haves vs. the have nots, rich vs. poor, but the restrained and disciplined vs. the profligate. Not coincidentally, there's a parallelism there, but your 'without government help' angle erroneously ignores the theft effect of inflation, not to mention moral hazards. Basically, these bailouts are rewarding bad behavior. And for what, so those who made miscalculations can avoid the temporary shame of a re-adjustment, the temporary shame of not getting a big bonus, the temporary shame of a lifestyle change. The bill's coming due; we can pay it now or we can pay it later. Or, maybe this is better: the behavior is going to have to change, so we can either have the intervention now or wait until he kills someone.

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What makes you think govern... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 4:04 PM | Posted by daphne: | Reply

What makes you think government aid can help? The government is in debt and they just get money from taxpayers. Things need to correct on their own; more federal debt won't help.

Over 200 years ago Adam Smith pointed out that when the government tries to manipulate the economy it only makes things worse. The Fed cuts the interest rates back in 2001, which kept mortgage rates low, which laid the groundwork for this crisis.

The East India Tea company had a monopoly. That's not capitalism.

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I think we're missing the p... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 5:02 PM | Posted by Bruce Donnelly: | Reply

I think we're missing the point. This isn't just a rant. It's not about class warfare and unfairness. It isn't about charity toward others in a time of need. It is about steamrolling over the idea of limited government as reflected by the 10th Amendment which completed the Bill of Rights. Instead of the federal leaders dictating economic outcomes, individuals still matter. Local and state leaders are being stripped of their power by making them so reliant on federal funding and the strings attached.

The focus needs to be on the way forward. What can state and local officials do to help turn this country around economically? Is their focus going to be on lobbying the federal government for handouts like community organizers, or are they going to work with business leaders in their communities to find ways to achieve progress and deal effectively with their local social issues? The challenge is for state and local Republicans to get back to basics rather than focus on what they can't do in Washington these days. www.SurgeUSA.org

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This isn't the haves vs.... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 5:03 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This isn't the haves vs. the have nots, rich vs. poor, but the restrained and disciplined vs. the profligate.

Yeah, and you know what that means? It means there isn't going to be any shooting, because we, the ones getting hosed, are the restrained and disciplined ones. We know how horrible civil war would be. We are just going to shut up and take it and mourn and grieve.

Do you even know what was lost? Have you ever seen a California beach town when the girls walk home in the sunset? Have you ever walked through a neighborhood of brownstones with happy children who all know each other's names playing together in the deep security that every adult in every house knows their names as well? Have you ever been to a joyful wedding in a courthouse where the bride, groom, and witnesses all hurried back off to work after lunch, because both working hard AND the piece of paper were WORTH IT and balancing human relationships and economic realities were what made you an adult?

There is no violence that can redeem what was stolen from me and my children. You can't remake the world that was built so slowly and with such labor in war. We all just have to wait it out.

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"Local and state leaders ar... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 5:48 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"Local and state leaders are being stripped of their power by making them so reliant on federal funding and the strings attached." Great victim thinking. They're making us take somebody else's money. They're making us .... Oh, the horror.

"This isn't the haves vs. the have nots, rich vs poor, but the restrained and disciplined vs. the profligate." To those who don't think this is an (economic)class issue ... study the numbers. Not that you will, but it would show some sort of restraint of tongue whilst pursuing the discipline of study. Not likely though. Arguments bolstered by independent investigation are so tiresome.

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Oh yeah, in terms of the si... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 6:32 PM | Posted by Dave Johnson: | Reply

Oh yeah, in terms of the simpering "This isn't the haves vs. the have nots, rich vs poor, but the restrained and disciplined vs. the profligate," sell that morality play to the legions who invested in their 401k's with the silly idea the "experts" were more interested in running successful, sustaining businesses than writing themselves a set of rules benefiting only themselves. That ought to be amusing.

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My fear is that CNBC will m... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 7:41 PM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

My fear is that CNBC will make Rick Santelli an offer he can't refuse.

His attack on national political correctness - on a live CNBC program - blindsided his employer's moderators and left them close to stunned. About time.

Meanwhile, the management of NBC was not amused.

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I recommend <a href="http:/... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 7:45 PM | Posted by Dr Benway: | Reply

I recommend The Giant Pool of Money, a This American Life episode that summarizes the financial crisis pretty well. Idiots in over-priced homes is part of the story. Mortgage-backed securities is a larger part.

The bail out isn't for the idiots, but for the rest of us. We're all fucked if the value of those mortgage backed securities can't be stabilized.

Unfortunately, there's no fair solution to this mess.

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I hope you are wrong and Am... (Below threshold)

February 20, 2009 11:01 PM | Posted by NIna: | Reply

I hope you are wrong and America is stronger than you think because we need to buckle down, get to work producing something useful. But perhaps you are right. People may use guns to get what they think they deserve.

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I'd really like to see the ... (Below threshold)

February 21, 2009 12:51 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I'd really like to see the finances of the various commenters.

I would bet serious money on the following:

* no one who is in favor of the bailout has ever had over 100k in savings; if we include inheritances, not over 20k

* no one who is in favor of the bailout has ever provided employment

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You need to get out and see... (Below threshold)

February 21, 2009 12:01 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You need to get out and see the world binky. Plenty of people seem to ultimately approve of the latest bailout, given the alternatives. Check out any old poll.

Also differentiate between the bailouts. Was it the bank bailout without oversight? Or was it the next bank bailout without oversight? Or the states bailout? Or the auto bailout? Or the defense industry bailout? Or the as-yet to be experienced mortgage bailout?

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Dave Johnson, good enough t... (Below threshold)

February 21, 2009 2:06 PM | Posted, in reply to Dave Johnson's comment, by Christopher: | Reply

Dave Johnson, good enough to use a name,
1. "Luxury homeowners are falling behind on mortgage payments at the fastest pace in more than 15 years, a sign the U.S. financial crisis that began with the poorest Americans has reached the wealthiest." Bloomberg, http://tinyurl.com/cgmh6j.
2. I include our government among the profligate.

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Back then you'd get killed ... (Below threshold)

February 21, 2009 2:44 PM | Posted, in reply to nohope's comment, by Colin: | Reply

Back then you'd get killed or arrested if you got caught for doing something like that, hence the dead of night. There were no such thing as peaceful protests in the age of imperialism

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In all the commotion, it se... (Below threshold)

February 21, 2009 8:58 PM | Posted by Dave: | Reply

In all the commotion, it seems that everyone has forgotten that this system of Capitalism is a system of profit and loses. If we wish to play on this team we must accept it when we loose as well as win. Not only should this have gone for the bankers who should not have been bailed out. This applies equally as well people who cannot pay for the homes they coveted.

It is the mind set that if you don’t win there is something unfair going on and if it is unfair the government must step in to make it fair (not allow you to loose). This is the travesty. This fairness mentality has washed our entire society.

I saw an advertisement the other day asking “Have you lost money in the stock market? We can sue the broker!” Obviously, your loosing was someone else’s fault and they must pay. Even if your broker was Bernie Maddoff, you can’t be let off the hook that easily. You must have to take some personal responsibility for making the decision to invest in his “great deal”.

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The hell are you idiots say... (Below threshold)

February 22, 2009 3:14 AM | Posted by Dyson: | Reply

The hell are you idiots saying? This is absolutely about class warfare. My father is the epitome of the American Dream. He came to this country with the clothes on his back, and nothing more. He was a Vietnamese refugee from the war. He soldiered with the Germans, the French, and then the Americans. He was shot, stabbed, and tortured before he escaped, and the Marines whisked him out of Vietnam on one of the last helicopters to leave Saigon. My father has broken his back (literally, he's putting off surgery) over the last 40 years, hoping and praying that my brother and I do better then he did, only to discover that now, the year he was due to retire, he has to try and work as long as he can so hopefully his 401K can recover and he's actually able to enjoy his retirement. My father has always acted fiscally responsibly, and it seems he's always been shafted. He's never been well-to-do, or even well off. It's been a constant fight to stay above water for as long as I can remember.

In short, fuck you. He's a small business owner. He's been marginalized, pushed around, and had purchasing power stripped away year after year as the socioeconomic gaps grow wider and wider. Fuck you for my mother who's had to throw out keepsakes and precious memories in an attempt to make room.

I was in DC a few days back and I had the displeasure of sharing a taxi with two day traders. It took every ounce of my willpower not to throttle the life from those oblivious, obstinate dumb asses. Their stupidity was blatant in their banter, and I couldn't help but wonder how the hell did someone so stupid control so much wealth? You fuckers only want capitalism when the economy is doing well. Stop bitching that the market has gone sour. Take your lumps like my family has, and stop groveling for a bailout.

I already have my gun.

Interpret this however you want, this isn't a academic discourse, this is the raw emotion of our situation- my situation. I am fed up with the entire situation, and I wouldn't be opposed to seeing the whole thing burn. Let the economy plunge to a state similar to that of Argentina's economy in 1992. It'll certainly separate the wheat from the chaff.

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"Have you ever been to a jo... (Below threshold)

February 22, 2009 8:14 PM | Posted by AK: | Reply

"Have you ever been to a joyful wedding in a courthouse where the bride, groom, and witnesses all hurried back off to work after lunch, because both working hard AND the piece of paper were WORTH IT and balancing human relationships and economic realities were what made you an adult?"

Anonymous described exactly how my aunts and uncles got married, 50 years ago.

They had their wedding celebration in a rented hall or church basement, with folding chairs and tables, which were then pushed aside to make room for the dancing.

The weddings were not expensive. One of my aunts wore a wedding dress that had been worn by her older sister.

No professional photographer immortalized the event. What I have are the black and white snapshots taken by the family themselves.

This was a wedding that was affordable, that no one went into debt to pay for.

If anyone stayed up that night, it was to explore each other's hearts and bodies--a good way to lose sleep.

No one had to lie awake at night fretting about paying for the wedding.

Speaking for myself, I was able to walk with my friends to and from elementary school. No adult tagged along to supervise up.

We played with each other in vacant lots. We had childhoods.

We were not constantly supervised like inmates in an institution.

My uncles did all kinds of foul and funny things when growing up. And its probably no accident that theirs was the generation that won World War II.

There are things you learn about yourself and your friends that can only be learned when you have the space to figure things out using your own resources, without some adult micromanaging and breathing down your necks.

And look at whats going on now..I see children who are close to school aged, being pushed in strollers, because their parents cant slow down and let the kids walk under their own power.

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Can We Save America Before ... (Below threshold)

February 23, 2009 6:55 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Can We Save America Before It's Too Late?

America's greatest enemy isn't huddled in a tent chanting verses; it's you and I. Great civilizations decay from within long before they are subdued from without.

Doubt that our country is in trouble? Consider this.

What happens to a nation when the generation that learned nothing becomes the teachers, and the generation that never grew up becomes the parents?

What happens to a nation when everybody wants to live on Easy Street, but nobody wants to do the work necessary to get there? What happens when people no longer believe that great sacrifices are required to accomplish things of value, things that last? What happens when people can't give up today's comfort and convenience for a greater reward tomorrow, convinced that self-denial is never called for? Perhaps we can only "have it all, right now" when "it" is very hollow, fleeting, and pointless.

What happens to a nation when the primary ethic becomes "Get as much as you can for as little as you can get away with"? What happens to achievement and accomplishment when people believe that "something" can be had for “nothing" and "deserving" replaces "earning"?

What happens to a nation when immediate happiness is the goal of all activity and instant satisfaction is demanded in order to make an effort? What happens when the ability to delay gratification--the defining quality of adulthood--is largely lost, and this loss is not even mourned? What happened to patience, perseverance, resilience, and putting things in perspective, things like distress and discomfort? A pain free life is one without challenge; a life without challenge is one without growth; a life without growth is one without freedom, possibilities, or hope.

What happens to a nation where economy replaces durability, where infrastructure goes without maintenance amid slogans of lowering taxes? Costs cannot be escaped, just deferred or shifted. When the concrete and steel comes crashing down around us, we will pay dearly indeed.

What happens to a nation when its children understand the meaning of "parents" to be "the strangers who pick us up from daycare at 6 PM"? What happens to a nation when dads spend more time on the Xbox--and moms in the chatrooms--than with their own kids? Are today's youth virtual orphans, plugged in, logged on, but never really connected? Have genuine adults capable of parenting become extinct, or are they merely on the endangered species list?

What happens to a nation when its children and adolescents believe that anything worth doing must be made fun? We have a generation that will only start a task if it is fun, that will only stick with a task as long as it is fun, and for whom the greatest sin is neither pride nor gluttony but boredom.

What happens to a nation where good parenting has been declared obsolete and where bad behavior is deemed evidence that a child's "meds aren't working"?

What happens to a nation when its greatest industrial products, the products for which the world holds it in high esteem, are high-tech military hardware and Hollywood blockbusters? And nothing else.

What happens to a nation where obscenity becomes the driving force of an industry? The video revolution of the eighties brought smut into everyone's neighborhood. The internet revolution of the nineties brought it into everyone's home. We now live in a masturbation nation. With gigabytes of pornography at everyone's fingertips, it's a wonder that anyone gets married anymore.

What happens to a nation when transient relationships and insecure emotional attachments are the only kind ever known? What will become of the kids who hear "mommy and daddy can't get along" and "you can visit daddy every other weekend" and "this is mommy's new friend..." two or three times before their teens are over? Will they become adults capable of the sound judgment and self control that make for a stable marriage? Or will they become adults who say "I've never loved anyone like I love you--lately" and "Marry me--for a few years until I find someone else in the thrill parade."

What happens to a nation where the rules of grammar are considered oppressive or obsolete, where substandard speech laced with profanity signifies trendiness, and where a high school graduate can't write an expository essay to save his own skin, but even grammar school kids have the latest hand held electronic gadgets? What happens when thinking and writing skills are no longer considered valuable and the effort to acquire them worthwhile? Who seriously believed that using calculators in math class would enable kids to learn more, not less? What future do our children have now that leisure has replaced learning and diversion has replaced dedication and devotion?

What happens to a nation when its largest chain of toy stores stocks one short aisle of books and creative supplies amid a dozen aisles of mostly branded merchandise with movie tie-ins and endless accessories? What future do our children have now that play has been replaced by showing off and getting on the wheel in a cage of endless wanting, getting, having, and throwing away? Did childhood get tossed out with the torn wrappings and boxes on Christmas morning?

What happens to hope in a nation of minimum wage service workers up to their necks in debt from shopping at the nation's largest retailer where shelves are stocked with imported products of dubious quality and safety? What happens when a minimum wage job won't allow one to keep his head above water, and even two breadwinners have to struggle to earn enough to live on a safe block?

What happens to a nation that overly sexualizes its young in advertising, apparel, and entertainment while preaching feel-good slogans about saving the children? Perhaps it needs to save them from itself.

What happens to a nation that asks "What is permitted?" and answers "Anything you can get away with..."? Speed limits? Optional. Taxes? Final exams? Extramarital affairs? "As long as I don't get caught." What happens to a nation where the public believes that for enough of a fee one can avoid the consequences of any behavior, where hired-gun "experts" and strategies to suppress evidence and influence perception carry more weight than the facts of a case, and where deep pockets, the media's thirst for sensation, and whether the DA is up for reelection trump justice for all?

What happens to a nation that looks to "experts"