When you boil down the debates about the economy and the perceived problems facing us, it is becoming more and more apparent to me that we are a completely atomized society. Nature, red of tooth and claw lives among us. Consider for a moment the pontifications of one of the richest men in the world.
Folk live in a house that the bank owns that they cannot afford. For some odd reason, they consider the house theirs. For reasons more evident to me, the bank considers the house to be it's property. Now, the folks that bought the house can't really afford it, but since it is "mine", they can't seem to make themselves walk away. The bank who loaned money to fools who cannot pay them back thinks it is "mine" too. A sensible move for an underwater homeowner would keep the bank from reaping the "mine" benefits of a thirty year mortgage.
Pension plans are the same. Groups that have negotiated pensions for themselves see the too-generous pensions as "mine". All well and good when there is enough stuff on the table. But when the cupboard starts looking bare, the pensioners who have planned on the gross mis-allocation, and the companies/governments who made the original agreement for the mis-allocation will both go the the mattresses to defend what they see as "mine". My guess is that neither will be the same at the end of it.
We are negotiating a unique point in our country's history. We have made far too many promises. We cannot in any way, shape, or form, keep all of them. But the few that are willing to at least recognize that the promises are worthless are written off as freeloaders (in the case of homeowners walking away), oppressors (entities that try to renegotiate their pension plans), or fools (folks who pull out their retirement early on the idea of a bird in the hand). We pretend that these folks are abandoning some sacred contract. But I want to know, when does a contract which is untenable and contrary to the blunt reality of the world become sacred.
We are in the midst of shattering promises. They will be breaking around us for years to come. But the promises that we so cherish are what will be dragging us down if we try to hew to them. The saddest part of this is that we are so intent on a that which is mine we will not be able to give up anything ourselves to heal the flaws in our Republic. It is always someone else who has to bear the burden. What is mine is sacred and cannot be compromised.
This idea is organic to our culture. It exhibits itself in the political gamesmanship in D.C.. It shows itself in the ruthless competition shown by the Wal-Marts of the world. It is exhibited in a military/diplomatic policy intent on keeping stuff flowing to the homeland. I cannot see a way that we would ever be able to abandon it without extraordinary pain.
Guess what is coming?