The Recession and Public Speech

The recession: all of us have been affected by it over the past several months. Though I am thankful that I still have a home, a family, and an education, I see the results of our faulty economy all around me. Half of the houses on my street are in foreclosure, many of my friends' parents are out of their jobs, and my family's delivered Los Angeles Times is getting smaller and smaller.

Take a trip with me back through our recent history. Our nation began to collectively move its focus from the future to the present; instant gratification became more important than overall benefits. Families with middle to low salaries bought 2,500-square-foot homes, boats, ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), and ate out constantly. People spent beyond their means, not worrying about what would happen when the hypothetical money ran out. Finally, however, this nation's "house of cards" (a painfully overused, but adequate, description) has collapsed to the ground.

A variety of things that may have contributed to this American mindset. Many Baby Boomers I have talked to feel that this latest consuming generation was not patient in acquiring the American Dream. Everyone pictured the same thing: the two-story house with the white picket fence filled with toys and luxuries. And they wanted it now. But of course, this phenomenon has occurred across the world. So what can explain such a massive economic collapse?

Though I am aware of the fact that virtually everyone in the blog-o-sphere has beaten me to this conclusion, I do feel the need to reiterate the problems with government fiscal regulations. We invested in banks that, blind with greed, overlooked and avoided warnings, risks, and the other negative consequences of their actions. Lenders placed many risky investments in the stock market, and though there are the select group of individuals who made it big, the rest of the people fell swiftly to the bottom and lost all of their money. Goverment regulators did not perform their jobs properly. In short, our goverment regulators did not, in fact, regulate.

This new array of hardships resulting from our bad economy could have been avoided. Consider this: in the world of education, if a teacher presents a fact to a student, the student is supposed to accept that this fact is true because the teacher has been educated in such matters and knows what they are doing.

This is the problem, I feel, that people across the world have fallen into. Our lenders and regulators, the ones with the fancy degrees stating that they have been trained in matters of finance and economics, were supposed to know what they were doing. Many people trusted everything that these lenders did and figured that, since the lender is supposed to know more about the market than I, then this is the right thing to do. This may well have been our problem: we have learned to stop questioning the information that we are fed.

This has happened since the beginning of time. But when ignorance brings the world economy to a standstill, one has to wonder when, if ever, people will learn from their mistakes and finally question what they are told. Question authority. Unfortunately, some will try to take advantage of us for short-term gain. And there are people whoose ignorance can cause catastrophe. Even if these people are our friends, we must learn that by questioning and thinking critically, we can save ourselves and others from harm.

Look around us now. Newspapers are downsizing and going bankrupt left and right. Newspapers have traditionally been the method of choice for practicing critical thinking and questioning; they have served as public forums for many years, and many of us believed that they always would. They helped to keep governments - whether local, state, or national - honest. They helped to stand up for the normal citizens and presented the truth to those who desired it. Now, we must say our solemn goodbyes to these once so powerful methods of expression.

Sadly, this site is also closing soon. Citizen Joe has been my public forum for quite some time, and I am happy to say that I participated in it. I would like to think that the thoughts and ideas presented here have made an impact. I do believe our economy will recover, though we do not know just how long we will have to wait. In the meantime though, I implore you all - look at all the sides of an issue, proposition, or what have you. Just because something will serve you well at this very moment does not mean that we shall receive any long-term benefit from it.

To everyone who is enduring the hardships of this storm, I wish you the best. I certainly hope that you will persevere through the times to see the better somewhere over the horizon.