Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

05 October 2008

Young People, Save Us (and Yourselves)!


Take a good look at a graph of the 1929 stock market crash. It took three years for stocks to hit bottom.

Real estate moves far more slowly than stocks, and we’re just starting our big slide now. The Rescue Act is the first of many drastic steps we will have to take to get our economy and our nation back on their feet again.

If not handled well, our mortgage-credit meltdown could take over a decade to resolve. Japan’s similar economic meltdown did. They call it the “Lost Decade.” Our own Great Depression lasted a dozen years. It took history’s most terrible war to end it.

So hard times are just beginning. If history is any guide, you may spend the best years of your lives mired in hardship, uncertainty, struggle and suffering.

Think of that: the next decade of your lives—the flower of your youth—all in economic misery. Before things get better you’ll be in your thirties, married, with kids and a job you might not like, worrying about their future and yours. You’ll be lucky if you have a job and a mortgage and are not living in a homeless shelter or a rental slum.

Economic hard times are no fun. If you doubt that, ask your grandparents about the Great Depression. Better yet, read Studs Terkel’s classic Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression. Then pick out the best stories—the ones your family can relate to—and send them to your parents and grandparents. Let them know those stories will be your stories unless we get this election right.

You know the only chance for competent management of our multiple crises rests in Senator Obama. You know that outmoded, simplistic ideology can’t resolve them, far less in the hands of a worn-out 72-year-old war hero and a hyperambitious, moose skinning beauty queen. Only competence, expertise, and hard-headed realism can, backed by education, high intelligence, strategic vision, good character, and evidence. That’s what Obama offers.

But the slime machine is trying to play on residual (mostly unconscious) racism every which way. It says Obama is a Muslim. He’s not: he’s a Christian. It says he took his oath of office on the Koran. He didn’t; he used a Bible like most everyone else. It says his wife Michelle is “angry.” She isn’t; she’s just as strong, cheerful and optimistic as her husband.

The slime machine wants voters to think that Obama is somehow not “American” because of his unusual background and his race. And it’s holding back its worst slime until just before the election.

You know bullshit and trash talk when you see them. You’ve grown up in a culture of them. You surf through them every day. You know Obama is as American as you and me.

You are skeptical and thoughtful, as you should be. You don’t fall for phishing scams, but your parents and grandparents do. Unlike you, your elders think everything they see on the Internet is true. They mix up the Web and the mainstream media, which anyway are too timid to fight slime. Apart from Colin Powell, your parents and grandparents have never seen a leader anything like Obama before. They’re confused.

So you’ve got to let them know. You’ve got to tell them this election is about your future, not race. You’ve got to explain how this is our last chance to stop the next Great Depression, arrest America’s slide, and give you and your generation a real shot at the American Dream.

So take a break from texting, Facebook and MySpace. Pick up the telephone. Go back to e-mail. Put pen to paper and trust snail mail for a change. Get in touch with that grandmother, grandfather, parent, uncle or aunt—the one who has a good heart but, every once a while, mumbles something embarrassing about “blacks” or “those people.”

Make a special effort to contact your elders in Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Virginia, where their votes will matter most. Chat with them. Tell them that you love them. Then explain gently how much this election means to you and your future.

Let them know how strongly you believe that Barack Obama is not one of “them,” but one of “us,” and the last best hope of saving our country. Ask them to cast this vote for you.

You can make a difference. Caroline did with Teddy. You’ve got thirty days.

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