Ditch American Optimism: We Need to Get Angry About the Economy
This post is part of our forum on Don Peck's September story, "Can the Middle Class Be Saved?" Read Don's debate introduction here.
Tyler's point about being too resilient is intriguing.
The middle class had a very comfortable existence before the downturn. True, it was financed through the usury of the credit card industry and using credit lines on our homes like ATMs. While some people people are much worse off, most are "making do."
As a professor, and a parent, people like me are the ones to blame. Why are people so focused on finding their passion? Has the Great Recession made seeking your passion a silly luxury. No one wants to kill a kid's dreams, but don't we need to respect this new reality. Is it cruel to tell young people they can do "anything they put their mind to?" My students tell me they want a career where they will do something they love and where they will be happy to go to work everyday. What about pragmatic concerns? The brightest kids want to go into finance or maybe, be the next Mark Zuckerberg or be a sports agent or work in public relations. I rarely meet kids who want to be engineers who work to protect the shore against erosion or low-lying regions from flooding or even want to be teachers, never principals who make the tough decisions about how to serve kids.
They want to avoid uncertainty and be comfortable.
But trying to minimize risk doesn't get us closer to dealing with our problems in the United States. So Tyler is right, I think Americans have so much stuff that folks won't be starving, they will stay home and watch movies on their flat screens instead of going out. They will get smarter about managing debt. But, with years of a jobless recovery ahead of us, I worry what happens to the country if more and more Americans can't get full-time jobs and can't save or afford to move out of their parents' homes or get married. It's very bad for America if our sole response for dealing with our problems is waiting for things to get better, taking care of our own. We need to get angry and demand more, not just lower our expectations, put our head down, and hope for the best. Americans will be done in by our optimism if we don't plug it into something.
Read why Maria Kefalas says we need to get angrier about the economy.