Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Candy Store Generation, Part 2: The Bush Years

Children in a candy store. I can think of no better way than that to describe Bush and Gore--and the nation they sought to lead--on the campaign trail in 2000. they are Baby Boomers, both children of privilege, both trust fund kids of rich daddies with political pedigrees. The Bush family money seems to have gone back farther than the Gore family money. But them, Bush was more involved in learning how to make money, while Gore knew nothing more than feeding at the public trough.

Bush, being narrowly elected, and with an evenly divided Congress, was slow to act. Except when a crisis such as 9-11-2001 required fast action, Bush seemed to be a plodder in both his thinking and his doing. It took years for him to bring forth legislative proposals for Social Security reform and a comprehensive national energy plan, just to name two things. That slowness, though, was actually calming. How glad I would be for such slowness today.

Yet, faced with the crisis of 9-11, and its barely related crisis of the Iraq war, Bush's call to the American Citizen on how best to support the national effort was: Spend! Travel! Fly! Live life as normal. Don't let our enemies know we even felt their gnat buzzing at our face. Don't worry about sacrifice. The candy store was on fire, yet we were called upon to keep buying and ingesting.

Which we did, as if this would end the problem. Digital TVs awaited, and newer, slimmer, and more powerful devices for playing more song. Thus we sought instant correction of a national disaster.
And that describes the Candy Store Generation: the instant generation. Instant resolution of crises in a 30 or 60 minute TV drama or a two hour movie. Instant information for purchasing decisions in a 30 second commercial. Instant food from the microwave or the restaurant. Instant promotions in business without taking the normal development time. Instant replay. Instant prosperity through borrowing.

Or, rather, instant appearance of instant prosperity through borrowing. Over=sized houses full of stuff, driveways full of cars bought with other people's money, hours full of comings and goings that cost money, the bills delayed to a future time, to be paid in cheaper dollars. We borrowed our way into personal prosperity, our long-term views dampened by instant success. Never did we seek to see over the next hill. Life was too good on this side.

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