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Poor economy is our own fault

BY DEAN TREFTZ | SEPTEMBER 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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Hi, America.

Remember that time you defaulted on your house, nearly toppling the banking industry, and you had to move into an apartment? Remember that heart-to-heart we all had together where we all cried a little and admitted that we couldn't afford the lifestyle we'd been living and would start paying down our debt?

Terms like "reckoning" and the overuse of the "chickens coming home to roost" metaphor seemed to indicate that we knew it was going to suck for a while and that we knew why. At the time, it felt like a regrettably necessary but refreshing moment of candor and self-reflection from a population not especially known for soul-searching. I felt like we all grew up a little that day.

So what the hell is this, America? A majority believes Obama deserves a moderate or great deal of the blame for America's economic problems?

Listen, I understand a column in a student newspaper declaring that the economy isn't the president's fault can sound a little like defending the refs after your team gets the call, so I'll do you one better: This economy isn't George Bush's fault either.

I hate to (re-)break it to you, but this one's on us. We bought the houses on credit, we bought the cars on credit, we bought our lives on credit. Sure, much of that purchasing may have been necessary, but when the most consistent bad guys of the recession — bankers, the Fed, foreign lenders — were people who enabled us too much, it's pretty clear what's up.

Debt is just future money. If you depend on it too much for growth as we did, when the shit hits the fan, not only do you no longer have that future money pumping into the economy and paying people's salaries, all people to start paying back their debts, meaning we don't even have all of our present money to play with. And that's what's happening — people now only owe 112 percent of their yearly disposable income, down from 127 percent in 2007.

The only way the government can "fix" the economy in the short-term is to borrow so much that it replaces the lost household debt. The reasonable response to that is: Isn't that a) just kicking the can down the road? and b) a more inefficient version how we got here (The batshit form of this response was supplied by Republicans this summer.)?

And while the stimulus plan's estimated 1.4 million to 3.3 million created jobs is nothing to sneeze at, it only dented unemployment, temporarily at that, and came at a cost of $814 billion in new debt. We can't stimulate our way out of this — we pretty much have to wait for our collective credit-card bill to get paid down a bit.

If you're reading this, you might reside in our little economic never-never land of Iowa City. From our Stafford-loan-inflated bubble we can relax, think big thoughts, and look at the big picture.

The main purpose of college seems to be to throw enough things at you while you're not as encumbered with day-to-day living that some might stick. When you're in the thick of real life, it can be hard to see past the next bill or around that upcoming deadline.

So if or when you leave here, you might find yourself thanking employers over the phone for rejecting you because they were the decent 1 percent who actually called back. Try to remember to compartmentalize that frustration.

By all means vote Obama out, but vote him out because you disagree with his vision for the country, not because you're desperate. Desperate votes make desperate countries, and desperate countries make bad decisions.


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