I was listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast from yesterday’s show and he had a caller who had $130K in student loan debt and is a stay-at-home mom. It caused him to go off on a rant, understandably, about how the parents are obviously not properly guiding their children. Specifically, and 17-18 year old does not have the judgment skills to decide where to go to college. In fact, parents SHOULD tell their children where to go to college.
Spending over $100K on a degree that will only result in a $40K a year job is ludicrous, claims Ramsey. And if that $100K is sitting in student loan debt, you can’t decide to be a stay-at-home mom; that decision is no longer an option. It doesn’t matter if your kid wants to go to an Ivy League private college if he/she wants to study a subject like Underwater Basketweaving. It doesn’t make sense: Americans have become stupid about education.
We live in a society that no longer values the fundamentals of smart decisions, hard work and basic economic stability. If it’s not big and flashy (i.e. Platinum Bentley) or for a greater passion and purpose than money (i.e starving artist) it’s just not worth pursuing anymore. So there’s now a generation of people who will spend all their money to look like they’re part of the 1% or people who spend all their time separating themselves from any kind of financially driven goals. Both of these directions are bad for the economy and society and point to a larger problem: a lack of values.
Americans no longer know what’s important in life so many default to what other people tell them is the right thing to do. Advertising tells them what they should want. Magazines, television, celebrity endorsements, the multitude of recommendations that take product purchasing decisions out of the consumers hands and into a “reputable” third party.
So when faced with making a decision for their children, is it any wonder that they leave it to the children? And naturally, don’t the children just rely on the rankings? How will they ever be “The Best” if they don’t go to where they’re told is “The Best” school? And why don’t they know that “The Best” doesn’t mean the same thing for one person as it does to another (no matter what Kim Kardashian says)?
We’ve made a society of people who are more interested in isolating themselves in labeled boxes like Ivy League Graduate or Green Vegan Environmentalist for a sense of identity than building a life steeped in values. Because values aren’t flashy. They aren’t passionate. (Well, for most people who aren’t Dave Ramsey they aren’t.) They’re practical. They make sense. Everyone can have them. And it turns out, they’re the most important part of having a personal identity.
Being able to evaluate who one is and what one stands for is one of the most critical skills we can learn in our lifetimes. Understanding our needs, separated from our wants, and finding the most effective and pragmatic way to fulfill those needs before addressing our wants is the key to success.
Most the personally satisfied and financially successful people in the United States are people who paved their own paths doing something no one has ever done before in a way that is completely innovative. They didn’t need people to tell them what to call themselves, what to copy or what to buy to define themselves. They didn’t need it to feel secure (and a surprising number of them are not college graduates at all.)
Despite what you might have read, there is no Class War going on in America. The emerging debate between the groups calling themselves the 53% and the 99% has very little to do with their own household incomes. It has everything to do with how they feel about wealth. People, we are entering a Values War.
Listen to the 53% as they define themselves through describing their hardships and their triumphs. They’re not talking about the fact that they pay income taxes unlike the 47%. In fact, I haven’t read one note that rages on about how 47% don’t pay any taxes at all and that we need a flat tax (ala Herman Cain’s 9-9-9). No, the 53% actually has little to do with taxes and everything to do with personal responsibility. The 53% place emphasis on the fact that we’re all in the same crummy, broken down, possibly hole bottomed boat but instead of complaining about the people who have more, they are going to blaze their own trail. They will continue to work hard, take advantage of the opportunities afforded by our capitalist system and keep striving for the American dream.
Now listen to the 99%, disgruntled and demanding. They talk about how they’ve been wronged and how someone, most likely Wall Street (as if it were one sentient evil being instead of thousands of businesses), must pay for what has happened to them. They’re also protesting about everything else from genetically engineered food to Capital Punishment. It’s a mob of people who believe there is something wrong and want to focus attention on it so someone else can do something about it.
The divergence between the 2 groups isn’t how much they make. It’s how they feel about wealth and the wealthy. The 53% range between people who don’t seem to care much about how much the Jones’ make, let alone the Rockerfellers. Most seem to respect and even take inspiration from the wealthy to strive to make their own wealth. On the other side, the 99% seem to hold the wealthy responsible for all their woe’s from keeping wages low to having a conspiracy like control over government and economy. In turn, they feel wealth is evil and that their money should be distributed in a socialist type fashion.
This Nation, at least in my experience as an immigrant, was a safe haven for people who wanted to work hard and make lives for themselves that didn’t involve the government stepping in and oppressing their everyday lives. My perspectives of Capitalism versus Communism, which will have to wait for another long winded post, shape my values system. I know how great a system that encourages people to go out and become rich is versus one that punishes those who have earned more than others.
This is a turning point for this country. Do the silent citizens who sit and watch the news and commentary unfold before them identify with the Socialist movement brewing in the 99% or do they want to preserve and improve upon the Free Market-like system we have now?
Do we as a nation want to punish the rich, expect handouts and create a society based on bitterness and envy?
Or do we want the ability to rise and fall on our own merits and be respected and honored for our own outstanding achievements?
I choose the latter.
In an economic landscape where everyone has a neighbor who has moved due to foreclosure, 1 out of 10 people are looking for jobs and so many more are barely just getting by I understand why so many people look to the wealthy with anger. People are looking for someone to pay for this meltdown.
After all, why should Investment Banker guy only feel the bad economy because he had to sell one of his Bentleys or get rid of his Hampton’s summer rental while there are people out there in constant fear that they won’t have enough money to keep the lights on?
Simply put? Wealthy people create jobs. Better for Investment Banker guy to not feel the economic squeeze to tightly or he might lay off his housekeeper, nannies or driver.
In fact, he might cancel his country club membership causing his friends to follow suit thus reducing the revenues from the country club resulting in lay-offs. He might stop spending thousands of dollars a month on luxury goods resulting in less sales tax revenue for the government to fund the multitude of public services helping out those less fortunate than he. He might stop dining on the town resulting in less tips and reduced hours for the people who work in the Service Industry.
He might stop donating money to causes like various Preservation Societies for cultural treasures, like the museums and theaters, resulting in the closing of some of the smaller, less touristy of gems.
So in my mind, the Rich are already paying for this meltdown by continuing to spend and donate to keep part of this economy afloat. If not them, who is going to employ that housekeeper, nanny and driver? Are you going to keep those servers employed and tipped? And what happens to their families when there’s no one left to pay?
Sitting down with the wife (yep I got married, part of the reason I haven’t posted in forever) she who is a fiscal conservative exclaimed, “how can Obama win and prop pass in a liberal state like california?”
Reasons abound I came to few that really sparked what I think happened. There are ALOT of Catholic and liberal minded Christians in California. That while on paper like the idea of helping out the little guy and the down-trodden get ahead and on the straight and narrow. They however have no support for those who have a much different family and social belief then there own. Insert gay marriage. If you are a person of devout faith, then the bible really does govern a percentage of your life. Mainly how you treat gay people. To some, its easy to acknowledge gay people and leave it at this. However, having gay marriage in society would be a form of acknowledgment. Many my say “but shouldn’t these people keep their religion and politics apart?” and while not being particularly religious I would in instinctively say yes. However the opposite is true. Their very values come from the religion they follow and the people of that religion they look to as examples either in the church, community and family, whom more often then not share the same values. Since these values are inseparable from them as people they can only see politics in the same light. This is not a bad thing, in fact its many of those same values that were used by the founding fathers to build this country.
Prop 8 passed not because people are bigoted, which I have heard repeated (from the left) as to why Prop 8 passed. It passed because gay marriage isn’t about equal rights, its about what the majority of this country or state wants to view as equal to the relationship between a man an a woman. To the country, its beneficial to have marriage between man and woman. Please accept I’m not speaking in facts that I can prove. I’m speaking in beliefs. It just so happens the voting majority across the country feels the same as I do.
Also, a sizable amount of Obama supporters were really just looking for the “Not Bush Party” candidate.
I had a fight this morning with my fiance. I had a valid issue, but chose some poor words to express it and now instead of hearing my point she became defensive and now we’re at odds. In my case, had I used a different way to express myself, or talk about it later in the day when I would be more composed it could have been avoided. Oh well, I’ll apologize and charge the mountain again later. But it got me thinking about people who disagree completely.
In my travels and time spent meeting new people and discussions with friends, I have confirmed -for myself at least over and over that a change in beliefs (political, religion) is entirely personal. For two peers of similar mental ability and skills in communications with what they both believe to be correct and “right”. When discussing issues there is almost a zero percent chance at either swaying the other to their stance. Even if the argument becomes one-sided and one party looks to be completely inaccurate or wrong. They’ll just believe that the competent, or winning party was a “jerk” or “wrong”. Or begin personal attacks during the discussion. My most influential debates with others have been when I give them ample time to get all their beliefs out. In fact I take time and ask questions that further their point, because I am interested in understanding them. Doing this in a way that doesn’t seem condescending is difficult, especially when they know you disagree. During the conversation as I understand their points and stances I ask short, concise questions that are absolutist in argument. For example.
I had a conversation with a global warming fanatic (a recent fan of “An Inconvenient Truth”). It became obvious in our discussions that the person didn’t understand the scientific method nor did he have a grasp of why speaking about science in absolutist terms was a bad idea. So I let him fully congeal a point. Then I asked point blank, “Do you believe global warming was directly caused by humans and the pollution they create?” The answer of course was yes. So now with a point we disagree in and to prevent a shutdown on communication I asked have you heard of the little ice age? And defined in detail what I knew about the phenomena and that it happened during and after the industrial revolution. I also brought forth the argument that few decades ago everyone was concerned with global cooling and that at the time, “the science was irrefutable” was touted as well.
The point isn’t to say “trust me, I’m right.” its to plant the seeds of a differing opinion that isn’t extreme or delivered with anger and aggression. I give two to three historical references and if the person would like to learn about it they can on their own time. The second thing I’m going after is for the person to go on a private learning expedition that isn’t tainted by Al Gore, Fox News, NPR or any other MEDIA that has its own agenda. I revile some things that are stated by Fox News (so called conservative reporting) as much as I hate that of the overtly liberal New York Times. Media has its fault, but bellying up the trough never makes a sound conversationalist.
“Trust, but verify.”