Written by Joel Klaassen Tuesday, 16 December 2008 13:46
This week I am printing a letter I received from Pastor Randy Smith in response to my column last week. This isn’t the first time he has had a different take on things than me, but makes some valid points for sure.
I haven’t reprinted a letter before in this space, but I normally don’t have someone who takes my words as much to heart like my minister does.
Last week you asked us, “Where is the outrage?” I think I know. Or at least I have a theory. The answer is found in the wisdom of that classic cartoon strip, Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Have you ever watched “House Hunters” on HGTV? That’s the show where prospective buyers tour three houses and then choose which of the three to purchase. Which one do they usually choose? My viewing tells me it is usually the most expensive one. And when doing so, often they will comment, “It’s outside our budget, but….” or “It’s more than we wanted to spend but….”
Do you know the average size of a house in 1950 was 983 square feet? In 1970 it was 1,500 square feet. In 2005 it was 2,434 square feet. Funny thing, too, is that over this same period the average number of people living in each house has decreased. Why do you suppose this is?
Have you ever noticed how much stuff is made in China? Just try to buy stuff not made in China. Very tough to do. Why is everything made in China? Because it’s cheaper and above all else we will choose the “good deal.”
Faced with an inexpensive product made in China against a similar product made by well-paid workers, with benefits, in a safe work place that practices environmental protection, but which costs more, which will we choose? We know. So does Wal-Mart. The consumers have spoken soundly.
Do you remember when you were a kid how you would save your money for something you wanted to buy? Do you remember when your parents used lay-away? Who does that anymore? What an old-fashioned idea that is. Now, you want it? Buy it. After all that’s what credit cards are for. And we want it all, and we want it now.
Have you noticed the growth of household debt? It has increased much more rapidly than federal government debt. Forty-three percent of American families spend more than they earn each year. Today the typical American household owes $8,000 on credit cards, an increase of 167 percent from 1990, with 42 percent making no payment or minimum payment on this debt.
Tapping home equity has been a primary source for covering consumer debt. Revolving household debt has more than doubled in a decade. Likely this is most often by our own choices.
Did you know Americans burn 5 million more barrels of oil per day now than we did 25 years ago? During that time, consumer demand for vehicles that typically burn more fuel has more than doubled. The percentage of sales for light trucks and SUVs was 20 percent in 1980, and about 50 percent 25 years later. Why? And we still demand cheap fuel.
Have you heard it said that 70 percent of our economy rides on consumer spending? We have created a monster. We have built an economy where we absolutely must keep buying more stuff. That is why, after we exhausted our own income and credit, we all got a check from our Uncle this year, so we could buy more stuff. How many of us sent the check back?
So what does all this have to do with your question and a comic strip? My theory for the reason we are sitting quietly on our outrage: We know that if we are going to be angry and honest at the same time, then we have to look in the mirror. To be outraged and honest at the same time means we will have to take responsibility for our behavior and change our ways.
Didn’t Jesus say something about attending to the plank in our own eye first? Who wants to do that? Not many of us. Pointing fingers and accusing blame have been much more popular for a very long time. Just check out Genesis 3.
So Joel, your observations about those in power and those who are supposed to be leaders are right on. No argument here. But it is only half the story. The other half hides the answer to your question, “Where is the outrage?” We hide it because we don’t want to fess up, face up, and live up to what it will require from us to be outraged and honest at the same time.
Main Street or Wall Street? If it’s a bailout, then it’s a bailout no matter who receives it.
Your friend and reader,