April 6, 2011

First World Problems

Earlier in the week, I finished an excellent book - Badlands by Tony Wheeler. Wheeler isn't a household name but he's pretty well-qualified to write about some of the world's most notorious places. After all, he did start Lonely Planet (famous for their guides and travelogues) and started visiting many of these places in the early 1970s. He's also a hell of an entertaining writer.

After visiting the Axis of Evil and beyond, Wheeler ranked countries in order of badness against three criteria:

Three things give a country marks on my Evil Meter - how it treats its own citizens, if it is involved in terrorism and if it is a threat to other countries.

And since he maintains that no good scale is comprised of only nine points he gives one point for "a good cult of personality." And against these criteria, the United States does pretty damn well. Not perfect, but well. Especially against places like Iran and North Korea.

Our problems are, for the most part, very first world. Which is why the few third world problems we can't seem to shake - education, homelessness, healthcare - bother me so very much. It seems to me that these problems should be addressed first. The foundational problems that involve people, their health, their lives and their futures, should be solved before we tackle issues like NFL lockouts, high-speed rail and corn-growing incentives.

I'm sure I sounded a bit hopeless yesterday when I talked about the 2012 elections. And I am to a certain extent. And I didn't mean to imply that the problems we face can be solved by one man. That's not reasonable. It takes a village. We kicked the village idiot out a couple years back but that didn't mean the village's citizens were all going to suddenly start getting along. For whatever reason, exactly the opposite has happened. People are behaving a hell of a lot worse. The end result? Nothing's getting done.

Case in point - the budget. There is absolutely no reason the government should be allowed to shut down on Friday but that's what's going to happen if an agreement isn't reached. Soon. What's preventing it is nothing but ego. Pure and simple. And our government should be responsive to its people, not it's own collective ego.

In a perfect world, what's the solution? That's not rhetorical. I'm really asking. Because I'm thinking we should all start our own party. We don't all have to agree on everything but together I'm sure we'd be a hell of a lot more effective that what we've got now.

Posted by Chris at April 6, 2011 7:25 AM

In a perfect, utopian world, Communism really is the answer. BUT Humans, by nature, are too greedy. Get rid of the greed, and then there wouldn't be the crime, there wouldn't be the desire to have more than he has, and everyone would be willing to work for what they have. But by nature, we're too greedy, and we must have the next this, or the biggest that. Everything has to get BIGGER, BETTER and STRONGER, while getting SMALLER, and SMALLER. And I honestly feel that is a large part of the problems. What's the answer for this current world? Erradication, and IQ tests on breathing.

Posted by: Kim at April 6, 2011 7:35 AM

I wonder if a democracy is a viable option anymore since there is so much dissent. Maybe a good, hard, dictator is needed to knock out a deficit?

In all reality, it's going to take a collective effort to balance the budget and we don't have any collaboration or compromise right now.

And for the record, we're going to have to reduce the amount we spend on social programs too. Not cut entirely, but reduced in order to save ourselves from a Chinese-ran future.

Posted by: Brad at April 6, 2011 9:45 AM

I don't know the answer, but I can tell you this- the government wont shut down. The budget impass they are at is for the 2012 budget. This year has already been funded (through Oct anyway). It just captures a whole lot more attention and gets everyone up in arms if they make it sound like everything will shut down. Its a power play.

Posted by: 3jaysmom at April 6, 2011 9:58 AM

In a perfect world? Benevolent dictatorship. I'm not kidding. One person with the good of the people in mind can do more than a group of people with their own agendas. But it's hard to find a smart, selfless person. And others would do their damnedest, including trying to kill that person, to bring that person down.

Posted by: alektra at April 6, 2011 10:56 AM

Definitely a toughie, and I agree that it's frustrating tha twe can't seem to prioritize the things that REALLY matter.

Posted by: Heather at April 6, 2011 5:04 PM

What astounds me is that no one is up in arms that if the government shuts down Congress still gets paid! I mean if my place of employment shuts down (which it does on occasion due to weather issues), I don't get paid.

The problem with the melting pot of our country is that any decision is never good enough for someone - inevitably that someone has a really loud voice.
People spend so much time worrying about what others do (that has NO tangible effect on their lives) - we argue in circles and get nothing done. Maybe our government should take a vow of silence - maybe we'd get more done.

That being said - I must admit that I find our economic issues quite funny. The principle of our economy is completely ideological. We aren't based on a gold standard anymore; money and its worth is totally random. Why don't we just absolve the national debt and start over? Who do we even owe it to? Maybe I'm just ignorant, but I don't get it.

Posted by: Melissa at April 6, 2011 8:15 PM

this has me so enraged. my sister was recently laid off from her job with congress after the repubs took over in november. and now my friend who is a curator at the smithsonian is about to have to go without pay for his family because the aholes that can't do their jobs are deciding all this for the ones that can. i can NOT believe that we can not collectively come to a reasonable agreement to keep things moving. well, i guess i can believe it. major fail.

Posted by: kati at April 6, 2011 9:17 PM

ps. it seems to me if the repubicans are so hell-bent on saving money and they are refusing to do anything constructive anyway, how about congress go on furlough with no pay until they decide to sit at the table together and figure things out. i'm sure that would save some $$.

Posted by: kati at April 6, 2011 9:23 PM

Cananda. Canada is allowed to disband the government if they can't cooperate. Then they get to vote in a new batch without waiting years.

Posted by: TheQueen at April 6, 2011 9:25 PM

My belief is that both sides have too much power. Ideally, I'd like to see 4 political parties. All this nonsense would stop because people would really have a defined choice and politicians would have to work together to get things done and keep themselves relevant.

It seems simple, but never is. We shouldn't be spending money when we don't have it. If most of us ran our households like the government spends money, we would all be living on the streets.

It benefits us to keep goodwill around the world and be supportive, but it is also a double edged sword. We never win. Many will always despise our country.

I feel we should tackle poverty, hunger and homelessness at home and then, get serious about tackling other issues around the world.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at April 7, 2011 10:37 AM